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How To Get Started With Bodyweight Exercises

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How To Get Started With Bodyweight Exercises
Bodyweight Exercises

Bodyweight exercises are perfect for working out at home, in the gym, or while you’re on holiday.

bodyweight workout is convenient as it requires no equipment — just your body, and some floor space around you. Ideal for both beginners getting started in the gym and even seasoned gym-goers, bodyweight exercises are an effective way to work out your entire body, improve strength, stability, mobility, and enjoy a great workout.

Find out:  

What are bodyweight exercises?

Bodyweight exercises are exactly what they sound like: strength-building exercises performed with just the weight of your body. Bodyweight exercises rely purely on your weight as resistance against gravity, rather than added weight in the form of dumbbells or kettlebells. 

They can be very effective at building strength, muscle, improving stability, and laying the groundwork of correct form before progressing to more advanced weighted movements. Whether you want to do strength training at home, or you are looking for some new cardio exercises to do, there are many variations of bodyweight exercises to suit different training styles. 

There are bodyweight exercises for all the muscle groups, including bodyweight leg exercises, such as squats and lunges, bodyweight core exercises like planks, or bodyweight back exercises like pull-ups and inverted rows. Using a combination of these, you can work your whole body at once.

Best Bodyweight Exercises

Bodyweight training vs weight training

The main difference between bodyweight training and weight training is that bodyweight exercises do not use extra weights, while weight training does. Weight training involves either weighted exercise machines, or free weights like dumbbells, kettlebells or barbells.

Neither weight training nor bodyweight training is “better” than the other as this depends on your goal: they each have their benefits, and many bodyweight exercises form the basis of weight training exercises. Bodyweight training is excellent for building up a solid foundation and ensuring you are performing exercises correctly before adding weight. This style of training is also a great tool to help you improve movement patterns and joint range of motion. It’s also very convenient as it doesn’t require any equipment and can be performed anywhere. Weight training, on the other hand, allows you to increase volume to your training allowing you to build muscle more effectively than bodyweight training.

No Equipment Exercises

Styles of bodyweight training

There are several different styles of bodyweight training that you can try. Often workouts will encompass all these styles, and the exercises listed below are examples of all of these.

Calisthenics 

Calisthenics is a style of bodyweight resistance training. It uses only your weight as resistance, and often involves pull-up bars as equipment. Many advanced exercises in calisthenics involve upper-body exercises like Inverted rows and muscle-ups.

Bodyweight cardio

Most cardio training tends to only use your bodyweight (think: burpees or running). Any cardio that is performed without weights is a form of bodyweight exercise.

Suspension training

Suspension training is a form of bodyweight strength training that uses suspension straps. These are attached to a wall or ceiling, and are used to do suspended exercises. You can do basic exercises like push-ups and squats, using the straps to support your bodyweight.

Plyometrics

Plyometrics is sometimes referred to as ‘jump training’. It helps to increase speed and power by recruiting fast-twitch muscle fibers. Some examples of plyometrics include box jumps, skipping and burpees. 

Yoga

Yoga can be used to strengthen your body and increase flexibility. Aligning movement with your breath has benefits for overall wellbeing and can help to reduce the experience of stress. Yoga can help you to increase your balance and core strength. There are many different styles of yoga that you can try. You can find yin yoga and Vinyasa yoga in the SWEAT app. 

Mat Pilates

Mat pilates is a style of resistance training that can help to improve the mind-muscle connection, help with posture and improve core activation and core strength. During pilates exercises, you’ll focus on centering, working with oppositional energy and breathwork. 

The benefits of bodyweight exercises

Bodyweight exercises have many benefits, from convenience to workout results. Bodyweight training can help improve your physical health, and is perfect for beginners.

You can work out at home

One of the biggest perks of bodyweight exercises is that you can do them anywhere, any time. Bodyweight exercises are “no equipment exercises” that can be done on holiday, in your living room, outside, or at the gym.

Perfect for beginners

If you’re new to working out, bodyweight exercises are a great place to start. Without the added weight from free weights or exercise machines, bodyweight exercises ensure you can learn correct form with lower risk of injury. Once you’ve learned the correct form, you can eventually progress to weighted training if you wish.

You’ll get stronger

Despite some misconceptions, bodyweight exercises are very effective for increasing strength and muscle mass. While you may not necessarily build muscle as effectively as weighted exercises, bodyweight exercises help improve your overall strength in a sustainable way.

