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Exercises for Muscle Building & Toning Without Equipment

Toning and building muscles doesn't always require weights, equipment or machines. Some of the best exercises can be done with just your body weight. Body weight exercises use your own body as resistance and can be an effective way to improve muscle tone and strength, as well as balance, coordination and movement. Plus, they can be safer than weights and done virtually anywhere. There are a number of simple body weight exercises that can help beginners through advanced athletes achieve the results they want.

Upper Body
Upper body workouts focus on the biceps, triceps, chest, shoulders and back muscles. There are a number of basic body weight exercises to target this area:

Push-ups --- These can be done on your knees or toes. Keep a straight line from your toes (or knees) to your head, with your arms directly under the shoulders. Advanced progressions can include incline and one-armed push-ups.

Pull-ups -- These are done with a grip facing you. Beginners can do jumping pull-ups where your toes skim the ground and help you jump back up. Advanced progressions include the chin-up where your grip faces away from you, and a wide-armed grip where your hands are further out on the bar. If you don't have a pull-up bar, these can be done on the monkey bars at a playground.

Tricep dips -- Find a park bench, picnic table or car bumper. Face away from it, with your legs straight out, resting on your heels. Use your hands to slowly lower and lift yourself, working the backs of your arms each time.

Abdominal exercises target the muscles in and around your stomach, hips and lower back. Aside from the basic sit-up, there are a number of exercises that target, tone and strengthen the middle body without any equipment. Some of the more effective ones include:

Planks -- These are done on your toes and hands or forearms. Keep a straight line from your toes to your head and hold this position as long as possible.

Abdominal leg pull-ins -- Sitting on the ground, put your feet and knees together out in front of you. Using your hands to support your weight behind you, slowly bring your knees toward your body and back out again.

Upright rows -- Sit on the ground with your knees and feet together and slightly elevated off the ground. Clasp your hands together and make big rowing motions from side to side, like you are rowing a boat.

Crunches -- Lying on the ground with your hands behind your head, bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the ground. Slowly crunch up, flattening your lower back to the ground and pushing your belly button in toward your spine as you come up. Slowly lower back down and repeat.

Lower Body
Lower body muscles include the gluteus maximus, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves, as well as many smaller, supporting muscles. Body weight exercises for this area usually work more than one muscle group at a time. Some of the basic exercises include:

Squats -- With your feet shoulder-width apart and arms out in front of you, lower your hips toward the ground, getting your thighs parallel to the ground. Stand up and repeat.

Lunges --- Put one leg forward and lower your back knee toward the ground, keeping your front knee at a 90-degree angle. Bring your front leg back to your body and switch sides. You can also do walking lunges up and down a driveway or hallway.

Calf raises -- With your toes on a step or large book, raise and lower your body up and down. Be sure to keep your posture straight and use a handrail for balance if needed.

Wall sits -- With your back against a wall or a tree, lower yourself down, so your thighs are parallel to the ground and knees are at a 90-degree angle. Hold this position for as long as possible.