5 Top Bodyweight Moves To Build Lean Muscle

No gym fees or equipment required.


Chandré Davids |

With summer around the corner, everyone’s suddenly rushing to the gym in an effort to tone up those tummies and thighs. But what if gym fees are too expensive? You don’t have the equipment to do certain workouts, or you just don’t have enough time?

Enter bodyweight moves – ones you can do in your own lounge. We chatted to , Miss Nambia 2015, track, rugby and hockey field fiend, strength and conditioning coach – and contender in the upcoming . Here are her top moves for building lean muscle.

Start off with a warm-up: jumping jacks – 5 sets of 30 reps each.

1. Heisman Exercise

Do 6-8 sets of 1 min work rate.

The Heisman is a high-intensity plyometrics exercise that improves muscle strength and promotes fat-burning. There are several variations of this exercise, including the basic Heisman (“airborne Heisman”), double Heisman and Heisman lunge. Each movement sports the “Heisman” name due to the way they mimic the football player displayed on the Heisman Memorial Trophy Award.

Beginners – Airborne Heisman [also known as standing high knees]

Muscles involved: Core and lower body

Starting position: Place feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your legs slightly bent at the knees, but parallel to one another. Allow your arms to hang at your sides while tightening the core muscles (pull your belly button towards your spine).

Movement: Lift one leg to a 90-degree angle (same arm and leg hang freely at the side), keeping the bent leg in the air, alternating legs. Use arms as you would in the running position. The opposite elbow to starting leg should be bent simultaneously as the movement occurs, fingertips to the side of your ears. Knees should lift as high as elbows. Keep core tightened with every alternating move.

Advanced – Double-leg Heisman (Steffi’s fave warm-up)

Muscles involved: Core and lower body

Starting position: As above.

Movement: Starting leg will be in the air; opposite leg planted with knee slightly bent. Shuffle right by placing that leg on the ground, followed by the left leg, then right again, allowing the movement to end with the left leg hanging in the air at a 90-degree angle for one second before shuffling left.

Total shuffles: three per rep per set of one leg. Arms move as above.

Watch: Mapule Ndhlovu’s 5 Best Explosive Moves To Boost Your Cardio Results

2. Core: High Plank With Lateral Arm Raise

Do 10 reps per side, 3-5 sets in total. Rest between sets (45-60 secs).

Starting position: Start in a plank position.

Movement: Keeping your torso stable, slowly reach your left arm out to your side. Brace through the abs by pulling your navel to your spine. Hold this position for five seconds. If you feel too unstable, try moving your right hand so it’s under the centre of your chest rather than under your right shoulder. Keeping your torso stable, bring your arm back to the plank position. Do not round your back or twist your spine. Repeat this same motion on the other side, extending your right arm to your side. This counts as one rep.

3. Curtsy Lunge

Do 4 sets of 12-15 reps. Rest 60-90 secs.

Lunges are a lower-body staple if you’re looking for strong, sculpted glutes and hamstrings. But for an even perkier butt, try this minor variation. The curtsy lunge targets your inner thighs as well as your glute medius, a smaller butt muscle that helps stabilise your hips to help improve your posture. Bonus: You’ll look taller and more slender.

Starting Position: Place feet hip-width apart.

Movement: Step your left leg diagonally behind you to the right so your thighs cross. Bend both knees as if you were curtsying. Make sure your front knee is aligned with your front ankle. Don’t let the knee go further forward than your toes, to prevent injuries in the knees. Place hands on hips, or extended in front of you for balance.

Too easy? Lengthen your step. Return the left leg back to starting position and switch sides to complete one rep.

Watch: 5 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Your Bodyweight Workouts

4. Wall Sits With Leg Extensions

Do 4-6 sets of 10 reps per leg. Rest 60 secs.

Muscles involved: Quads and core

Starting position: Stand with your back against a wall, placing your feet about two feet out in front of you. Feet should be hip-distance apart. Slide your back down the wall until your knees are at 90-degree angles. Your knee joints should be over your ankle joints, so you may need to place your feet further from the wall to create proper alignment. Your thighs should remain parallel.

Movement: With your core engaged, extend your left leg out. Hold for 5 seconds, then lower. Repeat the same motion, slowly lifting your right leg. Hold for 5 seconds.

5. Knee Clap Push-Ups

Do 3-5 sets of 10-12 reps. Rest 60 secs.

Muscles involved: Upper torso muscles (chest, upper back, shoulders, triceps, core)

Starting Position: Place your hands on the floor, slightly wider than your shoulders. Place knees on the mat for more support and an easier variation. Lower your body to the mat. You will start at the bottom. Activate your core.

Movement: Do a push-up with a clap (explosively) when you reach the top of the movement. Use a three-second tempo to lower your body towards the mat. This is called the eccentric movement. Practising the “negative” part of the push-up will increase your strength and body control, which will allow you to improve your performance of the full push-up.

Steffi’s Latest Fitness Adventure?

Steffi will be taking part in the upcoming , alongside super-fitster Mapule Ndhlovu. But what sets Steffi apart? Mental fitness. “As an athlete, mental toughness is just as important as your basic cardiovascular/strength/muscular endurance levels. When you train, there are no external sources that may sway you from your A-game, whereas when you compete, adrenaline and pressure set the bar on another level. I train relatively hard, and I believe my mental fitness level will help me stay focused when I get physically fatigued.”

So, reckon you can keep up with Steffi? She needs a partner to take on the … and it could be you! There are some serious prizes up for grabs (like a new Toyota Fortuner, mountain bikes, Reebok gear and even Garmin GPS multisport watches). Go on, enter . We dare you!

Watch ON: Bodyweight Workouts Core Workouts Fitness Fitness Advice Lower Body Workouts