Many people choose bodyweight exercises to get into the swing of working out. Since these don’t require special equipment or a gym, exercises using your bodyweight can be an effective way to strengthen your body.
Bodyweight exercises are appropriate for both beginners wishing to start a workout routine and people looking to find low-maintenance alternatives to workout machines and gym equipment.
Table of bodyweight exercises
Here are the exercises we’ll go over in the article below.
|Targeted body area||Exercises|
|shoulders and arms (triceps, biceps)||extended arm movement, planks|
|chest||pushups, up-down dog flow|
|back (upper, lower)||tiger, locust, bridge rolls|
|legs (calves, inner/outer/front/back thighs)||calf raises, jumping jacks, jump rope|
|core||leg raises, mountain climbers|
Keep in mind that while it’s fine to focus on targeting a specific body area, most exercises aren’t going to completely isolate one area. In most cases, you’ll be working your entire body.
There are lots of options for bodyweight workouts. Below are a few routines you can try. While it’s fantastic if you have time for a full workout, the beauty of these exercises is that you can also do a quick session.
Sneak in a few exercises if you find yourself in the office with a quick break. Or multitask and do some exercises while doing a hair or face mask.
Let these routines do the thinking for you, especially on days when your mind is fully occupied.
Aim to do these routines for about 15 to 20 minutes a day, a few times per week. Allow for at least one full day’s rest in between sessions.
This is a routine suitable for people who wish to get into the habit of working out more regularly. Get familiar with these exercises before attempting more advanced options.
You can do these exercises as a circuit routine:
- Start by doing each exercise for 30 seconds each.
- Rest for a maximum of 30 seconds in between.
- Repeat each round of exercises 2-3 times.
Extended arm movement
Extended arm movement is one way to warm-up and gently get your blood pumping.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms extended out from your sides at shoulder level.
- With your palms facing down, move your arms forward to begin making small circles in one direction. Then, switch directions.
- Next, pulse your arms up and down.
- Turn your palms to face forward, pulsing forwards and backward. Then, do the same with your palms facing backward.
- Bring your hands down to your sides and back up to starting position.
- Do each of these movements for 20-30 seconds.
Get back to the basics with pushups. They’ll work your upper body, lower back, and abdominals. Once you get used to the standard form, experiment with some variations.
- From a plank position, drop your knees down, keeping your chest lifted.
- Slowly move your chest down toward the floor until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.
- Raise your body back to the original position.
As you get stronger, you can try standard pushups with knees aligned with straightened legs. If you need modifications for better comfort or limited space, try wall pushups.
This pose has a lot of different names but no matter what you call it, practicing it regularly can help you build stronger core muscles and a good foundation for movement in general.
- Come onto all fours in a tabletop position. Your hands should be planted on the ground below each shoulder and your knees should be underneath your hips.
- Extend your right arm and your left leg straight out until they’re parallel to the floor. Hold this position for 10 seconds.
- While in this position, rotate your wrist and ankle in both directions for 10 seconds.
- On an exhale, bring your elbow and your knee towards each other.
- Inhale and return to the starting position.
- Continue this fluid movement, moving slowly and with control, then repeat on opposite side.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Put your weight on the balls of your feet as you raise your heels off the ground.
- Slowly return to the starting position. Do 25 reps.
- Then, hold the upper position on the balls of your feet and pulse up and down for 15 seconds.
- Hold this upper position for 15 seconds before lowering your heels. This 1 set.
- Stand with your legs together and your arms at your sides.
- Jump up, spreading your feet shoulder-width or slightly wider, and extend your arms overhead.
- Jump back to the original position.
This works your legs and abdominals and acts as a stretch. It can help you realign your spine while protecting your lower back. Once you’ve built up to perform this exercise with one leg, you can do the exercise with both legs at once.
- Lie on your back with both legs extended toward the ceiling. For more support, bend one leg and press that foot into the floor instead of raising it.
- Rest your arms next to your body, palms facing down.
- Exhale as you lower your right leg down to the floor, engaging your core to keep your lower back pressed down to the floor.
- Inhale to lift your leg back to the starting position.
- Continue for 30 seconds, then repeat with your left leg.
This routine is ideal for people who are intermediate or advanced in terms of physical fitness. Do this circuit if you’ve already been doing bodyweight training for a while or want to add bodyweight exercises to your existing workout program.
