Last Updated on July 22, 2017 by Jeff
Maybe you don’t like the gym, travel a lot, or just like being outside in the fresh air.
Obviously you can go jogging and do typical cardio stuff anywhere, but that isn’t going to get you strong or jacked. Doing bodyweight exercises, however, will. If you do them right, anyway. Here’s how:
Upper Body Bodyweight Exercises
You can get just as good an upper body workout using only your bodyweight as you can using weights. Here are the key exercises:
- Pull ups – great for the lats, lower traps, shoulders and arms.
How-to – Hang from a bar with palms facing away. Pull your elbows towards your hips, pulling yourself up and touching the bar with your chest. Keep the shoulders back throughout.
- Chins ups – similar to pull ups, with a little more focus on the biceps.
How-to – Hang from a bar with palms facing towards you. Pull yourself up until your chest touches the bar, keeping the shoulders back throughout.
- Horizontal row – Superb for the lats, mid-back and postural muscles.
How-to – Find a horizontal bar and grab hold of it. Walk yourself out so you are close to horizontal to the ground. A waist height bar works best. Pinch your shoulder blades together and pull yourself up until chest touches the bar.
- Push ups / incline push ups – works the chest, shoulders and triceps.
How-to – Lay face down, with hands just outside your shoulders, push yourself up and lower back down, keep the hips up and body straight. For incline push ups, elevate the feet and make sure you don’t let the hips sag down.
- Handstand push ups – A tough push up variation that focuses on the shoulders.
How-to – Walk backwards up a wall, so you end up upside-down, facing the wall. Keep your body straight and carefully lower yourself down until your head touches the floor (place a matt under your head) then push back up to straight arms. Be careful not to tip over backwards.
- Dips – harder than a push up, but easier than a handstand push up.
How-to – Find some parallel bars or dip station and start supporting yourself above the bars with straight arms. Bend at the elbow and lean forwards as you go down. Lower down until your elbow is fully bent, but keep the shoulders back and body straight. Push back up to straight arms.
Lower Body Bodyweight Exercises
While you cannot overload the lower body to the same extent as you can using weights, you can still get a great workout. Especially when you do single leg exercises. Here are the key exercises:
- Lunges – A simple exercise that you can easily make more difficult by doing up a hill. Good for quads, glutes and hamstrings.
How-to – Take a big stride out, and bend both knees as the front foot lands. Go down until both knees are bent to 90 degrees, then step through with the other leg forwards.
- Pistol squats – Challenging squat variation that requires a lot of strength, co-ordination and mobility.
How-to – Stand on one leg, lift the other slightly and keep it straight. Sit back and down like you would a normal squat, ensuring the knee tracks over the toes and you control – don’t drop. Lift the other leg out in front of you to keep it out of the way.
- Sprints – Possibly the most underrated exercises out there. Great workout for quads, glutes and especially hamstrings. Nothing melts fat off a body like sprinting does.
How-to – Find a 40-80m flat piece ground, or go to the local track. Run maximum effort repeats with 3-5 minutes rest between sets. Be warned: this will make you sore!
- Hip lifts / single leg hip lifts – Activate and strengthen the glutes.
How-to – Lay on your back, bend the knees to 90 degrees and place the feet flat on the floor. Squeeze the glutes, push the heel down and lift the hips in to the air, so the body is straight from shoulder to knee. For single leg variation, simply lift one leg, be sure that you don’t let the hips rotate and drop on one side. Hold at the top for a second and then control down.
- Glute ham raise – A very tough hamstring and glute exercise.
How-to – Pin your feet under a bar, or have someone hold them down. Start in a kneeling position, keeping the body straight and hips extended, lower yourself down to the floor by straightening at the knee. Have something soft under your knees to protect them, and be careful not to faceplant!
Core Bodyweight Exercises
In many ways, using bodyweight to do core exercises is better, because the core muscles primary function is to stabilize the body – not to move weights. Here are the key exercises:
- Planks – A basic stability exercise to work the abs.
How-to – Set up the same as a push up, but on the elbows and forearms, rather than hands. Squeeze the abs and keep the body straight for as long as possible without letting the hips sag.
- Side planks – Works side stability and builds the oblique muscles.
How-to – Set up on the elbow and forearm, like the plank, but on your side. Squeeze the abs, lift the hips and hold for time, without letting the hips sag down.
- Leg raises – Great for the lower abs.
How-to – Hang from a bar, contract the abs and lift the legs up to hip height, keeping them straight. Control back to the start.
- L-sit – Challenging gymnastics exercise for the abs.
How-to – Lift the legs the same as a leg raise, but this time hold them at the top. 90 degree angle at the hip and legs straight.
- Hollow body rocking – A mixture of strength, flexibility and co-ordination. An advancement on the plank.
How-to – Lay flat on your back, legs straight and together; arms straight and together, over your head. Lift the legs and arms slightly to create a gentle C shape through your entire body. Maintain this posture with the lower back on the floor, legs and arms in the air. You should feel tension in the abs throughout. Hold for max time and don’t forget to breathe.