We’ve all heard friends and family say things like, “I don’t have a gym membership, so I can’t work out,” or even, “I can’t train; I don’t have any equipment.” In fact, you might have even said similar lines yourself!
The fact is, you can build muscle strength, coordination, endurance, and size by using your body weight.
Bodyweight exercises are incredibly convenient, versatile, accessible, and beginner-friendly. Many movements can be performed with zero equipment in the comfort of your living room.
So, what are you waiting for? Here are the 15 best bodyweight exercises, regardless if you’re a beginner or intermediate lifter.
- 1 The Benefits of Bodyweight Exercises
- 2 Warming Up
- 3 1. Push-Up
- 4 2. Tricep Dips
- 5 3. Burpee
- 6 4. Plank
- 7 5. Squat
- 8 6. Bulgarian Split Squat
- 9 7. Step-Up
- 10 8. Inverted Row
- 11 9. Pull-Up
- 12 10. Chin-Up
- 13 11. Glute Bridge
- 14 12. Walking Lunges
- 15 13. Sit-Ups
- 16 14. Wall Sit
- 17 15. Mountain Climber
- 18 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
The Benefits of Bodyweight Exercises
Do you need some convincing to move your coffee table and start training? Bodyweight exercises are the perfect way to get moving and build strength. Here are some of the key benefits to consider.
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Works for All Physical Fitness Levels
It may seem like a bodyweight squat or regular push-up is the starting point for physical fitness—this is a misconception. It doesn’t matter your level of fitness; bodyweight workouts can help you achieve your health goals.
Body exercises are easy to modify, allowing you to adjust the level of intensity and difficulty.
Resistance bands, different movement patterns, and variations can help you build a better physique, regardless of your skill level. You might start with a chair squat and work your way up, or you might use one-handed variations to up the difficulty.
Either way, bodyweight training can help you develop core strength, muscle mass, coordination, and balance.
On top of working for all experience levels, full-body exercises are incredibly accessible.
It’s no secret that not everyone has access to gym memberships or fancy equipment. You might live out in the country without any gym equipment or have a tight budget that doesn’t include adjustable dumbbells, squat racks, and barbells.
Bodyweight routines allow you to train from the comfort of your home, apartment, office, or backyard. You can make strength gains and improve your health from the comfort of your living room—all without spending a dime.
Effective bodyweight exercises can be a quick and easy solution for strength training. Workout routines can be incredibly time-consuming when you factor in commuting to the gym, warming up, and waiting for machines.
Full-body workouts provide more convenience, as you can do them from home, and they don’t take as much time.
You can target major muscle groups in a short amount of time, making them perfect for those with busy schedules, like single parents, college students, and long-working hours.
Enhances Mobility, Stability, and Coordination
Mobility, stability, and coordination are critical whether you’re resistance training or shopping for groceries.
Without adequate mobility, you’ll have difficulties with certain exercises or everyday activities, like reaching for something off the shelf. If you don’t have good stability or coordination, you might have a higher injury risk and lower performance.
Bodyweight resistance training can address all of these issues.
The right exercises will provide you with more muscle strength, shoulder mobility, and core stability so you can perform your best.
Builds Functional Strength
Full-body bodyweight workouts are terrific for developing functional strength. Functional strength exercises enhance everyday activities, like bending over to pick something up, reaching overhead, or carrying groceries in from the car.
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With the right exercises, you’ll gain more functionality for knee-based movements, hip-based movements, and more.
These movement skills will translate to all aspects of life, including physical activities inside and outside the gym.
As you know, warming up is a necessary step before lifting weights, running, or engaging in physical activity. It’s easy to overlook stretching before bodyweight exercises, but this can lead to a less effective workout and even injury.
A solid warm-up will prepare you mentally and physically for your workout. Increasing your heart rate through light physical activity will increase blood flow, allowing more oxygen to reach your muscles.
The connections between your nerves and muscles will be primed and more efficient. Furthermore, stretching will provide you with more flexibility and ease of movement.
Some warm-ups can include the following:
- Jumping rope
- A light jog or brisk walk
- Walking up and down the stairs
- Dynamic stretching
Your warm-up can vary depending on the workout, but it should last 5–10 movements and increase your heart rate. There are plenty of quick examples online you can use to ensure your body is ready to train.
