27 Best Bodyweight Exercises You Need to Get In Shape

Best bodyweight exercises
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Skip the gym and do these 27 bodyweight exercises to tone up!

Get ready to improve balance, flexibility, strength, and stamina without exercise machines.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many gym goers found themselves without access to the iron paradise. Instead, they had to find new ways to get a good workout without access to a comprehensive gym.

Luckily, there are tons of great ways to get in shape using only bodyweight exercises. 

In this article, we’ll review some of the top bodyweight exercises you can use to increase your muscle strength and definition.

The Benefits of Bodyweight Exercise

Bodyweight exercise is a great option for many people. In particular, bodyweight workouts are ideal for the average individual because of the following reasons:

  • They require no equipment and very little space.
  • The exercises are easy to modify to make them easier or harder.
  • In general, they pose less of an injury risk than traditional weightlifting exercises do.
  • They tend to put less stress on the joints and are harder to perform incorrectly.

Of course, there are tons of other benefits inherent in bodyweight exercise as well. 

Now, let’s check out some of the best moves that require only some open space and your bodyweight!

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The Top 27 Bodyweight Exercises

Bodyweight exercises #1 pushups

As with any exercise program, you’ll want to take your time with these movements and ensure that you are always taking safety precautions. 

If you’re uncertain of how to perform a certain move or are concerned about the safety of an exercise, consult with a qualified health professional.

1. Push Ups

Push Ups - bodyweight exercises

As far as upper body exercise is concerned, push-ups are one of the best around. This move is versatile and it can help you build a strong, defined chest.

How to Perform:

  • Place your hands and toes on the ground with your back completely straight.
  • Slowly, lower your chest down toward the ground.
  • Once you’ve reached the bottom of your range, push yourself back into the starting position.
  • Repeat for 10-12 reps per set, 3 sets per session, 2-3 times per week.

2. Extended Crunches

Extended Crunches

Crunches are a perfect abdominal exercise. And by extending the lever arm on this move (by raising your hands), you can get seriously defined abs in no time!

How to Perform:

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Extend your arms up over your head.
  • Perform a crunch while keeping your arms in line with your trunk the whole time.
  • Complete 12-15 reps per set, 3 sets per session, 2-3 times per week.

3. Single Leg Squats

Single Leg Squats

There’s nothing wrong with performing regular-old squats using both legs. However, by switching to a single leg variation, you can really get your leg muscles pumping!

How to Perform:

  • Stand on your right leg, with your left leg extended in front of you.
  • Keeping your arms in front of you for balance, bend your right knee and bring your hips toward the ground, as you would during a normal squat.
  • Once you’ve reached the bottom of your range, stand up to return to the starting position. 
  • Repeat for 10-12 reps per leg, for 3 sets per session, 2-3 times per week.

4. Step Ups

For this exercise, you’ll want to find a steady surface that is about at your knee level. This will serve as a good starting height for step-ups. A park bench or a sturdy chair works great for a step-up platform.

How to Perform:

  • Place your right foot on the step.
  • Using only your right leg, without help from your left, step up onto the higher surface/step.
  • If possible, try not to touch your left foot to the step at the top of the movement. This will increase the balance component of the exercise, making it more difficult.
  • Perform 10-12 reps per leg, for 3 sets per session, 2-3 times per week.

5. Triceps Dips

Triceps Dips

This exercise will require the use of parallettes or sturdy bars on which you can place your full weight. 

Often parks will have parallel bars or pull-up bars which can help with this purpose. 

If not, however, you can purchase gymnastics rings which will enable you to perform dips anywhere that you can hand your straps.

How to Perform:

  • Place your hands on the parallel bars.
  • Push or jump yourself upward so that your arms are perfectly straight and your feet are off of the ground.
  • Slowly, lower yourself down by bending your elbows.
  • Once you’ve reached the bottom of your range, push yourself back up into the starting position.
  • Repeat for 10-15 reps per set, 3 sets per session, 2-3 sessions per week.

6. Modified Squat Thrusts

If you grew up in a certain era, your gym classes undoubtedly included squat thrusts.

