The Ultimate Guide to Bodyweight Workouts: Top Exercises To Gain Muscles And Build Strength

by Mark Williams on April 5, 2018

The Ultimate Guide to Bodyweight Workouts: Top Exercises To Gain Muscles And Build Strength
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It’s a truism in the health and fitness industry that you need to lift weights if you want to build bigger muscles and become stronger. In fact, weightlifting is also crucial if weight loss is your goal.

Bodyweight workouts are often neglected yet the most practical and effective way to build muscle mass. These exercises require more intense engagement of your muscles and bring great results when performed correctly.

Start doing bodyweight exercises for massive gain

What’s a Bodyweight Workout?

Body weight exercises require you to lift weights and strain against resistance. However, for these, you don’t need any type of weight or special equipment at all.

You don’t need a barbell or dumbbells, or straps that require you to pull against them. Instead, the exercises just use your own weight as the resistance that helps you to build bigger muscles.

Surely you’ve heard about pushups and pull-ups? Those are very famous examples of exercises using body weight.

What are the Benefits of Body Weight Exercises?

Let’s list down several of the most common reasons why these bodyweight exercises are so beneficial for you:

1. Like other weightlifting exercises, these bodyweight versions allow you to strengthen and enlarge your muscles. You can also even sculpt these muscles for a more impressive look.

Basically, these exercises can make you stronger and also more honed in your appearance.

2. These exercises require very little in terms of equipment. If you do pushups, all you need is a clean floor to plant your feet and palms.

For pull-ups and chin-ups, you just need a strong pole that can bear your weight as you pull yourself up.

So this means you save a lot of money as you don’t have to buy weights or get a gym membership to access the barbells.

3. These are also very convenient for you because you can just do these exercises at any time. You have a few minutes to spare at work in your office? You can do a few pushups for a while.

You can have a pole installed on your doorway, and that’s good enough for a few pull-ups. There’s no time to waste getting the dumbbells out, and of course, you don’t have to go on the road to the gym.

4. You also reduce the risk of injury when you’re not dealing with heavyweights such as barbells.

For barbells, you need a spotter for certain exercises. You can also drop the weight on your foot and hurt yourself.

Injuries can also result if you overstrain yourself and attempt a weight that’s beyond your current lifting capacity.

With just your body weight as the resistance, these risks are virtually eliminated. Since you’re only dealing with our own weight, it’s not as easy to strain your muscles. You certainly don’t need a spotter either!

For Whom Are These Exercises Suitable?

The short answer is: they’re for everyone. These bodyweight exercises for men are excellent for strength training, but they’re also great for women, children, and even senior citizens.

The classic forms of these exercises can be adjusted to the precise needs of the individual regardless if someone is experienced or just starting out with workout routines.

Bodyweight training is also ideal for women

For women (and for men who are new to weightlifting exercises), pushups can be done with the knees on the floor.

This is a good way for you to ease into doing pushups. Women can benefit from pushups as this exercise can tone their triceps and biceps.

When their upper body gets stronger, it leads to a better posture. Also, regular pushups can strengthen the chest muscles beneath the chest, so that the breast tissue is less prone to sagging.

Strength training is also great for children, though weightlifting with barbells and even dumbbells can lead to injuries. Such injuries can be avoided with the body weight version instead.

Senior citizens can also use variations of these exercises to maintain and strengthen their upper body muscles. So instead of doing full pushups on the floor, they can do pushups against the wall instead.

Performing Bodyweight Exercises Effectively:

Quite a few people complain that their efforts aren’t generating the results they’ve been hoping for. The problem is that either they have unrealistic expectations (you’re not going to get overnight results) or they’re just not doing it right.

Here are some basic tips to make your bodyweight workout plan more effective for you:

1. Make Sure You Warm up First:

Do warm ups before your bodyweight exercise routine

You have to prepare your body for your strenuous exercises. Do some stretches, and then do some light warm-up exercises to get your heart rate going.

You don’t have to tire yourself out right away, but you do need to raise your heart rate a bit.

2. Push It to The Limit:

Are you taking it too easy on yourself? That’s not the point of doing this sort of workout in the first place. You have to challenge yourself, and you need to work hard.

At the end of your workout, you must be thoroughly tired out from all your exertions. If you’re still feeling fresh, you’re not doing it right.

3. Don’t Go Overboard:

It’s one thing to challenge yourself, but it’s another matter if you’re much too intense.

You can’t do too much that you hurt yourself. So monitor your cardiovascular system and your breathing.

If you keep on hurting yourself or you find yourself continually struggling right away, you need to take it down a notch.

4. Get The Form Right:

Maintain the right form when performing workouts with your body weight

That’s the problem with so many exercises these days. You may not be doing it right, so you’re not getting the right results.

So to get it right, try to watch videos of these exercises. Written descriptions are much more difficult to follow than video demonstrations, don’t you think?

If you have the budget, you can also hire a trainer to help you out. Heck if you have dedicated gym rats as friends, you can just take a look at how they do their exercises, so you know what to do.