The standard Push-Up is a foundational exercise for targeting the upper body. The humble movement engages the chest, core, shoulders, and triceps. It can be performed anywhere and has several progressions you can use to adjust the difficulty.
How to Perform the Push-Up
- Assume the standard push-up position with your feet close together and hands firm on the ground underneath the shoulders.
- Take a deep breath to maintain a tight core.
- Now, slowly lower your body until your pecs are roughly an inch from the ground.
- Hold for a brief moment before pushing yourself back to the starting position. That’s one repetition.
Avoid flaring out your elbows, and keep them close to the rib cage. Don’t allow your butt to raise too far up, and maintain a neutral spine. We recommend performing three sets of 10 push-ups if you’re a beginner or three sets of 20–30 reps.
2. Tricep Dips
You’ll need to target the triceps if you want to build fuller arm muscles, and one of the best options is the Tricep Dip. This movement will help you develop power, stability, and size in the arms and shoulders. Improved strength in the upper body will help with other lifts, like the overhead and bench press.
How to Perform the Tricep Dip
- Grab an elevated surface, like a chair, box, or bench.
- Place your palms on the edge of the surface, fingers facing forward.
- Straighten your legs so your heels are touching the ground with your toes facing up. Push through your hands to raise your body above the ground for the starting position.
- Now, slowly lower your body while bending your elbows. Stop once your arms form roughly a 90-degree angle right beneath the shoulders.
- Now, raise yourself back to the starting position to finish one repetition.
It’s important to prevent your elbows from flaring out to the sides or rising too far above the shoulders, as this can cause joint pain. Remember to take things slow, as tricep dips can challenge shoulder mobility. We recommend performing three sets of 8–12 reps.
Burpees may not be everyone’s definition of a fun exercise, but they are fantastic for improving cardiovascular health. There are multiple variations that burn calories and challenge the entire body. Burpees will challenge your core muscles, endurance, and coordination, so the correct technique is essential.
How to Perform the Burpee
- Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and lower your body into a squat position until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
- At the lowest point of the squat, extend your hands onto the ground and straighten your legs backward. You should now be in a press-up position.
- Now, lower your pecs to the floor like a standard push-up and quickly bring your legs back in, returning to the squat stance.
- Return to the standing position and jump, lifting your arms straight up. That’s one repetition.
You can incorporate the burpee into your full-body workout or circuit to get your heart racing. We recommend performing three sets for 30–60 seconds.
The Plank is one of the most common core exercises, but it’s not overrated in the slightest. It’s an isometric movement that can be easier on your joints and help you develop muscle stability. You have to use your entire body for stabilization when you assume a plank position, so it’s great for a full-body workout.
How to Perform the Plank
- Lie on the floor, assuming the plank position. Raise your body off the ground, resting on your forearms and feet.
- Tighten your shoulder blades and ensure you’re body is in a straight line.
- Take a deep breath to brace your core and hold the position for your desired time frame.
To get the most out of the plank, ensure you tighten your core throughout the movement. This will increase muscle engagement and make the exercise more challenging. We recommend performing three sets for 30–120 seconds.
The Squat is one of the most important compound movements, regardless if you’re using weight or not. It engages multiple muscle groups, improving strength, size, and coordination. The bodyweight squat will challenge your leg muscles, allowing you to run faster, jump higher, and lift heavier.
How to Perform the Squat
- Stand upright with your feet positioned in a stance that feels comfortable to you. The width and toe angle can vary for each person, so take your time to find the position that feels best for your body.
- Extend your arms straight out in front of your torso to act as a counterweight. Begin the movement by slowly lowering your pelvis down.
- Descend as deeply as you comfortably can while maintaining a straight back. Once you’ve reached your lowest point, stand back up to return to the starting position. That’s one rep.
Remember to brace your core and lower your body with control. You can also pause at the bottom of the movement to increase your time under tension. Perform three sets for 12–15 reps.
6. Bulgarian Split Squat
Another squat variation to incorporate into your routine is the Bulgarian Split Squat. This movement engages the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, hips, and calves. It will challenge your stability and flexibility, so it’s best to hone your technique.
How to Perform the Bulgarian Split Squat
- From a standing position with your hips square, place your left foot on an elevated surface behind you.
