Basic Movements – Great ways to Build core Strength

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.


Plank Position:

plankPlank 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.


handstandOnce 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).



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Primal Exercise – Need motivation to work out?

Staying active increases bone density, muscle mass, and helps you to NOT DIE. Need more motivation? Check out this quote from The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf: “The point to take away is exercise is critical to maintaining normal hormone levels throughout life. The main difference between health and disease, vibrant youth or aged frailty, is one’s hormone profile.” Oops, I almost forgot: exercising increases nitric oxide production in the body (here’s a hint: this is what the drug Viagra does, too). So if you’re frown and flaccid, perk up and put on your sweats!

Our Ancestors Were ACTIVE

Our primal ancestors (and the few hunter gatherer tribes still in existence) certainly had active lives, but their days were not plagued with the monotony of your daily 5am spinning class. On average, our primal ancestors did the equivalent of 11 miles of walking a day. However, their activity was extremely varied, and they often had full days of rest. One day they might have to spend 30 solid minutes chasing their dinner at full speed, the next day they might take a long walk to visit a friendly neighbor, and the next they might simply do nothing but chill out with their hunter-gatherer homies. The result? A very diverse and well-rounded level of activity. By exercising this way we can increase bone density, build strength, increase balance, and create an overall fit person. This type of varied, but active lifestyle helps the body reach its full fitness potential and avoid injury, and it would be best if we could do the same.

In order to best replicate the amount and type of activity our ancestors had, we alternate cross training, interval training, and rest days. Rest days are crucial to keeping your body healthy and avoiding injury. For those of you who are relatively inactive, starting with a three-day rotation of cross training, interval training, and rest is a good idea (and recommended in the Ancestral Fitness chapter of Robb Wolf’s book, The Paleo Solution). Even if you are a world-class athlete, you should show your body some love and try your best to take at least one day off per week.

Cross Training

Cross Training is a type of exercise that combines various movement and activities to develop various muscle groups and aspects of fitness. The goal of cross training is essentially to cover more parts of the body, more effectively, in less time than endurance training. In fact, endurance training accelerates the process of turning 2A muscle fibers (“fast-twitch” fibers) into type 1B muscle fibers (smaller and weaker), which your body already does itself (most of you know this as “aging”)! This is one of the core beliefs of CrossFit, which is discussed in this blog: My Experience with CrossFit.

Check out this article on working out at home that discusses working out without a gym or equipment, as well as provides a basic cross-training exercise routine.

Interval Training

Interval Training is a type of physical activity that alternates periods of high-intensity work with low-intensity work (or sometimes active rest). An example of an interval training workout would be jogging for 30 minutes total, but sprinting for 30 seconds every 5 minutes. Interval training is often used to increase an athlete’s ability to perform for long periods of time. This is done through extending your lactate threshold (the point at which lactic acid starts surging through your body and making your fee like your limbs are on fire). The spurts of high-intensity work that are central to the concept of interval training not only increase endurance and your lactate threshold, but also create metabolic boosts (which helps you lose fat!).

What now?

If you are currently not very active, start with anything you can think of to get yourself moving around. This may mean turning around once you’ve reached the top of the stairs on your way to bed, and going down and back up again before calling it a night. Go for a walk… play catch with your dog… anything! Below you will see links to two more exercise pages: Basic Movements and Equipment-Free Work Out Routines. On the first we give detailed descriptions of numerous exercise movements that require no equipment (except for box jumps), accompanied by pictures for clarity.

These movements are easily scalable up or down depending on your current fitness and skill level! On the Work Out Routines page, we put together the movements discussed on the Basic Movements page into specific work outs that are 99% equipment free and travel-friendly. These routines can be scaled by either scaling down the difficulty of the movements involved, or by reducing the number of rounds or the speed in which you perform the movements. We are SO HAPPY you are here! Please join the mailing list using the form to the right to get weekly emails containing diet, exercise, and lifestyle goodies that will help make living a healthy life even easier!