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Last Updated on September 27, 2021

Best Bodyweight Workouts For Beginners (The Complete Guide)

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Best Bodyweight Workouts For Beginners (The Complete Guide)

Think you can’t get a great workout or build muscle with your body weight? think again. Getting fit doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep it simple, safe, and effective with bodyweight workouts you can do anytime and anywhere for the rest of your life.

Regardless of whether you are an athlete, recreational exercise enthusiast, or someone who hasn’t lifted anything but small children or everyday household items, using your body weight as resistance is one of the best ways to get and keep your body in tip-top shape for years to come.

What Is Bodyweight Training?

Bodyweight training or workout uses your body as resistance and is essential for gaining and maintaining muscles, especially as you age. According to the National Institute of Health, beginning as early as age 30, we gradually lose muscle mass and strength as a natural part of the aging process.[1] The rate of loss varies from person to person and will increase due to a sedentary lifestyle and poor nutritional selections. If you don’t do anything about it, the average human will lose 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade. But there is excellent news. With the addition of daily movement, weekly strength training, and proper nutritional choices, gaining muscle is more straightforward than you will expect.

If you want to build confidence, endurance, move better, feel stronger, and lose weight, start with bodyweight workouts. Your body is one of the most fantastic fitness machines ever created to handle life’s physical demands and challenges, and it is always available to you. With a bit of effort, consistency, and proper progressive programming, you will not only improve your fitness level, but you will also continue to feel mentally focused, and you might even minimize the effects of the aging process.

    Photo Credit: Kaileen Pfeiffer of Pfeiffer Photography

    Need more convincing?

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    Jane M. Taylor, MS, CSCS, PN L1, Owner/Coach of Raw Fitness Performance, says:

    “Mastering bodyweight strength is crucial if you plan to add strength training to your overall fitness plan. Having coached thousands of athletes, adults, teens, and kids, I apply the same movement paradigm to everyone, especially beginners.

    First, can you get in position? In other words, do you have proper mobility and stability? You do? Great.

    Next, can you get in and out of position? That’s bodyweight strength—movement with control.

    Spending time practicing bodyweight workouts is time well spent. Not worrying about an external load allows you to groove the movement, laying down the foundation and establishing the fundamentals to eventually express more significant amounts of strength with weights when you are ready to progress.

    Not only that, no matter where you go, you’ll NEVER miss a workout!”

    Benefits of Bodyweight Exercises

    Here are 12 benefits that will motivate and excite you to put your body to work.

    1. It helps improve any muscle imbalances, especially from rounded shoulders and tight hips from sitting too long (hello, new work from the home model).
    2. It works the whole body.
    3. It lays down an excellent foundation for future weighted programming.
    4. It helps improve strength, endurance, balance, flexibility, and coordination.
    5. It can increase your confidence.
    6. It saves time going to the gym.
    7. It can be done anywhere, so there is never an excuse not to work out.
    8. No equipment is necessary.
    9. It never gets boring.
    10. It’s free.
    11. It’s great for any body type.

    Will I Build Muscles With Just My Body Weight?

    Yes!! Following an intense workout, muscle fibers break down and need to repair. It’s during this repair phase that the muscles will strengthen and grow. Note that for this process to occur, the body must be pushed outside of its comfort zone. Using external resistance, aka free weights, barbells, or bands, will speed up this process and is a fantastic addition to any strength program, but it is doable with just your body weight.

    As you improve, the trick is to continue changing your training variable (sets, reps, intensity, time under tension). Once you have mastered your technique, it is time to take it to the next level by mixing high-intensity exercises with exercises performed slowly, focusing on engaging the muscle during the contraction phase, which I will demonstrate in the video.

    Let’s break down a few beginner exercises and body parts to get you started.

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    First, there are seven basic movements the body can perform; pushing, pulling, hinging, squatting, twisting, skipping, jumping. From these seven, there are many different variations for each body part which I will show you below. With bodyweight workouts, you work all your muscles, including your heart, as you elevate your endurance.

