While a Bulgarian split squat isn't technically a zero-equipment move, they can still be done pretty much anytime, anywhere. "It activates many muscle groups and can be performed with any lifted surface, like a couch, bench, small table, or even an airport chair," says DiDomenico. The move is a major lower-body burner—you'll feel it in your quads, glutes, inner thighs, hamstrings, and even your calves.
Inspired by the idea that we can become harder, better, faster, and stronger using our body alone, we spoke with some of our #TeamAaptiv trainers. With their help, we discovered the most beneficial exercise moves you can do, no equipment required. Tried and true, they’re staples for a reason. If you haven’t already, you’ll want to include these in your routine—even when you get back in the gym.
Lie on your back with the left leg extended and the right knee bent. Place the right foot on the floor and extend the right arm toward ceiling. Perform a crunch-like movement to lift the upper body, transitioning into a seated position, and continue to reach the right arm up. Place the left hand on the floor next to the left hip and push through the left hand and the right foot to lift the hips off the floor. Extend through the hips, reaching back with the right arm to perform a slight backbend. Slowly lower back down to the starting position. Repeat five to six reps on the right side before switching to the left.
Those buff lab rats might be smarter than we think. Various studies on mice and men have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells (aka neurogenesis) and improve overall brain performance Aerobic exercise is the critical variable in an enriched environment that increases hippocampal neurogenesis and water maze learning in male C57BL/6J mice. Mustroph ML, Chen S, Desai SC, Cay EB, DeYoung EK, Rhodes JS. Neuroscience Program, The Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA. Neuroscience. 2012 September 6;219:62-71. Aerobic exercise improves hippocampal function and increases BDNF in the serum of young adult males. Griffin EW, Mullally S, Foley C, Warmington SA, O’Mara SM, Kelly AM. Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, University of Dublin, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. Physiology & Behavior. 2011 October 24;104(5):934-41.. Ready to apply for a Nobel Prize? Studies suggest that a tough workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking, and learning. Smarty (spandex) pants, indeed.
Another study this month, from Mayo Clinic, found that exercise in older people who were formerly sedentary had at least as strong an impact as in it did in young people—at least in the kinds of genes that were expressed. The study also found that these changes were much more robust in response to interval training than to weight lifting or moderate exercise. Which may mean that for some things, the type of exercise we chose matters.
Heart Disease and Stroke. Daily physical activity can help prevent heart disease and stroke by strengthening your heart muscle, lowering your blood pressure, raising your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels (good cholesterol) and lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels (bad cholesterol), improving blood flow, and increasing your heart's working capacity.
If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you know that exercise should be an essential part of your routine. But the benefits of physical activity go far beyond just physical fitness. Increasingly, more and more research is showing that working out regularly can boost other aspects of your health as well, including cognitive function and emotional well-being.