This exercise is great for building endurance and strength throughout the entire body. Plus, this variation stretches out the inner thigh: a notoriously tight area for many people!

How to Perform:

  • Start in the upward phase of a pushup position, with your hands and toes on the ground.
  • Next, jump your feet forward, placing them on either side of your hands.
  • Then, jump your feet backward to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 12-15 reps, 3 sets per session, 2-3 sessions per week.

7. Jack Lalanne Planks

Jack Lalanne Planks

Younger readers may be unfamiliar with Jack Lalanne. Jack Lalanne was a pioneer in the exercise world. This is especially true with it comes to bodyweight exercise.

Lalanne was famous for a certain type of pushup in which he placed his hands way out in front of him as he completed rep after rep. This plank variation is similar to Lalanne’s pushups.

How to Perform:

  • Start in the upward phase of a pushup.
  • Spread your hands and place them as far out in front of you as you can.
  • Next, spread your legs wide and kick them backward as far as you can.
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds and repeat 4 times per session, 2-3 sessions per week.

8. Modified V-Ups

Modified V-Ups

Much like crunches, V-Ups are a terrific exercise for strengthening and defining the abdominal region.

How to Perform:

  • Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Place your hands on your temples and perform a situp as you simultaneously bring your knees in toward your chest.
  • Then, reverse the motion, kicking your legs back out and lying your upper body back down.
  • Repeat this movement for 10-12 reps per set, 3 sets per session 2-3 sessions per week.

9. Spidermans Push-Ups

Spidermans Push-Ups

If you like superheroes, you are no doubt familiar with Spiderman. Spidey is one of the most athletic superheroes, which has led to many exercises being named for him. 

This movement is great for building upper body strength as well as oblique definition.

How to Perform:

  • Begin in a pushup position.
  • Slowly lower yourself down into a pushup as you simultaneously bring your right knee toward your right elbow.
  • Return to the starting position at repeat on the left side.
  • Complete 10-12 reps per side, per set, 3 sets per session, 2-3 times per week.

10. Broad Jumps

Broad Jumps

There’s nothing like broad jumps for building explosive power.

This movement is easy to perform and can be modified in a variety of ways to fit your individual needs. Be sure to land softly when performing this exercise in order to protect your knees as much as possible.

How to Perform:

  • Make sure that you have plenty of room to perform this exercise.
  • To start, squat down, swing your arms behind you, and prepare to launch yourself forward.
  • When ready, swing your arms in front of you as you explode through your feet.
  • You should aim to propel yourself forward through the air.
  • Land softly, bending your knees and ankles.
  • Repeat for 10-15 reps per set, 3 sets per session, 2-3 sessions per week.

11. Burpees

Burpees
Image // Muscleandfitness.com

Burpees have exploded in popularity over the past few years. This movement is an absolute killer, as it provides cardiovascular, strength training, and mobility work in one exercise.

How to Perform:

  • Start in standing, with your feet spaced about hip-width apart.
  • Quickly, place your hands on the floor and jump your feet backward so that you are in a pushup position.
  • Next, jump your feet forward, stand up, and jump in the air.
  • Repeat this pattern for 10-20 reps per set, 3 sets per session, 2-3 sessions per week.

12. Supermans

Supermans

Another hero appears on our list!

The superman exercise is great for those looking to avoid or cure back pain. This movement strengthens many of the back muscles and is a terrific way to balance out popular core exercises.

How to Perform:

  • Lie flat on your stomach.
  • Extend your arms above your head and your legs straight down.
  • Next, lift both of your arms, both of your legs, and as much of your trunk and hips as you can off of the floor.
  • Hold this extended position for 10 seconds, then return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 10 reps per set, 3 sets per session, 2-3 sessions per week.

13. Wall Walks

Wall Walks
Image // Menshealth.com

Have you ever wanted to do a handstand? Well, this exercise will help you get there. 

Wall walks incorporate tons of different muscles while forcing you to stabilize during a very tricky motion.