- Lower the right knee, straightening the left leg until your knee is just a few inches above the ground. You can extend your arms out in front of your body for more balance if necessary.
- Now, slowly raise your body to finish one rep.
- Complete all reps on your right side before alternating.
Maintain control throughout the movement by bracing your core and taking your time. This can be an advanced movement, so work your way up as needed. We recommend performing three sets for 8–12 reps on each side.
For a unilateral exercise that engages the lower body, try the Step-Up. This is a great movement for building strength, as it provides you with functional strength for climbing stairs, getting out of chairs, and more. The step-up is straightforward, but you’ll need a stable surface like a box or weight bench.
How to Perform the Step-Up
- To start, place one foot close to the edge of a step-up box or bench, ensuring that your entire foot is firmly on the surface. Let your other foot hang off the edge.
- Lower the foot that is hanging off the step while relying on the opposite leg to provide support and balance for your body.
- Gently tap your heel on the ground, and then push through the step with the working leg to go back to the starting position.
- That completes one repetition. Alternate sides for your desired rep range.
Don’t rush through the movement—focus on a mind-to-muscle connection and feel your legs work. Incorporating dumbbells, or even heavy objects around the house, can make the exercise more challenging. Perform three sets for 12–15 reps.
8. Inverted Row
The Inverted Row is a stimulating exercise that’s useful for beginners and advanced lifters. This exercise is low-impact and is a perfect tool for improving your pull-up muscles. You can use the Inverted Row to add intense amounts of volume to your regimen, especially if you’re an advanced lifter.
How to Perform the Inverted Row
- You can use a barbell in a squat rack if you have one. Otherwise, you will need a sturdy surface with resistance bands, towels, rings, or something similar wrapped around it.
- Position yourself under your support, lying down.
- Grab the bar or support with an overhand grip. You should be hanging from the grip, with your body in a straight line supported by your heels.
- Pull yourself up, engaging your abs and glutes. Pause for a moment at the top of the movement.
- Lower yourself back to the starting position to finish one repetition.
The inverted row will engage your upper back alongside your pecs and biceps. Remember to form a straight line with your body. Perform three sets of 8–12 reps or more, depending on your fitness level.
The Pull-Up is easily one of the most challenging bodyweight exercises. It’s a standard for strength, with the United States Marines requiring men to perform a minimum of four to pass the Physical Fitness Test.
Pull-ups engage the upper back, shoulders, and biceps, making it one of the best upper bodybuilders you can perform. If you need to work your way up, there are plenty of assisted variations and progression plans available.
How to Perform the Pull-Up
- Position a pull-up bar high enough so your feet don’t touch the floor when you hang from it.
- Grab the bar using an overhand grip. Your hand placement should be a bit wider than your shoulder width.
- Hang from the bar, pulling your shoulders down and away from your ears to use the lats.
- Tighten your core, pulling your body up until the bar is at chest height.
- Slowly lower your body to finish one repetition.
It’s easy to start kicking your legs or jerking your torso to bust out the last reps. Avoid this and maintain control to get the most out of your training. We recommend performing three sets for 6–8 reps or however many you can knock out.
If you’re working your way up to the pull-up, consider the Chin-Up. Chin-ups are easier than pull-ups, as they use the biceps, and you stop at chin height, shortening the range of motion. It targets similar back muscles, like the lats, rhomboids, and traps.
How to Perform the Chin-Up
- Position a pull-up bar high enough so your feet don’t touch the floor when you hang from it.
- Grab the bar with an underhand grip, palms facing toward you around shoulder distance.
- Hang from the bar before squeezing your shoulder blades together, raising your body up until your chin touches the bar.
- Lower your body to the starting position to finish one repetition.
The chin-up will help you control your body weight and develop bigger back and bicep muscles. There are plenty of progressions available if you have difficulty performing the exercise. We recommend performing three sets of 8–12 reps or however many you can complete.
11. Glute Bridge
Glute strength is critical for nearly all compound lifts and daily activities, like walking, climbing stairs, and picking things off the floor. The Glute Bridge is a fantastic movement for engaging the gluteal muscles, helping you develop strength, coordination, and balance.
The movement places less stress on the back and pain, which can be useful as a warm-up or for recovery. Developing your glutes will also improve your compound lifts, like the squat and deadlift.