5. Change It Up:

The funny thing about the human body is that it’s incredibly adaptive. Go from a cold region to a warm climate, and afterward, your body gets used to the heat. If there’s not enough food, your metabolism slows down.

And if you keep doing the same exercises, then your muscles won’t be challenged because they’ve grown used to the same workout.

You need to keep your body from getting “acclimatized” to your workout. You need to change things up on a constant basis so that your muscles will be stressed in new ways.

This will keep your gains from plateauing. There is no best bodyweight workout that remains the same—you have to make changes every few weeks or so.

6. Mix It Up:

You need a good overall workout for your entire body, and that means mixing up strength training with a good cardio workout plan as well.

7. Make Sure You Get Enough Rest:

Strength training is not about constant exertions. You stress your muscles and create microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. Your muscles then take the protein in your diet as raw material to rebuild the muscle fibers and build bigger muscles.

That’s how it works. But you need time for your muscles to rebuild. You can’t constantly stress these muscles because then you’re just tearing muscles without enough time for muscle building.

This means you should get enough rest and enough sleep during the night. You also need to rest your muscles for 2 to 3 days before you stress them again.

8. Lead a More Active Lifestyle:

Not even the best bodyweight workouts can do much good if you just spend most of your time on your butt working on your desk or channel surfing on your couch.

Stay active to get the best out of your body weight workouts

Seriously, you need to move around more. If you’re tied to your desk, perhaps you can look into using a standing desk. After every half hour of sitting, stand up and take a short walk or exercise.

Do more walking around town. All these changes can make your workout a lot more effective.

9. Eat Right:

There is no single magic method or pill that can make you fit. Health and fitness require a more holistic approach, involving the right diet and exercise.

What this means for you is that you need a proper nutritional plan that fits your fitness goal. Do you want to lose weight? This means you should lessen your calorie intake.

Do you want bigger muscles? Then you have to increase your protein intake, so your muscles have the raw material to rebuild. Either way, avoid the sodas and junk food that are just toxic for you and your body.

Keep these tips in mind, and then work on specific muscles in your body for your workouts:

Body Weight Chest Workout:

With so many guys these days worried about man-boobs, what you need is a chest workout so you can really work your pecs. For that, you can use your body weight.

Here are some practical exercises you can try out. Just remember to Google these exercises so you can do them all properly!

1. Wide Grip Pushups:

This exercise is popular because it just works. It’ll make you stronger and your chest muscles will thank you for doing this. Just make sure that you keep your body straight from your head to your toes.

To make it easier for you, you can just lead your movements with your sternum. Do as many as you can at first (if you’re a newbie) until you can do 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps.

2. Dive Bomber Pushups:

If you’ve seen the videos of this workout, it may seem “naughty”. But this really builds your strength and it functions as a deep stretch too like yoga.

Watch the video to get the form right, but you need to breathe properly as well. You should inhale as you go downward, and as your head goes up you should exhale.

Try to challenge yourself by slowing down your movements as you go down and then up. Try to do 3 sets of about 5 to 7 reps each.

3. Eccentric Dips:

For this, you need handrails. You lean forward and raise yourself with your arms supporting your weight. Then you lower your weight slowly until your feet hit the floor. You have to keep to the same slow rate of descent (maybe over 5 seconds or so) to make this work. Try to get up to 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.

4. Sidestep Chest Press:

This doesn’t just work your chest muscles. It also improves your rotational movements and it works your lateral stability. You’ll need a super band for this, anchored at around the height of your hips.

Step to the side away from the anchor point with the band, and then press the band out in front of your chest with your arms fully extended. You can do 3 sets of this with 8 to 10 reps.

The rest periods between sets can last anywhere from 60 to 90 seconds. If you have a day dedicated to just your chest muscles, you can combine all these exercises for the ultimate chest workout.

Or you can pick one and include it for your bodyweight exercise routine, and then after a while, you can replace with another exercise on this list.

Body Weight Back Workouts:

A good back workout will make sure that you work all the muscles here. This means focusing on the deltoids and traps as well as the lats and rhomboids.

1. Neutral Grip Chin-ups:

The neutral grip means that your hands are facing one another, so may need a special type of bar to hold on to.

The neutral grip focuses more on the lower trapezius, while it also reduces the stress on the head of the humerus. As you pull yourself up, concentrate on pulling your shoulder blades together and down.

A single rep requires you get your shoulders at the same level as your hands. At the top, squeeze for a single count before you lower yourself down with your elbows fully extended.

To make it more challenging, you can lower yourself down more slowly. Try to do 3 sets of 6 reps, with a rest of about 90 seconds in between sets.

2. Single Arm Suspension Row:

When you start with your arm extended, you should have an overhand grip. But after you pull yourself up, you should end up with a neutral grip.

Again, at the top, you need to squeeze for a single count before you lower your body back to your starting position.

For this, you need to keep your whole body stiff and straight. The lower the angle of your body is to the ground, the more challenging it becomes. Try to do 3 sets of 8 reps per arm, with a minute of rest in between sets.

3. Chin-up Isometric Holds:

You do this with your hands facing towards you. Then you hold your body in the top position of the exercise with your sternum pressed up against the bar.

