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5 Bodyweight Exercises to Build Dynamic Total Body Strength

Work through these primal bodyweight movements to build total body strength.

When it comes to warming up, the first thing that usually comes to mind for many of us is jumping jacks, planks, and doing a couple of hamstring stretches, or leg kicks. Over the past few years, as my main lifts continued to progress, I started to realize that I had overlooked some of the fundamentals of training, specifically skipping warm-ups and cool-downs, slacking on accessory work, and not taking enough rest.

Like many others in the fitness world, we make mistakes and learn from them, but the secret to not making the same mistakes is in the small tips and tricks that make the lessons stick. My biggest takeaway from recognizing the importance of warm-ups was that I had to make warming-up enjoyable and engaging. Any challenging, primal type or coordination focused movement is what I have found to keep me not only consistent but healthy and well-rounded.

Below, are several dynamic exercises that can be used before any workout to help you increase your heart rate and circulation, mobilize major joints of the body, increase core temperature, and improve mind-body awareness (proprioception).

Shoulder Warm-Up: Scap Push-Ups

Scap Push up

Description

From a plank position, bring and knees on the ground, grip the floor and turn your elbows forward, as if you were turning two jars. Pull your shoulders down and back, then squeeze your shoulder blades together. Next, push your shoulder blades apart as you push your chest away from the floor, keeping your arms straight, glutes engaged, and abs tight.

Prescription

3 rounds of 20 repetitions.

Benefit

Scapula Push-Ups are a great way to strengthen and mobilize the muscles attaching to the shoulder blade. Over time, improving the protraction and retraction of the shoulder blades will improve the overall health of your shoulders and upper back.

Stability Warm-Up: 4-Point Bird Dogs

Dynamic Bodyweight Exercises
Dynamic Bodyweight Exercises

Description

Start on the hands and knees, with the hands directly under the shoulders, and the knees underneath the hips. Grip the floor with your hands and feet as your press up off the knees. Slowly lift the opposite hand and foot off the ground eliminating rotation of the hips and shoulders. Then extend both limbs with control, keeping the spine neutral and abs engaged. Alternate sides.

Prescription

Repeat for 3 rounds for 30 to 60 seconds.

Benefit

This Bird Dog variation adds an element of stability of the shoulder, hips, and ankles compared to the traditional Bird Dog, which works on core stability and strength, as well as strengthening the muscles of the back.

Modification

To scale back the intensity, bring the knees down to the ground into a traditional Bird Dog.

Dynamic Hip Opener: Lateral Ape to Sprawl

Description

From a hip-distance stance, descend into a deep squat. Focus on driving your knees forward and out while keeping your heels down, pulling your shoulders back as you keep a proud chest. Frame your foot with your hands as you travel laterally, into another deep squat. Place both hands on the ground as you drop your feet back into a sprawl, dropping your hips. Be sure to keep tension the abs and squeeze the glutes as you lengthen through your spine to eliminate any compression of the low back.

Prescription

Repeat for 3 rounds for 30 to 60 seconds.

Benefit

This coordination focused combination will get your heart rate and hips working. The deep squats and sprawls are great for both stretching and strengthening the hip flexors, which tend to be weak/tight and undertrained.

Modification

To eliminate hyperextension of the spine, replace the sprawl with a plank.

Hip & Shoulder Opener: Lateral Stretch to Thai Chi Lunge

Overhead Stretch to Tai Chi Lunge

Description

For this movement flow, we are going to work with 2 varying stances. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and complete 2 lateral stretches, pulling your arms apart diagonally. Then step out laterally into a lateral lunge as you twist your spine towards the lunging leg for 2-3 repetitions. Come back to a shoulder-width stance and repeat.

Prescription

Repeat for 3 rounds for 60 seconds.

Benefit

This movement combination brings a lot of bang for its buck by simultaneously mobilizing the spine through gentle twists and lateral flexion, and opening the groin and inner thighs(adductors), while also warming up the tissues and cardiovascular system as previously mentioned.

Active Stretching: Crab to Scorpion Reach

Description

Begin face up on your hands and feet in a crab position. Lift opposite hand and foot, being sure to eliminate any jarring or swaying of the body. Bring your lifted foot underneath the planted foot as you lift the free leg into a scorpion reach bringing your ears in between your biceps, then return to the crab position. Alternate sides and keep your arms straight the entire time.

Prescription

3 rounds for 6 to 10 repetitions.

Benefit

This dynamic movement prepares the shoulders for overhead training while also opening up the hips and stretching the hamstrings.

Wrapping Up

These exercises are intended for individuals who are already active and training regularly. Please see descriptions for modifications to the exercises if necessary.

Have fun and remember to cool-down after your workout is done.

Feature image from @francheskafit Instagram page.

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