In the pursuit of mass and fitness, the humble bodyweight workout can be seen as inferior to its gym counterpart.
If you’re anything like I used to be, you always compare bodyweight to a regular gym routine.
I would compare the exercises, intensity, the sensation, all the way down to the muscle contraction, always thinking, “I should be at the gym.”
This is where I was wrong.
Unlike a lot of what we see at the gym, bodyweight exercises are a vital component of any workout.
They are versatile, adaptable, and require little to no equipment.
The secret ingredient to a good bodyweight workout? Intensity.
If you’re wondering what else a highly effective bodyweight workout should include, keep reading.
Today, I’m going to share with you the best bodyweight workout plan PDF for beginners to keep you lean and strong wherever you go.
How effective are bodyweight workouts?
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Bodyweight workouts can be highly effective with the right intensity and exercise programming.
They are demonstrated to be effective in increasing strength and endurance. Bodyweight is also beneficial in improving natural physiological movements.
Plus, it’s been noted that bodyweight training improves balance to explosive power with workouts utilizing plyometrics and balance for variety.
Are you curious to see if level bodyweight workouts actually work? Check out how one of the world’s fittest men uses this style of training in David Goggins’ Workout Routine and Diet Plan.
What are the benefits of bodyweight workouts?
First up, let’s talk about bodyweight training routines and their benefits. Here are eight reasons why you shouldn’t skip bodyweight.
- Can Be Performed Anywhere
The beauty of performing a bodyweight routine is that it can be done anywhere.
Made up of movements that use gravity as resistance, bodyweight workouts need little to no equipment to make them effective.
Countless times have I traveled, and with nothing more than a few pieces of hotel furniture, managed to construct a solid workout.
For instance, the hotel chair is great for dips and push-up variations.
Available floor space is all you need for a basic or explosive lower body workout.
Bodyweight workout routines can be incredibly versatile, albeit with a little creativity on your behalf.
Push-ups, dips, lunges, squats, and planks are our base. It’s easy to elaborate on these considerably with isometric holds, explosive jumps, and changes in angle.
Often, when we’re training in a gym, we can be restricted by space and others using the equipment we need.
This impairs our ability to increase the intensity of our session if there is a log jam of people waiting for a piece of equipment.
One of the best parts of bodyweight training is that there is no waiting, only training.
This allows us to string together exercises with little rest and increase the overall intensity of our workouts.
- Improves Balance
One way to expand on our current routine and challenge ourselves is to implement components of balance to our routines.
Bodyweight training has been shown to improve balance as we modify standard exercises to make things more interesting.
Standard squats become single-leg squats.
Straight-leg deadlifts become single-leg deadlifts.
Planks become side-planks.
These adjustments are great for variety and improving performance in other areas.
Bodyweight exercises and workouts are largely made up of compound movements.
This means that they use multiple muscle groups at the same time, and at times, our entire body.
In doing so, we can perform movements that are a requirement in daily life such as squatting, balancing, and jumping.
- Improves Explosive Power
In line with exercising our creativity, explosive power is a way to expand our bodyweight training routines.
Simple exercises such as squats, lunges, and push-ups can all increase in difficulty with an explosive push or jump.
Due to this, bodyweight training has been shown to increase explosive ability.
- Maintain/Accelerate Progress
Bodyweight training is a great tool for maintaining and accelerating workouts.
It has been indicated that a bodyweight routine can aid in maintaining conditioning when we’re away from the gym.
- Core Strength Gains
Bodyweight training is a great way to challenge your core strength.
As we perform a variety of different exercises, we’ll be assuming positions that require full-body engagement and core stability.
This is a fantastic bonus as it creates core strength in relation to what the entire body is doing rather than just in isolation.
Exercises such as plank variations and push-ups are a great example, as the body must engage to provide stability.
What are the best bodyweight exercises?
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Now that we know some of the benefits of bodyweight exercise routines, it’s time to share my list of the 15 best bodyweight exercises.
A staple of any bodyweight workout, the push-up is a great full-body exercise that can be done anywhere at any time.
How To Do Push-Ups
- To begin, start by kneeling on the floor with hands and feet on the floor in the quadruped position.
- Get into position on toes and hands with feet shoulder-width apart and hands slightly wider than shoulders.