- Build up your strength and endurance by doing these exercises for 60 seconds each.
- Rest for up to 60 seconds in between.
- Repeat each round of exercises 2-3 times.
The sky’s the limit in terms of plank variations, so you can try out some of these once you get the hang of the traditional form.
- Come onto all fours in a tabletop position.
- Extend your legs back so you’re on the balls of your feet with your heels lifted.
- Look down toward the floor, keeping your head, shoulders, and hips in one straight line.
- Engage all of your muscles, focusing on your upper body, abdominals, and legs.
If this is hard on your wrists, try propping yourself up on your forearms and follow the same steps to engage your whole body. This variation is usually called low plank.
Up-Down Dog flow
- Come into Downward-Facing Dog, then lower your body down to plank position.
- Drop your hips and lift and open your chest in Upward-Facing Dog.
- Press back into Downward-Facing Dog and continue this flow.
- Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs extended.
- Slowly lift your arms, chest, and legs.
- Return to the starting position and continue this movement for 30 seconds.
- Rest for 30 seconds, then lift and hold the upper position for 30 seconds.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your heels in toward your hips.
- Rest your arms next to your body with your palms facing down.
- Lift your hips up toward the ceiling. Hold here for a few breaths.
- Slowly lower your spine back to the floor.
- Continue using steady, controlled movements.
Learn more and see images of 5 bridge variations.
Good old-fashioned jumping rope is good for the heart and soul. It helps to enhance body awareness, agility, and coordination.
- Start by perfecting a standard jump rope technique.
- Mix it up by moving the rope backward or doing one-footed jumps. You can jump side to side or back and forth in a square.
Mountain climbers are a great way to get your heart rate going while working your entire body. You’ll feel this exercise in your chest, arms, and abdominals.
You’ll also work your back, hips, and legs. Move slowly and with control, focusing on using your own resistance as you move your legs.
- Come into a plank position.
- Keep your body straight as you draw your right knee into your chest.
- Return it to the original position.
- Alternate between the right and left legs.
Building up strength has many positive benefits, but you want to make sure you’re not creating any tightness in your body as you build muscle. Here are some tips to improve flexibility and range of motion.
Try yoga or stretching regularly
Restorative yoga poses are an excellent way to loosen up your body. Hold each pose for three to five minutes to lengthen and stretch your connective tissue.
Focus on letting go of tension to move deeper into these poses. Options include Legs-Up-the-Wall, Head-to-Knee, and reclined Butterfly.
Yoga nidra is a guided meditation technique that’s done lying down. All you have to do is lie back and listen as you reap the amazing benefits, which include complete body relaxation. You can find yoga nidra sessions here.
Get a massage
After your hard work, reward yourself by booking a massage. A therapeutic massage can help to improve flexibility and range of motion by breaking up muscle knots that limit movement. This helps to prevent injury, allowing you to continue your workouts with ease. Deep tissue, trigger point, or sport massage may be especially beneficial.
Do something relaxing
Take time to relax both your body and your mind. Stress creates tension and tightness in your body. So, put aside time each week for an activity that puts you at ease. This could include walking in nature, taking a relaxing bath, or dancing.
Focus on your breathing
Tuning into your breath can actually help you to notice where you’re holding tension and tightness. Try breathing exercises such as alternate nostril breathing or the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
Maintaining proper hydration levels helps your muscles work properly. Drink water throughout the day. To up your fluid intake, include plenty of different drinks such as kombucha, herbal teas, and vegetable juices. Some foods can also help you stay hydrated.
Whether you’re performing bodyweight workouts, going for walks, dancing for cardio, or committing to stretching regularly, remember the reasons you want to do it. And take small steps to stay motivated.
If you need a little more motivation remember that benefits of regular exercise include:
- improved cardiovascular health
- fat loss
- enhanced mobility
All of these benefits work to improve your overall performance and movement in general. Plus, regular exercise boosts your energy levels, mood, and overall well-being, which may put you in an optimal state to maintain and improve your routine.
As always, it’s important that you set goals for yourself and develop a plan for sticking to them. Start small and hopefully, over time, you’ll see and be encouraged by the positive results of your effort.
Remember that you can do a partial workout routine if you don’t have a larger chunk of time. Build up slowly, listen to your body, and do what’s best for you on any given day. Talk to your doctor if you take any medications or have any health concerns that may interfere with your exercise routine.