While you hold the top position, try to squeeze your shoulder blades together and down. Try 3 sets of 30-second holds at the top, and rest for 90 seconds in between the sets.

Body Weight Arms Workout (Biceps & Triceps):

Lots of men like having huge arm muscles, and fortunately, your body weight can suffice instead of barbells. You will have to set your own sets and reps—just make sure you challenge those arms.

1. Dips:

While this can also work your shoulders and pectoral muscles, there’s no doubt that it really works your forearms and triceps. Just keep your arms at shoulder width so the focus is on the triceps.

2. Plank Ups:

You begin with a high plank, and then you bend each arm in turn so that your elbow and forearms are on the floor.

Then you push right back up by putting your hand where your elbows were. As you repeat the movements, alternate which arm you lower first.

3. Plank Taps:

Begin this in a high plank position with your feet a hip-width apart. Then tap your right hand on your left shoulder. While you do this, you have to engage your glutes and core, so your hips just don’t move. Alternate the arm taps.

4. Pushups:

It’s no surprise that this classic exercise is also good for your arms. Your best position is to place your hands on the floor so that when you lower your body your shoulders are above your wrists.

5. Inchworm:

Hopefully, you’re bendy enough for this. That’s because you start with your feet about a hip-width apart and then you bend forward at your hips so you can place your palms flat on the floor.

If that’s not just possible for you, then you can bend your knees.

Now with your palms on the floor, “walk” your hands forward until you end up in a high plank position and your shoulders above your wrists. (At this point you can add a pushup for a greater challenge.)

Then walk your hands back towards your feet and stand up straight.

6. Triceps Dips:

Sit back on the ground against a step or a box, while your feet are extended straight out. Now place your palms on top of the step with your fingers facing your body.

Lift yourself up by setting your arms straight, so your butt and legs are off the ground. Then bend your elbows to lower yourself down, though you should raise yourself back up again before your butt hits the ground.

Body Weight Legs Workout (Thighs, Hamstrings, Calf Muscles)

You can’t focus on your upper body too much that you overlook your leg muscles for your workout. After all, your body’s biggest muscles are in your legs. Here are some exercises you can do to really work those muscles out.

1. Step-up with Knee Raises:

Put a box or a bench in front of you, and this shouldn’t go higher than your knees.

Step on it with one foot, and as you plant your foot down you raise your other foot bringing your knee up as high up as you can. Lower this leg back to the floor before you also lower your first leg.

Then do the other leg. The great thing about this exercise is you can focus on a single leg if your legs aren’t equally strong.

2. Standing Long Jump:

With your feet about shoulder width apart, prepare yourself into a squat position so you can do your long jump.

Make sure you swing your arms back while you also bring your legs forward. Really try to jump as far as you can, and land on the soles of your feet. This will really increase your leg strength and enlarge your leg muscles.

3. Single Leg Glute Bridge:

Lie on your back. One leg should be bent, while the other should be raised straight up in the air.

Raise your hips as high up as you can as you thrust up. At the top, clench your glutes, so you activate more muscle fibers. Then gradually lower your hips to the ground. Perform a few reps before you do your other leg.

This will not only give your legs a workout, but your backside muscles will benefit as well. And who doesn’t want a firmer backside these days?

Final Words

Make sure you don’t overstrain your muscles, so alternate all these workouts on different days so your muscles can recover.

Challenge yourself every time, and change things around every few weeks or so. Eat right, and be more active.

You can no longer use the excuse that you don’t have the proper weightlifting equipment to be healthy and strong. Now you know what kind of body weight exercises to include in your workout to work the muscles all over your body.

It’s time for you to find that determination to actually perform these exercises on a regular basis. Even without barbells and dumbbells, you already have the body weight to use, so why not use them?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Fernando Smolders April 15, 2018 at 10:12 am

This article is a great piece of accurate information, all the exercises that you shared are effective exercises for bodyweight training! I believe this info in the right hands will bring many positive changes to people willing to put this info in practice!

Thanks for sharing!

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Mark May 7, 2018 at 11:42 am

I’m glad that you like it, Fernando 🙂

Reply

Michael May 7, 2018 at 3:21 pm

Apparently, the benefits of body weight exercises can never be overemphasized. Personally, I like the exercises that build the arms as they make anyone look fit in shirts and polo. Meanwhile, for the past few months I’ve been trying push ups, I went from 10 push ups to 30 presently. How can I increase my strength and achieve more?

Reply

Mark May 8, 2018 at 11:53 am

Hi Micheal. Great that you are exercising.
You have already made a progress so you are doing well.
To further increase your strength and be able to do more push-ups try to do following:
Perfect your push-up form – make sure you do exercises correctly.
Start with doing push-up workout every other day with a set number of repetitions.
When you pretty easily do your repetitions, each week add 2-3 repetitions to your sets to make progress.
To challenge yourself you can add resistance to your push-ups. Elevating your feet while doing push-ups is a one way to make the workout more challenging and gradually increase your strength.
The most important thing is to be consistent and keep working out.

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