We love the simplicity of bodyweight exercises. These types of movements require no equipment and are perfect for everyone from beginners to athletes. They’re also great for those unfamiliar with the equipment at the gym or those who dislike going to the gym in the first place. The biggest perk, though? Bodyweight exercises are easy to learn but as effective as any other.
Now that you’re convinced that bodyweight exercise it where it’s at, we’ve got some favorites that are sure to become staples in your exercise repertoire. Check out our top picks down below — we’ve grouped them by the muscle groups they target.
Why we love bodyweight exercises
You can do bodyweight exercises almost anywhere — in your hotel room, living room, on a mountain or by the ocean. That’s what makes them ideal for travelers, students, and busy moms alike. Exercises like these are perfect for anyone who’s short on time but wants an effective, fast workout that’s as good as you could get at the gym.
Did we mention that bodyweight exercises are super affordable? In fact, they’re free as can be. For those of us on a budget, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Let’s jump right into our favorites list!
Bodyweight shoulder exercises
Muscles involved: Shoulders, lats, triceps, core
Begin with your hands and feet on the floor slightly wider than shoulder/hip-width apart, then fold forward at the hips so that your body forms an inverted V.
Bend at the elbows and lower the top of your head to the floor.
Straighten out your arms to press your body back up to the starting position.
Tips: Keep your neck in line with your spine, your spine straight, and your shoulders back and down away from the ears.
Muscles involved: Shoulders, abs, upper back
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Raise your arms out to your side, parallel to the floor, palms facing upwards.
Slightly raise and lower your arms in a controlled and fast pace.
Return to start position after indicated reps/time.
Tips: Keep good posture with your neck long, shoulders back and no slouching. Keep your arms parallel to the floor. Raise and lower your arms in fast and controlled movements.
Bodyweight chest exercises
Muscles involved: Chest, shoulders, triceps, lats, core
Begin with your hands at least 50% wider than shoulder-width apart and keep your feet hip-width apart on the floor.
Step your legs out behind you with your toes curled underneath.
Lift your hips, then tense every muscle in the body to form a straight line from your head through to your heels at all times.
Lower your chest close to the floor.
Extend your arms and push your body back to the starting position.
Tips: Keep your neck in line with your spine, with your shoulders back and down away from ears. To make the exercise easier, place your hands on an elevated surface. To make the exercise harder, place your feet on an elevated surface.
Muscles involved: Chest, shoulders, triceps, abs
Place your hands on the edge of a surface (like a wall) with both of your hands and feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
Step your legs out behind you with your feet together, and your toes curled underneath.
Tense every muscle in your body to form a straight line from your head through to your heels.
Lower your chest to nearly meet the surface/wall and keep your elbows close to your body.
Explosively push your torso away using your hands.
Land softly on your hands and repeat the move immediately after returning to the starting position.
Tips: Keep your hips aligned so that your body forms a straight line from your head through to your heels. Keep your neck in line with your spine, your spine straight, and your shoulders back and down away from the ears. Place your hands higher to make the move less difficult, or lower to make it more difficult.
Bodyweight arm exercises
Okay, so even though your body is powering this exercise, you’ll still need a prop. Don’t worry though, a towel is all you need!
Muscles involved: Biceps, chest, shoulders
Sit upright and loop a towel under the middle of one foot, holding the ends of the towel in each hand.
Keep your arms tightly at your sides, then apply resistance with your leg and bend your arm while curling your hands up towards your shoulders.
Continue to contract your biceps, lift your leg as if it’s a weight, then lower your arms back down to the starting position.
Tips: Keep your neck long, with your shoulders back and down away from ears. Keep your arms tightly at your sides throughout the entire movement.
Muscles involved: Triceps, shoulders, upper back
Start in a seated position on a surface (like a chair or bench). Place your hands on the surface behind you. Extend your arms with your shoulders directly above the wrists.
Bend your legs at 90° in front of you with heels on the floor.
Bend your elbows to lower your hips to the floor.
Straighten your arms to press your body back up to the starting position.
Tips: Keep your neck long, with your shoulders back and down away from ears. Keep your core engaged and arms tightly to your body at all times.
Bodyweight leg exercises
Muscles involved: Hamstrings, glutes, abs
Begin by standing tall with your feet hip-width apart and your arms by your sides.
Ground your weight into your right foot to create a stable base to balance yourself.
Leading with your chest, lower your torso while raising your left leg behind you and until your body is parallel to the floor.
Drive your weight into your heels and slowly return to the starting position.
Repeat on the other leg.
Tips: Gaze 5 feet ahead for balance and focus on a particular object or spot. Keep your shoulders and hips squared at all times. Keep your neck long, your shoulders down away from ears. Engage your core throughout the workout.
Muscles involved: Calves, glutes
Balance on one leg with the opposite foot lifted off the floor at all times.
Press your weight into the balls of feet to stand up on toes and lift heels as high up as possible.
Contract the calf at the top of the movement.
Slowly lower your heel back to the floor.
Tips: Maintain good posture: keep your chin up, chest open, shoulders directly above hips at all times. Keep the knee of the standing leg pointed forward at all times. Hold arms out in front of you for balance.