Bodyweight exercises and workout routines are an excellent vehicle to help you reach your health and fitness goals; and all, without a single barbell, dumbbell or kettlebell in sight. You can complete the majority of these exercises and sessions without ever crossing the threshold of your front door. Whether you want to improve your strength, muscular endurance or just simply want to stay healthy, then what follows will most definitely be of interest.
Even if you are an avid gym goer, then these 50 exercises are still relevant to you. Bodyweight training is a brilliant way of making fitness gains without some of the physical stress which comes with traditional weight based resistance work. Compound movements like the barbell squat, bench press and deadlift, put an incredible amount of force through your joints; in particular the spine. Why not swap in some equally challenging bodyweight exercises to mix it up a bit and keep your body guessing. Remember, there will also be times when you simply can’t get access to a gym. Whether you’re away on holiday or for business, then it’s always a good idea to have a few workout routines up your sleeve that you can do in your hotel room or by the pool
1. Forward Lunge:
Stand with your hands on your hips and feet shoulder-width apart. Step your left leg forward about a metre and slowly lower your body until the knee of your back leg (right) is almost touching the floor, with your knee bent at approximately 90 degrees. Push back off your front foot in order to return to the starting position and repeat multiple times alternating the leading leg each time.
This is a great exercise for pretty much every muscle in your lower body. Glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves and core will all be engaged in order to produce a stable forward lunge. Don’t rush the movement. Lower your body slowly with control initially (eccentric movement) before exploding back out of the lunge position.
2. Lateral Lunge:
Adopt the same starting position as above. Step your left leg about a metre to the left bending your left knee approximately 90 degrees as your foot makes contact with the ground. Your right leg should remain straight at this point. Push back off your left foot in order to return to the starting position and repeat the exercise multiple times alternating side each time. Your toes should remain near enough facing forwards at all times.
This movement will work very similar muscles to the forward lunge with the addition of the often neglected adductors.
Stand with your feet hip width apart and toes pointing forwards. Slowly bend your knees and fold at the hips pushing your bottom backwards until your thighs are parallel to the floor. If you struggle to keep your heels in contact with the floor during this stage of the movement then you can place a flat object about an inch or so in height under each heel. Push through the heels and straighten the knees and unfold at the hips in order to return to the start position. Repeat.
Ensure that the lowering phase of this movement is completed with sufficient control before accelerating as you return from the bottom of your range. Your ability to perform this movement effectively will depend a little on your hip flexibility. If you are struggling to reach 90 degree knee bend with your hips at hip width apart, increase the distance between your feet until reaching the desired depth is more comfortable.
4. Sumo Squat
Stand with your feet wider than shoulder width apart and follow the movement instructions above.
5. Single Leg Squat:
Find a slightly raised surface in your house (a step, or chair will do nicely). Stand on your left leg with your right leg hanging off the edge of your raised area. Lower your body by bending your left knee and folding at the hips and pushing your bottom back (much like the normal squat). When you reach the bottom of your range, then push through your heel and straighten the knee in order to return to the starting position. Repeat the movement a number of times before swapping legs.
Much like the double leg squat above, if you are struggling for range, raise the heel of your standing foot in the same way.
This is a great way of generating a little more load in your squat pattern without using any equipment or putting unnecessary stress on the spine. Perfect for building strength in your legs and addressing any imbalances between your left and right leg.
6. Single Leg Step Up:
Using your raised surface again (a kitchen chair is perfect) place your left foot on the elevated surface in front of you with your right foot remaining in contact with the floor. Leaning slightly forward to ensure your body weight is over your front leg, simply step up until your left knee is straight. Return to the starting position as slowly as possible (here’s your eccentric focus again) only grazing the floor with your right toe before repeating the step up movement. Repeat a number of times before swapping legs.
7. Single Leg Clock:
Standing on your left leg, reach as far forward with your right leg as you can and touch the floor lightly with your heel (12 o’clock). Repeat this movement to 3 o’clock, 5 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 8 o’clock before switching legs and completing the movements in the opposite direction.
This is a great exercise for developing your proprioception as well as your single leg strength.
8. Double Leg Glute Bridge:
Lay flat on your back with your knees bent to 90 degrees so that the bottoms of your feet are in contact with the ground. Raise your hips into the air whilst maintaining a flat back (no arching please) until your knees, hips and shoulders form a nice diagonal line from a high at your knees to a low at your shoulders. Return slowly to the start position, tapping the ground with your bottom before immediately repeating the movement.
This is great low level exercise for building control in the glutes and hamstrings as well as engaging your core.
