The Best Bodyweight Exercises

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Woman doing push ups in park

Bodyweight exercises are a great way to help you lose weight. They also help to burn belly fat fast. They combine a cardiovascular workout with a muscle building workout, so burn fat while you are exercising out and also increase your metabolism as a result of muscle development.

Bodyweight exercises are considered to be very “old school”, they are still promoted in martial arts classes, military fitness training and strength training for dance, sports and many other activities. Circuit training exercises are often part of a weight loss and fitness plan.



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One of the best things about a bodyweight workout is that you can perform most of the exercises with no equipment at all, so whether you are at home, in a hotel room, in the park or office, you can exercise when you want.

After reading the below, check out our circuit training workouts and strength training routines.

The Bodyweight Exercise Routine

This simple routine will work your whole body. You do not have to perform them in this order. It is good to start with squats as these will get your blood flowing and muscles warmed up ready for the following exercises.

  • Bodyweight squats (learn how to squat) – these work the largest muscles in the body, the glutes (backside)
  • Plyometric Squat jumps – a powerful move to develop explosive strength in the legs that also burns fat fast
  • Push ups (learn how to do push ups) – the classic chest exercise that also strengthens the back, shoulders and core muscles
  • Lunges – excellent thigh exercise which helps to develop leg strength
  • The plank (see back exercise number 4) – a static hold but intensive on the abs
  • Jumping jacks – an old school fitness exercise which raises heart rate and burns fat as fast as skipping
  • Mountain climbers – endurance and core workout
  • Abdominal cycles (learn how to do abdominal cycles) – one of the best abs exercises you can do
  • Crunches – another abs exercise to help develop your stomach muscles

When performing a bodyweight circuit you should exercise with intensity to maximise fat burning. For example, you could simple perform as many repetitions of each exercise within a given time, say 2 minutes, before moving on to the next. This would result in a 18 minute workout. Or you could perform it as a circuit, performing a set numbers of exercises then moving on, and then repeating the circuit.

The Bodyweight Circuit

  • 50 squats
  • 10 squat jumps
  • 20 pushups
  • 20 lunges (10 on each side)
  • Hold the plank for 60 seconds
  • 50 jumping jacks
  • 30 mountain climbers
  • 20 ab cycles
  • 20 crunches

This would result in 220 exercises in total. Once you complete the crunches you start again with squats. You should adjust the numbers to work on your strengths and strengthen your weaknesses, so if you are very good with push ups but have weak legs, you may want to reduce squats and increase push ups.


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If you know other exercises that you really enjoy then add these in too. You may remember some exercises from martial arts, yoga, aerobics or sports conditioning that you want to do. You may also want to add some stretches to the end of the workout.

To increase your fitness and strength and to burn more fat you should strive to increase your work effort each week, so increase the reps (number of exercises) or the time you exercise. You can also aim to increase the speed at which you exercise, such as performing 60 squats in 60 seconds, or 90 jumping jacks in the same time. You could even attempt the 200 bodyweight squat challenge. To make the exercises more dynamic add jumps (plyometric training), for example clapping push ups, more jumping squats, burpees, knee raises and heel kicks.

Some people also split out the exercises to train throughout the day. The idea is that you can usually exercise for about 3 minutes before you start sweating, so every hour do 3 minutes of exercise, choosing a different exercise each hour. Perform the exercises slowly with good form (so do not do the plyometric ones) to help build strength. Whether you want to burn off your belly fat or get fitter for sports performing bodyweight training exercises should be a part of your fitness routine.

Exercise Instuctions

Mountain Climbers

Mountain Climbers are a fantastic bodyweight cardio and core strengthening exercise. They work the legs, abdominals, shoulders and chest together.

You start in a peaked push up position with one leg forward. Then you simply switch legs so that one is always straight out behind you and the other tucked under your torso. You can work as fast or slow as is comfortable.

Parallel bar dips

Parallel bar dips are an excellent exercise to build strength in the chest, triceps and shoulders. Narrow grip dips target the triceps and wide grip dips target the chest.

You need a good solid base to perform them on, so ideally use parallel bars or a dedicated dip station in a gym. If you own a power rack you can run a couple of tree stakes (or bamboo poles) across it to make a dip station.


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To perform the parallel bar dips simply grip each bar and start with your arms straight. Then lower yourself until your upper and form arm are square (right angle at the elbow). Immediately push back upwards and stop just before the point where your arms lock out.

As you progress with dips you may need to start adding weight. This is usually done with a weight belt or sometimes a weight vest / backpack.

Jumping Jacks / Star Jumps

Jumping Jacks (known as star jumps in the UK) are one of the simplest cardio exercises you can do at home. You need no equipment and only enough space to stand in. Made famous by the military they are still used in circuit training classes and martial arts clubs.

To perform a jumping jack start by standing up straight with your hands down by your side and facing forward. Then jump and and simultaneously fling out your arms and legs so that when you land your feet are spread about shoulder width apart and your hand are reaching up to the sky. Then jump again to return to the start position.

Jumping jacks burn as much energy as skipping and also work the arms more. The faster you go the fitter you get and the more fat you burn.

Bodyweight and Weighted Lunges


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Lunges are second only to squats for developing and toning the thighs and glutes.

This video shows how to do dumbbell lunges. Dumbbell lunges are a great way to start weighted lunges as you do not need to use a squat rack. Once you start lifting much heavier weights a barbell and squat rack may be required to help support the weight.

Lunges are really quite simple to perform, but exceptionally hard work once you add some weight. To start jut stand up straight facing forward with your hands on your hips, or if using a weight hold your dumbbells by your side / support a barbell across your shoulders.

Then take a large step forwards keeping your back straight and bending your leading knee, sinking your body until your thigh is almost parallel to the floor. Then push off from the front foot to return to the standing position. Repeat with the other foot.

One fun alternative is to do walking lunges which just involves walking along, but maintaining the low position – do not bob up and down. A killer on the thighs.

More Workouts on MotleyHealth.com

Over the years we have covered many types of training but the bodyweight workouts are always the most popular simply because they can be done anywhere, anytime by anybody!

  1. 20 Minute Home Workout
  2. Circuit Training Workouts
  3. Zuzana’s Killer 550 Rep Challenge + High Intensity Bodyweight Workout
  4. Spartan 300 Workout – Warrior Training
  5. Old School Fitness and Strength Training
  6. Boxing Workout – Plyometric Circuits

Resources from the Web

More like this in the Fitness section

  45 comments for “The Best Bodyweight Exercises

  1. psc
    March 30, 2012 at 9:13 am

    This bodayweight circuit is good for beginners and losing belly fat too ,right?

  2. MotleyHealth
    March 30, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Yes, these exercises are good. The more intensive you do them, the more often, the fitter you get and the more fat you burn. But a healthy diet is also needed.

  3. sam
    July 3, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    body weight exercise are best. i like the videos thanks…

  4. Wayne
    January 16, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Great article. I like the bodyweight circuit but I would throw in some chin ups to work back/biceps and handstand push ups to work shoulders. Then it would be more well rounded for the upper body.

  5. MotleyHealth
    January 16, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Those are good exercises Wayne, but this is really aimed at the beginner. Chin ups and handstand push ups require a lot of time and guidance to perfect. Better to start simple, get fitter, reduce weight and then progress to the harder exercises later on.

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