Improves balance and coordination

Learning to control your own bodyweight is a key part of overall balance and flexibility. Bodyweight exercises tend to involve your core muscles, which means you will improve your balance and coordination. 

Improves flexibility and mobility

Bodyweight exercises such as lunges not only strengthen your muscles and joints, but strengthen your muscles through a full range of motion. This means that by consistently performing bodyweight exercises as well as partaking in stretching and recovery, you will likely improve your overall strength, mobility and flexibility over time.

Plenty of variety 

There are many different bodyweight exercises to choose from, and a variety of progressions of each exercise you can do once you become stronger and more comfortable with the movements. This means there is always something new to try!

Best bodyweight exercises

While there are many bodyweight exercises to choose from, some are best for beginners, and others are more advanced. For beginners, it’s best to start with the basics, and eventually progress to more advanced movements when you become stronger and more comfortable.

Bodyweight exercises for beginners

To get started with bodyweight exercises, there are some simple moves you can do to increase your strength, stability and mobility.

Bodyweight squats

Bodyweight squats are a simple exercise that can be done at home or the gym. They are excellent for beginners and work on your glutes, quads, hamstrings and core all at once.

  1. Plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Looking straight ahead, bend at both the hips and knees, ensuring that your knees remain in line with your toes. Continue bending your knees until your upper legs are parallel with the floor. Ensure that your back remains within a 45- to 90- degree angle to your hips.
  3. Exhale. Push through your heels and extend your legs to return to the starting position. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions.

Bodyweight walking lunges

Bodyweight walking lunges are a great leg exercise that improve your strength while also increasing mobility and balance. You will need a little extra room to do these as you will be walking forward for a few metres.

  1. With your hands on your hips, plant both feet on the floor slightly further than shoulder width apart. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Take a big step forward with your left foot. As you plant your foot on the floor, bend both knees at approximately 90-degrees. This is called a lunge position. If done correctly, your front knee should be aligned with your ankle and your back knee should be hovering just off the floor.
  3. Exhale. Push through the heel of your left foot and toe of your right foot to extend both legs.
  4. Inhale. Transfer your weight onto your left foot and take a large step forward with your right foot. As you plant your right foot, bend both knees at approximately 90-degrees into lunge position.
  5. Exhale. Push through the heel of your right foot and toe of your left foot to extend both legs.
  6. Inhale. Transfer your weight onto your right foot. Continue alternating between left and right for the specified number of repetitions.

Jump squats

Jump squats are a variation of a normal bodyweight squat. The main difference between jump squats and bodyweight squats is that you will be using a greater amount of force to propel yourself into the air. This movement improves your power and significantly increases your heart rate when performed in succession.

  1. Plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. Looking straight ahead, bend at both the hips and knees, ensuring that your knees remain in line with your toes. Continue bending your knees until your upper legs are parallel with the floor. Ensure that your back remains within a 45- to 90-degree angle to your hips. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Exhale. Push through your heels and propel your body upwards into the air, extending both your knees and your hips.
  3. Inhale. Bend your hips and knees to land and return to the starting position, ensuring that you maintain ‘soft’ knees to prevent injury. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions.

Mountain climbers

Mountain climbers are a cardio movement that utilise your arms, legs, and shoulders to work your whole body. These will get your heart rate up and improve your overall core strength, too.

  1. Place both hands on the yoga mat shoulder-width apart and both feet together behind you, resting on the balls of your feet. This is your starting position.
  2. Keeping your left foot on the floor, bend your right knee and bring it in towards your chest.
  3. Extend your right leg to return to the starting position.
  4. Keeping your right foot on the floor, bend your left knee and bring it in towards your chest.
  5. Extend your left leg to return to the starting position. Continue alternating between right and left for the specified number of repetitions, inhaling for four mountain climbers and exhaling for four mountain climbers.

Planks

Planks are bodyweight core exercises that utilise an isometric contraction to strengthen your core.

  1. Start by placing your forearms (wrist to elbow) firmly on the mat, ensuring that your elbows are directly below your shoulders. Extend both legs behind you and elevate your hips off the mat, resting on the balls of your feet. Brace your abdominals and ensure that your spine remains in a neutral position. Hold this position for the specified amount of time, breathing deeply throughout.

