There are many advantages to doing bodyweight exercises if your goal is weight loss or if you want to strengthen and tone your muscles.
In this article, we describe some of those benefits, list our favourite ten bodyweight exercises and tell you how to perform each of them so that you can start building muscle and burning fat today.
What are bodyweight exercises?
Basically, bodyweight exercises are those exercises that rely solely on our own bodyweight to provide muscle resistance.
A good example of a bodyweight exercise is the pushup.
Advantages of bodyweight exercises
There are many advantages to doing bodyweight exercises, here are just a few:
- They are the cheapest possible form of exercise because they require absolutely no equipment.
- Some bodyweight exercises are great introductions to strength exercises generally and strength training.
- The heavier our body is the more resistance is provided so the harder the exercises are and the more benefit they provide.
- Bodyweight exercises can be done virtually anywhere and because there is no fitness equipment involved, and because the exercises provide so much resistance, bodyweight workouts can be performed very quickly.
- Bodyweight exercises help build muscle and get the heart rate up.
- Bodyweight exercises can easily be incorporated into a workout and combined with aerobic movements to provide a great total body workout that improves strength and cardiovascular fitness all at once.
Our Top Ten Favourite Bodyweight Exercises
Here are our favourite ten bodyweight exercises and a brief description of each:
Pushups are one of the best exercises you can do for upper body strength and work the chest, shoulder and triceps (back of the arms) muscles.
Pushups also work the core stabilizer muscles in the midsection when we hold our body nice and straight throughout the push up motion.
If you are new to pushups or can’t do more than just a few, try starting with a half pushup (knees resting on the floor instead of your feet).
Once you can do 10 to 20 pushups without resting, try doing them is sets, for example 3 sets of 15 repetitions.
Bodyweight squats are great for building strength and tone in the thighs and butt. Squats are very easy to perform but are sure to get your heart pumping and your legs burning after just a few repetitions.
To perform squats, simply stand with your feet shoulder width apart, arms folded in front of your chest. Now lower your butt towards the floor until you thighs are just a little higher than parallel to the floor.
Now stand up again and repeat as many times as possible.
If you find it hard to balance, widen your stance slightly.
For safety’s sake, always make sure your knees are inline with your feet and keeping looking forward.
To help keep your head up and looking forward, it’s often a good idea to pick a spot on the wall in front of you and keep your eyes on that spot throughout the squatting motion.
Lunges also work the thighs and you won’t find a better exercise to tighten your glutes (bottom).
Because lunges exercise one leg at a time, they can be quite difficult at the start, but if you persist with them your strength will improve very quickly and you’ll find them a lot easier to perform.
To perform lunges, stand with feet together and hands by your side. Now take a step forward with one foot and then lower your back knee to the floor before raising it up again and stepping back into your original position in one smooth motion.
Alternate your feet, one right, one left, one right, etc, as you perform as many repetitions as possible.
As with the squats, it’s a good idea to pick a spot on the wall to look at throughout the exercise and always make sure your knees are inline with your feet.
Bodyweight dips are a great way to strengthen and tone the triceps muscles in the back of the arms.
Many women have fat deposits in this area which makes the back of their arms look a little flabby so this exercise is a must for them.
Like pushups, there are two types of dips you can do, full-body dips and half dips.
Full-body dips usually require special exercise equipment in the form of dip bars which allow you to suspend your full bodyweight in an upright position above the ground.
These dips are usually quite hard to perform, particularly for the beginner, so if this is all new to you, half dips are the better option.
Half dips are performed using a couple of chairs, a bench or a reasonably high step.
In describing how to do half dips, we’ll assume you are using a solid and stable bench of some kind.
To perform half dips position yourself in front of the bench so that it is right behind you.
Bend down and place your hands over the front edge of the bench with your fingers facing down and forward. Your palms should now be on top of the bench and your fingers handing over the edge of the bench pointing down to the ground.
Now (with your hands staying where they are) place both feet forward so that your heels are resting on the ground at legs length in front of you.
In this position, your bottom should be just above and just in front of the bench, and your arms should be taking all of your bodyweight.
Very slowly and very carefully, lower your bottom towards the floor by bending your arms. Lower yourself to a position so that your arms are at close to 90 degrees (and is comfortable) with your bottom just above the floor.
After a very brief pause at the bottom, carefully raise your bottom to the start position.
If half dips are still too difficult, try doing them with your feet closer to the bench and your legs at 90 degrees.
If you have a Fitness Ball or Swiss Ball at home, these make great alternatives to chairs, benches and stairs for doing half dips.
5. Chin ups.
Chin ups help build a strong back, shoulders and arms.
Chin ups can be performed with a variety of hand grips, such as an underhand grip with hands about shoulder width apart, or a forward grip with hands wider than shoulder width apart.
Regardless of the grip used, chin ups can be very difficult in the beginning, but even if you can only do one at a time in the beginning, they are worth persisting with.
If you can’t do one full chin up, try stepping on a chair or block of some kind to raise your body up and then step of the chair/block and lower your body down unassisted.
Before long, even doing this negative part of the exercise will have many benefits, including strength gains that will soon see you doing full chin ups unassisted.
6. Step Ups.
We all know that climbing stairs is a great exercise for weight loss and fitness.
Step ups simulate stair climbing but you can do them without a stair case.
All you need to perform step ups is a sturdy and stable chair, bench or step.
In describing how to perform step ups, we’ll assume you’re using a bench.
To perform step ups, simply stand in front of your bench, lift one knee and place your foot completely on the top of the bench.
Now step up onto the bench by raising your other foot and place it completely on the bench so that your feet are together.
Step down with one foot followed by the other. Repeat as many times as possible or for a time limit of one to five minutes.
So that your legs get an equal workout, alternate the foot that steps up first onto the bench.
7. Wall Sit
Wall sits use isometric tension to strengthen and tone the thigh muscles.
To perform wall sits, get into a position where your back is against a wall, and your feet are about 2 feet in front of you. Now slide down the wall until your knees are at a 90 degree angle. Hold the position as long as you can.
The plank is a very popular exercise in yoga classes and Pilates classes. This exercise also uses isometric tension to strength the arms, shoulders and core abdominal muscles.
To perform the plank, simply get into pushup position on your hands and toes, or on your elbows and toes.
Now contract your abdominal muscles and keep your back straight (parallel to the floor) and hold this position for as long as you can.
9. Abdominal Crunches
Abdominal crunches, as the name suggests, work the abdominal muscles.
To perform crunches, lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and arms crossed in front of your chest. Push your lower back into the floor so that the arch of your back is flattened and then curl up slowly so that both your shoulders lift off the floor a few inches.
Hold for a count of 2 and return to the start position.
10. Walking Lunge
Walking lunges are the same as normal lunges but involve moving forward instead of staying in the one spot.
To perform walking lunges, start with your feet together and take a long stride forward with the right leg. Bend your front leg so that your thigh is parallel to the floor and your trailing knee is just above the floor.
Push off your back foot and step up so your feet are together again.
Step forward with your left leg and repeat the previous sequence as many times as possible.
There are many advantages to doing bodyweight exercises and workouts if your goal is to lose weight and strengthen and tone your muscles.
In this article, we described some of those benefits, listed our favourite ten bodyweight exercises and told you how to perform them.