First things first – body weight exercises are everyone’s cup of tea. No one is an exception, certainly not you. If you are otherwise healthy and aren’t suffering from any medical conditions, you should be able to start your body weight exercise routine right away. However, checking with you physician before you begin is a smart move.
Do you remember the movie, 300? Do you think the warriors of ancient Sparta had Smith Machines, leg curl machines, or lateral pull down machines? No, they did not. Despite this, they had imposing and beautiful physiques. The reason is they followed a rigorous system of body weight exercises. Now, millenniums later, you too can use the same system to build your Greek god or goddess-like body.
Body Weight Exercises – Your Key to Lifelong Fitness
If you want economy and efficiency, body weight exercise is the way to go. Unlike free weight exercises, body weight exercises increase muscle mass and strength gain through progressions. These progressions start with beginner level exercises that almost anyone can do. Then, the progression introduces progressively difficult exercises to enhance your physical capability. Eventually, the progression leads to exercises that demonstrate magnificent feats of strength.
The first few exercises here represent such awe-inspiring physical feats. From there onwards, you will read about basic progressions you can use to reach extreme levels of physical prowess. So, here are the body weight exercises that will gift you a lifetime of physical fitness.
1. Chin Ups and Pull Ups for Your Upper Body
Chin ups and pull ups are excellent body weight exercises for your upper body. The two exercises directly target the latissimus dorsi muscle or lats. Lats participate in all motions that bring your arms closer to your body. For example, taking the cookie-jar from the kitchen cabinet’s top shelf.
Since the grip for chin up requires your palms to face away from you, chin up is one of the top body weight exercises for biceps. Pull ups, which require you to grip the bar with you palms facing towards you, train your lats more than chin ups do. To avoid muscle imbalance, you should include both chin ups and pull ups in your workout.
2. Rope Climb for Working Out a Multitude of Muscles
Rope climbing is an advanced bodyweight workout that strengthens your upper body. Rope climbing involves your shoulder, back, abdominal and forearm muscles. Depending on your technique, your legs can also get a decent workout from rope climbing.
Once you master pull ups and chin ups, you can continue gaining strength and developing muscles by switching to rope climbing. However, if you are a beginner, you should avoid climbing ropes because it is unsafe. You may fall from a height, or bruise the skin on your palms if you don’t have adequate strength.
3. Inverted Rows for Building Strength and Stamina Fast
Let’s face it – if you are new to bodyweight workouts, climbing ropes, pull ups, and chin ups may seem intimidating. If that’s the case, Inverted rows offer a way to prime your body for these advanced exercises. Here’s how that works:
While doing pushups or chin ups, your upper body has to lift the entire weight of your body. Inverted rows, on the other hand, reduce the load on the upper body, making inverted rows easier. You can build your upper body strength with inverted rows until you have enough strength to progress to push-ups and chin-ups.
4. Front Levers for a Beast of a Body Weight Workout
The front lever is a beast of a body weight workout. It is an impressive feat of strength. In a front lever, you grip a horizontal bar and suspend your body parallel to the ground. Even the thought of this makes novices go, “Oh, boy.” You need a considerable upper body, core, and lower body strength before you can attempt this.
Despite the mind-numbing difficulty level of this exercise, front lever is on this list to prove a point. The point here is, you will never run out of ways to increase your strength, muscle mass, flexibility, and endurance with body weight exercise routines. It never gets boring because there is always a tougher exercise to master at every step.
5. Dips for the Perfect Compound Exercise
A dip is a compound exercise. This means that dips utilize multiple muscle groups at the same time. Compound exercises are great because they help develop functional strength. For instance, dips help you strengthen your chest, triceps, and shoulders.
Although compound exercises involve multiple muscles, you can modify the exercise to preferentially target a certain muscle. You can do a chest dip to develop your pectoralis major, or chest muscle. Alternatively, you can do a triceps dip to develop your triceps.
6. Muscle Ups Kills Two Birds with One Stone
Muscle up is actually two body weight workouts rolled into one. A muscle up is a pull-up plus a dip. While pull ups strengthen your lats, the muscles ups strengthen your chest, triceps, and shoulders. This way, the pulling muscles and pushing muscles in your body get a thorough workout.