Push-ups

Push-ups are a ‘push’ exercise that engage your pecs, shoulders, triceps, and core. You can start this exercise on your knees, and eventually progress to your feet once you become stronger.

  1. Place both hands on the mat slightly further than shoulder-width apart, feet together on the mat behind you while resting on the balls of your feet. This is your starting position.

  2. Inhale. While maintaining a neutral spine, bend your elbows and lower your torso towards the mat until your arms form two 90-degree angles.

  3. Exhale. Push through your chest and extend your elbows to lift your body back into the starting position. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions.

Glute bridges

Glute bridges are a good starting point for increasing strength in your glutes and hamstrings. These can easily be done at home, and eventually progressed with a dumbbell across your hips once you become more confident.

  1. Start by lying flat on your back on a yoga mat. Bend your knees and position your feet firmly on the mat, ensuring that they are hip-width apart and your spine is in a neutral position. Allow your arms to rest by your sides on the mat. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Set your T-zone. Exhale. Press your heels into the mat, activate your glutes and raise your pelvis off the floor until your body forms one straight line from chin to knee, resting on your shoulders.
  3. Inhale. Lower your pelvis to return to the starting position. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions.

Crunches

Crunches are a simple exercise that will work out your abdominal muscles. When you become confident with crunches, you can progress to full sit-ups where you lift your entire upper body up, rather than just your shoulders and upper back.

  1. Start by lying flat on your back on a yoga mat. Bend your knees and position your feet firmly on the mat, ensuring that they are hip-width apart and that your spine is in a neutral position. Place your hands behind your head and interlace your fingers, ensuring that you relax your head into your hands and draw your shoulder blades down and back. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Set your T-zone. Exhale. Tuck your chin into your chest and draw your ribs to your hips to elevate your head, shoulder blades and upper back off the mat, ensuring that your T-zone remains set to prevent the ‘doming’ of your abdominals.
  3. Inhale. Lower your head and shoulders to return to the starting position. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions.

Inchworm

Inchworms are a whole-body exercise, working your legs, arms, abs, and shoulders. These are also great for beginners and improving mobility.

  1. Plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. Bend at the hips and while keeping your legs as straight as possible, place your hands on the floor directly in front of your feet. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Without moving your feet, walk your hands forward until your body is in one straight line from your head to your heels, resting on the balls of your feet, ensuring that your legs remain as straight as possible.
  3. Exhale. Without moving your feet, walk your hands backwards to return to the starting position, once again, ensuring that your legs remain as straight as possible. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions.

Deadbugs

Deadbugs are a beneficial core exercise for beginners. The key to this exercise is ensuring you keep your lower back fixed throughout the movement and to ensure your core is engaged to  avoid injury.

  1. Lie on your back on a yoga mat with your arms extended directly in front of your chest and palms facing toward your feet. Bend your knees and bring your legs into tabletop position, ensuring that your knees are stacked over your hips, and your shins are parallel to (in line with) the floor. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Exhale. Draw your left arm back and down toward the floor, alongside your head. At the same time, extend your right knee and hip to lower your right leg towards the floor. Ensure that your arm and leg are lowering at the same speed and that you maintain a neutral spine.
  3. Inhale. Raise your left arm and right leg to return to the starting position.
  4. Exhale. Draw your right arm back and down towards the floor, alongside your head. At the same time, extend your left knee and hip to lower your left leg towards the floor. Once again, ensure that your arm and leg are lowering at the same speed and that you maintain a neutral spine.
  5. Inhale. Raise your right arm and left leg to return to the starting position. Continue alternating between left and right for the specified number of repetitions.

Advanced bodyweight exercises

Once you have mastered bodyweight exercises for beginners, you can move onto some more advanced movements.

Pull-ups

Pull-ups are a challenging exercise that require a considerable amount of strength in your back and more specifically lats. If you want to give pull-ups a try but you’re not confident, try adding in an elastic exercise band to assist you in lifting yourself up to the bar. The instructions below are for an assisten chin/dip machine, but can be modified to suit what you have available.

