The Capoeira Blog

The 5 Best Strength Training Exercises For Over The Holidays (And Anytime!)
December 19, 2007, 1:03 pm
Filed under: Tips & Guides

Photo by el madrileno (Flickr)

Christmas is coming, and you know what that probably means; lots of overeating and slacking off when it comes to training. Tis the season for busyness and excuses. “I don’t have time to work out,” “I have to go buy presents,” etc. I’ve said it, you’ve said it, we all have.

What would you say if told you that the 5 best strength training exercises could be done in the comfort of your own home and probably wouldn’t take more than an hour a day?

According to Paige Waehner from, who surveyed personal trainers from across the country, there are 5 basic strength exercises that will get great results without having to go to the gym every day (which is great when you’re running making last minute preparations, and especially if you live in truly Wintry areas and you get snowed in and can’t make it to the gym or capoeira class).

And the best thing is, they work all the major muscle groups needed for a good capoeira body!


Why They Rock: Most trainers agree that squats are one of the best exercises you can do. Squats work your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves all at once.

How to Do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes facing straight ahead or angled slightly outward. Slowly bend the knees and lower hips towards the floor, keeping your torso straight and abs pulled in tight. Keep your knees behind your toes; make sure everything’s pointing in the same direction. Do not go lower than 90 degrees. Do this move 2-3 non-consecutive days a week for 12-16 reps.

Faisca Says: I do these before almost every capoeira session (especially when it’s a “I really want to work out hard” class). They work all the major leg muscles, and we all know how important leg strength is to capoeira. The more of these you do, the closer you’ll be do flying through the air like you see in all of those YouTube videos. If you really want to feel a burn try holding dumbells (out in front or to the side) as you squat.

Push Ups:

Why They Rock: Push ups, like squats, are compound movements using almost all the muscles of your body. You’ll work your chest, shoulders, triceps, back and abs.

How to Do It: Position yourself face down on the floor, balancing on your toes/knees and hands. Your hands should be wider than shoulders, body in a straight line from head to toe. Don’t sag in the middle and don’t stick your butt up in the air. Slowly bend your arms and lower your body to the floor, stopping when your elbows are at 90 degrees. Exhale and push back up. Variations include incline, decline, wall pushups or, for masochists, one-armed pushups. Do this move 2-3 non-consecutive days a week and add a rep each time you do the exercise.

Faisca Says: Push ups are the quintessential exercise. It’s a full body workout that works your back, abs, chest, and arms all at the same time, which is perfect for toning up and building strength to do any of capoeira’s handstands, queda de rins, and other movements where you depend on your arms. If you have any doubt, just think about how jacked military guys are, and remember that drill sergeants are fond of saying “drop and give me 20.”


Why They Rock: Like squats, lunges work most of the muscles in your legs including your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves.

How to Do It: Stand in a split-stance (one leg forward, one leg back). Bend knees and lower body into a lungeposition, keeping the front knee and back knee at 90 degree angles. Keeping the weight in your heels, push back up (slowly!) to starting position. Never lock your knees at the top and don’t let your knee bend past your toes. Variations: front lunges, back lunges and side lunges. Do this exercise 2-3 times per week for 12 to 16 reps.

Faisca Says: Another exercise that works all of the leg muscles. I do these during my ginga sometimes (ginga for a while, then when one leg is back you’re in the perfect lunge position so you can go right down into it, and then right back to ginga). As an added bonus, this will improve your flexibility if you tend to struggle with tight tendons.

The Plank:

Why It Rocks: The plank (or hover) is an isolation move used in Pilates and Yoga and works the abs, back, arms and legs. The plank also targets your internal abdominal muscles.

How to Do It: Lie face down on mat with elbows resting on floor next to chest. Push your body off the floor in a pushup position with body resting on elbows or hands. Contract the abs and keep the body in a straight line from head to toes. Hold for 30-60 seconds and repeat as many times as you can. For beginners, do this move on your knees and gradually work your way up to balancing on your toes.

Faisca Says: I’ve never done this, but after reading about it I think I may start adding it to my repertoire. It’s another easy exercise that can be done anywhere, so why not try it out? Here’s a picture if you’re confused as to how exactly this should look (like I was at first).

Photo by

For the last one I’m going to variate away from what the article recommends (lat pulldowns) and instead give you the non-gym-requiring alternative. You will however, need a dumbell or weight of some kind.

Bent-over Row:

Why It Rocks: The bent-over row works on the major muscles of your back (the latissmus dorsi), which helps you burn calories and, of course, strengthen your back.

How To Do It: The exercise is performed with one knee and one hand on the same side of the body braced on a bench with the back straight and parallel to the ground, and the other hand holding a weight with the arm extended. The weight is lifted towards the hip until elbow bends past 90° and the humerus is in line with the back, then lowered to the original position. (Source: Wikipedia)

Faisca Says: This is an excellent exercise to work your major back muscles. A strong back is an important part of capoeira, especially if you want to start doing a lot of upside down handstand movements and poses. If you don’t have a bench, you could probably substitute a couch or bed in its place.

As with any exercises, don’t go overboard in your workouts. It’s OK (and recommended) to gradually increase your reps and (for the ones that require dumbells) weights, but don’t force your body to do something that will end up causing an injury. You don’t want to spend your entire Christmas vacation resting in a bed while you heal a pulled muscle, that defeats the entire purpose of working out and staying in shape!

Of course, continue to practice capoeira (if you can) because a cardio workout is the best way to burn off those holiday feasts. These exercises are supplementary and will certainly help to improve your overall fitness (and maybe provide a bit off stress relief during the hectic holiday season).

8 Comments so far
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Thanks, Faisca!!!
Just yesterday I was asking my friends for some advises on which excercises I could do at home, in my living room… 🙂

Comment by Mariposa

Few people know this, but I’m psychic!

Comment by faisca

My first thought: Thank you for that yummy picture, Faisca! Mmmm, mmmmm. 😉

Comment by Jasmim

[…] elusive capoeira class?  Look up workout ideas for the home, such as The Capoeira Blog’s Strength Training Exercises. Exhibit B: […]

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[…] Mandingueira (capoeira from the female perspective). Combine these tips with my post about the 5 Best Strength Training Exercises and you’ll be a hard bodied capoeira machine in no […]

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[…] This is a no-brainer, really. And I don’t mean that you need to have a superhero-like body. Even if you’re “unathletic” before you start doing capoeira, there is no way […]

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To add to what Faisca says for exercise 5. If you can buy yourself a chinning bar most exercise equipment stores should sell these. In the Uk you can get them through argos. They are quite cheap (not more than £10.00). Fasten them between a suitable door frame (one thats strong) and chin away. They work your whole upper body and I think take the same amount of effort as doing squats. Do them slowly and vary you hand positions for best results. Just chek that it’s ok to use the door frames first.

Comment by Rowan

I had been doing plyometric exercise for my leg muscles and I can observe a good improvements with my jump and I can now run better than before.

Comment by jump manual

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