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Top 5 Bodyweight Training Exercises

I wanted to put together a solid post about bodyweight training.

Many people don’t realize the benefits of bodyweight training because every magazine you see, there are dudes in the gym hitting weights.

But

With all training, there is a regression and progression to every exercise.  For example a regression for hanging leg lifts is performing a plank.  The progression would performing the movement with a med ball between your feet.

Another example would be a bench press.  Many people can’t do a conventional bench press because of existing shoulder issues, their form is bad or they just don’t have access to the equipment.

Push-ups are a great alternative.  Not only can you perform push-ups with various hand positions but you can also do them from an elevated surface extending the range of motion for the shoulders and engage more muscle fibers.

Bodyweight Training Benefits:

  1. free
  2. versatile, many different variations
  3. can be done anywhere
  4. improves movement
  5. improves relative strength
  6. can improve reactive strength

Here Are My Top 5 Bodyweight Movements

Which ones did I miss?  Leave a comments with your favorites!

bodyweight-training-exercises

Push-ups

Not only builds up the chest, shoulders and triceps, but is a great stabilizer of the torso and lower back.

Can be done with various hand, feet and elevated positions.  Push-ups variations such as EQI’s, hindus and push-up plus are incredible rehabilitative exercises.

bodyweight-squat-training-workouts

Bodyweight Squats

This basic movement has huge benefits!  It can be an indicator for ankle, hip and thoracic mobility or it can be an incredible conditioning tool.

Perform them against the wall to drill proficiency and technique or perform linked in a bodyweight circuit.

You can also create a complex linking with a plyometric movement like sprints, jumping or zig zag hops.

pull-ups-big-back-strength

Pull-ups

One of the biggest mass builders for the back, pull-ups are also one of the most versatile.

How to Modify the Pull-up:

  • varying grip element (towel, thick rope, offset grip)
  • modifying linear movement; you can perform side to side movement, you can perform a leg lift or l-sit with each rep
  • overload the movement with a bookbag between your feet.

Remember if you can’t do a pull-up, inverted rows are an excellent choice!

Bulgarian Split Squats

bulgarian-split-squat

I really like this movement because it not only builds muscle and leg strength, but it also improves hip mobility and knee stability.  If you have a bookbag with some books in it, you can hold it during this movement overhead, in a zercher or bear hug at the chest or out in front of you.

Don’t forget, elevating your front leg on a box will extend the range of motion for this exercise.  Also, an EQI in this position is amazing for rehabbing hip and knee issues.

Ab Roll Outs

core-strength-workouts

A more advanced modification to a plank, this movement forces torso rigidity for better movement and increased strength potential for compound, ground-based exercises.

The difference between this movement and a plank is that movement of the upper body is engaged while the torso remain rigid (resisting extension).  Many of you know that there are some pretty innovative modifications to this exercise in Combat Core.

I have an image of an ab roller but you can also use blast straps or gymnastic rings to mimic the movement.

I need your opinion!  Leave a comment with your favorite bodyweight exercises!

My buddy Ryan Magin actually just came out with his cool bodyweight at home training system.

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23 Responses to “Top 5 Bodyweight Training Exercises”

  1. Ellen Sandoval Says:

    A modification to the pullup for those of us who can’t perform even one: Use something to help you climb up and then jump up to the starting position and lower yourself down as slowly as possible. Repeat until you can’t!

  2. MarkFu Says:

    I love squats for how they help my lifting but it is tough to beat burpee push-ups.

  3. Josh Hewett Says:

    Hey Smitty,
    Good post… I agree that bodyweight training has many benefits, and believe it should be including in some form in most programs. I like the exercises you listed; my favorites would be the following:

    -Strap “suspended” pushups, using the Jungle Gym, Blast Straps, or TRX.
    -“Pistol” single leg squats, as a progression from Bulgarians.
    -Muscle ups, although I have to admit I cannot perform them without ‘cheating’ yet, they are a very tough pullup progression that incorporates elements of the dip as well.
    -Pike ups using the Power Wheel. A great little accessory similar to the ab roller.

    There are so many bodyweight training variations and progressions. Lookin’ forward to seeing what exercises others post up!
    Talk soon,
    Josh

  4. Pedro A. Morales Says:

    I have to say I didn’t have much respect for body weight exercises, until I got into Underground Strength Training by Even-esh, and I have nothing but respect and appreciation for them now!

    Awesome choices, I would add:

    1) Handstand Pushups or A-Frame Pushups
    2) Walll Walking
    3) Wheel Barrels or Power-wheel Hand Wheel Barrels.
    4) Bear Crawling especially down Stairs (Ouch)
    5) Rope Walk Downs, Learned this from Greg Mihovich, here is a video of it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVVpFiDATYo it’s about 2:41 down the video, awesome killer drill!!
    6) Rope Climbing, kind of falls under Pull-up but awesome!
    7) Sprinting!

    That’s all I can think of, that was left out or kinda left out.

    My Comments on your pics:

    1) Pushups, awesome Choice! Jason Ferruggia a Well respected Strength Coach well known for getting people Jacked, prefers Weighted Pushups & Suspended Pushups over Benching! Awesome Choice!
    2) Body Weight Squat: awesome way to practice proper Squatting, and this is how Zach Checks his athletes before every training section as a warm-up, to see if all is running well with his Athletes.
    3)Pull-ups are King!! Great choice, One of the coolest quotes I’ve ever heard was Zach Even-esh telling us “@ the Underground we Eat Pull-ups for Breakfast”, Very important functional drill. If a Pit bull is chasing you, your not going to Curl yourself up a tree or fence right?