How to Perform:

  • Start in a pushup position, with your feet near a wall.
  • Slowly, walk your feet up the wall as you walk your hands backward.
  • Once you’ve gone as far back as you feel comfortable, begin walking your feet down the wall and your hands forward to the starting position.
  • Complete 10-12 reps per set, 3 sets per session, and 2-3 sessions per week.

14. Donkey Kicks

Have you ever been kicked by a horse or donkey? If not, consider yourself lucky!

These animals pack some serious power into their kicks, and you NEVER want to be on the receiving end of a donkey kick. This move mimics this animal’s classic kick while providing a great burn for the glute muscles.

How to Perform:

  • Start on hands and knees.
  • Keeping your right knee bent, kick your heel backward while squeezing the glute muscles.
  • Repeat for 10-12 reps per set, 3 sets per session, and 2-3 sessions per week.

15. Lat Pull Ups

Lat Pull Ups

Pull-ups are very difficult for most people. In fact, you’re unlikely to meet many people who can complete more than 10 quality pull-ups.

This is especially true for wide-grip or lat pull-ups. However, this exercise is well worth your time. It builds incredible strength all throughout the upper body.

How to Perform:

  • Grasp a sturdy bar with both palms facing forward. Your hands should be spaced out as far as you can spread them.
  • Slowly, pull your chest up toward the bar.
  • Once you’ve gotten your chin above the bar, slowly lower yourself down to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 8-10 reps per set, 3 sets per session, and 2-3 sessions per week.

16. Crab Walks

The crab walk is a classic move that many of us probably first encountered in grade school. But even though it might be geared toward a younger crowd, the crab walk can help anyone get into shape!

How to Perform:

  • Start by sitting on the floor.
  • Next, place your feet on the ground in front of you and both of your hands on the ground behind you.
  • Lift your buttocks off of the floor and begin walking forward by alternating hand and foot movements.
  • Walk forward for 10 feet, then backward for 10 feet. This is considered one rep.
  • Complete 10 reps per set, 3 sets per session, and 2-3 sessions per week.

17. Criss-Cross Crunches

Crunches are a particularly great exercise due to how easy they are to modify for any different requirements. For instance, by simply adding the criss-cross motion to the crunch, you can get a great oblique pump.

How to Perform

  • Lie on your back with your hands on your temples, your feet flat on the floor, and your knees bent.
  • Crunch up and twist to the left.
  • Then, return to the starting position and repeat on the right side.
  • Complete 10-15 reps per side, per set; 3 sets per session, 2-3 sessions per week.

18. Isometric V-Ups

Earlier, we described the conventional V-Up exercise. Now, let’s add a little spice to it!

How to Perform

  • Start on your back with your hands on your temples, your feet flat on the floor, and your knees bent.
  • Perform a situp as you simultaneously bring your knees toward your chest.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds, then return to the starting position. 
  • Complete 10-15 reps per set, 3 sets per session, 2-3 sessions per week.

19. Plyometric Lunges

Lunges are tough as is. Adding in a jumping component is downright cruel!

How to Perform:

  • Start with your right foot a few inches in front of you, and your left foot a few inches behind you.
  • Bend your right knee and attempt to lower your left knee toward the ground.
  • Once you’ve lightly tapped your left knee to the ground, explode up in the air.
  • Then, return to the starting position.
  • Complete 10-12 reps per side, 3 sets per session, 2-3 sessions per week.

20. Plyometric Squats

Much like the plyo lunges make regular lunges harder, plyo squats amplify the intensity of the traditional squat. These will seriously get your quads and glutes burning!

How to Perform:

  • Start with your feet about hip-width apart.
  • Lower your buttocks toward the ground as you bend your knees.
  • Once you’ve reached the bottom of your range, explode upward, jumping off of the ground.
  • Repeat for 10-12 reps per set, 3 sets per session, 2-3 sessions per week.

21. Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers combine core and cardio work to make one devilishly tricky exercise. Be sure to have your towel ready while performing mountain climbers, as this move will certainly get you sweating!

