While there’s definitely something to be said for hitting the gym and being surrounded by the ‘gym atmosphere’ as you push some iron and get your workout in, there’s also a time and a place for going at it alone, in the comfort of your own home, in a local park, or just wherever you have space, using only your body weight.
Many people will shrug off bodyweight workouts thinking they’re for beginners who haven’t been introduced to more intense forms of training.
It’s time to rethink that notion.
This workout is going to prove you otherwise.
The fact is, there are plenty of great exercises that will challenge your muscles in a way you’ve never been challenged before, giving you a great workout anywhere you happen to be.
What you need to keep in mind when it comes to bodyweight workouts it that things will change.
You may need to push the rep ranges higher, take less time to rest between sets, or add other variables of intensity to the routine in order to challenge your body at the same intensity level that lifting heavier weights would.
As long as you are willing to adapt and get creative, you’ll have no problem getting that great workout in!
Here are some terrific exercises to try for each of your main muscle groups.
Working Your Quads
To work your quads, you’ll want to turn to compound movements, which by nature will also target the hamstrings and glutes.
The good news is this allows you to get an even better workout in with less time spent on the session.
The two go-to’s here are:
- Close stance pause squats
- and wall squats.
Close stance pause squats: You’ll want to place your feet slightly closer together than normal (they don’t need to be directly touching, but not much more than a foot or so apart).
Now lean forward ever so slightly and squat down. It’s even okay if your heels come up off the floor slightly while you do the movement.
The idea here is that by leaning forward and using that stance, you’ll place more emphasis on the quad muscles alone, really targeting those muscles. Use a slow and controlled movement pattern every step of the way.
Wall Squats: Next you’ll also want to attempt wall squats. Step the your feet a distance away from the wall that’s comfortable and then place the arms directly out in front of the body.
Now, while keeping the back pressed flat into the wall, bend at the knees and slowly slower down until your knees are at about a 90 degree angle. Pause there and hold for 10-30 seconds (the longer the hold, the more challenging this will be).
Rise back up once finished to complete the rep.
Working Your Hamstrings
Your hamstrings will definitely get a beating doing wall squats as well, so do try and include those into your workout session.
If you want additional hamstring work, you can do a forward lean.
To do this, get down on your knees with the body upright, back straight and glutes tight.
Now you’ll want to tuck your feet under something to secure them.
This could be a park bench, a sturdy chair, or if you have a family member or friend around, simply get them to sit on your feet.
Once in position, cross your hands over your chest and now slowly lean forward, keeping the body as straight as possible.
Lower down as far as you can go before falling and then come back up again.
This is a fantastic exercise that you should feel through your entire posterior chain.
Working Your Glutes
To hit the glutes, we’ll be turning to glute bridges (also a great hamstring exercise!) as well as split squats.
These are both exercises that you will likely want to take to the higher rep range in order to see maximum results as that’s where you’ll really get the muscles burning.
To do glute bridges, lay flat down on the ground with the legs stretched in front of you. Bend one knee and place the foot firmly on the ground beneath you.
Now, while keeping the other leg straight, squeeze the glute muscle and press up through the movement. You want to keep the body in straight alignment the entire way through.
Pause at the top and then lower back down to complete the rep. Once all reps are completed, switch sides and repeat.
Split squats are next up on the list and are perfect total lower body builder.
To do this, place one foot up on a chair, ledge, table, etc. behind you and then balance your bodyweight on the leg beneath you.
Back should be straight, body upright. Your arms can be placed on your hips, across your chest or straight out in front of you.
Now slowly bend the knee and lower yourself down as low as you can go. Pause in this lowered position and then press up to complete the rep. To ensure maximum focus on the glutes, lean backward ever so slightly so as to place more stress on the glutes/hamstrings rather than the quads.
Working Your Back
To hit your back, you simply can’t beat pull-ups. This exercise will target the lats incredibly well while also hitting the biceps in your arms at the same time.
You can either do pull-ups or chin-ups depending on which grip position you prefer, but do focus on keeping the body straight and avoiding using momentum to carry you through the exercise as you do each rep.
Keeping the core tight can help as you bring yourself to the bar.
Another great back exercise to include in your routine is the superman.
For this, get down on the floor, stomach down, and place the hands stretched above the head.
In this position, you’ll now want to lift the upper body up off the floor, lifting as high as you possibly can and then pausing and holding for a count of 5-10 seconds.
This helps ensure that you aren’t using any momentum to carry you through the exercise.
The higher up you lift as you do this exercise, the more demanding it is for your muscles and thus, the better the workout you’ll receive.
Working Your Chest
It should come as no surprise that push-ups top the chest exercise list.
There are so many different variations of push-ups that you should have no trouble finding one that will fit the bill perfectly.
Try regular style push-ups, clap push-ups, triangle push-ups (which will also put more emphasis on the triceps!), spiderman push-ups, and so on.
Get creative and try a new one each workout.
The second chest exercise to include in your routine is the modified plank hold. To do this, you’ll do like you would a plank only this time, you’ll hold the position you would be in at the bottom of a push-up.
So do a push-up, pause at the bottom and then hold. This will be a terrific way to not only work the chest, but the abs as well.
Working Your Shoulders
To hit the shoulders, a lateral raise hold is a great option.
This may seem silly and easy, but give it a try.
Get into a standing position, body upright and lift both arms straight out to the side, elbows extended.
Hold that position for 1-2 minutes. As your arms start to shake, now lower down but begin doing 10 lateral raises just like you would in the gym with free weights. See if that doesn’t give those muscles a challenge!
The second exercise you can do to hit the shoulders is handstand push-ups. For this, you’ll want to stand next to a wall and then do a handstand, kicking the legs up to the wall.
Once balanced, hold this position and then press as low down as you can go, being sure to keep the body straight at all times.
Finish your reps and then come down.
Working Your Arms and Core
Finally, the great news is that because these bodyweight exercises are primarily compound exercises, you’ll be working the biceps and triceps on all the back and chest exercises you do and your core will get hit during just about every different movement pattern.
This means there is no need to perform any other direct work – you’ll already have it covered.
So hopefully now you can see just how powerful bodyweight exercises can be.
Use these to create your own workout session and get ready for a challenge that is unlike anything you’d experience while hitting the free weights!