The Best Bodyweight Exercises to Build Muscle or Get Ripped
There are a number of paths that lead to bodyweight exercises. Sometimes we do not have access to our normal equipment, sometimes we just need a break from heavy lifting or sometimes we just want to try something new. If you have landed here based on any of those, you are in the right place. The good news is your quest for building muscle and looking good does not have to end when you switch to bodyweight exercises. There are actually quite a few benefits to bodyweight exercises.
In this article, we will be answering some common questions about bodyweight exercises like
- Can I Get Ripped Just Doing Bodyweight Exercises?
- What is the Best Bodyweight Exercise?
- Can I Build Muscle with Just Bodyweight Exercises?
as well as arm you with a number of movements you can follow, plus some workout ideas.
Bodyweight Exercises Really Work
To state the obvious, bodyweight workouts are incredibly convenient. You can do them almost anywhere like your living room, the gym, outdoors, hotel room, in the water or even on a submarine. You can build muscle and get ripped doing just bodyweight workouts. In some ways bodyweight exercise can be more effective than some of the loaded movements you might be used to doing.
We love a good walk or run but some studies have shown that focusing on a quick and intense bodyweight workout can be more effective than spending all that time moving your legs.
In any workout like kettlebells workout, Dumbbells workout, resistance bands workouts or bodyweight workouts, it is imperative that you follow a structure created for a specific goal if you want real results. There are different movements, rest periods and intensities to follow depending on your goal. Whether you want to build muscle with just bodyweight exercises or something else.
Can I Get Ripped Just Doing Bodyweight Exercises?
The answer to any question that starts with ‘Can I Get Ripped Just Doing…’ will almost always be ‘Yes, if coupled with proper nutrition and expertly crafted workout plans’. So, yes, you can get ripped doing just bodyweight exercises, but you will need to add just a couple more items for that. While following a good nutrition plan, you will want to focus on high repetition movements, training until failure and low rest times to accomplish this goal. We provide some examples of that further into this article.
What is the Best Bodyweight Exercise?
Never trust anyone who tells you something is the absolute best with some real explanation. The best bodyweight exercise depends on what your goals are. Do you want to build your legs, core, arms, chest or something else? Do you want to lose weight, build muscle or something else? There are a lot of great bodyweight exercises we will cover like push ups, squats, burpees, planks and more. They all have their time and place when put into an expertly crafted workout.
Can I Build Muscle with Just Bodyweight Exercises?
When it comes to building muscle, bodyweight exercises can be just as effective as using weights. If you think about this intuitively it makes sense because the same strategy is used. When training with weights to build hypertrophy, you are working until fatigue or failure. You can do the exact same thing with bodyweight. You can do push ups until failure, you can reduce rest times to exhaust your muscles and build the pump you might be after.
The Benefits of Bodyweight Exercises
We assume you are here because you are interested in bodyweight workouts and just want to get started. If that is the case, you can scroll down to the movements and the workouts. Otherwise, stick around and you might get even more excited about your next bodyweight workout by learning some of the benefits you did not think about before.
Anyone Can Do Bodyweight Exercises
Bodyweight exercises are similar to battle ropes in that you get out what you put in. This means the force you put into the workout affects your output. What this means is someone just getting into fitness and gets the same benefit from bodyweight workouts as an elite athlete. Whereas those same two people cannot get the same benefit from a 20 pound weight because that weight is relative to their existing strength level.
- Improve Stability & Technique
Many bodyweight workouts require your full body working in tandem as opposed to lifting weights which can isolate muscle groups. Seemingly simple movements like lunges or planks actually engage almost your entire body.
For example with a lunge, you will use your quads, glutes as well as keeping your upper body and core flexed to maintain stability and balance. “You might find that by focusing on stabilizing and irradiating (flexing) through your entire body when you perform bodyweight movements, you actually become more aware of how your body moves in space (proprioception) and improve your overall movement quality, which will transfer when lifting weights,” says Aaron Guyett, CSCS, Director of Education for Living.Fit.
So simply by going through a bodyweight routine, you might actually find gains for yourself when you get to lifting weights.
The Best Bodyweight Exercises for Building Muscle
As with any type of exercise. You must perform with optimal form and ideally as part of a greater plan as opposed to just making up random workouts or following a new one you see on social media every day. If you follow an expertly created workout plan it will help you learn technique as well as focus on specific goals each day and each week.