- With your glutes and core engaged, lower yourself to the floor with elbows tucked to the sides.
- Lower until your elbows are bent at 90 degrees, then push up to the starting position. Repeat.
- Great for building chest, shoulders, and triceps
- Engages the entire body
- For beginners, start by performing these on your knees. This will decrease resistance.
- Be sure to engage the core and activate the glute for the entire exercise. This will make the push-up easier and work out the entire body.
2. Chair Dips
One of the best bodyweight exercises for the upper body, the dip can be done with a chair to introduce the exercise to those who are new to the gym.
How To Do Chair Dips
- Begin by setting up a chair with its back firmly against a wall.
- Sit on the chair, with hands resting at the sides of the chair, rotated out to the sides.
- With knees bent for support, lift the body off the chair and move hips forward.
- Lower body toward the floor, bending elbows until they reach 90 degrees.
- Push up and return to the starting position. Repeat.
- Great for chest, triceps, and shoulders
- Can be made more difficult by straightening legs until you can perform without legs off the ground
- For beginners, start with knees bent as this will reduce weight. Gradually straighten legs as you improve
- With your hand position, have the hands and shoulder rotated outwards. This will reduce stress at the front and the chance of injury.
- Aim to lower to 90 degrees at the elbow. For beginners, test lowering by slightly bending elbows until you get used to the movement.
One of the true greats of exercise, the lunge is an essential tool for building strength and balance.
How To Do Lunges
- Begin by standing in the split stance.
- With hands on hips for balance, lower the back knee to the floor until it reaches 90 degrees.
- Once you reach the bottom, push up through the legs and return to the starting position.
- Complete your repetitions on one side and then switch legs.
- Great for working single-leg strength and balance
- Works all the muscles of the legs and hips
- Beginners should lower until they are comfortable to start. This will help ease yourself into the movement.
- At the top of each rep, exhale and squeeze the glutes and core. This helps reset for each rep, improving performance.
The king of all lower body exercises, squats are vital to any workout.
They are great for building strength and stability, and improving daily tasks like getting up out of chairs and going upstairs.
How To Do Squats
- Start with feet shoulder-width apart, hands across chest with chest up.
- To begin, push your hips back like you’re sitting on a chair.
- Lower hips until knees and hips are bent at 90 degrees.
- Push through legs to return to the starting position. Repeat.
- Works muscles used for daily tasks such as sitting down and standing up
- Uses all the muscles of the legs, hips, and core
- Between each repetition at the top of the movement, tense core muscles and tense glutes.
- As you lower, inhale, and exhale with effort as you push back up to the starting position.
A full-body exercise, the plank is a great addition to a bodyweight workout.
This exercise requires all joints within the body to work together to hold the body during an isometric contraction.
How To Do A Plank
- Using a mat on the floor, kneel with elbows on the floor.
- To begin, lift knees off the floor, putting weight on toes and elbows with the body parallel to the floor.
- Hold this position for 10-20 seconds without hips lifting or dropping.
- Engages the entire body
- Trains the core, upper, and lower body to work together to stabilize the body
- For beginners, start with knees on the floor and a short time frame.
- Aim to keep the spine and hips in line for the duration of the movement. Stop when hips elevate or drop.
6. Jump Squat
The jump squat is a great way to get your heart rate up and add some explosiveness to your routine.
How To Perform Jump Squats
- Start with feet shoulder-width apart.
- To begin, push your hips back and lower yourself toward the floor until your hips and knees are bent at 90 degrees.
- From here, explode up and jump, pushing through feet and legs.
- When landing, as your feet make contact with the floor, allow your knees to bend and absorb shock.
- Flow into the next repetition. Repeat.
- Great full-body movement
- Improves explosive power and performance
- Beginners should start with smaller jumps and focus on sticking the landing, taking time between jumps, and focusing on technique.
- When performing movement, swing arms up in the air for added momentum.
7. Elevated Heel Squats
A variation of the traditional squat, the elevated heel squat allows for more depth.
This added range allows for greater quad recruitment and helps us to remain upright through the entire movement.
How To Perform Elevated Heel Squats
- Start by placing heels on a plank or book, about 2cm – 3cm thick to elevate heels.
- To begin the squat movement, push back at the hips, and lower toward the floor.
- Aim for just below 90 degrees bent at the knees.
