Anyone serious about their fitness should take the time to learn enough bodyweight exercises to give them a full body workout. The beauty of these calisthenic exercises is that you can perform them anywhere you find yourself when it’s time to work out. You just need a little bit of space.
While lifting free weights is the best approach for increasing muscle mass, bodyweight exercises aren’t that far behind. Some of the people walking around with the most impressive physiques use bodyweight exercises exclusively. You’ll have a hard time finding an athletic program, law enforcement training, or military boot camp program that doesn’t make bodyweight exercises a significant portion of their strength and conditioning programs.
Bodyweight exercises are an effective way to improve your strength, endurance, coordination, balance, and flexibility without any equipment. These exercises use your body weight to create resistance, and you can also use exercise tools like a resistance band, exercise wand, or weights to make them more challenging.
Learning a calisthenic routine allows you to stay in shape without needing to purchase expensive exercise equipment or a gym membership. It also saves you priceless time. Your bodyweight workout might take less time than it does to drive to and from a gym.
Other benefits of bodyweight exercises include:
- Provides Strength Training And Cardio: Bodyweight exercises raise your heart rate while improving muscle strength, endurance, and flexibility.
- Bodyweight Routines Typically Take Less Time Than Working With Weights: For example, there’s no time wasted loading or unloading barbells or driving to the gym.
- Burns Fat: Bodyweight workouts help to burn fat deposits in your body. They also increase your metabolism for up to 14 hours.
- Typically Use Compound Movements: Compound movements engage several muscle groups, allowing you to work multiple muscle groups simultaneously, saving you time. For example, push-ups engage your chest, triceps, forearms, and shoulders.
- Reduce Friction For Working out: There’s never a good reason to miss a bodyweight workout since you can finish them in less than 20 minutes. You just need a little space and some time to time to get a full-body workout. You can always find 20 minutes of spare time regardless of how busy you are if you’re serious about improving your fitness.
Bodyweight Exercises That Will Make You Stronger
Bodyweight exercises help to build functional strength and endurance. It provides all the exercise you need to keep your body in tip-top condition, and it can complement your weight training routine to take your training to the next level. Here are 14 bodyweight exercises that will help you to build a stronger body:
Push-ups are one of the classic bodyweight exercises. They’ve been done for centuries and remain part of many high-level training programs, including those used by most professional athletes and military agencies.
Push-ups are widely viewed as the best bodyweight exercise for your upper body. They mainly target your chest, shoulders, and biceps, but they also engage your lower back, lats, glutes, legs, and core.
To perform a push-up:
- Get into a high plank position with your hands underneath your shoulders while your elbows are close to your body.
- Tighten your core and squeeze your glutes so your body is straight, not sagging. You should be able to draw a straight line from your head to your feet.
- Lower yourself to the ground by bending at the elbow until your chest touches the ground. Keep your face pointing a couple of meters ahead of you.
- Push yourself back to the starting position by contracting your chest, triceps, and shoulders. Aim for three sets of as many reps as you can.
Squats are one of the best exercises for building mass, muscle strength, and endurance in your lower body. The movement engages your core, hamstrings, quads, and glutes. Here’s what the exercise looks like:
- Stand tall with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Your hips should be right over your knees, while your knees are over your ankles.
- Roll your shoulders back and down to keep your spine neutral during the movement.
- Extend your arms ahead of you so they’re parallel to the floor, with your palms facing down. Alternatively, your can pull your elbows close to your body and keep your palms facing each other. It’s a matter of comfort.
- Start the movement by taking a deep breath and hinging your hips backward while bending your knees. Keep your chest pointing forward and your shoulders upright as you drop into the squat. Go as low as you comfortably can.
- Explode back to the starting position by driving through your heels as if you were trying to spread the floor apart. This means you drive your right foot to the right and your left foot to the left without moving them. Aim for three sets of as many reps as you can perform.
Once the standard squat gets too easy for you, meaning you can easily complete over 30 reps, it’s time to use variations like the pistol squat.
3) Pistol Squat
The pistol squat is one of the most difficult bodyweight exercises to learn, but it’s worth the effort since it forces one leg to carry all your body weight, making it a lot more challenging than the conventional squat.
Here’s what the exercise looks like:
- Stand tall with your feet about hip-width apart and your toes pointing forward.
- Extend your right leg ahead of you and hold it several inches off the floor. Keep your right foot flexed and your toes pointing up.
- Extend both of your arms ahead of you and keep them at shoulder level.
- Tighten your core and look straight ahead to get into the starting position.
- Bend your left knee to lower yourself toward the ground as if you were performing a conventional squat. Go as low as you can. Ideally, you want your glutes to get within inches of the ground.
- Push through with your left foot to return to the starting position. You should be looking ahead the entire time. Switch sides and repeat the movement to complete a rep. Aim for three sets of as many reps as you can get.
Burpees are one of the most demanding bodyweight exercises, but they engage every major muscle group in your body like your shoulders, chest, core, lower back, glutes, quads, hamstrings, triceps, and calves. The exercise was developed in 1939 as a quick way to assess a person’s fitness level.
A few sets of burpees are all you need to give yourself a full-body workout on busy days, so make them part of your bodyweight workout routine.
Here’s what the exercise looks like:
- Start standing upright with your feet hip-width apart. Drop into a squat and place your hands on the ground just outside your feet. Jump both feet back so you end up in a plank position.
- Perform one push-up and return to the plank position. Jump your feet forward toward your hands and jump into the air explosively while keeping your arms straight overhead.