The following bodyweight exercises are pulled from just two days of a 30-day bodyweight workout plan called ‘Full Bodyweight HIIT Program’. We will actually list the movements with explanations as well as the protocols you would perform in a workout sequence. You can grab a timer, write these down and do them yourself or follow along with audio or video cues in the workout plan.
All great workouts begin with a proper warm up, take 5 to 15 minutes to go on an intense walk or skip some rope or perform a low impact warm-up, and then dive into this workout.
Hinge Hops Exercise
Hinge Hops Benefits:
Perfect your hip hinge movement. The hip hinge movement is an important building block to being able to move functionally in everyday life as well as when adding weights to your regimen.
How to do Hinge Hops:
- Start with your feet about shoulder width apart and hinge your hips by pushing them back so your torso is leaning forward almost horizontally over the ground.
- Forcefully drive out of the hinge position by driving your hips forward so much that it actually brings you up off the ground.
- Similar to a squat jump, focus on decelerating your landing into the hinge position.
- Repeat the movement by forcefully driving your hips forward again to repeat.
Squat Jumps Benefits:
Build stronger, more explosive legs as well as build your cardio.
How to do Squat Jumps:
- Start with your feet about shoulder width apart.
- Lower into the squat position but pushing your hips and glutes back like you are sitting down.
- When your knees, quad and glutes are horizontal over the ground, pause and thrust yourself upward with so much force that you come off the ground.
- Use as much speed as possible to bring your feet up off the ground.
- The key to the squat jump is landing.
- Your hands should be down at your sides when you are in the low squat position and the force you generate upwards will drive your hands up in front of you.
- Reduce the amount of force as you land while throwing your arms down to engage your abs and keep you much safer in this movement.
Push-Ups Benefits :
Build stronger and more muscular core, lats and chest
How to do Push-Ups:
- Make sure to have perfect ‘vertical integrity’.
- This means one should be able to draw a straight line from your ankle, knee, hip, shoulder and ears.
- This keeps your core strong and tight.
- Engage your shoulders down and back.
- Your elbows should be coming down at a 45 degree angle and over your hands.
- Press yourself up to a locked out plank and then all the way down to a functional range of motion.
Reverse Planks Benefits:
Build Core, back strength, shoulder mobility.
How to do Reverse Planks:
- From a sitting position with your feet extended in front of you, place your hands at your sides on the ground.
- Drive your body up off the ground by pushing against the ground with your hands so that your butt raises off the ground and your legs are still extended in front of you.
- Your hands should be underneath your shoulders, behind your back. Engage from your ankle all the way up to your year.
- You should be able to draw a straight line from the ankle, knee, hip, ear.
- This will create tons of core engagement with abs and upper back.
Watch the demonstration above to learn ways to make this a bit easier if you do not have the shoulder mobility or plank strength to hold these movements.
Line Rotations Benefits:
Build your core and cardiovascular strength
How to do Line Rotations:
- Start with your feet a bit more than hip or shoulder width apart.
- Your right foot or left foot forward on one side of the line.
- When your left foot goes forward your right hand should be going forward and while your right foot goes forward your left hand should be going forward.
- Alternate bouncing back and forth between each foot while keeping your core tight and your arms alternating against your feet.
Kick Sits Exercise
Kick Sits Exercise Benefits:
Build strong shoulders, back and core
How to do Kick Sits Exercise:
- Start with both hands on the ground in front of you and your feet on the ground with your knees bent.
- Just your toes should be touching the ground.
- Your hands should stay stuck to the ground throughout the entire course of movement.
- Think of this as kicking one leg through the air space between your body and the ground to the opposite side of your body.
- So your left leg should move through that space towards your right.
- This is similar to a ‘Sit Through’.
- As you kick your leg through that space, you will drop your body down so that the glute on your kicking leg makes contact with the ground as if you are almost sitting down (thus the ‘sit’ part of the movement name).
- Pull your leg back through to the starting position and then repeat with your opposite leg.
- Your back foot should transition from the toe to the heel to keep your knee safe. You do not want to rotate your knee at all during this movement.
Curtsy Lunges (Alternating)
Curtsy Lunges (Alternating) Benefits:
Build strong and powerful legs and glutes plus hip mobility.
How to do Curtsy Lunges (Alternating):
- Start with your feet about shoulder width apart.
- With one leg, step back behind your other leg while also hinging slightly at the hips like a curtsy movement.