- Push up through the legs and return to the upright position. Repeat.
- Greater quadriceps activation
- Can remain upright
- Helps with squat depth
- For the first set test range, aim for just below 90 degrees bent at the knee.
- For the following sets try to go as low as you can.
8. Jumping Lunges
The explosive variation of a fantastic exercise. The jump lunge is great for increasing heart rate and improving explosive performance.
How To Perform Jumping Lunges
- Start in a split stance and lower yourself by bending your back leg toward the floor.
- Stop once the back knee bends at 90 degrees.
- From the bottom explode upward and jump off the ground, switching legs in the air.
- Gently land in the alternative split stance with soft knees, find your balance, and repeat.
- Increase explosive power
- Increases heart rate
- Beginners, start slow and perform the lunges as normal, and add a small jump at the top of the movement.
- Once you are more comfortable, practice exploding up and changing legs in the same motion.
9. Spiderman Push-Ups
The spiderman push-up is just one of many push-up variations.
This exercise requires additional work to the core as the hips move to meet the elbows.
- Hip flexors
How To Perform The Spiderman Push-Up
- Start in the push-up position, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, body straight and toes making contact with the floor.
- To begin, bend your elbows and lower yourself to the floor.
- While this happens, bring one knee up to the same side elbow.
- As you push back up to the top of the movement, return your leg to the middle.
- Alternate leg with each rep.
- Works hips and core
- Great time under tension for chest, shoulders, and triceps
- To trial the movement, perform the movement with hands on a bench. This will decrease the weight allowing you to concentrate on technique.
- To make the movement more difficult, pause for 1-2 seconds each time your elbow touches your knee. This creates greater stress during the most difficult phase of the movement.
10. Plank Shoulder Taps
The shoulder tap is a fantastic exercise that requires the core to engage due to the constant movement and instability.
- Paraspinal muscle
How To Perform Plank Shoulder Taps
- Start in the plank position with hands outstretched, shoulders directly over the wrists, and lower body on your toes.
- Place feet shoulder-width apart.
- To begin, breathe out and brace your core.
- Use each hand to tap the opposite shoulder.
- Alternate hands, bracing to minimize movement.
- Improves core stability
- Full-body exercise
- Beginners can either hand on a bench or perform the exercise on the knees to reduce the weight of the body.
- Having feet wider apart will improve balance.
Burpees are possibly the most-hated exercise, but one that I just could not leave off the list.
Ultimately, it’s a great full-body exercise that combines the push-up and jump squats into one explosive movement.
How To Perform Burpees
- Start in the standing position and bend down and place hands on the floor.
- Kick legs back out so you are in the push-up position, lower yourself to the floor and push back up.
- Explode out of the up a jump squat and jump into the air.
- Aim to gently land with slightly bent knees. Repeat.
- Full-body exercise
- Increase heart rate and explosive power
- For beginners, take your time and gradually lower yourself through each phase.
- Focus on breathing, inhaling as you lower yourself, and exhaling as you push up and explode into your jump.
12. Plank Twists
The plank twist is a simple and highly effective way to challenge the abdominal muscles, with a focus on the obliques and transverse abdominis (our deep core muscle).
- Transverse Abdominis
How To Perform Plank Twists
- Start in the plank position with elbow and toes making contact with the floor.
- Aim to keep the spine neutral as you gently rotate your hips to one side, come back to center, and alternate to the other side.
- Exhale and tense the core muscles with each rotation.
- Works abdominals
- Instability forces core to engage
- Beginners can perform the movement with knees bent to reduce body weight.
- Exhale with each rotation and tense your core to maximize muscle contraction.
13. Nordic Hamstring Curls
One of the best hamstring exercises inside the gym and out, the Nordic hamstring curl is a fantastic exercise for developing strength and preventing injury.
How To Do Nordic Hamstring Curls
- Place a mat on the floor next to a couch and kneel down.
- Tuck your feet under the couch (make sure the couch weighs enough to support your weight).
- With feet tucked under, kneel with your body in the upright position.
- Engage glutes and core and gradually lower your upper body forward toward the ground.
- Allow yourself to drop to the floor and stop yourself with your hands.
- Push yourself back up to the upright position. Repeat.
- Great for hamstring injury prevention
- Excellent performance.
