Bodyweight exercises are not just for beginners. They're great for building size and strength. If they're incorporated efficiently and properly into a workout, you don't need weights. In addition, they are natural movements that minimize strain on the joints and tendons.
Here are my nine best bodyweight exercises (with videos) for size and strength. Each of these exercises has many progressions. Depending on your fitness level, it's very easy to modify the movements to make them more challenging.
Push-Ups are the ultimate upper-body pressing exercise, developing the chest, triceps and shoulders. Variations include the Close-Grip Push-Up, One-Arm Push-Up and Spiderman Push-Up.
To gradually increase the level of difficulty, raise your feet by resting them on a bench (Decline Push-Ups).
Need more of a challenge? Try the variations in the video below.
Just like the Push-Up, the Chin-Up/Pull-Up is one of the most effective upper-body exercises. It works your back and biceps more than any machine or free weight exercise.
Beginners should start with a standard Chin-Up (palms facing you) since the biceps come into play a little more and will support your weight. As you get stronger, advance to Pull-Ups (palms facing away from you) and aim for 10 reps of your body weight. When that becomes too easy, perform the exercise with added weight.
Dips are one of the best exercises for chest, triceps and shoulders.
For a chest focus, lean forward slightly with your upper body. For a triceps focus, keep your upper body upright. When performing dips, keep tension on your muscles by staying in control on the lowering part of the exercise. A good number of reps to shoot for is 15-20 with your body weight.
Muscle-Ups work almost every single upper-body muscle. They require a significant amount of upper-body pulling and pushing strength, as well as core stabilization.
Because they're a little more challenging than other bodyweight exercises, Muscle-Ups take a lot of determination and strength to master. Practice until you can do at least 5 reps.
Here's a how-to video for beginners:
5. Inverted Rows
Inverted Rows develop the mid- and upper-back muscles. They're harder to perform than they look. They can be performed on a bar, suspension strap, rings, or even ropes. Just like with Push-Ups, you can increase the level of difficulty by adjusting the height of your feet.
Another way to challenge yourself is by adjusting your grip. An overhand grip will increase the difficulty of the exercise compared to an underhand grip.
6. Pistol Squats
No barbell or dumbbell available? No problem.
Pistol Squats work every muscle in the lower body while also improving balance. When you do these with a full range of motion, you work your quads, hamstrings and glutes.
This is a difficult exercise and might cause some pain if not done properly; Practice with a TRX suspension cable first. Twelve to 15 reps on each side is a good goal.
7. Hip Thrusts
Hip thrusts work the hamstrings and glutes intensely, which is essential for any athlete who requires tremendous power work.
Start by setting up your shoulders and upper back on a bench, and place your feet on the ground or an elevated surface. Let your hips drop as low as you can, then drive your heels off the ground while squeezing your glutes as hard as you can. Hold the top of the movement for about two seconds, then lower your hips back down to perform another rep.
RELATED: The Bedroom Bodyweight Workout
8. Pike Roll Outs
If you could only pick one core exercise to do for the rest of your life, this is the one. It combines a stability ball pike with a rollout to activate both the upper and lower abs, as well as the obliques. Unlike regular Crunches, this exercise completely leaves out the hip flexors and lower back. In other words, your abs are isolated much more effectively compared to other exercises.
Great for developing core strength, these also add a little upper-body work. L-Sits also develop your strength for exercises such as Dips. Use dumbbells or parallel bars.
Hold the position for 10 seconds.
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