Let’s face it – most of us aren’t that fortunate to have a fully equipped gym at home.
Sure, a pair of dumbbells is not that hard to get but what’s when you don’t have ANY equipment?
Or maybe it’s simply a preference of yours – you just rather skip the iron.
Well, that’s all fine.
Bodyweight workouts are undoubtedly the single most convenient form of training – all you need is just some space (in many cases – not even much space).
Benefits of bodyweight exercises
Given that bodyweight exercises are in general much less technical than weightlifting ones, they tend to be much more beginner-friendly.
If you are an absolute novice in exercising, bodyweight exercises are the way to start building your foundation.
Injury risks are minimal and you’re less likely to overload your body with the initial stress of exercising.
2. Develop and improve technique
Building on our previous point, bodyweight exercises are great to practice, develop, and improve your technique.
Most compound weightlifting exercises require you to master the technique first before loading the barbell.
For example, before jumping into deadlifts, you should definitely practice the hip hinge.
This will allow you to safely master the form and have much more control and confidence once you start loading the movement.
The same goes for squats.
3. Injury prevention
Again, continuing the line of thought from our previous point, bodyweight exercises have a lower impact on your joints, tendons, and muscles which also means a lower injury risk.
Furthermore, by perfecting your form through bodyweight exercises, you are much less likely to injure yourself once you start working with weights.
4. Easily accessible
Well, one of the main and most obvious advantages of bodyweight exercises is that they only require the bare minimum – just some space and your own body.
As we mentioned already, if you’re a complete beginner, have zero equipment at home and no desire to visit a gym, bodyweight exercises are your obvious choice.
5. Agility and speed
You might have heard about the term plyometric exercises, which are basically jumping exercises.
They require (and develop) a lot of explosiveness, speed, and body control and are used even by professional athletes (basketball, tennis, football, etc.) to enhance their performance.
Plyometrics are a great way to improve your agility but are not be advisable for training newbies or people recovering from injuries.
Bodyweight exercises vs. Weightlifting
The type of training you decide to do depends to a large extent on your goals.
If you’re looking to improve your speed and agility, plyometrics is obviously the answer.
If you’re a complete workout newbie and you want to build muscle and increase your endurance, bodyweight workouts can be a great beginning.
However, as you get better and stronger, you might find yourself stuck in a plateau.
The reason being that to continue to improve and strengthen your muscles you need to progressively increase the resistance.
There are two variables in strength training – weight and repetitions/intensity.
While you can modify most of the bodyweight exercises to make them more challenging, there are only so many variations that you can do.
Given that you’re still working with the same resistance – your body weight, you’ll most likely need to increase the other variable in the equation – the number of repetitions.
This might work for a while but who wants to spend half an hour doing air squats?
For that reason, the more effective and practical approach for strength training is to use some kind of external weight like dumbbells, kettlebells, etc. that you can progressively increase.
The best approach for complete beginners: Start out with bodyweight training – mastering the form of compound movements and building up strength.
Once you feel confident enough, move on to add external weights to your program.
Can you build muscle with bodyweight exercises?
Put very simply, there are three factors that influence muscle building: progressive overload training, adequate nutrition, and rest.
Every time you put more stress on your muscles than they were previously used to, you cause damage to your muscle fibers. The body naturally reacts by initiating a repair and replace cellular process, in which new myofibrils (muscle cells) are built. The important thing to note here is that damage happens during a workout, repair (growth) happens while you rest. It’s essential that muscle protein synthesis exceeds the muscle protein breakdown.The myth of the “toned body”
This means that to achieve muscle hypotrophy (building of muscle) you need to consistently challenge yourself and progressively increase the resistance.
As mentioned before, a complete beginner can easily achieve that with bodyweight exercises but as they adapt to the resistance volume, they’ll undoubtedly reach a point where external weights are needed.
In short: Yes, if you’re a complete beginner. As you get better and stronger, you’ll need to add additional resistance to continue seeing progress.
Can you lose weight with bodyweight exercises?
To lose weight you need to be in a caloric deficit – burn more calories than you consume. How you achieve that depends on you.
You can either cut down your calorie intake by reducing meal portions, you can increase your activity levels and thus burn more calories, or you can do both.
Any activity that makes you burn extra calories brings you closer to your goal of losing weight (as long as you don’t make up for it with more food).
So yes, bodyweight exercises can certainly help you lose weight. How successful you are in losing weight depends on a lot of factors though and not just the type of exercises you choose.
60+ Bodyweight Exercises to Try At Home
1. Air squat
- Your stance needs to be either shoulder-width or a little wider, toes pointing slightly outward.
