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5 Body-Weight Exercises to Improve Strength and Tone

No time for the gym? No problem! Los Angeles-based trainer Julie Diamond says you can do body-weight exercises to build strength and tone at home.

“If you’re new to strength training and possibly need help with form, body-weight training is much more forgiving than most types of weightlifting,” she explains. Advanced? Step up your body-weight exercises by incorporating high-intensity interval training, Diamond says. “That’s what’s so great about body-weight moves: They’re simple to modify by making them easier or harder, depending on your ability level,” she says.

Here, she shares her top five. (Note: If you’re new to exercise, Diamond suggests starting off with one or two sets of each, moving up to three sets when you’re ready.)

Plank

“This move works all the muscles in the core, including rectus abdominis, transverse abdomens, internal and external obliques, hips, and back,” Diamond says.

This is the top of a push-up. Hands are directly under your shoulders. Toes are on the floor; squeeze your glutes and lift your quads to stabilize your body. Neutralize your neck and spine by looking at a spot on the floor about a foot in front of your hands and keeping your head in line with your spine. Beginners hold for 20 seconds; gradually increase time as you improve your fitness level. Do this daily.

Read more about the benefits of the plank

push-up exercise

Push-Up

“Push-ups are a great upper body and core strength builder that use the anterior deltoid (front shoulder), chest, and triceps,” Diamond says. “Push-ups are a complex movement for the shoulder joint. After 40 reps, be careful of working to failure. Instead, strive for perfect form.”

Place your hands on the floor a little wider than shoulder width apart and extend your feet behind you. Bend at the elbows and lower your chest to the floor. Push yourself back up to straight arms. Do sets of 10 to 25 three times per week, depending on your fitness level.

See the best arm exercises for women

tricep dip exercise

Tricep Dip

“This move works the triceps, chest, and front shoulders,” Diamond says.

Sitting on a bench or chair, position your hands on either side of your buttocks. Slide your butt off the bench with your legs extended in front of you. If you need to modify, you can bend your knees. Straighten your arms, keeping a slight bend in your elbows to maintain tension on the tricep yet off of the elbow joint. Slowly bend your elbows and lower your body until your elbows are at about a 90-degree angle. Keep your back close to the bench. Keep your shoulders down and neck long throughout the movement. Press your palms into the bench and straighten your elbows, returning to your starting position. Do three sets of 10 to 15 reps three times per week, depending on your fitness level.

Watch Diamond demonstrate more upper-body moves

squat exercise

Squat

“This is a compound full-body exercises that works the thighs, hips, butt, and hamstrings,” Diamond says.

Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width, toes slightly out, body upright, and spine neutral. Keep your chest up and hold your arms out in front of you with palms facing down. Send your hips back, bending at the knees and hips, as if you’re sitting on an imaginary chair. Keep your spine neutral and ensure that the bend in your knees follows the line of your feet. Lower until your thighs are about parallel to the floor or as low as your hip mobility allows. Stand, returning to your start position. Do three sets of 10 to 15 reps three to four times per week, depending on your fitness level.

Get more ideas for toning your legs

glute bridge exercise

Glute Bridge

“This is an effective core exercise that also works erector spinae, rectus abdominis, hamstrings, and adductors,” Diamond says. “Glute bridges are essentially a reverse plank.”

Lie on your back with your knees bent, hip width apart, feet flat on the floor. Press down through your heels to push your hips into the air; squeeze your butt. Slowly lower your hips. Do three sets of 10 to 15 reps daily, depending on your fitness level.

See Diamond demonstrate glute bridges and more

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