- In a traditional curtsy, you would normally load your weight on the ball of the foot with the foot you are stepping back with.
- In this example, try to plant your back foot with both your heel and the ball of your foot.
- This will make it tougher to go as far back but increase your hip mobility.
- Having better hip mobility helps alleviate back pain.
- Stay nice and proud through your chest with your shoulders back.
- As you reach the bottom of the curtsy position, stick your butt out towards the wall behind you as you drop your hips into the curtsy position.
Lateral Lunges (Alternating)
Lateral Lunges (Alternating) Benefits:
Build stronger quads and glutes
How to do Lateral Lunges (Alternating):
- Start with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Start by taking a nice large step directly horizontal to either side.
- As your foot makes contact with the ground, lower your body towards that foot so that most of your weight is over that foot.
- About 80% of the pressure of your body should be on this foot. In that foot, 80% of the pressure should be in your heel.
- This will keep the load of your body in the back so you use much more glute muscle.
- Drive the weight of your body back upwards off that foot by generating power in your glutes and quads.
- Use this force to drive yourself back towards the starting position and then repeat on the other side.
- Throughout this movement keep your chest proud, keep your spine in good alignment so you do not feel any lower back pressure.
- Drop as low as you can in your functional range of motion.
The key is to step a little further away and drop your hips as low as possible as you progress with this movement.
After completing these movements Rest for 60 seconds and Repeat for 6 to 12 Rounds, depending on your fitness level.
Next Body Weight Workouts for Building Muscles
Backward Diagonal Lunge (Alternating)
Backward Diagonal Lunge (Alternating) Benefits:
Build stronger quads and glutes
How to do Backward Diagonal Lunge (Alternating):
- Start with your feet about shoulder width apart.
- Keep your upper back strong and straight, locked in with your shoulders down and back with a proud chest.
- You will keep one foot on the ground at all times during the movement.
- Rotate your hips and upper body while stepping away from the foot staying planted on the ground.
- Rotate open with your hips and bring your hips out laterally, bring your foot back and diagonal.
- Keep the leg of your non stepping foot on the ground locked out to prevent rotating in your knee.
- Keep most of your load on the stepping foot.
- You will lunge into the stepping foot like you do in a lateral lunge from the first workout.
Inchworm Exercise Benefits:
Build strong core and back muscles + mobility, stability & strength
How to do Inchworm Exercise:
- From a standing position, lower your hands towards the ground in front of your feet.
- Walk your hands out in front of you until a fully extended plank position.
- Stop in the plank position and then walk your feet forward towards your hands until your feet are almost directly under your hips until your body is almost a triangle shape.
- Then walk your hands back out in front of you again to the plank position.
Lying Modified Pull-ups Benefits:
Build strong core, back, abs
How to do Lying Modified Pull-ups:
- Lay on the ground with your back against the floor with your feet on the floor as well so your knees are up in the air.
- Your elbows should come out at a 45 degree angle from your torso.
- Your shoulders should be down and back.
- Engage your shoulder blades by squeezing your shoulders down towards your hips. Squeeze your shoulders back together to puff out your chest.
- Drive your elbows into the ground which should raise your torso off the ground.
- This will also hyper engage your abs, rear delts, upper back and lats which are the same muscles used in a pull up.
Flutter Kicks Exercise
Flutter Kicks Exercise Benefits:
- Build strong lower abs, obliques and more.
How to do Flutter Kicks Exercise:
- Lay on the ground with your arms at your sides.
- Your torso should be up towards the ceilings.
- If you feel any lower back tightness while doing this, you can place your hands palms down underneath your hips or butt.
- That will help add more abdominal engagement to take strain away from the lower back.
- Extend your feet and legs fully.
- Kick your legs alternating like you are under water. Alternating your kicks.
This will hyper engage your lower abs, whole rectus abdominis and oblique muscles.
Burpees Exercise Benefits:
Full body workout
How to do Burpees Exercise:
- Start in a standing position with your hands at your sides and feet shoulder width apart. Hinge your hips to lower your body to the ground and place your hands on the floor in front of you.
- Kick your legs back so that your body is fully extended like a push up or plank position. Make sure to keep a straight line from your ankles, knees, hips and shoulders while keeping your core tight to prevent your body from sagging.
- Perform a push up by following the steps from the first workout, drive yourself back up to the top of the push up position.
- Kick your legs back up towards your hands like they were before you kicked them back.
- Jump up from this position like you are performing the part of the jump squat which starts at the bottom.