9. Single Leg Glute Bridge:
Exactly the same set- up and movement as above just using one leg!
10. Countermovement Jump:
Standing with your feet hip width apart and toes facing forwards, lower your body into a quarter squat position before exploding immediately upwards. There should be no pause at the bottom of the range, but rather you should bounce in and out of the slight squat position to generate the force to jump directly upwards (this is the countermovement element). Land with soft knees when you return to the ground. Reset before repeating the movement a number of times.
This is a great way of developing power without the use of weighted resistance.
11. Single Leg Countermovement Jump:
Standing on your left leg, toes facing forwards, perform the movement explained above. Use your swing leg in order to generate the momentum required to jump as high as possible.
This is a good progression from the double leg countermovement jump and ensures a balanced development in power across both legs.
12. Kneeling To Standing:
Adopt an upright kneeling position on the floor (i.e. 90 degree knee angle). Jump from this kneeling position to a crouched standing position by forcefully extending the hips and straightening the knees. This is a pretty difficult movement to perform and requires a decent amount of power to be successful. If you don’t have much in the way of power training in the bank then maybe stick with the countermovement jumps above to start with.
13.Standard Press Up:
Set up in a laying prone position hands shoulder width apart and feet hip width apart and toes in contact with the ground. Lower your chest to the ground slowly by bending your arms at the elbow. As soon as your chest makes contact with the ground, push back up until your elbows are extended.
Be sure to keep your elbows tucked in close to your body throughout the movement. The standard press up will work a wide variety of muscles in your chest, shoulders and arms as well as the core.
14. Diamond Press Up:
Set up in a standard press up position but with your hands close together forming a diamond shape by joining your index fingers and thumbs together. Perform the same movement as the standard press up.
This movement focuses heavily on the triceps. If you’re new to this exercise don’t be surprised if you find it very challenging and can’t do nearly as many as you can a normal press up.
15. Wide Press Up:
Set up in a press up position but with your hands wider than shoulder width. Perform the same movement as a standard press up.
This particular press up variation focuses more heavily on the chest muscles.
16. Archer Press Up:
Set up in a very wide press up position (hands well beyond shoulder width apart). As you lower your chest to the ground you must transfer your weight towards one side so that most of your body weight is supported by one arm. As you begin the push phase transfer your bodyweight back to the centre. Alternate the side you transfer your weight to as you lower your chest to the ground for each repetition.
This is a particularly advanced press up variation and is as close as you can get to completing a one arm press up without actually doing it. Much like the diamond press up, don’t be surprised if you can only manage a few reps when you’re just starting out.
17. Bear Crawl Press Up:
Adopt a bear type position with both hands and both feet in contact with the ground and knees bent at around 90 degrees. Walk the hands back slightly until your bum is pushed upwards a little more. Lower your head and shoulders until your head comes into contact with the ground before pushing through your palms and straightening your arms until you return to the start position.
This exercise is designed to focus more heavily on the shoulder muscles by trying to emulate a traditional shoulder press in reverse.
18. Inchworm Press Up:
Begin in a standard press up position. Complete a standard press up as explained above. When you reach the top of the range, walk your hands back towards your feet at the same time as returning to a standing position. Then return to the starting position in the same manner, by walking your hands away from your feet until you reach a standard press up position. Repeat.
Not only does this hit the same muscle groups as a standard press up but it also places more significant emphasis on your core as well as most of the muscles in your legs. It’s also a brilliant exercise if you’re looking to elevate your heart rate a little more.
19. Downward Dog/ Cobra Press Up:
If you’re familiar with the popular downward dog to cobra yoga movement then this should be a walk in the park for you. Adopt a standard press up starting position. Straighten your arms whilst pushing your bottom into the air and keeping your legs as straight as your hamstring flexibility will allow. Your body should form a rough triangle at this stage of the movement, with your hips forming the top point and your hands and feet the other 2.
Slowly lower your chest to the ground in a downwards and forwards arcing motion by bending your elbows and keeping your hips folded and bottom high in the air. Finish in a prone position with hips just off the ground, chest up and back in extension. Return to downward dog pose and repeat movement for repetitions.
It is really important that you keep your elbows tucked into your body at all times during this movement and that the only part of your body which comes into contact with the ground is your hands and feet. Much like the diamond press up, this exercise focuses heavily on the tricep muscles, whilst engaging the core, leg, shoulder and back areas as well.
20. Spiderman Press Up:
Adopt a standard press up position. As you lower your chest to the ground lift one foot slightly off the ground and bend your knee until it comes into contact with your elbow. Return the leg to the normal position on the upward phase of the press up. Repeat the movement alternating which side knee you perform the knee bend.