Muscle ups are not body weight exercises for beginners. Unless you can perform dips and pull ups separately, you shouldn’t combine them into one exercise. You can think of muscles ups as one of the filters that set a rookie apart from a veteran.
7. Beginner Push Ups to Get You Well on Your Way
The beauty of body weight training using calisthenics exercises is that it always follow progressions. Take the case of pushups. The push up is one the most famous and effective body weight exercises. But, the problem is that you may not have the strength to execute a push-up in full form.
This is where the beginner push up variations come into play. You can begin building strength using wall pushups. Next, you can continue gaining strength with incline pushups. After this, switch to kneeling pushups to further your strength gains. Then you can move to half push-ups before moving to the regular pushups.
8. Regular Push Ups Separate the Weak from the Strong
Picture a drill sergeant yelling – “Get down and give me 50.” This makes pushups sound like the perfect punishment. This isn’t true. In the context of body weight exercises, pushups aren’t punishing at all – far from it actually. Push up is a fantastic way to condition your upper body.
Trouble arises when you try to do a full push up without preparing your body for it. You should take the time to build the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and neural network within your upper body before you can do a full push-up. To do this, go through the beginner push up variations.
9. Hand Stand Push Ups Should Be Your Ultimate Goal
Mastering the regular push up requires three to four months of diligent effort. The time depends on the point at which you started. Sooner or later, doing regular pushups will no longer be challenging. On reaching this level of proficiency, increasing the number of sets or repetitions enhances your endurance. Your strength, however, doesn’t increase.
To break through the plateau, you should progress to more difficult exercises. There are two routes to follow. You can either continue the push-up progression that builds up to one-hand push-up. Alternatively, you can switch to a progression that builds up to handstand pushups.
10. Crawling Isn’t Just for Babies
People who aren’t looking to build strength and muscles mass for professional reasons should focus on mobility as well. Yes, body weight exercises will make you stronger and more flexible. But, what will you do with all that strength and flexibility?
The answer is – you can do more with your body than you ever could. The benefits manifest in many ways. Your posture improves, your movements become graceful, and your performance in bed skyrockets. To reap the benefits of your strength gains, you must increase your freedom of movement. Crawling is an excellent way to do this.
11. Beginner Squats for a Strong Lower Body
So far, you’ve discovered many awesome body weight exercises to train your upper body. Now, let’s concentrate on body weight exercises for legs and lower body. When it comes to conditioning your lower body, there isn’t an exercise better than the humble squat. It is one of the best body weight exercises for men and women.
Initially, your muscles may lack the strength, your joints may lack the range of motion, and your tendons and ligaments may lack the flexibility to do a full squat. If this is the case, begin with the jackknife squat. After this becomes comfortable, transit to supported squat. Then, move to half squats. Next, comes the full squat.
12. Regular Squats for Your Hamstrings, Quads, Glutes and Calf Muscles
In doing a regular squat, you are lifting your entire body weight. The beginner versions don’t require you to do this. However, no matter what kind of squats you do, you are always training the hamstrings, quads, glutes, and calf muscles. Other muscles, such as your back and abs benefit indirectly because you use them to hold your form.
The regular squat, or the full squat, is the only exercise you need to develop lower body strength. Another bonus is that the strength you develop will be a functional strength. Thus, you will be able to run, jump, sit, stand, walk, push, and pull better. On becoming a pro at squatting, you can move to higher difficulties that build up to the awesome pistol squat. Otherwise, you can add resistance to regular squats using a dumbbell.
13. Pistol Squats to Build Your Lower Body Even Further
If you can do pistol squats in perfect form, no one can question your lower body strength. A pistol squat represents amazing athletic ability and strength. Getting here isn’t easy. To reach pistol squat level proficiency, you must follow a progression beyond the regular squat.
When you can comfortably do a regular squat, you can increase the difficulty by doing closed squats. From closed squats, you can progress to uneven squats. Following uneven squats, attempt half pistol squat. After this, you can do assisted pistol squats. Finally, you can perform full pistol squats.
