Bodyweight exercises are an awesome way to build total body strength and pack on some serious muscle if you know what movements to do and how to program them into your training.
The key here is learning the progressions and doing more advanced moves far beyond your everyday pushups and planks. Mastering some of these moves will take a lot of practice (months or even years to achieve safely) but the rewards are well worth the time it takes to get there.
#1: Pushups (And Their Variations)
This is a no-brainer. Pushups were probably one of the first bodyweight exercises you ever learned. The key here is embracing all of the variations this exercise has to offer. Plyo-pushups, diamond pushups, elevated feet pushups, handstand pushups, and one-am pushups are all killer movements to work into your training.
#2: Pull-Ups (And Their Variations)
This one goes hand in hand with #1. Pull-ups are one of the best bodyweight exercises for building an impressive back, as well as developing your biceps and grip strength. You will want to work in different grip variations for these; neutral grip, narrow grip, wide grip, palms facing out, palms facing in, and even one-arm pull-ups are all good hand placements to use.
You can also use different modalities for these; do not relegate yourself to just using a bar. Use gymnastics rings or clock handles, or even hit up outdoor sessions on tree branches.
#3: Glute Ham Raise
These are essential for developing your hamstrings and glutes. Almost every person I come across is weak in their posterior chain. This will affect your performance in lifts like the squat and deadlift, so you need to work these into your training and bring up those weaknesses. A good way to do this is to hit at least 50 of these before every leg workout as part of your warmup.
#4: Jumps (Plyometrics)
Not only are these a great conditioning exercise, but they will develop leg strength and total body power. Standard vertical box jumps are the most common, but do not forget all of the other variations. One-legged jumps, broad jumps, jump-squats and split-lunges are all movements to consider here.
#5: Animal Walks
You rarely see these in the traditional gym scene but these are a Primal staple. Bear crawls and partner hand walks are my two favorites. These will develop your shoulders and core stability, and force you to create total body tension. You will recruit a ton of muscle to do these movements and they are a great full-body exercise.
#6: Hanging Leg Raise
This is one of my top ab exercises. It works all of the muscles in your midsection as well as your lats. Performing these over time will improve your grip strength and help you with exercises like farmers carries and deadlifts.
#7: Pistol Squat
This is the king of all bodyweight squats. As one of the most advanced bodyweight movements you can do, pistol squats require a great deal of total body strength and balance. If you think bodyweight squats are beneath you because you can squat 400+ pounds, think again. Work up to this movement. Whenever I see someone able to do these, I know they are a badass.
#8: Recline Rows
These are also referred to as inverted pull-ups. Basically you have your feet on the ground and your body is nearly parallel to the floor, and using rings or a rope, or even a low fixed bar, you pull yourself up as if you were doing a pull-up. I have all of my big guys do these as they are at a disadvantage when trying to do traditional pull-ups at their bodyweight. I sometimes super-set these with regular pull-ups to really light up my lats and biceps.
#9: Front Lever
Front levers are a progression from hanging leg raises and an advanced movement requiring full body tension. At the end position of this exercise, your entire body is parallel to the ground, feet and legs straight out with your back towards the ground and you staring at the ceiling. Think of performing a hanging leg raise, and then flattening out your entire body, as if you were laying down.
#10: Muscle Up
Very few people are able to do these and they take a lot of skill, strength, and power. But if you can do them, you will build a lot of muscle.
So now that you know all of the best bodyweight exercises, how do you work them into your training?
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
Read this on some of the best ways to incorporate bodyweight exercises into your weight lifting routines.
How to Incorporate Bodyweight Exercises Into Your Training