There are a lot of reasons to stay in bed these days. The temperature is getting lower, and COVID cases are once again rising. If you want to stay under the covers, but still want to fit in some kind of movement, we’ve rounded up some exercises you can without getting out of bed.
If you’re in good health, these bed exercises can be a part of your “better than nothing workout.” Otherwise, the main benefits to these exercises and stretches are if you need to stay in bed for some reason, such as if you’re recovering from an illness. In that case, you can also turn to physiotherapy movements, like those in this worksheet form the National Health Service (NHS).
Some caveats, pointed out by Lifehacker Senior Health Editor Beth Skwarecki: The exercises simply may not go well. For instance, unless your mattress is extraordinarily firm, a glute bridge could lead to a lot of discomfort around your neck. Something like leg raises, on the other hand, should theoretically feel pretty close to how they do on a yoga mat. If any of the exercises cause you pain or discomfort, you should stop doing them immediately.
As long as your mattress gives you a steady enough surface, many classic lower-ab exercises are a safe bet for your in-bed workout. The leg raise is one of those classics. Here’s how it’s done:
Lay flat with your arms at your sides and legs stretched out next to each other, then raise those legs. Even if you can’t hold them perfectly rigid, keep your legs as straight as possible, and lift them until they are pointing at the ceiling, or as near as you can get. Make sure your toes are pointed.
To make it easier, you can bend your knees during the movement or opt to lift one limb at a time. Watch the video above to see what this movement looks like while in a bed.
Lateral leg lifts
You know all about the gluteus maximus, but what about its often overlooked sibling, right up along your hip: the gluteus medius? Lateral leg lifts help to work this muscle when you push your leg out from your midline.
Some tips to keep in mind: Avoid raising your leg too high; lower it when you start to feel too much pressure around your lower back. To help relieve some of that pressure, keep your core engaged throughout the movement.
I wouldn’t dream of starting my day without activating my glutes first. And all throughout the day, I return to the glute bridge in order to break up hours of sitting at a desk. Anecdotally, this move is also a great help with mitigating back pain.
Some notes on form: When you raise your hips up, try to keep your core engaged and avoid arching your lower back. You should really feel the burn in your glutes; if you feel your hamstrings working the most, try moving your feet back, closer to those glutes.
There are plenty of variations to try out, like the single-leg bridge, incorporating a resistance band, or trying out the butterfly bridge detailed in the next slide.
Also known as the Frog Bridge. Frogs or butterflies–whatever your animal of choice — will make sure you feel your glutes working. Compared to the bridge in the previous explanation, this movement has the added benefit of targeting your inner thigh muscles.
To do this one, place the bottoms of your feet together (or at least have them facing each other) and let your knees fall open, like in a butterfly stretch. Then, bring your knees together as you thrust up into the raised bridge position.
Another take on this exercise is to start off in the classic glute bridge form, raise your hips, and then widen your knees out and back like a butterfly flapping its wings, as shown in this video.
Reclined pigeon pose
After working your glutes in a variety of bridges, it’s time to stretch them out. Also called the dead pigeon, eye of the needle, or threading the needle, this pose helps stretch your hamstrings and quads, as well as allowing you to open your hips.
If you’re having trouble keeping your back flat while doing the reclining pigeon pose, try placing a rolled blanket placed under your hips. Another tip is to keep your head flat on the floor by tucking your chin down. To make the stretch deeper, draw your knees closer to your chest.
The reverse crunch offers many of the same benefits as the classic crunch, but is way easier on your neck and spine. Your hips and lower back should lift up during this exercise, but the rest of your back should stay glued to the mattress throughout.
The key to this movement, like with most ab exercises, is to go slow and steady. You don’t want to let momentum drive the movement; instead, practice control from your core.
The bicycle crunch is a champion ab exercise for a reason — the regular ol’ sit-up trembles before it. When done correctly, the bicycle crunch hits your upper abs, lower abs, and obliques.
From involuntary gym class as a kid, to voluntary gym time as a grown-up, you might think yourself a bicycle crunch pro. Still, check your form for common mistakes, like tugging on your neck and rushing through the movement. Instead, you want to slow down so that you’re focusing on using your abs to control the motion. To make the exercise harder, slow it down even more and hold the crunch position for longer.
This pose is a staple of any yoga routine cool-down. Done right, the supine twist is your go-stretch whenever you want to feel like you’re wringing your spine out like a sponge (in a good way, obviously). Common mistakes to avoid include holding your breath and forcing your knee to touch the floor (or mattress). Instead, breathe evenly throughout the movement and don’t force anything. If you feel any pain in your back or knee, come out the pose slowly.
Happy baby stretch
What better pose for a stay-in-bed routine than “happy baby?” To achieve its full calming effects, I much prefer to do it from the comfort of my own home rather than in a crowded yoga studio. As you roll around in this pose, make sure to keep your shoulders flat on your bed the whole time. If you’re struggling to keep your shoulders flat, modify the pose by grabbing your lower leg instead of your feet.
Like a poet trying to describe the turning of the seasons, there’s not much I can say about the plank that hasn’t been said before. No at-home workout routine is complete without this staple.
Assuming you don’t sleep on a hardwood floor, the instability of your mattress will likely add a challenge to holding your plank. At the same time, a benefit of doing this in bed is the welcome layer of cushioning on your forearms. After a core-shaking plank, haven’t you always wished you were plopping down into the comfort of your own bed? Well, now you can.