Nowadays, an increasing number of people are purchasing yoga mats. The reasoning behind each purchase is different, but the goal is the same: fitness workouts. So you bought yourself a new yoga mat. Congratulations. But what are you going to use it for? Naturally, the first answer that comes to mind is yoga. Yoga on its own is beneficial to your health. However, you shouldn’t have to limit yourself. Yoga mats are great for a wide variety of fitness exercises. In fact, for some of the following exercises the yoga mat is one of the main requirements.

The yoga mat allows you to incorporate new fitness exercises in your routine that will improve your core strength, flexibility, and most importantly, your muscular endurance. These feats are achieved by a mixture of isolation and compound exercises. Isolation exercises are those that target a single muscle group. On the other hand, compound exercises are those which target multiple muscle groups. Instead of a routing composed strictly of isolation exercises, the yoga mat can help add a few compound exercises that will greatly increase your efficiency when working out and, ultimately, your gains.


yoga pose


1. Push Ups

If you would have to choose a single body weight exercise that you would have to do for the rest of your life, push ups would be that exercise. The push up is considered by most fitness trainers as an all-body workout. This classification is based on the fact that a simple push up is able to work as many as 6 muscle groups: deltoids, pectorals, triceps, abdominals, coracobrachialis, and serratus anterior. That’s shoulders, chest, back, and abs in the same exercise. There are many push up variations you can try, each with a stronger or weaker effect on the previously mentioned muscle groups. Mix them up and don’t be afraid to push yourself harder. Moreover, using a mat when doing push ups puts less strain on your wrists, allowing you to push yourself even harder without fear of injury.

2. Pilates

A fairly new form of fitness exercise, the pilates is slowly but steadily increasing in popularity in all age groups. Pilates can be done either by using a stability ball or by using one’s own body weight, in which case, a yoga mat is recommended. A complete pilates routine delivers a combination of strength, cardio, and flexibility exercises, making it a very effective routine. Not only does it improve posture and the overall level of fitness but there is evidence that it can be used to alleviate lower back pain for certain patients. Moreover, pilates is used in different health programs as a method of improving balance for elderly patients.

3. Mountain Climbers

If you’re familiar with push ups and planks, the you’ve definitely heard of mountain climbers. To properly execute one you must start in a raised push up/plank position and bring your knees to your chest in an alternating motion. While one knee goes backward, the other comes forward. Mountain climbers are a great workout for your core and lower body because the position forces you to contract your core muscles in order to maintain balance while working your quads. You can do these exercises anywhere, as they require no added weights. Incorporating a yoga mat into the exercise releases some of the strain of your wrists and ankles.

4. Bodyweight Squats

Another great exercise for the lower body is the body weight squat. A correct squat is done by positioning your feet at shoulder length, stretching your arms forward, and lowering your body into a squat position while holding your back straight. At the lowest point of your squat, your quads should be parallel to the ground. Going lower can increase the chance of injury. If you’re a beginner, a couple of sets of 30 reps should be enough to get you comfortable with the routine. As you progress, increasing the number of sets and reps should be considered.

5. Glute Bridges

The glutes are essential to human posture and the ability to walk and run. There’s no reason why anyone should be ignoring them in their workout routine. A great exercise that you can do at home on a yoga mat is the glute bridge. A variation of the exercise can be done with a single leg instead of both. A correct rep consists of laying flat on the ground with your heels as close to your glutes as possible. Raise your pelvis off the ground while keeping your core as tight as you can. You should feel the glutes burning from the first few reps. In order to avoid injuries, keep your back straight as much as possible, instead of arching it.

6. Planks

By far one of the hardest and most hated body weight exercise that exists. It is exceptionally hard to achieve a long plank time with a proper condition, especially for beginners and untrained athletes. The current world record for a plank is a little over 5 hours but most athletes hold it for several minutes before resting. Because the proper form requires you to have your elbows and forearms on the ground, a yoga mat is essential to alleviate some of the potential pain. Remember to keep your core as tight as you can and your back straight.

7. Alternating Arm and Leg Lift

Another great core exercise that doesn’t require any equipment is the alternating arm and leg lift. If you’re familiar with yoga, you should ace this easily. Stand on your hands and knees on the mat and extend one arm forward and the opposite leg backward. Stretch as well as you can while holding for at least 10 seconds and switch. Do this for 10-15 reps each time.

8. Roll Ups

Although the roll up is a great exercise by itself, it can also be part of your Pilates routine. Doing a roll up requires you to lay on your back and roll yourself up in a standing position without using your hands for adding momentum. You can keep them stretched above your head or in any other position as long as you use your core muscles to initiate and carry out the roll. If you’re confident with your strength, you can use dumbbells to add an extra level of difficulty.

9. Yoga

Of course, we couldn’t end the list without actually mentioning yoga as a go-to exercise that requires a yoga mat. There are countless variations of yoga exercises that can either be rigorous or relaxing. Besides the fitness value of the exercises, yoga also has a spiritual component that helps individuals relax and find their inner peace.

Aliyah Kramer

Aliyah Kramer

Aliyah worked through college as a personal trainer at the YMCA. She earned her exercise physiology degree at Florida State University and now works for MedStar in pediatrics, performing physical assessments, monitoring individual exercise routines and encouraging student participation in fitness programs.
Aliyah Kramer