Bodyweight exercises are a great way to get in shape, burn fat and tone your body without having to go to the gym or spend a lot of money on expensive equipment.
There’s a reason that bodyweight exercises play such an important role in the training of special forces. Bodyweight training is one of the best, most effective and most convenient ways to build functional strength and sculpt your body.
Most bodyweight exercises engage multiple muscle groups. This makes them great for getting your heart pumping, boosting endurance and burning a ton of calories in a very short time.
There’s an enormous amount of different bodyweight exercises, ranging from easy and beginner friendly, through intermediate to very difficult and advanced.
This huge variety allows you to easily adjust your workouts to your current fitness level. It also keeps you motivated by keeping your training interesting.
Forget long, boring cardio workouts. Just a few 20-30 minute workouts per week and you’re done!
Upper body bodyweight exercises
Most exercises for the upper body and arms involve some form of pushing or pulling.
Most PUSH exercises focus primarily on your chest, shoulders, and triceps. However, one of the great benefits of doing them with only your bodyweight is that they work so many other muscles as well. For example, unlike bench pressing, doing Push Ups will also strengthen your abs and the rest of your core.
Basic bodyweight PUSH exercises are push-ups, presses and triceps dips.
PULL exercises emphasize all those muscles of your upper body that PUSH
ones don’t, like your biceps, and back muscles.
Examples of PULL exercises are pull-ups and rows.
For an overview of the best exercises for your upper body see:
Best Upper body bodyweight exercises
Bodyweight leg exercises
These focus on your quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves and primarily consist of squatting and lunging motions.
Your legs are your foundations. Strong legs are hugely important for stability and functional, whole body strength.
Because these exercises work such large muscle groups they can burn a lot of calories fast. This makes them great exercises to include in your fat burning workouts.
For the best bodyweight exercises to tone and strengthen your legs see:
Bodyweight back exercises
You see a lot of exercises focusing on the abs, like crunches and sit-ups. Sadly, the back muscle are often overlooked. However, a strong back is just as important as that six pack.
There are tons of bodyweight exercises that will help you develop and strengthen your back muscles like your deltoids, traps, lats, and rhomboids.
For some of the best exercises for a strong and sculpted back, check out:
Best Bodyweight back exercises
Full body exercises
Looking to torch the maximum amount of calories in the shortest amount of time possible? Full body exercises will be your best bet. These exercises engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, making them great for fat loss and overall conditioning and toning.
Full body exercises are great to include in High intensity interval training. For some of the best ones see:
Best Full Body Exercises Without Weights
Bodyweight Exercises for Burning Fat
Bodyweight training is a great way to boost your metabolism (and keep it boosted for hours after your workouts) and turn you into a fat burning machine.
Generally, the more difficult or intense the exercise, the more calories it burns. This is why, for fat loss, a burpee is more effective than a push-up. It engages more muscles and covers a greater range of motion, making it more intense.
You can increase the intensity of most bodyweight exercises by actually SLOWING DOWN and maximizing the range of motion!
For example, do a standard push-up (like you see most people doing them), quickly lowering yourself a few inches and then quickly pushing yourself back up. Now, instead of lowering yourself a few inches… go all the way down until your chest almost touches the floor. Further more… do it SLOWLY (about 3 seconds to go all the way down). See which variation is more intense!
Is your main goal to get rid of stubborn body fat? See:
The 5 Best Equipment Free Bodyweight Exercises for Burning Fat Fast
Bodyweight exercise routines
There are lots of different ways to structure bodyweight workouts, depending on your goals.
Strength training routine:
Pick four or five different exercises. Do each exercise for 3 sets of 6-12 reps at 3 minute intervals.
Fat loss routine:
Pick 3-5 exercises and do them in a HIIT format (using 2/3 activity periods alternated with 1/3 rest periods). For instance you would do 20 seconds of mountain climbers (doing as many as you can in those 20 seconds), alternated with 10 seconds of rest.
Perform 1 rep of any exercise, rest, then perform 2 reps, rest, then perform 3 reps, etc… Keep incrementing your reps until going any higher would cause you to hit muscle failure on subsequent sets. Once you’ve reached that point, decrease your number of reps by one, without repeating the highest number. Your rest intervals should be the same as your previous work interval.
Benefits of bodyweight training
You can do it anywhere
Where ever you are, you always take your body with you. This means you can do bodyweight exercises from pretty much anywhere you want. Whether you’re at home, in a hotel, in the park or on a desolate mountain top… you can always workout using your own body weight.
You don’t need a gym membership or any expensive equipment to start doing bodyweight exercises. Most of them are completely equipment free. Others only require some simple household items.
The only thing you might want to invest in is a pull-up bar, which will only cost you about 20 bucks.
Other benefits of bodyweight exercises
They help you build and maintain lean muscle mass
Muscle burns a lot more calories than fat does. This means muscle tissue is crucial for maintaining a strong metabolism. However, muscle mass naturally declines as you get older.
Strength/resistance training (like bodyweight exercises) is the best way to maintain lean muscle mass.
They improve joint and bond health
Increasing and maintaining muscle protects your joints and bones. This is because stronger muscles mean that you place less stress on your bones and joints to move around.
Improves your mood and fights depression
When you exercise, your body releases feel-good hormones called endorphins. These chemicals give you a natural high and help lift your mood. This makes bodyweight training an excellent naturally remedy for depression and to help boost your energy levels.
How often should you do bodyweight training?
Ok, bodyweight exercises are good for me… but how often and how long should I work out?
Most authorities recommend that you perform strength-training exercises at least two to three times per week.
To get the most bang for your buck each workout should ideally be a “full-body workout”, using multiple big muscle groups like your back, glutes, legs, chest and core.
Workouts should consist of about 30 minutes of intense exercise. You can either do a set numbers of repetitions (15 push-ups, 15 prisoner squats, 10 reverse rows etc) or do as many repetitions as you can for 1 minute and then rest for 30 seconds (HIIT training).
Workouts can consist of 3-12 different exercises. You can do as many sets of these exercises as will fit into 30 minutes.
Want a rounder, firmer and stronger tush? Research shows that this exercise is one of the most effective ways to develop your glutes, without any expensive equipment… or even setting foot in the gym.