This is a great way of increasing the intensity of a standard press up movement. By removing one leg from contact with the ground you are placing more stress on your core and upper body. Plus you get to look a little bit like spiderman whilst you do it so everyone’s a winner.
21. Clap Press Up:
The initial phase of this movement is exactly the same as a standard press up. However, as you reach the bottom of the range and your chest comes into contact with the ground you must explode upwards pushing hard through your palms and rapidly extending at the elbow. This will enable you to generate enough force so that your hands leave the ground at the top of the range and you have time to perform a clap before returning your hands to the ground and landing with soft elbows.
This is a great way of introducing a little power development into your upper body movements without the need for external resistance.
22. Prone Back Extensions:
Lay flat on the ground facing downwards with your arms out to the side and elbows bent at 90 degrees. Arch the back and squeeze the shoulder blades together whilst lifting your arms and legs slightly off the ground. Return to the starting position slowly and repeat the movement.
This exercise recruits most of the major muscle groups in the back as well as engaging the core and the rear deltoids.
23. Supine Pulls:
This is where you need to start using your imagination a little. Using your dining room or kitchen table may be helpful here. Place your feet and body under the table, gripping the edge with your hands. Your arms and legs should be straight with your heels in contact with the ground and your toes pointing upwards. Ideally, your knees, hips and shoulders need to be in a nice straight diagonal line from bottom to top.
Once you have adopted the above start position, use your arms to pull your body upwards so that your chest moves closer to the table edge. Try to maintain a flat body at all times. Then lower your body slowly back to the starting position and repeat the movement.
This exercise will work the muscles in the upper back as well as the biceps and forearms. It is the perfect remedy to all that pushing and helps restore a little balance to your home workouts.
24. Standard Front Plank:
Adopt a standard press up position but with your elbows and forearms in contact with the ground as opposed to your hands. Hold this position for a period of time. It is important to ensure that your body remains as flat as possible. Common mistakes when it comes to form include having your hips too high so that you are folded in the middle, or alternatively having your hips too low so that the back is in slight extension.
For best results and to help stave off back pain, try to maintain a neutral hip position by pulling your belly button back towards your spine and fully engaging the core. And remember to keep breathing!
Whilst the front plank focuses heavily on the abdominal muscles, it is actually a very good whole body exercise, engaging the glutes, quads, hamstrings and shoulders.
25. Front Plank With Hip Shift:
Same starting position as above. Rather than maintaining it for a hold, raise the hips up so that your bottom is above the height of your shoulders and ankles before slowly lowering them to the start position. You can either repeat this movement for a set number of repetitions of for a period of time as with the standard front plank.
26. Standard Side Plank:
Adopt a position in which your body is parallel to the ground and side on with your chest and hips facing forwards. Only the elbow/forearm of one arm and the side of your foot should be in contact with the ground. Hold this position for a designated period of time.
Areas to focus on here are similar to those above. Try to ensure that your ankles, knees, hips and shoulders form as straight a line as possible, both horizontally and vertically.
This exercise works very similar muscles to the front plank with extra emphasis on the adductors, and oblique abdominals.
27. Side Plank With Hip Shift:
Same starting position as the standard side plank. Rather than maintaining it for a hold, raise the hips upwards away from the ground before lowering them slowly back to the start position.
Again, you can either complete this movement for a set number of repetitions or a designated period of time.
28. Front Plank Up/Downs:
Adopting the standard front plank position explained above, move into a standard press up starting position and back down to the front plank position. Continue to move back and forth between the 2 positions for a certain number of repetitions or a set time.
29. Short Crunches:
Lay flat on your back with your knees bent to 90 degrees so that the bottoms of your feet are in contact with the ground. Lift your arms straight and directly above your face. Raise your head and the top half of torso from the ground a few inches before returning to the start position. Repeat quickly.
30. Prone Hand Walkouts:
Start in the standard press up position with palms directly under shoulders and arms straight. Walk your hands forwards out from under the shoulder as far as you can. Hold the elongated position briefly before walking your hands back to the start position under your shoulders. Repeat.
This is a slightly more advanced core exercise which requires a decent amount of upper body strength so be sure to master the plank variations before you give this a go.
Lay flat on your back with your arms outstretched above your head and your legs straight. Bring your knees up towards your chest at the same time as you bring your hands and chest up towards your knees (they should meet somewhere in the middle). Return to the start position and repeat the movement for repetitions or a period of time. Something like 15 reps or 30 seconds as a starting point.