  1. Standing on the foot rests of the assisted chin/dip machine, hold onto the chin-up bar with an overhand grip (palms facing away from your body), hands slightly further than shoulder-width apart. Step your feet off the foot rests one leg at a time, and extend your arms so that you are hanging from the chin-up bar. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Exhale. Using the muscles in your arms and back, bend your elbows and pull your body upwards to bring your chin up and over the chin-up bar. Avoid ‘shrugging’ your shoulders by drawing your shoulder blades down and back.
  3. Inhale. Extend your elbows and lower your body to return to the starting position. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions. Note: This exercise can also be performed on a regular chin-up bar if an assisted chin/dip machine is not available.

Burpees

Burpees are a fantastic cardio exercise that will get your heart pumping and work on your entire body.

  1. Plant both feet on the mat shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
  2. Bend at both the hips and knees to place your hands on the mat on either side of your feet, ensuring that your spine remains in a neutral position.
  3. Inhale. Jump both of your feet backwards so that your legs are completely extended behind you, resting on the balls of your feet. Your body should be in one straight line from your head to your heels.
  4. Jump both of your feet forwards in between your hands, once again, ensuring that your feet remain shoulder-width apart.
  5. Exhale. Propel your body upwards into the air. Extend your legs below you and your arms above your head.
  6. Inhale. Land in the starting position, ensuring that you maintain ‘soft’ knees to prevent injury. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions.

Chin-ups

Neutral-grip chin-ups are similar to pull-ups, however you will be using an underhand grip (i.e. your palms will face towards you) instead of an overhand grip (where your palms face away from you). This movement is great for working out your arms and lats.

  1. Standing on the foot rests of the assisted chin/dip machine, hold onto the chin-up bar with a neutral grip (palms facing inwards), hands shoulder-width apart. Step your feet off the foot rests one leg at a time, and extend your arms so that you are hanging from the chin-up bar. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Exhale. Using the muscles in your arms and back, bend your elbows and pull your body upwards to bring your chin up and over the chin-up bar. Avoid ‘shrugging’ your shoulders by drawing your shoulder blades down and back.
  3. Inhale. Extend your elbows and lower your body to return to the starting position. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions. Note: This exercise can be performed on any neutral grip chin-up bar if an assisted chin/dip machine is not available.

Jump lunges

Jump lunges are a plyometric variation of standard lunges. This exercise primarily involves your legs and glutes, and helps to improve power and requires a level of coordination. 

  1. Plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
  2. Bend your knees slightly and propel your body up into the air. Land in a split stance with your left foot forward and your right leg back, ensuring that your feet remain shoulder-width apart. Immediately bend both knees to approximately 90-degrees. When done correctly, your front knee will be aligned with your ankle and your back knee will be hovering just off the floor.
  3. Extend both knees and propel your body up into the air. Land in a split stance with your right foot forward and your left leg back, once again, ensuring that your feet remain shoulder-width apart. Immediately bend both knees to approximately 90-degrees.
  4. Extend both knees to propel your body up into the air. Land in a split stance with your left leg forward and right leg back. Continue alternating between left and right for the specified number of repetitions before returning to the starting position.

Shoulder taps

Shoulder taps are a variation of a high plank, but you will be tapping your shoulders, alternating between each side. The key here is to not twist your hips, keeping the trunk of your body nice and still as you move your arms. 

  1. Place both hands on the mat slightly further than shoulder-width apart, feet apart on the mat behind you while resting on the balls of your feet. This is your starting position.
  2. Release your right hand and reach across your body to touch your left shoulder, ensuring that you brace your abdominals to keep your hips parallel to (in line with) the floor.
  3. Lower your right hand to return to the starting position.
  4. Release your left hand and reach across your body to touch your right shoulder, once again, ensuring that you brace your abdominals to keep your hips parallel to (in line with) the floor.
  5. Lower your left hand to return to the starting position. Continue alternating between right and left for the specified amount of time, inhaling for two repetitions and exhaling for two repetitions.

Push-up & side plank

Push-up & side planks are a progression of a standard push-up, where you will be twisting your body after each push-up, and holding a side plank position. This will work your chest and triceps, but also your core and more specifically obliques.