- This is an intermediate and advanced level exercise.
- For beginners, lower yourself gradually and allow yourself to drop. Lowering the entire way is incredibly difficult and takes years of practice.
- To minimize the drop, put another chair or padding in front of you to shorten the distance. This will allow you to catch yourself earlier in the movement and help you build up your strength.
14. Reverse Nordics
The reverse Nordic is a fantastic exercise that is the closest thing to a bodyweight leg extension.
This movement is great for knee and quadricep injury prevention.
How To Perform Reverse Nordics
- Start by kneeling on the floor, knees shoulder-width apart. Keep feet flat with the top of feet resting on the floor.
- Starting in the upright position, slowly lower yourself backward.
- Aim to have your spine in the neutral position the entire time.
- Lower yourself until your glutes touch your heels (or until a comfortable range).
- From here, attempt to return to the upright position by straightening the extending of the knee.
- Use your hand to push at the sides if you need assistance. Repeat.
- Quadricep focus
- Eccentric loading of the quadriceps is great for injury prevention.
- This exercise is intermediate or advanced.
- Beginners need to test the range of motion, gradually going further down with each repetition.
- If you are experiencing discomfort with your toes pointing to the ground, roll up a towel and place the ankle flat on the towel.
15. Mountain Climbers
The mountain climber assumes the hands-on floor plank position while marching the feet.
This is a great exercise for getting the heart rate up when you have limited space.
- Hip Flexors
How To Do Mountain Climbers
- Start in the plank position with hands and toes on the floor.
- To begin the movement, raise one knee up to the chest.
- Return raised leg to start position and alternate with the other leg.
- Increases heart rate
- Great for explosive performance
- To make this easier for beginners, a bench can be used to reduce body weight and provide more clearance for the knees raising toward the chest.
- Once you have got the technique correct, you can increase the speed of your movement, breathing out with short breaths for each repetition.
The Best Bodyweight Workout Program
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Below are two workout programs for both beginners and advanced levels, complete with a weekly schedule for training days and rest days.
Beginner Weekly Training Schedule
The following workout schedule allows for days of rest in between each session.
Alternating days through to the following week ensures there are sufficient breaks for recovery between workouts.
Beginner Full-Body Workout
|Plank||2||10 – 20 secs||45 – 60 secs|
|Squats||3||8-12||45 – 60 secs|
|Elevated Heel Squats||3||8-12||45 – 60 secs|
|Lunges||3||8-10 each side||60 secs|
|Mountain Climbers||3||30 secs||45 secs|
|Plank Twists||3||10-16||45 secs|
Advanced Weekly Training Schedule
The following schedule is based on a two-day split for separate upper body and lower body workouts with a high-intensity day on the weekend.
Workouts can be performed on back-to-back days, as only some muscles will overlap.
|Lower Body||Upper Body||Lower Body||Upper Body||Rest||HIIT||Rest|
Advanced Lower Body
|Plank Shoulder Taps||2||30 – 60 sec||45 – 60 secs|
|Squats||2||20 reps||45 – 60 secs|
|Jumps Lunges||3||8-12||60 secs|
|Jump Squats||3||8-10||45 secs|
|Nordic Hamstring Curls||3||8-10||60 secs|
|Reverse Nordics||3||8-10||60 secs|
|Elevated Heel Squats (Full Range + Pause)||3||12-15||45 secs|
Advanced Upper Body
|Plank Twist||2||30 – 60 sec||45 – 60 secs|
|Spiderman Push-Ups||3||12-15||45 – 60 secs|
|Chair Dips (Feet up on chair)||3||8-10||45 secs|
|Shoulder Taps||3||30 -60 secs||45 secs|
|Mini circuit (below)|
Advanced High Intensity
The below session will be programmed based on small circuits.
- Each exercise circuit set is to be performed for a total time of two minutes.
- Between each set take a 30-second break.
- E.g. Perform exercises 1, 2, 3, and then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat four times.
- Between each circuit take a 2-3 minute rest.
|Circuit 1||2 – 3 Minutes|
|Plank Twist||4||30 secs|
|Jumps Lunges||4||30 secs|
|Circuit 2||2 – 3 Minutes|
|Spiderman Push-Ups||4||30 secs|
|Mountain Climbers||4||30 secs|
|Jump Squats||4||30 secs|
|Circuit 3||2 – 3 Minutes|
|Elevated Heel Squats||4||30 secs|
Want to maximize your bodyweight routine results? Try adding a resistance band and our 13 Resistance Band Back Exercises, Stretches, and Workout Program.
