Don’t get us wrong—we’re all about bodyweight exercises. And quick, high-intensity routines like the scientific 7-minute workout prove you can get in a great workout with very little time and equipment.
But one issue with relying on body weight as resistance is that it can get a little tricky to work the muscles of your back body—you know, your upper and lower back, glutes, and hamstrings.
“It’s easier to find bodyweight exercises that include squatting and pushing than pulling and hinging,” says Noam Tamir, certified personal trainer and owner of TS Fitness. “These exercises are great; however, they mainly strengthen areas that are already dominant and promote short, tight muscles in the front of the body, leading to poor posture, possible injury, and aesthetic imbalances.” (That’s no bueno.)
How to use this list: Perform each exercise in order below at a high-intensity effort for 30 seconds. For single-sided exercises, such as Lateral Squat and Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift, perform the exercise for 15 seconds before switching to the other side. (If you have extra time, perform 30 seconds on each side.) Rest for 5 seconds between each exercise to reset. This circuit can be repeated 2-3 times if desired. All you need is an exercise mat.
Start standing with feet hip-width apart. Hop right leg to the right and swing left leg behind as left arm crosses front of body and right arms swings back. Repeat on other side by reversing the movement with left leg. Continue to hop back and forth (like you’re gliding on ice skates) for 30 seconds.
Lie faceup on mat with knees bent, feet on floor. Bend elbows to 90 degrees with fists toward ceiling (as if you’re holding an imaginary pull-up bar above chest). On the exhale, engage core and press elbows into floor as you squeeze shoulder blades together to lift upper back off the mat. Lead with chest (like a crunch) and keep neck in a neutral position. This should feel like a row, just using body weight (as opposed to cables or weights) for resistance. Inhale and lower back down to starting position.
Lie facedown on mat. Bend arms and stack hands on top of one another below head to support upper body and maintain a neutral neck. Engage quads and glutes so that lower legs hover above mat. Keeping hips glued down, use backs of legs to slowly bring heels to butt. Resist as you straighten legs back to starting position.
Start in high plank position, wrists under shoulders, feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Engage core and butt for stability. Tap left hand to right shoulder, then place back on mat. Resist the urge to let hips twist or dip; keep them square to mat. Repeat by tapping right hand to left shoulder and continue to alternate.
Start in high plank position, wrists under shoulders, core engaged. Maintaining a straight back, draw right knee to chest, then return to starting position. Repeat with other knee. Continue to alternate legs as fast as possible as if you’re running in place. Keep core tight the entire time to prevent hips dipping or piking.
Lie facedown on mat with arms at sides. Inhale, then on the exhale, engage core, back, and glutes to lift upper body and legs up off mat as far as possible. Draw shoulder blades together to engage the upper back muscles and keep neck relaxed by keeping your gaze down. Hold for full exhale, then lower back down on the inhale and repeat.
Stand with feet just wider than hip-width apart. Take a big step to the left with left foot as you hinge at hips to send butt back (like a squat). Bend left knee and keep right leg straight. Shift all body weight to the left side as you squat back while keeping chest lifted. Push off with left leg to return to standing, then repeat.
Lie faceup on mat with core engaged so that lower back presses into mat. Lift legs to a tabletop position and lightly touch fingertips to back of ears (this will help you avoid pulling on your neck). Use core to rotate at waist, bringing right elbow to left knee as right leg straightens. Then twist to bring left elbow to right knee as left leg straightens, and continue to alternate.
Stand with knees slightly bent. Bring right heel to butt then quickly switch legs to bring left heel to butt. Continue alternating legs while you pump arms (like you’re running in place). Remain on your toes the entire time, landing softly rather than stomping feet to protect your knees.
Lie facedown on mat with neck neutral, elbows bent to 90 degrees, and hands placed next to ribs. Press through palms to lift upper body up off mat (even hips will come up, but only go as far as lower back will allow). Engage upper back muscles to prevent collapsing into your shoulders. Slowly lower back down and repeat.
Single Leg Romanian Deadlift
Stand with feet together and shift weight to right side to balance on right leg. With a slight bend in standing leg, inhale, then bend at hips to bring upper body and arms forward while left leg shoots back. Keep toes of back leg foot facing the floor and exhale as you return to starting position.
Start in high plank position. Press floor away as you shift hips back and straight up into downward dog position—you’ll feel a stretch along the backs of your legs and through your upper back. Hold for one count then shift forward back into high plank position and repeat.