Basic Movements

Chef Carlos says it right in his blog, Work Out! No Excuses! All you need to stay fit is a healthy diet, your own body and the world around you! Here we will cover some of the most basic workout movements that do not require equipment, and how they can be adapted to different skill levels. We want to discuss movements that can be taken everywhere: on the road, in your hotel, on an airplane (ok, you might get into trouble if you start doing handstand pushups on an airplane, but the point is they’re travel-friendly). Specific workout routines can be found on the Equipment-Free Work Outs page. Click on any of the thumbnails below to see the full sized image.


Squat: We will discuss only the air squat or body weight squat because it does not require any equipment and is fully mobile. However, if you have gym access and are doing squats with added weight, please ask a weight coach for help with proper form if you have not already been taught. Air Squat: Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder width apart. Shoot your butt out behind you as if you are sitting down in a chair. Putting your arms out in front of you helps with balance. Push your knees out as you squat down (their natural tendency will be to buckle inwards). Your knees should not move too much in front of your feet. Try your best to keep your shins vertical.


You will have to lean forward a bit to maintain your balance, but again, keep your torso as vertical as possible to get the most out of this movement. At the bottom of the squat, your thighs and shins should make a 90 degree angle, if not less. Having your butt lower than your knees is even better.


To scale down: start by slowly standing up from a chair, and slowly sitting back down, keeping form in mind the whole time. Do this as long and as any times as you like until you feel comfortable doing a body weight air squat.


Plank Position: To get in to plank position, start lying on your stomach on the ground, and use your arms to push yourself up. Keep your body straight as a board, flex your butt muscles, flex your abs, and make sure your hiney isn’t sticking in the air. The goal is for your body to be completely straight. Your hands should be just over shoulder width apart. Plank holds (staying in this plank position for a set amount of time) are great ways to build core strength and help your push-up technique.



Push-Ups: Start in a plank position, making sure your butt is not in the air. Bend your arms, keeping your elbows in, until your chest touches the floor. Squeeze your butt muscles and abs all the way down. At the bottom of the push up you should be able to lift your hands off the ground and not fall. Keeping your body tight and straight, raise yourself back up and lock your elbows at the top to return to the plank position.

To scale  this movement down, do knee push-ups, or standing push-ups (against a wall or tree).


To scale this movement up, add a weighted object to your back, or do at a downward incline with your feet on a raised object. You will notice in the picture to the right that Victoria’s body is not “flat as a board,” as recommended in traditional push-ups. By bending at the waist with your feet on a raised object, you add difficulty. Diamond push-ups are also a great variation that work your chest and shoulder muscles more-so than a traditional push-up.


Once you can do multiple push-ups with your torso upside down as pictured, you can move on to handstand push-ups, which are an even more difficult variation. You can approach these a number of ways.

1) Get into plank position with your feet against a wall. Walk your feet up the wall and hands in toward the wall until you are in a handstand (with your chest facing the wall).

2) Start in a standing position, and flip into a handstand so your back is facing the wall, with your feet leaning on the wall for support (demonstrated to the left).

3) If you’re a total B-A like Bri here, just do a handstand in the air (shown to the right), and do a push-up as demonstrated in this video.

Be sure to suck in your tummy so your back is not too arched, push off of the ground, and reach your toes to the sky.

In the picture to the left, you will see Victoria’s arms are partially bent. Bending your arms a few inches and holding is a good way to train for a full handstand push-up if you don’t have one already.



Sit-Ups/Crunches: Lay on your back with your knees bent, feet on the ground hip-width apart, and arms crossed against your chest. Sit up, keeping your feet and your butt against the ground. To do a crunch raise your torso a few inches off the ground, and then return to a flat position. To do a full sit-up, raise yourself all the way up so your torso is vertical. Try to bring your elbows past your knees. Lower yourself back to the ground slowly and with control- don’t just plop back on the ground. If you are having trouble keeping your feet on the ground when you come up, hook them underneath something or have someone hold them down.

There are many variations to the crunch and sit-up movements. To work your obliques, do a crunch with your hands behind your head, and twist your body to the left or to the right on the way up. Untwist on the way down then switch sides for the next rep. Or you can do a cyclist (pictured above) where you add lifting your legs off the ground and bending the opposing knee to your twisting torso.



Toe touches are another variation of the crunch movement that require some flexibility (pictured to the left). To make sit-ups more difficult, hold a weighted object against your chest.




6-inches: This is an isometric movement used to strengthen your core. Lying on your back with your hands under your tushy, raise your feet (legs straight) off the ground 6 inches and hold. Flex your butt, abs, and legs. You should be as stiff as a hard-on at the Playboy Mansion. 30 seconds is a pretty decent time, scale up or down to your needs.

To make more difficult, add time or weight to feet (set a bag of flour or a rock on top of your feet).


Mountain Climbers: Start in the plank position, move one foot all the way up on the outside of your hand (or as far as you can go depending on flexibility). Then jump and switch your legs so the other foot is on the outside of your hands and you are in a lunge again. One right side and one left side count as one repetition. Increase speed/decrease time between switches to increase difficulty. STRETCH. Another way to increase difficulty is add incline. Pictured below are mountain climbers done at a downward incline. This actually changes the movement a lot, and takes away the flexibility issue. It makes switching your legs easier but it works your abs more than the plain mountain climber.

Burpies: Start in a standing position.

1) Bend down into a crouching position

2) Shoot your feet out so you are in a plank position

3) Drop fully to the ground so you are flat on your stomach

4) Push back up into a plank position

5) Jump your legs in near your hands so you are in a crouched position again

6) Jump straight up into the air and clap your hands above your head.

The quicker you move the better. AMRAP burpies in a set amount of time is always a great addition to a workout.

Box Jumps (or as I like to call them, Stump Jumps): These are last only because they require an object other than your body to do. They are a FANTASTIC movement. Find a stable surface you can easily jump onto with both feet.

The only technical things you need to remember are:

1)    land with your feet completely on the surface

2)    land with your weight on your heels as opposed to your toes

3)    stand all the way up on the box to complete the movement.

You can dismount the box (or stump or whatever) by stepping or jumping off.


To increase difficulty, raise the height of the surface, or try to string together multiple jumps without pausing (jump on, jump off, and bounce right back up like a bunny!).



  1. Melissa Kehoe

    Miss Torre, Could you now demonstrate the same muscle groups for us older girls….with exceptions for knees, and inability to plank? I’m looking forward to the ability to one day plank, but until then we need some OLDER FOLKS stuff too!
    Thank you….this is just awesome!


  2. Victoria Marie

    Absolutely! I will work on those adaptations right away, and hope to get pictures up in the near future. Perhaps I will add a whole page dedicated to scaled movements. Thank you for the suggestion, adding an adaptation for bad knees is a GREAT idea! I will be sure to notify you when that page is ready!


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