5) Bear Crawl
The bear crawl engages all your muscles and is often part of high-intensity fitness programs. It’s a great way to warm up for your bodyweight exercise sessions or to build full-body strength and endurance. You don’t need any equipment to perform the exercise, but you do need enough space to move about freely.
Here’s what the exercise looks like:
- Start in a high plank position with your hand underneath your shoulders and your core tight. Your feet should be about hip-width apart with your heels off the floor.
- Move forward by moving your left leg and right arm simultaneously in a crawling motion. Your knees should never touch the floor during the movement. Switch sides after each step, moving your right leg and left hand forward.
- Keep moving until you reach your desired distance or number of steps.
6) Bicep Curls Stair Climb
Here’s a simple way to work your entire body while primarily targeting your biceps. You’ll. This move helps strengthen not only your arms and legs but also improves coordination.
To perform the exercise:
- Start by standing straight up, feet positioned shoulder width apart.
- Lift your left leg up 90 degrees along with your right arm mimicking the movement of performing a bicep curl. Once you’re done with the first rep, switch sides performing the same movements.
- Once you’re familiar with the movement, to take things up a notch, grab a pair of light dumbbells to feel the extra burn.
7) Calf Raise
Calf raises are arguably the best bodyweight exercise for engaging your calves. You can make the exercise more challenging by holding on to something heavy while performing the exercise. To perform the exercise:
- While standing upright, slowly lift your heels off the ground so you’re standing on your toes. Keep your knees straight the entire time.
- Pause for a second at the top and slowly return to the starting position to complete a rep.
- You can make this exercise more challenging by standing on an elevated surface (like an exercise box or a step) since that allows your heels to drop below the level of the balls of your feet.
8) Triceps Dip
Dips are one of the most effective bodyweight exercises for building muscle mass and improving the definition of your triceps. To perform this exercise:
- Sit on the ground near a bench or step with your knees slightly bent.
- Extend your arms behind you to hold on to the edge of the elevated surface and straighten your arms.
- Bend your arms until your lower and upper arm form a 90-degree angle. Pause for a second and straighten your arms to complete a rep. Aim for three sets of as many reps as you can perform.
9) Side Plank
The side plank forces your biceps to do most of the work, but it also engages your core and shoulders. Here’s what the exercise looks like:
- Start on your left side by putting your left hand on the floor and pushing up until your arms form a straight line that runs through your shoulder.
- Your body should be straight with your feet crossed. The only parts of your body that should touch the floor when in a side plank are the palm of your hand and the side of your foot.
- Hold the position for a set duration of time and repeat on your other side. You can reduce the intensity of the exercise if it’s too much for you by placing your forearm on the ground.
10) Pike Push-Ups
Here’s a variation of the standard push-up that forces your shoulders to do most of the work, while engaging your chest, core, and triceps. To perform the exercise:
- Stand in the standard push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart. Lift your hips as high as you can so your body forms an upside-down “V.” This is the starting position for the exercise.
- Bend your elbows to lower your head toward the ground. Pause for a second at the bottom and straighten your arms to return to the starting position.
Aim for three sets of as many reps as you can pump out. If you can do more than 20 reps, it’s time to move on to handstand push-ups. Here’s how those work:
- Get in front of a wall and kick your feet up so you’re in a handstand position against the wall. Keep your glutes and tighten your core to maintain the position.
- Lower your head to the ground and pause for a second at the bottom before pushing back up to complete a rep.
11) Inverted Row
Inverted rows target all the major muscles in your back like your laps and rear deltoids. You’ll need something that can support your weight while inverted to perform the exercise like a sturdy table or barbell. Here’s what the exercise looks like:
- Find something solid you can easily grab onto that can support your weight as you pull on it. We’ll use a table for our example.
- Position yourself under the table and grab its edges with an overhand grip. Keep your hands about shoulder-width apart. Move your legs up and straighten your arms so you’re hanging off the table.
- Squeeze your upper back and shoulder blades to pull your chest towards the table. Pause at the top and slowly lower yourself back down to complete a rep.
Pull-ups are the best bodyweight exercise for your back and they also give your biceps a decent workout. You’ll need a pull-up bar or something you can vertically hang off that supports your weight.
To perform a pull-up:
- Grab the bar with an overhand grip with your hand slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Keep your arms straight as you hang off the bar.
- Squeeze your arms and lats to pull your chest toward the bar.
- Pause for a second and slowly lower yourself down to complete a rep. Aim for three sets of as many reps as you can.
The superman is a simple exercise that helps strengthen muscle groups in your back, like the erector muscles in the spine. It helps to improve posture, and it also activates your core, hamstrings, and glutes.
Here’s what the exercise looks like:
- Lie on your stomach with your hands extended to your front.
- Raise your legs, arms, and chest a few inches off the floor and hold the position for a second.
- Squeeze your lower back and return to the starting position to complete a rep. Perform three sets of as many reps as you can do.
Sit-ups target your abs and help to increase core control and stability. The exercise should be performed in a slow and controlled manner to get the most out of it. Focus on performing the movements using only your core muscles and avoid using your momentum to cheat. Do not pull on your head as you perform sit-ups since doing so can lead to neck strain.
- Lie down on the floor with your feet flat and your knees bent.
- Use your hands to support your head as you lift your torso by tightening the muscles in your core. Your torso should form a “V” with your thighs.
- Lower yourself to the starting position to complete one rep. Perform as many as you can for two to three sets. Rest for about 20 seconds between sets.