  1. Place both hands on the mat slightly further than shoulder-width apart, with feet apart on the mat behind you, while resting on the balls of your feet. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. While maintaining a straight back and stabilising through your abdominals, bend your elbows and lower your torso towards the floor until your arms form two 90-degree angles
  3. Exhale. Push through your chest and extend your elbows to lift your body back into the starting position. Release your right hand and extend your arm upwards. At the same time, turn your torso to face the long edge of your mat, ensuring that you draw up through your obliques (abs along your sides) to keep your hips elevated.
  4. Inhale. Lower your right hand and untwist your torso to return to the starting position.
  5. While maintaining a straight back and stabilising through your abdominals, bend your elbows and lower your torso towards the floor until your arms form two 90-degree angles.
  6. Exhale. Push through your chest and extend your elbows to lift your body back into the starting position. Release your left hand and extend your arm upwards. At the same time, turn your torso to face the long edge of your mat, ensuring that you draw up through your obliques (abs along your sides) to keep your hips elevated.
  7. Inhale. Lower your left hand and untwist your torso to return to the starting position. Continue alternating between right and left for the specified number of repetitions.

Leg pull-in

Leg pull-in is a great ab exercise which is similar to a deadbug but involves moving your legs all the way out from your body. This requires a little more ab strength which is why it is an advanced exercise.

  1. Start by lying on your back on a yoga mat with your hands beneath your coccyx. Engage your abdominal muscles by drawing your belly button in towards your spine and elevate your legs off the mat slightly. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Bend your knees and using your abdominals, draw them in towards your chest, ensuring that your feet stay together.
  3. Exhale. Slowly extend your legs to return to the starting position. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions.

Tuck crunches

Tuck crunches are a variation of a standard crunch, but your legs will be elevated in the air, making this a bit more challenging. Tuck crunches work out primarily your abs.

  1. Start by lying flat on your back on a yoga mat. Bend your knees and position your feet firmly on the mat, ensuring that they are hip-width apart and your spine is in a neutral position. Imprint your spine into the mat and bring your legs into tabletop position, ensuring that your knees are stacked over your hips, your toes are pointed, and your shins are parallel to (in line with) the floor. Place your hands behind your head and interlace your fingers, ensuring that you relax your head into your hands and you draw your shoulder blades down and back.This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Set your T-zone. Exhale. Tuck your chin into your chest and draw your ribs to your hips to elevate your head, shoulder blades and upper back off the mat one vertebrae at a time, ensuring that your T-zone remains set to prevent the ‘doming’ of your abdominals.
  3. Inhale. Lower your head and shoulders to return to the starting position. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions.

Tuck jumps

Tuck jumps are an explosive movement that will get your heart rate up. These require some coordination and you should ensure that you are landing light on your feet with soft knees to avoid injuring your joints.

  1. Plant both feet on the floor slightly further than shoulder width apart. Looking straight ahead, bend at both the hips and knees, ensuring that your knees remain in line with your toes. Continue bending your knees until your upper legs are parallel with the floor. Ensure that your back remains between 45 and 90 degrees of your hips.
  2. Propel your body upwards into the air and tuck in both your elbows and knees. Extend both your legs and arms to land in squat position. When landing, ensure that you maintain ‘soft’ knees to prevent injury. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions.

Plyo push-up

Plyo push-ups are a more challenging progression on regular push-ups, where you will be releasing your hands from the floor as you reach the top of the movement.

  1. Place both hands on the mat slightly further than shoulder-width apart, feet together on the mat behind you while resting on the balls of your feet. This is your starting position
  2. Inhale. While maintaining a straight back and stabilising through your abdominals, bend your elbows and lower your torso towards the mat.
  3. Exhale. Push through your chest and extend your arms to propel your body upwards into the air and release your hands from the mat.
  4. Inhale. Bend your elbows to land your hands back on the mat and return to the starting position, ensuring that you maintain ‘soft’ elbows to prevent injury. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions.

Bench dips

Bench dips require a bench for you to rest your hands on. This movement primarily strengthens your triceps.

  1. Begin seated on a bench. Place your hands on the edge of the bench under your glutes and directly below your shoulders. Ensure that your fingers are facing forwards. Place your feet on top of a second bench with legs extended and shift your glutes forwards off the bench. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Bend your elbows to lower your glutes towards the floor, ensuring that your shoulders, elbows and wrists remain in line with one another.
  3. Exhale. Once you have created two 90-degree angles with your arms, push through the heels of your hands and extend your arms to return to the starting position. Avoid using your legs to assist you and always try to maintain an upright position. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions.

Getting started with bodyweight exercises

Bodyweight exercises are often used when working out at home. If you are new to working out, putting together your own home workout routine can seem challenging. If you’re not sure where to start, a great starting point is the SWEAT bodyweight workout

* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.

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