- Keep your feet in between your hands. Raise your hands above your head as you jump. Then repeat.
Make sure to modify this movement to your functional range of motion.
If this movement is challenging for you, you should master the components of this movement previously mentioned like the hinge, squat, push up and jump squat.
Bicycles Exercise Benefits:
Build core and abs
How to do Bicycles Exercise:
- Lay on the floor with your hands behind your interlocked behind your head and your legs lowered off the ground.
- You want to consider interlocking your hands to prevent you pulling your chin into your chest and creating too much flexion in your spine.
- Your knees will be pointing straight up the air and bent at a 90 degree angle like you are sitting in a chair.
- Drive your right elbow towards your left knee while also driving your left knee towards your right elbow like they are coming together.
- The other foot fully extends away from you, straight out in front of you and the opposite elbow is rotating back behind you.
- Alternate this movement.
Straight Arm Rotations Exercise
Straight Arm Rotations Exercise Benefit:
Build your core and oblique muscles
How to do Straight Arm Rotations Exercise:
- Stand with your feet a bit wider than shoulders.
- Your arms should be straight out in front of you with your palms touching. Keep tension throughout your arms and core during this movement.
- If you feel strain or pain anywhere, you can lower your arms so they are not parallel to the ground.
- Create rotations with the force of your arms and use your core and hips to stop the momentum of your arms as they reach your right or left side.
- Think of this as catching the momentum of your arms by using your core to prevent the weight of your arms from going further away from you.
- Use your core to drive your arms back towards the other side and catch the momentum and weight of your arms on the other side.
After Completing This Movement, Rest for 60 seconds and Repeat All Movements Again for 5 to 8 Rounds
There you have it. Two bodyweight workouts that are guaranteed to get you sweating, build muscle and get you ripped. Remember, because you are using the weight of your body, you can always try to perform movements at different speeds to make them easier or more challenging.
Bodyweight Workout Plans
These two workouts are from the Full Bodyweight HIIT Program. We recommend following an expertly created workout plan to meet a specific goal. If you do not have the prerequisite knowledge or experience you run the risk of overtraining, under training, not focusing enough on the desired muscle group or following the right rep ranges and protocols to meet a specific goal. For example, you might have the goal of losing fat, but based on your knowledge, perform these movements in such a way that you focus more on building strength with less emphasis on fat loss.
You run the risk of actually not doing enough to reach your specific goal. You might not perform the correct repetition ranges or weights. You also run the risk of not focusing on a potential muscle group enough.
You also run the risk of doing the opposite. Part of reaching your goals is leaving enough fuel in the tank for the next workout along with proper warm ups and cool downs so you come back ready and refreshed to the next workout. Without a thorough understanding of your body, you might unintentionally incorporate too much of a particular part of your body in a workout. This has the effect of leaving out other muscle groups but also making other workouts more challenging because of the muscle fatigue that sets in.
The Bodyweight Workout plans
Now that you have a base of knowledge, it is time to put it to work. If you do not have the experience to create and follow a plan, below are a few different bodyweight workout programs we recommend.
Full Bodyweight HIIT Program
The Daily Bodyweight HIIT Program has been created for all of the people looking to be stimulated and engaged mentally and physically, while also using the Living.Fit principles of progressive overload (week-to-week improvements in intensity, strength, and movement quality) and Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands. Most people do random training, and end up with random results. This program however, will help you melt fat and increase strength, not only physical strength but the confidence that comes with your strength.
10 Minutes to Transform
Everyone has 10 minutes per day, and if we can take that 10 minutes and build a healthy habit of consistently working out, it won't be long until you are moving better, feeling better, and looking better.
10 Minutes to Transform Program focuses on 30 different 10 minute workouts that we showcase with a video follow-along and a printable/downloadable pdf, you will stay engaged and learn so many different ways to improve how you move, feel and look. You can also mix and match workouts if you are looking for even more.
We use one or two fitness tools like the kettlebells, battle ropes, slam balls, dumbbells, jump rope, resistance bands in each workout, but we also built an in-depth and robust movement library, breaking down how to do each movement with different tools.
Minimum Space Athlete
Minimum Space Athlete program can be done, whether you have equipment or you don’t have equipment, whether you are just getting started or you have been training for years, whether you want a short and sweet workout or you want to get in the zone for an hour each day...this program is for all of us that are looking to lose fat, build strength, and improve mobility.