What are the Best Bodyweight Exercises?

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No gym? No problem. You can get the best from your physique with bodyweight exercises, and here’s how.

You don’t need a gym membership to get a good workout. Look at callisthenics experts – they have the muscle mass of bodybuilders and the physiques of gymnasts, but they don’t use weights at all.

If you’re getting started with home workouts, fall back onto these fundamental bodyweight exercises. You’ll maintain your muscle mass, and could even build a bit more!


Squats are a key exercise when you’re weight training, and it’s no different with bodyweight workouts. Doing squats without extra weight is still great training for your quads and hamstrings, glutes, and calves. Bodyweight squats also challenge your core and will get your heart rate up if you do enough reps.

Variations: squat holds, wall sits, or single-legged (pistol) squats


Lunges work many of the same muscles as squats, but because they are basically single-legged work they are more demanding of your control and co-ordination. Do lunges as part of your bodyweight workout, or finish up with a series of walking lunges to failure.

Variations: forward stepping lunges, backward stepping lunges, side lunges, Bulgarian split squats, walking lunges.

Push up

Push-ups (press-ups) are one of the best upper body exercises for a bodyweight workout because they work your chest, arms, shoulders, abs, and even your back. Don’t rush push-ups. Use a slow tempo and think about contracting and squeezing all the muscles you’re working. Remember to keep your body straight and avoid sagging at the hips.

Variations: offset press-ups, triceps press-ups, elevated press-ups.

Glute bridge

A lying hip raise, or glute bridge, will work your posterior chain. This can often be neglected in a bodyweight workout. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Push through your feet and upper back to raise your hips as high as possible. Pause and squeeze at the top before lowering slowly. This will work your abs, core, back, glutes, and hamstrings.

Variations: lift one foot off the floor and do single-legged hip raises.


The plank is more than just a core exercise. Done properly, it will strengthen your back, shoulders, arms, chest, and glutes as your body works hard to stabilise you in the plank position. Keep your heels, hips, and shoulders in a straight line so your entire spine is straight and your core works hard.

Variations: lift one foot off the floor at a time, or extend one arm out in front (always swap to work both sides).

To finish

A good bodyweight workout should target your legs, back, core, and upper body. But don’t forget the cardio element, too. Use explosive bodyweight exercises to add some conditioning work to the session, combining resistance with interval training to raise your heart rate and burn more calories.

Try adding 2-3 rounds of 8-12 squat jumps, burpees, mountain climbers, and star jumps to the end of your body weight session – you’ll soon realise why you don’t need to be in the gym to work hard!

About the Author:

Nicola Joyce has been writing for (and about) sport, fitness, nutrition and healthy living since 2004. She’s also a keen sportswoman: her background is in endurance sport but she now competes as a natural bodybuilder, most recently winning a world title with the INBF. When she’s not writing content, she can be found blogging. Follow her here www.nicolajoyce.co.uk and on Facebook & Twitter (@thefitwriter) too.

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