Bodyweight exercises are great, but once you’ve been hitting the gym for a while you realise there are a few moves that keep cropping up. For good reason, obviously – press-ups, lunges, burpees, unweighted squats and planks do you all manner of good – but sometimes we can’t help but wonder: is that all there is?
No, of course not. One area that you may not be familiar with is functional gymnastics-based exercises, but Herbalife-sponsored gymnast and Olympic bronze medallist Nile Wilson is well acquainted with them and he agreed to demonstrate a few entry-level moves that anyone can master with a bit of practice. He’s also strung them into a circuit exclusively for Coach readers. (Cheers Niles.)
All the exercises use the whole body so you’ll burn calories, build strength and increase your flexibility. The one piece of equipment you might want is a mat, although that’s only if you want an extra measure of comfort.
Wilson suggests doing a circuit of three sets of ten reps, but, he says, “it’s designed to be fun and engaging for the body, so play around with it and make it work for you and your current level of fitness.”
Here’s some more advice from Wilson:
“Concentrate on activating the core when you’re doing these moves. For the core positions – especially the dish – make sure your lower back is squeezed into the floor. Your body should be tensed during every single exercise – focus on squeezing and activating the muscles.
“Take your time to get to grips with the moves and be aware of any injuries you’re carrying. Avoid any moves that could exaggerate the problem. If you lack flexibility, take it easy to begin with, practising the moves regularly so you’re working up to the full move over time. A soft mat or carpet is a good place to start. It’s best to avoid hardwood floors at first in case of any falls. And if you’re attempting the handstand, use a sofa to get into the first position, moving to the wall for extra support if needed.”
1 Roll Back To Candlestick, Stand Up And Jump
How Starting in a standing position, bend the knees and drop back gently to the floor, rolling into a soft shoulder stand, then rolling back to a standing position. Add a jump at the end to engage the core and get the heart rate up, then repeat the move.
Wilson says “The key with this move is to keep the muscles engaged and use your strength to maintain momentum. You can build on this move by increasing the height of your jump and increasing the reps.”
2 The Dish And The Arch
How Lie on the floor (pressing your lower back into the floor). Raise your feet slightly off the floor and raise your arms until they’re in line with your ears, then hold the position. For the arch (pictured, below), turn onto your stomach and raise your legs and arms off the floor, keeping them straight. Hold each move for 30-60sec – but once or twice a week, try holding them for as long as possible.
Wilson says “These are both excellent moves for the back, glutes and core and you can intensify it with a pulse or by holding for a few seconds longer.”
3 Front To Back Support
How Get into a high plank position, swing your right arm up and over your body, turning your body to face upwards. Swing back into plank position and repeat on the left-hand side.
Wilson says “This is a swift and controlled movement that works the entire body – particularly the triceps, chest and core. As you improve, you can increase the reps to make it more challenging.”
4 Caterpillar Walk
How Start in the downward-facing dog yoga position, walk your hands out in front of you until you reach the press-up position, then walk your feet in until you’re back in downward dog. Walk your feet out behind you (until you reach the press-up position again) then walk the hands back until you’re in downward dog again. That’s one rep.
Wilson says “You can stick to the walk into plank/back to downward facing dog or put your own stamp on this move by continuously moving forwards. This one is an excellent full-body move that engages all of the major muscle groups.”
5 Leg Raise
How Not the most interesting of exercises but it does get results. Start in a seated position, legs out straight in front of you. Place your hands on the floor, engage your core and lift your legs in a straight line, pulsing for a minimum of ten reps.
Wilson says “This move is great for the quads, hip flexors and core. And you can play around with it – try placing your legs out to the side and lifting from there, or try working one leg at a time.
Bonus Move: Handstand Practice
How Use a sofa or chair to get started. Place both feet on the sofa and your hands on the floor, with a mat or soft rug underneath you for safety. Push up into a handstand – keeping the feet placed on the sofa, core engaged, legs straight – so your body is at a right angle and hold the position. Like the arch and the dish, hold this position for 30-60sec, but twice a week try holding it for as long as possible.
Wilson says “Handstands are a great way to build core strength because they require you to stabilise your muscles – like the hamstrings, thighs, back, hip flexors and abs – to stop you from falling over. You can take this into a full handstand, using the wall for support. Practise daily – you’ll be amazed at how quickly you improve.”
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Jonathan Shannon has been the editor of the Coach website since 2016, developing a wide-ranging experience of health and fitness. Jonathan took up running while editing Coach and has run a sub-40min 10K and 1hr 28min half marathon. His next ambition is to complete a marathon. He’s an advocate of cycling to work and is Coach’s e-bike reviewer, and not just because he lives up a bit of a hill. He also reviews fitness trackers and other workout gear.