    4) Bulgarian Split Squats: Another awesome Drill, helped me straighten my Hip out, big time! Great pic, doesn’t get enough love!
    5) Rollouts, are Evil, that’s all I can say about them, awesome drill, great pic!

    Sorry so winded!

    Pedro

  5. Pedro A. Morales Says:

    Oh Yea,

    Dips!! If your shoulders can take them!

    Muscle Ups! If you can do them! Here is a cool video of Karl Gotch, putting a wrestler through some Body Weight Drills: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNWHM6aAius

    Pedro

  6. Adam Says:

    Smitty,

    You hit the variety thing on the push-ups and pull-ups, so good there. What about dips (saying you have a dip bar). What about 8 count bodybuilders. Adding a variety to these basic body weight exercises though keeps them fun and interesting.

    -Adam

  7. Nathan Says:

    More bodyweight exercises.

    I think the spiderman crawl is a great addition to any superset for total body conditioning and is a ‘true’ bodyweight as it requires no equipment.

    The burpee is the king of bodyweight moves! its so kick-ass and is always a great finisher with spiderman crawls.

    Pistols are just hardcore, too hard for most people

    Jump lunges/squats are awesome too

    i have done many a PT session this year with little space and no equipment so combining these moves along with some of the above in a circuit fashion always got great results

  8. Mike Hanley Says:

    Greta stuff. We can’t forget to add plyometrics to this list. So let’s just take the exercises mentioned already and add:

    1. Plyo push ups
    2. Squat jumps
    3. Switch grip Pull ups
    4. Bulgarian Split Squat Jumps – killer!

    You can also add some:

    Inverted Rows w/ various handles
    Box Jumps
    T Pushups
    Spiderman Pushups
    Lateral Lunges

    Great post, the list could go on forever!

    Mike Hanley
    http://www.hanleystrength.com

    For the core/abs I like the Dragonflags and my favorite Hanley Rockers

  9. sidharth Says:

    OH full Squats freehand no weights..
    side to side squats…
    hindu pushups
    hindu squats…
    knee jumps…
    ballistic pushups
    one hand pushups/spiderman pushups
    headstand…/headstand leg raises..
    standing arch pushups…
    handstand pushups…/hindu pushups elevated support from a wall or something..
    front splits..side splits
    rope climbing for crazy upper body strength and integrity
    n lots more..
    *isn’t necessary that all will be doable at first , but all can be done to perfection with progressive practice and technique…

  10. Ben Hanson Says:

    You forgot the Turkish Get-Up and it’s cousin (my personal favorite), the “hands-free-anyway-you-can-Get-Up.

    Throw in some Get-Ups between reps of interval sprints and you’re set.

  11. Pedro A. Morales Says:

    Hanley Rockers??? Got a Video???? I’m dying to know what that is lol, Sound Eviiiilll!!!!

    Pedro

  12. Jim Smith Says:

    Hanley Rockers are in Combat Core 🙂

  13. nestor ahumada Says:

    Handstand push ups, pistols and burpees, a personal favorite though sports specific is a pummel drill into sprawl and back to pummels for 3 rounds of 3 mins. & min. rest.

  14. keith fine Says:

    I think this list cover it all.Beacuse some of the others i see listed are just progresions of what you have here.
    We move squats to pistols or SL squats,Push-Ups to HSPU or single arm,and so on

  15. Guara Says:

    Hi Coach Smitty
    great article!!!
    definitely, push ups and pull ups are the favorites. Burpees are killers, but im getting to love them. Working on the handstand pushup. Haven’t pulled 1 yet.

  16. bill Says:

    SMITTY, BURPEES, DOWN AND UPS,CLIMBING THE GYM ROPE WITHOUT LEG ASSIST AND JACK KNIVES WERE THE RAGE IN MY GYM CLASSES IN 1964.I THINK YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB IN TRYING TO GET THIS KIND OF EXERCISE GOING AGAIN. BILL

  17. Coach Mike Says:

    My favorite 5 are #1 hyndu squats #2 hand stand pushups #3 pull ups(palms away) #4 switches #5 hanging leg raises(from your grip no slings) #1,4 are rapid and demand endurance! While #2-3-5 are grinds and technique is every thing!

  18. Don B Says:

    I have been training a bunch of middle school football players and besides hitting the weights I have them doing a lot of plyo training and speed work. I really like bear crawling. We do all different types bear crawls. Up and down hills, speed crawls, etc. It is great for all over body workout and agility.

  19. Michael - Fat Loss Tips Says:

    Great stuff.
    There needs to be more body weight information like this on the web. Isolation exercises pale in comparison to these exercises.

    Mike

  20. Rob Says:

    Great post. The bulgarian split squats are great. I never realized my left leg was that much stronger than my right leg..

  21. Jim Jensen Says:

    I LOVE Scorpions, Plank variations with leg AB/AD, one legged squats for starters

  22. Lee Says:

    Twice a week bodyweight squats, as many sets possible in 15 minutes work great. May not make legs very muscular but some muscle and very strong. Don’t do them everyday. Muscles need rest.

  23. Tatianna Says:

    How about one leg squat? I think it’s a great exercise.
    I’ve had the abs roller laying around for so long and I haven’t used it at all, but after reading this I am going to pull it out.

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