32. Double Leg Lowers:
Adopt the same starting position as for the eleknas above. Keeping straight legs, lift your feet slowly away from the ground until they are between 45 degrees and perpendicular to the ground. Try to keep your lower back in contact with the ground at all times by pulling your belly button back towards your spine.
If you can’t perform the exercise to full range whilst maintaining this flat back then just back off the range slightly. I see far too many people achieving a perpendicular leg position at the expense of their lower backs. Once at the top of YOUR range, lower your legs slowly back to the starting position without touching the floor. Again, repeat for reps or time.
Start in the same position as for the two preceding exercises. Lift your legs just off the ground and begin to cross one leg over the other alternating which leg is above the other as you repeat the movement. Keep your legs as straight as possible throughout.
I find it best to do this exercise for time as opposed to reps as it can be tricky to keep track of how many movements you’ve done because they happen pretty quickly. Somewhere between 15 and 30 seconds will do nicely as a starting point.
34. Ankle Taps:
Lay flat on you back with your arms by your side and your knees bent to around 90 degrees so that the bottoms of your feet are in contact with the ground. Raise the upper half of your body off the ground slightly and begin to touch your left ankle with your left arm and then your right ankle with your right arm, alternating between the two.
Again repeat for repetitions or a length of time. Somewhere around 20 reps or 30 seconds is as good a place to start as any.
35. Alternate Toe Touches:
Lay flat on your back with straight legs and arms outstretched above your head so that both your legs and arms are slightly raised with only your bottom in contact with the ground. Then raise your left leg and reach to touch your toes with your right arm. Return to the start position before repeating the movement with the opposite leg and hand.
36. Mountain climbers:
Start in a standard press up position. Lift one foot from the ground and raise the knee towards the chest. As you return this leg to the starting position, repeat the same movement with your other leg so that for a short time both feet will be off the ground.
I normally do this exercise for a set period of time, somewhere around 30 seconds to a minute.
These next few exercises are perfect for circuit based workout routines and are guaranteed to put your heart rate through the roof!
37. Squat Thrusts:
Start in a standard press up position. Jump both feet towards your hands and your knees towards your chest simultaneously (this will cause your hips and bottom to raise). Jump your feet back to the start position immediately, alternating quickly between the two positions.
Exactly the same movement as the squat thrust but between each rep you stand to your feet and perform a quick jump before returning to the start position and repeating. This is genuinely one of the most exhausting movements you can execute with or without weights and must feature in your circuit training routines at some point.
39. Squat jumps:
This is a great way to turn a bodyweight squat movement into an exercise capable of really elevating your heart rate and generating a savage leg burn all at the same time.
Lower into a limited range squat position (about a quarter squat) before jumping forcefully out of the bottom of the range so that your feet leave the ground. Land with soft knees and drop straight into the squat again. Repeat for repetitions or a set period of time.
If you’re feeling brave then increase the range of movement within your squat. But be prepared for an almost debilitating leg burn!
40. Split Squat Jumps:
Adopt a split squat body position. I.e. one foot in front of the other, hips and toes facing forwards, back leg bent to 90 degrees so that your knee is just off the ground. Jump upwards forcefully and whilst both feet are off the ground, switch your front and back legs. Land with soft knees, immediately returning to the starting position before repeating the movement.
This is a great variation to the normal squat jump and creates a little more load without adding dumbbells or a barbell.
41. Bulgarian squat jump:
Adopt a traditional bulgarian squat position. That is a forward lunge with your back foot resting on an elevated object. A chair or bench will do nicely. Lower your body to the bottom of a split squat range by sinking your hips towards the floor before exploding upwards. The power you generate should cause your front foot to leave the ground slightly. As your front foot comes back into contact with the ground, soften the landing with a bent knee and return immediately to the bottom of your split squat range. Repeat
AT THE GYM
42. Standard Pull Up:
Hang from a pull up bar with an overhand grip (palms facing away from you) at shoulder width. Pull your chin to above the bar before returning to the start position. Focus on performing the movement with good control to minimise swinging.
This exercise will work a number of muscles in your back, arms and shoulders so is a great option to balance out any push work your doing in the gym.
43. Pull Up Wide Grip:
Hang from a pull up bar with an overhand grip wider than shoulder width. Repeat the same movement as above.
This variation will hit all of the muscles as the standard pull up but with extra focus on the latissimus dorsi.
44. Pull Up Underhand Grip
Hang from a pull up bar with an underhand grip (palms facing towards you) slightly closer than shoulder width. Repeat the same movement as above.
This variation focuses more heavily on the bicep muscles and is a great weight free version of the more traditional curl.