Download The Bodyweight Workout Plans PDF
Pro Tips for an Effective Bodyweight Workout
Bodyweight workout routines can yield some amazing results. However, it’s not always clear what makes a great session.
Below are my top pro tips for an effective bodyweight workout.
Don’t Compare It to Your Gym Workout
First on the list – and for good reason – is to not compare your bodyweight workout to your regular gym workout.
One thing I used to do when training away from the gym was compare my bodyweight workouts with my heavy sessions at the gym.
Doing this would always leave me feeling unsatisfied.
There are few things you can do in a bodyweight workout that can replicate a heavy squat, bench, or deadlift session.
Using your body weight to train is an entirely different beast.
It requires a level of intensity and creativity that is unmatched by anything else in the gym. If you can get your head out of the gym, chances are, you can have a killer workout anywhere.
Intensity. It’s the basis of any good workout, and for bodyweight routines, it is the difference between doing a couple of push-ups at home and getting completely shredded.
When you train with bodyweight, it’s vital that you work your way to a high level of intensity.
This can mean shorter rest periods, pushing out those extra reps, or even just performing with excellent technique.
Intensity can make any workout doubly effective, and this is especially true of bodyweight routines.
Training away from the gym can feel limiting when we try to replicate movements without the necessary equipment.
This is why we must be creative with our programming.
Elements such as super-setting upper body movements with explosive lower body exercises are great for elevating your heart rate.
Maxing out push-up reps by combining different variations will help keep your sessions fresh and maximize your results.
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One of the most effective ways to increase your heart rate and workout rate is by implementing Tabata into your bodyweight session.
Tabata is a form of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) that aims to get you the best workout in the shortest amount of time.
An example would be to do 10 rounds of squats for 20 seconds, with a short 10-second break between each set.
This gets the heart rate going and really tests your muscular endurance, all in a short time frame.
Super setting is a great way to reduce rest time, increase heart rate, and increase intensity.
By pairing movements that either use the same muscle groups or different muscle groups, we can chain exercises together to increase our workout.
This is an added challenge when your regular set of squats or push-ups just aren’t cutting it anymore.
Max Out Repetitions
Looking to take your muscular endurance to the next level? Performing a maximum amount of reps or to failure can be a great way to get the most out of your session.
While this is not always ideal and shouldn’t be done for every set, it can be a great way to challenge yourself.
An example of doing this is to implement this strategy to your final set either for an exercise or the entire workout.
This allows you to maintain technique for the majority of the session while challenging your mind and body to finish strong with a maximum rep push to the finish.
Can you get ripped with just bodyweight?
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Yes, you can get ripped with just bodyweight training. It has been indicated that training with body weight at a high intensity can promote fat loss, muscle mass, and strength gain.
Can I do a bodyweight full-body workout every day?
While bodyweight exercises typically use less resistance than training in the gym, they still require our muscles at a level of intensity that will require rest and recovery.
Due to this, a day of rest in between is recommended.
A 24-48 hour post-workout is when we experience greater levels of muscle protein synthesis (MPS) and remodeling of structural and contractile proteins.
In this window, good quality sleep and protein intake are required for proper recovery to maximize results.
Can you build mass with bodyweight?
Research has indicated that you can build mass with bodyweight training.
High-intensity bodyweight training is shown to promote greater muscle mass gains.
Due to the creative nature of bodyweight training, benefits to balance and explosive strength have also been noted.
How many days a week should I do bodyweight training?
You can train three to four days per week, depending on your experience level and the type of training you are undertaking.
If you are splitting your training into upper body and lower body routines, training on back-to-back days is possible.
Then, you can increase training to four to five times per week.
Bodyweight training is a great tool and addition to any workout.
With bodyweight exercises, you can get results away from the gym and without thousands of dollars worth of equipment.
The increased intensity, explosive power, fat-burning, and mass-building capabilities make it an incredibly effective and time-efficient style of training.
So, what do you think of the list? Will you give our workout a try?
Let me know in the comments below, and be sure to share this with anyone else who could use it.