Build Muscle with No Equipment

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You don’t need expensive weight-lifting equipment or a costly gym membership to tone your body and increase lean muscle mass. The following six tips will show you that all you need is a little space and an open mind. In just a few short weeks, you can see a dramatic improvement in muscle tone and energy levels.
1. PUSH-UPS
Push-ups can help strengthen your shoulders, arms, chest, abdominals and back muscles. To perform the perfect push-up, first lie facedown on the floor with your legs together. Put your hands next to your shoulders with your palms flat on the ground. Raise your body onto your hands and toes. Now, counting to six, slowly lower yourself until your chest is just a few inches above the floor. Pause for one second and then repeat the movement. At first, do just three repetitions of a few sets. As your strength grows, increase the number of reps.If you have trouble performing a “classic” push-up, try the modified version. Instead of extending your legs and pivoting on your feet, let your knees touch the ground. Using your knees as the pivot points will reduce the amount of force needed to raise your body. But this method will still give your muscles the challenge needed to grow stronger.

2. CHAIR DIP
Using a sturdy chair or bench, begin by sitting with proper posture. Firmly grip the front of the bench and slide your feet forward until your butt is completely off the bench and your weight is supported by your arms. Your arms should be straight. Now bend at the elbows to lower your body. Straighten your arms to come back up. Just as with your push-ups, begin this exercise with three sets of just a few repetitions. As your strength and confidence grow, increase your reps. This exercise is great for your triceps, rear deltoids, lower pectorals, lower trapezius and lower latissimus muscles – the muscles that make up an attractive chest and torso for both men and women.

3. LUNGES
When it comes to giving your legs, hips and buttocks a workout, nothing beats the forward lunge. Stand with good posture and your feet shoulderwidth apart. Take a slow, exaggerated step forward with your right leg. Slowly bend your right knee to a 90-degree angle with your thigh nearly parallel to the floor. Lower your left knee until it almost touches the floor. Slowly reverse the movement and come back to the beginning position. Through the movement keep your back and neck straight and your eyes looking forward. Pause for a second and do the same movements with the opposite leg.

4. SIT-UPS
Sit-ups are great for strengthening your core muscles, but care must be taken to keep good form in order to protect your back.Begin by sitting on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your feet underneath a couch or other sturdy object that will help hold you in place. Cross your arms in front of your chest and tilt your upper body back slightly so it is at less than a 90-degree angle to the floor. Continue to slowly tilt your upper body back until it reaches a 45-degree angle to the floor. Pause for a few seconds, then slowly come back up to the starting position. Do not allow your back to fall all the way down to the floor. This will shift the stress from your abdominal muscles to your hips and lower back.

5. COBRA
The cobra exercise will help stretch and strengthen your hip flexor muscles, which tend to tighten as a result of bad posture and too much time spent sitting down.To perform the cobra exercise, first lie facedown on your stomach in the same way you would to perform a push-up. However, throughout this exercise keep the tops of your feet touching the floor. Place your hands palms down next to your shoulders. Instead of pushing your entire body up as you would in a push-up, use your arms to raise just your upper body. Feel your back stretch as you try to keep your pelvis flat on the floor while raising your upper body. If you feel pain in your lower back, come back down until there is no pain and hold there.

6. SQUATS
The squat will help strengthen your back, thighs, buttocks, abdomen and calves. You can increase the effectiveness of your squats by holding soup cans, milk cartons or other weighted objects in your hands as you work out.Keeping your head up and back straight, stand with your hands at your side and your feet shoulder-width apart. Slowly bend your knees until your upper thighs are almost parallel to the floor. As your knees bend, let your buttocks move backward, and try to keep your back straight. You will naturally need to lean forward slightly, but do not bend too far forward at the waist. Hold the position briefly, then return to the standing position. Repeat several times.

Adapted from “The Art of Growing Young Magazine”
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