How to Perform:

  • Start in a pushup position.
  • As fast as you can, bring your right knee to your chest, then return it to the starting position, swapping with your left knee.
  • Continue to alternate in this manner for 1 minute. Complete 3 sets per session and 2-3 sessions per week.

22. Reverse Situps

Situps are great, but so are reverse situps! This movement focuses on a different component of abdominal muscle activation. 

When paired with other core exercises, the reverse situp can help you get that shredded six-pack you’ve always wanted.

How to Perform:

  • Start by lying on your back with your legs out straight.
  • Lift your legs and low back off of the ground, kicking your heels toward the ceiling.
  • Slowly lower back down to the starting position and complete 10-12 reps for 3 sets, 2-3 sessions per week.

23. Plyometric Pushups

Plyometric Pushups

Regular pushups are not easy, but with consistent practice, most people can master the pushup. However, plyometric pushups are a different story. 

This exercise takes a while to get good at. So be sure to take your time and don’t get frustrated if you can’t do them right away.

How to Perform:

  • Start in a pushup position.
  • Slowly lower yourself down toward the ground.
  • As soon as your chest taps the floor, explode upward, pushing yourself into the air.
  • Catch yourself with soft wrists and elbows, and repeat the motion for 10-20 reps for 3 sets, 2-3 times per week.

24. Side Plank Holds

Side Plank Holds

In this list so far, we haven’t discussed many isometric movements. Isometric movements are great for building core strength, stability, and definition. Everyone loves a good plank!

How to Perform:

  • Start by lying on your right side.
  • Prop yourself up on your elbow while also balancing with your left foot stacked on top of your right foot.
  • Ensure that your body is in a straight line as you hold this position for 30 seconds. Repeat 4 times on each side per session, 2-3 sessions per week.

25. Seated Dips

Seated Dips

If you can’t find a good place to perform standing dips, seated dips work great as well. This movement requires only a sturdy chair and you’re off to the races. Your triceps and chest will ache after the first time trying this one.

How to Perform:

  • Place your hands on a firm surface, such as a bench or chair.
  • Face away from said surface, extending your legs out in front of you.
  • Slowly lower yourself down toward the ground (as if you are sitting) by bending your elbows.
  • Push back up to return to the starting position.
  • Complete 12-15 reps per set, 3 sets per session, 2-3 times per week.

26. One-Leg Burpee

One-Leg Burpee

Standard burpees are enough to exhaust the most advanced exercisers. Therefore, the single-leg version is not for the faint of heart!

How to Perform:

  • Balance on your right leg.
  • Quickly, place your hands on the floor and jump your right foot back behind you, assuming the pushup position.
  • Next, jump your right foot forward toward your hands and stand up.
  • Repeat for 10-12 reps per side for 3 sets, 2-3 times per week.

27. Scissor Kicks

Scissor Kicks

Scissor kicks are a great way to finish an exercise session. This move challenges the abdominals and will leave you breathless!

How to Perform:

  • Lie flat on the ground with your legs out straight.
  • Lift both legs a few inches off of the ground.
  • Next, bring your right leg up high in the air, while the left leg remains slightly elevated off of the ground.
  • Switch back and forth between the left leg being up and the right leg is down, and vice versa.
  • Complete 10-20 reps per side, per set, 3 sets per session, 2-3 sessions per week.

Conclusion On Bodyweight Exercises

Have you been looking for ways to get a great workout without joining a gym? If so, try the above workout on for size and see how you do!

Works Cited

  1. Helsingen, L.M., Løberg, M., Refsum, E. et al. Covid-19 transmission in fitness centers in Norway – a randomized trial. BMC Public Health 21, 2103 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-021-12073-0

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Bennett Richardson, DPT, PT, CSCS

Bennett Richardson is a physical therapist and writer out of Pittsburgh, PA. He has maintained certification as a strength and conditioning coach (CSCS) since 2014. He then went on to earn a BS in exercise science and a doctorate degree in physical therapy, both from Slippery Rock University. In his free time, Bennett likes to read and exercise.

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