How to Perform the Glute Bridge
- Lie on your back with your feet firm on the ground, a slight bend in the knees, and arms by your sides.
- Take a deep inhale to brace your core. Now, press through your heels to lift your hips and lower back off the ground.
- Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings at the top of the exercise.
- Take a brief pause at the height of the exercise before slowly returning to the starting position. That’s one rep.
Remember to maintain control throughout the movement. If you want to increase the difficulty, you can add weights or resistance bands. Performing the Single-Leg Glute Bridge can be a fantastic way to progress.
We recommend performing three sets for 8–12 reps.
12. Walking Lunges
Walking Lunges are a fantastic variation for engaging the legs and glutes. As a unilateral movement, the lunge position can improve muscle imbalances, coordination, and stability. There are countless variations available, allowing you to adjust the difficulty or muscle recruitment.
How to perform Walking Lunges
- Start by standing with your feet near each other. Take a step forward, around 18-24 inches, and plant your foot firmly on the ground.
- Once you’re in this position, allow your front knee to move forward, aiming between your first and second toes, while your back knee bends directly downwards towards the ground.
- Push through the floor with your front foot and shift your body forward to stand up straight, aligning your back foot with the position of your front foot.
- That completes one step. Repeat the same movement on the other side.
Rushing the movement is a common mistake that can lead to less effectiveness and strain. We recommend completing three sets of walking lunges for ten paces per leg.
Sit-Ups are another classic exercise from middle school PE class. This movement is a great way to build core stability and control. You can use sit-ups as a circuit finisher or in the middle of your workout routine to engage your abs.
How to Perform the Sit-Up
- Lie on your back on the ground with your knees bent.
- Place your hands behind your head and tighten your core as you raise your body up toward your thighs.
- Lower your body in a controlled fashion to the starting position to finish one rep.
Avoid pushing your neck or head forward with your hands. This can cause you to strain your muscles and make the movement less effective. We recommend performing three sets of 15–20 reps.
14. Wall Sit
Another isometric exercise to challenge your muscle endurance is the Wall Sit. Wall sits can be brutal on your quads, glutes, hamstrings, inner thighs, calves, and abs. They’re great for challenging your stability and increasing muscle tension in your workout regimen.
How to Perform the Wall Sit
- Rest your back against a wall, and position your feet roughly 2 feet away from it.
- Lower your body until you reach a 90-degree squat position.
- Now, hold this position for as long as you can. Brace your core and ensure your spine is resting against the wall.
Remember to focus on your breathing, maintaining a tight core. We recommend performing three sets of wall sits for 30–60 seconds each.
15. Mountain Climber
Another conditioning movement to engage your obliques, core, and cardiovascular system is the Mountain Climber. This exercise is perfect for circuits, as it will get your heart pumping, burn calories, and challenge your coordination.
How to Perform the Mountain Climber
- Begin by assuming a high push-up position, ensuring that your hands are firmly placed on the ground directly beneath your shoulders. Your elbows should be turned outward. Keep your feet slightly wider than hip distance apart and your shoulders slightly higher than your hips.
- Engage your shoulder muscles, abs, and glutes to create full-body tension. Keep your head in a neutral position by looking down at the floor.
- Next, bring one knee up towards your chest as if you were running. Return the leg to the starting position and repeat the movement with the other leg.
- Continue alternating legs.
Remember to pace yourself, maintaining control and technique throughout the entire exercise. We recommend performing three sets for 30–120 seconds each.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What Is a Good Body Weight Exercise Routine?
A good bodyweight training routine will depend on your fitness goals, circumstances, and preferences. That said, you should include movements that target each muscle group. You might want to perform circuit exercises that allow you to challenge your muscles and cardiovascular health simultaneously.
What Are the Big 5 Bodyweight Workouts?
The “Big 5” bodyweight exercises include planks, push-ups, burpees, mountain climbers, and squats. These exercises engage the upper and lower body while challenging stability, coordination, and endurance.
Can You Gain Muscle With Bodyweight Exercises?
Yes! It’s possible to gain muscle without any fancy equipment and only using your body weight. You will need to focus on eating enough protein and progressing to more challenging exercise variations. Once an exercise gets too easy, look for a more challenging option to continuously develop your muscles.