As you’ll see, your primary focus in bodyweight workouts is improving in a few basic areas: pushing, pulling, and squatting.
There are many variations of these movements and ways to make the more difficult, of course, but they are the foundation of all good bodyweight training.
So, let’s review the best of these types of bodyweight exercises and then look at how we can combine them into an effective and challenging workout routine.
No bodyweight workout is complete without some form of pushup.
It’s one of the simplest and most effective ways to train your chest, shoulders, and arms, and it doesn’t require any special equipment.
I’m going to recommend that you do several types of pushups in your bodyweight workouts.
The pike pushup is a pushup variation that is great for training the shoulders.
Dive Bomber Pushup
The Dive Bomber Pushup is a good progression from the pike pushup (meaning it’s an exercise you progress to once you’ve built considerable strength on the previous).
It’s a complete upper body exercise because it emphasizes your chest, shoulders, and triceps at different points in the movement.
In terms of bodyweight shoulder exercises, it’s hard to beat the handstand pushup for sheer difficulty (and thus overload).
I want to shy away from exercises that require special equipment, but I need to mention the dip because it’s one of the absolute best upper body exercises you can do, bodyweight or otherwise.
There are two types of dips you can do: triceps (or bench) dips and chest dips.
Chinup & Pullup
These are also exercise that can’t be done without equipment…but a pullup bar is cheap and, in my opinion, vital.
It’s vital because if you want to get the most out of your bodyweight training, you must be doing chinups and pullups.
They train every major muscle in your back and involve the biceps to a significant degree as well, and they do it in a way that just can’t be replicated otherwise (outside of the gym, that is).
There are many pullup variations you can do, of course, but you should build a foundation of strength with these two before progressing to more advanced types.
Just about every popular resistance training program you can find involves some sort of squatting.
It’s the simplest and most effective leg-building exercise you can do.
This exercise is the bodyweight equivalent of the barbell back squat, and if you want to build strong legs, you’re going to do a lot of it.
The squat jump is a progression from the basic bodyweight squat that adds a dynamic “explosive” element to your training.
The Shrimp Squat is a good introduction to one-legged squatting (which is a good progression from two-legged variations).
The pistol squat is a difficult progression from the shrimp squat that requires a considerable amount of strength and balance.
The lunge is primarily a quadriceps exercise but all the major muscle groups of the lower body come into play.
Russian Leg Curl
The Russian leg curl is a fantastic exercise for isolating your hamstrings.
The burpee is a classic full-body exercise that also builds your cardiovascular capacity.
Hanging Leg Raise
The hanging leg raise is one of my favorite exercises for training the core (and the rectus abdominis in particular).
The bicycle crunch is a popular abs/core exercise that is particularly good for training the obliques.
The plank is often hailed as the ultimate core exercise, but research shows that’s a bit of an overstatement.
That said, it definitely valuable enough to include in your bodyweight workouts.
Remember–Progression Is the Key
That’s it for exercise recommendations.
The key isn’t just doing exercises–it’s progressing on them.
We recall that as a natural weightlifter, the most important type of progression is overload.
When you’re weightlifting, the easiest way to do this is to add weight to the bar.
When you’re training with your bodyweight, though, you have two options:
So, push yourself to make progress in your workouts and eat enough food and your muscles will grow.