If you’ve ever encountered the stigma that bodyweight workouts are only useful when gym access is limited or when physical weights aren’t available, the following bodyweight workout ideas will prove that untrue.
The benefits of bodyweight workouts extend beyond just convenience. If in the past, you have found bodyweight training too easy, try taking a look at these four ways to make it more difficult.
For everyone else who is challenged by bodyweight training but need some workout ideas and/or tweaks to produce more meaningful results, then checkout these four bodyweight workouts below that focus on positioning and pyramid training.
Body weight leg day does consist of the obvious exercises — squats and lunges. However, the way this workout pairs them is with high volume non-stop supersets that if done properly, should make trying to walk up stairs feel the same as an intense leg day at the gym.
Two rounds of:
- 50 bodyweight squats (conventional stance)
- 25 bodyweight reverse lunges (each side) — It’s okay to alternate.
- 50 bodyweight squats (wide stance)
- 25 bodyweight lateral lunges (each side) — It’s okay to alternate.
- 25 jumping jacks
- 25 glute bridges
If this looks like a lot, that’s because it is. If it you still have gas in the tank and have more sweat to break, add a third round. Two rounds will total to 400 reps, three rounds will total to 600 reps. There is no time limit so if you need to add in breaks, do so.
Up The Difficulty
Only move your upper body up and down along a vertical plane for all of the exercises before the glute bridge. Rather than step forward on the lunges, step back. Rather than step out on the lateral lunges, keep the leg performing the rep planted and slide the other leg out laterally. This will maintain the tension on your quads and allows the workout to be performed in a confined space.
For the squats, the lunges, and the glute bridges, drive through your heels. The balls of your feet keep you balanced but should not take any of the force during a rep.
Additional tip for anyone training either barefoot or in socks: during the eccentric motion of the squat and the lunge, try to grip the floor with your foot. Then on the concentric motion drive through only the heel. Gripping the floor with your foot can help with balance and keep your knee in proper alignment during the movement.
Finally, it always bears repeating: keep your core engaged — imagine you’re wearing a weight belt that is holding your core taught.
[Related: Check out these 10 lunge variations to build leg strength.]
Yes, everyone has likely had to incorporate push-ups into their training routine whilst in quarantine. Yes, many people are doing them wrong. To be fair, proper push-up technique is not necessarily something those who are used to having consistent access to a gym would dive into since weight benches and barbells can help build the chest. However, there’s no excuse now to not learn how to do them right and incorporate them into a workout like this one below.
4 rounds of:
- 8 push-ups
- 20 second plank
- 8 bodyweight skull crushers
- 4 diamond push-ups
- 8 bodyweight skull crushers
- 20 second bear crawl static hold
- 8 push-ups
[Related: Try this push-up routine to warm up your wrists, arms, and shoulders.]
Oh boy, this is one a doozy. Allow yourself to rest three minute between rounds; shake out the wrists, check that you’re not hiking your shoulders, get your breathing back to normal. This pyramid workout is a lot of time under tension.
You’ll amass eighty push-ups (standard and diamond) upon completion of this workout. Assuming you performed them all with proper form, the pump and the fatigue should be pretty apparent.
Again, there is no time limit. Take breaks if you need them, but aim to complete a full round before resting.
Up The Difficulty
Hidden in this workout on paper is how rigorously it tests core stability. After all, between the push-ups and planks your knees should never touch the floor.
Any time you perform a push-up or any of its variations, keep your shoulders pulled down and back. A good way to cue this is while in a push-up position, imagine trying to touch your rear belts to your tailbone. At the same time, engage your core by trying to tilt your hips towards your chest. This position should remain solid throughout the entire movement.
Also if you have yet to accept that you should not flare your elbows during a push-up, then you will have to accept that you’re wasting your energy.
[Want to add spice to your push-up routine? Try these 8 variations.]
The “Core Clock” Workout
Before the idea of doing a core workout scares you away considering all the plank work that was done on push day, hear me out. This workout has a fun gimmick that you can use for a ton of different bodyweight exercises and it offers a good visualization of the finish line. Even if you hate working on your core, the “Core Clock” is worth exploring.
What is the “Core Clock”?
Imagine there is a large clock face drawn on the floor that you could fit inside of. Each number on the clock is the number of seconds or number of reps of a given movement you perform before moving to the next number.
Let’s use the plank as an example. Imagine you are in a plank. That’s the 12 o’clock position. Hold the plank there for 12 seconds, then while maintaining the plank, align your whole body so that your head is at the 1 o’clock position. Hold there for one second. Then move to the 2 o’clock position and hold for two seconds. Continue this until you have gone all the way around the clock. Going all the way around the clock is considered one “Core Clock”.
3 rounds of:
- “Core Clock” mountain climbers (one rep is a mountain climber with each leg)
- “Core Clock” plank to pikes (paper plates under your feet can make it easier to slide if you don’t have core sliders)
- Rest two minutes.
- “Core Clock” ab rollouts (if you don’t have an ab roller, paper plates under your hands will work)
The rest here comes mid round because “Core Clocks” are more difficult than they seem at first glance. We want to ensure that your core can stay engaged all the way through the movement. If you need additional breaks, use your lower back as the signal. When you feel your lower back caving, you know your core isn’t taught. If you can’t correct that, take a breather until you can and then continue.
Don’t rush through these. Just because they’re called “Core Clocks” doesn’t mean you’re on one. Slow and controlled movements will be helpful here. Focus the engagement on your core on each rep.
If you are without access to weights and a gym, don’t be upset. Using your bodyweight will continue to be an effective tool for working out. Hopefully, workouts like the ones above will prove that and spark your creativity to gradually add or innovate upon them as you level up.
Feature image via Shutterstock/George Rudy