45. Hanging Knee Raise:
Hang from a pull up bar with either a neutral or overhand grip, whichever you prefer. Raise your knees towards your chest until level with your hips and then lower slowly back to the start position. Try to avoid producing momentum by swinging which will negate some of the benefits of this exercise. This is a great way to introduce yourself to hanging core variations. Start with 3 sets of 8 repetitions and see how you go.
46. Hanging Leg raise:
Same starting position as above. This time raise your ankles to the bar maintaining as straight legs as possible (if you’re anything like me then it will be your hamstring flexibility which may limit this). Lower legs slowly back to the starting position.
It is even more important to try to limit swinging during this exercise as the range of motion is that much bigger. The best way of doing this is by performing the movement in a slow and controlled manner.
47. Hanging Rotations:
Same start and finish position as above. What happens in between is a little different, however. The idea is to perform a full circle with your feet, reaching the bar at the halfway stage before completing the circle as you lower your legs back to the starting position. Alternate between clockwise and anticlockwise rotation.
This movement will target your obliques a little more than the traditional up and down leg raise because of the rotation and is sa perfect perfect progression exercise.
48. Hanging Bicycles:
Same start and finish as all the other hanging core exercises. The objective is the same as the standard hanging leg raise movement (raising your ankles to your hands). However, rather than lifting straight legs to the bar you perform bicycle kicks as you raise your feet. Once you reach the top of the range you return your legs to the starting position slowly with the same bicycle motion.
This is a particularly advanced core exercise and should only be attempted once you are confident that you can perform multiple sets and reps of the standard leg raise.
49. Swiss Ball Roll Outs:
Adopt a standard press up position but with the palms of your hands on a swiss ball rather than the floor. Roll the ball forward with your hands so that your forearms are in contact with the ball rather than your hands. Pause briefly in this position before rolling the ball backwards and returning to the start position with your palms back in contact with the ball.
50. Barbell/ Wheel Roll Outs:
Use either a roll out wheel, or if you or your gym doesn’t have one then a barbell with discs on either end. Adopt a kneeling position on the floor with the wheel or barbell in front of you and your hands gripping the bar at around shoulder width. Roll the wheel away from your body maintaining contact with the floor with only your knees. When fully extended and with your nose almost touching the floor, pull the wheel back towards your body and return to the start position.
Try to perform both the outward and inward movement slowly with as much control as possible in order to increase the time your muscles spend under tension. In addition to the obvious core hit, this exercise will also hit the shoulders, triceps and lats as a bonus.
Okay. So now we’ve mastered the individual exercises, it’s time to put some of them together into really effective workout routines, all of which can be completed at home.
1. Leg Burner:
- Bulgarian squat jump x 10 each side
- Lateral lunge x 10 each side
- Single Leg Step Up x 10 each side
- Split squat jump x 10 each side
- Squat jump x 20
Complete 3-6 rounds of the circuit with 2-3 mins rest in between each round.
2. Core Blast:
- Double Leg Lowers
- Side plank left side
- Side plank right side
- Alternate toe touches
- Ankle taps
- Front plank up/downs
- Prone hand walkouts
30 seconds on each exercise with no rest between. 2-3 rounds with 2-3 minutes between each round.
3. Upper Body Hit:
- Press up wide x10
- Prone back extensions x10
- Bear crawl press up x10
- Supine pulls x10
- Archer press up x10
3-6 rounds, 2 minutes between each round.
4. Whole Body Circuit:
- Inchworm press up into burpee x10
- Prone back extension
- Split squat jumps x10 each side
- Press up into hand walkouts x10
- Lateral lunges x10 each side
- Squat thrust into press up x10
*Whole body circuit video*
4- 6 rounds with 3-4 minutes rest in between each round.
5. Plank Circuit:
- Standard front plank
- Standard side plank left
- Standard side plank right
- Front plank up/downs
- Side plank hip shift left
- Side plank hip shit right
- Front plank hip shift
30 seconds on each exercise with no rest between. 3-4 rounds with 2 minutes rest between each round.
Don’t forget to check out the Upper Body and Core Circuit and House Of Pain routine from How to Build Your Own Workout Routines – Advice from a Two-time Olympian as well!
Jacky has a degree in Sports Science and is a Certified Sports and Conditioning Coach. He has also worked with clients around the world as a personal trainer.
He has been fortunate enough to work with a wide range of people from very different ends of the fitness spectrum. Through promoting positive health changes with diet and exercise, he has helped patients recover from aging-related and other otherwise debilitating diseases.
He spends most of his time these days writing fitness-related content of some form or another. He still likes to work with people on a one-to-one basis – he just doesn’t get up at 5am to see clients anymore.