- Keep your back straight and spine neutral.
- Keep your weight on the heels.
- Have a tight core through the whole movement, this will be crucial when you add weight.
- On your way down, knees should be in line with your toes.
- To do a full squat, your hip joint needs to be lower than your knees – always aim for that, in order to get the maximum out of the movement.
- The upper body and hips rise at the same rate, maintaining a more vertical torso.
- Look straight ahead through the whole movement.
To learn more about the different squat variations check out this article where you can find detailed information on back squat, front squat, and low bar squat.
2. 1 and 1/2 Squat
Very similar to the air squat but adding an additional pulsing 1/2 squat before coming all the way up and finishing the movement.
Lean with your back against the wall and lower yourself down until your legs form a 90 degrees angle. Hold that position for as long as you can and you’ll certainly feel the burn!
4. Jumping squat
Remember when we talked about plyometrics? Here’s a great example – the jumping squat.
Adding jumping squats to your bodyweight routine can really spice up your home workouts by adding a dash of explosiveness to them.
Just make sure you’ve mastered the air squat first before moving to this variation.
5. Sumo squat
Stand with your feet as wide as you’re comfortable and toes pointing outwards. Lower yourself down while keeping a straight back and your chest upright.
6. Crossack squat
Your starting position is similar to the sumo squat. Then you slowly descend your weight on one leg while the other one stays straight to the side.
It’s normal that when you’re at the bottom of the position, your straight leg is only touching the ground by the heel and toes are in the air. Keep your back straight.
7. Single leg squat/Pistols
This exercise is one of the fairly advanced bodyweight exercises. It requires a lot of leg strength and balance.
A great way to practice it is by holding to a chair so you can pull yourself up and keep the balance.
Another option is to have a chair behind you and only lower yourself down until you reach it thus reducing the range of motion.
8. Split squat
Standing up, take a step forward with one foot and allow your back heel to lift of the ground.
Both feet face forward. Bend your knees at the same time and shift your weight towards the front foot, while keeping an upright torso and a straight back.
Drive through your front heel to return to starting position.
Stand in front of a stable elevated surface and step on it with one foot.
Drive through the heel of the upper foot and try to lift your weight up with that leg. Step down with the opposite leg and then repeat alternating both sides.
10. Box jump
Yet another explosive plyometric bodyweight exercise. Make sure to use a really stable surface to jump on and use an upswing arms motion to help you with the jump.
Land softly and smoothly lower yourself into a squat. Once you get better, you can challenge yourself by trying different hights.
Probably one of the most popular lower body exercises – loaded or not. Standing tall, take a step forward with one foot and bend your knees simultaneously.
Keep your torso upright and back straight. Drive through your front heel to return back to the starting position.
12. Reverse lunge
Just like the name suggests – it’s like a regular lunge but instead of stepping forward, you step backward. Possibly one of my most favorite lower body exercises ever.
13. Side Lunge
Standing tall with a narrow stance step to the side, bend your knee and shift your weight on the side-stepping leg.
The stationary leg stays straight and to the side – you can lift your toes up in the air and only tough the ground with your heel. Drive through the heel of your bent leg and return to starting position.
14. Jumping lunges
As with any other plyometric exercise, make sure you have sufficient body control to be able to perform them safely. Practice regular lunges first before trying out jumping lunges.
15. Bulgarian split squat
The Bulgarian split squat is very much like your regular split squat – the only difference is that your back leg is elevated.
This makes the movement far more challenging as this adds extra weight for you to lift up.
Try to use your back leg only for balance and drive your weight with the front leg only.
16. Single leg bodyweight deadlift
The bodyweight single leg deadlift is a great exercise to build your balance and unilateral strength. It will activate your glutes and hamstrings.
Start with a standing position, with a slight bend in your plant leg hinge forward from the hip.
Try to keep your back leg straight and aim to keep your hips neutral (don’t rotate them). Hinge until 90 degrees and return to starting position.
17. Skater lunge
Another jumpy bodyweight movement.
From standing position, step your left leg diagonally behind your right leg and lower yourself into a lunge.
From here reverse the movement by jumping to your left, landing on your left leg while your right leg lands diagonally behind.
18. Bodyweight Good Mornings
The bodyweight good morning is a great exercise to activate your hamstrings and posterior chain as a whole.
Additionally, practicing the hip hinge will help you with mastering the proper deadlift form – loaded or not.
Start with a shoulder-width stance, hands behind your head, hinge from the hips, and lean your torso forwards.
Keep your back straight, core engaged and knees slightly bent. Return to starting position and repeat for the desired number of reps.