14. Beginner Leg Raises for a Strong Core
The upper body and the lower body connect with each other through the core. Thus, conditioning the core should also be a part of any serious body weight training routine. Leg raises offer an effective system to strengthen the core. As always, let’s start with a beginner level of the leg raise progression.
Knee tucks are the easiest exercise in this progression. Flat knee raise is the next step in the beginner progression. Following flat knee raise, you can try flat bent leg raise. Finally, before moving to flat straight leg raises, you should master flat frog raises.
15. Flat Straight Leg Raises Build Muscle Fast
The flat straight leg raise represents the half-way mark in the leg raise progression. It might take four to five months to get to this level. After this, you can choose to increase your endurance or you can choose to develop your strength and muscle mass.
If you want to increase your endurance, you can do it by adding more repetitions to your sets. If you want to increase muscle mass and strength, you can continue the progression until you reach the hanging straight leg raise. By the way, in case you want to show off your abs, you should do some cardio to reduce your body fat percentage.
16. Hanging Straight Leg Raises for Sculpted Muscles
If you can do around 20 repetitions of this exercise in perfect form, you’ll have abs of steel. This is the best exercise for your mid-section. But, doing this is no walk in the park. In fact, it may take you about a year to reach this level. There are four exercises that mark the progression from flat straight leg raise to hanging straight leg raise.
The first exercise you have to master in the advanced progression is the hanging knee raise. Next, you have to flawlessly perform hanging bent leg raises to progression standard. Then comes hanging frog raises. Moving on, you have to perform partial straight leg raises. Finally, you can attempt hanging leg raise.
17. Bridging: Beginner Exercises for Your Spine
When done right, bridging is a great way to minimize back problems. Ironically, bridging causes back problems if you do it incorrectly. The important thing is to start small. That’s why you should follow the beginner level progression that eventually builds to a full bridge.
The first step in the beginner progression is the short bridge. Once you can do short bridges properly, you can move to the next step – straight bridges. Following this, you can attempt angled bridges. Then, you can try head bridges. Thereafter, you can move to a full bridge after learning how to do half bridges.
18. Full Bridges for a Stronger Spine
The full bridge is an amazing exercise for your spine. The exercise not only conditions your spine but also improves blood circulation, expands ribcage, tones your arms and legs, and loosens your shoulders. It even helps the digestion process.
This exercise enhances your total-body flexibility. It also prevents and cures many back related problems. On mastering the full bridge, you can choose to continue the progression. At the end of the bridge progression, you will be able to do stand to stand bridges.
19. Stand to Stand Bridges for Tons of Flexibility
The stand to stand bridge looks extremely elegant. Imagine arching backward all the way until your palms are flat on the ground and then returning to your standing position. Nothing says, “flexible,” like a stand-to-stand bridge does.
However, to reach this level, you must go through three interim exercises. First, you should be able to do downward wall walking bridge. Next, you should be able to do upward wall walking bridge. Lastly, you should master closing bridges.
Choosing the Right Bodyweight Exercises
You have read about different bodyweight exercises progressions. Within each progression, you must first figure out where you stand. To do this, start from the middle. For example, for the push-up progression, start with the full push up. See if you can do one set of 10 repetitions in perfect form. If you can, then start from here. If you can’t then move down by two progressions.
Once your meet beginner standard, which is one set of 10 repetitions, you should aspire to meet the intermediate standard. The intermediate standard requires two sets of 30 to 50 repetitions, depending on the exercise.
On hitting the intermediate standard, you should aim for progression standard, which is two to three sets of 30 to 50 repetitions. Only after you meet the progression standard, should you move to the next exercise. For more details on this, you should read the book Convict Conditioning by Paul Wade.
Begin Your Body Weight Workouts Today
So, get the go signal from your doctor, immediately. Set out on your journey to create the body that you have always dreamed of. At most, mastery will take you a year or two. But, two years from now, you will be glad that you didn’t procrastinate on embracing body weight exercises.