    1. Back – Plank Push-Ups, Back Extensions
    2. Chest – Push-Ups, Incline Regular, High to Low Plank
    3. Arms – Modified Side Plank, Side Plank Hip Drop, Dips
    4. Core/Hips – Planks (high and low; you may perform off your kitchen counter), Elevated Mt Climbers, Opposite Arm Leg Reach, Bear Crawl Hold, Isometric Knee Press (Single and Double Knee Hold), Heel Drops (Single and Double Heel Drop), Deadbug, Crunches, Floor Bridge
    5. Legs/Hips
    6. Quadriceps – Seated Bent Knee Extensions, Seated Straight Leg Lift
    7. Hips – Side Leg Raise, Deadlifts, Prone Leg Lifts, Glute Extensions
    8. Squats – Chair Squat, Step Out Squat, Plie Squat, Wall Squat Hold
    9. Lunges – Step Ups, Stationary, Side Lunge, Curtsy Lunge, Swing Lunge

    Designing a Bodyweight Workout Program

    With bodyweight workouts, the variety is endless and can be applied to any current life situation. Whether you have 10 minutes or an hour, use the simple format below to keep your muscles constantly guessing. If you are just starting, begin with 20 minutes twice a week for two to four weeks. As your fitness level improves, increase the time and amount of days/week.

    The greatest thing about bodyweight workouts is there are multiple variations, and you will never get bored. Select an exercise from each category. Always starting with a movement that works numerous muscles at once ex push-ups and squats, then move to exercises that work smaller muscles, aka dips for the triceps.

    Best Beginner Total Body Workout

    Beginner: two times a week

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    (Repeat 2 x 10 to 15 repetitions)

    1. Plank Push-Ups

    1. Begin on your elbows on an elevated surface such as your kitchen counter or dining table.
    2. Step your feet back and together so you are supporting your body weight on your elbows.
    3. Maintain a straight line from the top of your head to your toes.
    4. At the same time, brace your core by pulling your stomach muscles in towards the back of the body and begin to retract your shoulder blades as if you are squeezing a pencil, then push the counter away with your core and elbows and come back to the starting position.
    5. Perform the prescribed repetitions (reps).
    6. Your whole body should move as a unit.

    2. Push-Ups

    1. Begin by placing your hands shoulder-width apart on an elevated surface such as your kitchen counter or dining table.
    2. Step your feet back and together so you are supporting your body weight on your hands, maintaining a straight line from the top of your head to your toes.
    3. At the same time, brace your core by pulling your stomach muscles in towards the back of the body and begin to bend your elbows and lower your chest towards the counter, then straighten your arms and push back up to the starting position.
    4. Perform the prescribed reps.
    5. Your whole body should move as a unit.

    3. Step-Out Squat

    1. Begin standing with your feet together.
    2. Step out to the right and lower your hips back behind you, pushing through the heels. Keep the knees behind the toes.
    3. Stand up and step together, tucking the tailbone under and squeezing the butt at the top.
    4. Perform the prescribed reps.
    5. Repeat on the left.

    4. Stationary Lunge

    1. Step out about hip bone/hip distance.
    2. Step the right foot back and stagger your stance about the same distance as the length of your leg.
    3. Keep the back heel off the ground and begin to bend into both legs, lowering your body towards the floor.
    4. Be sure to place more of your body weight through your front heel and keep the front knee behind the toe.
    5. Perform the prescribed reps.

    5. Hip Bridge

    1. Lie on your back, either on the floor or couch.
    2. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor.
    3. Press through the feet, squeeze your butt and press the hips to the sky.
    4. Lower down 1/2 way, then repeat.
    5. Perform the prescribed reps.

    6. Isometric Knee Press

    Depending on your core strength, begin with one side at a time or both legs on a tabletop.

    Level 1: Single-Leg Knee Press

    1. Lie on your back, either on the floor or couch.
    2. Bend your knees and place your right foot on the floor.
    3. Keeping the left knee bent, bring it up off the floor into a 90°-angle (otherwise known as tabletop position).
    4. Place the left hand on your thigh.
    5. At the same time, push your hand into your thigh and thigh into your hand. You should feel your abdominals contract.
    6. Hold that contraction for 10 sec, then pause.
    7. Perform the prescribed reps.
    8. Switch sides.

    Level 2: Double Knee Press

    1. The exact format as above, only this time, both legs will be in tabletop.
    2. Keep the abdominals braced for 10 sec, then pause.
    3. Perform the prescribed reps.

    Conclusion

    If your goal is to move and feel better in your body and continue to progress to an advanced fitness level, begin with bodyweight workouts. Not only will it lay down a solid foundation, but it will also help you minimize injury and give you the confidence to keep progressing to more challenging workouts.

    Commit to yourself and future strength gains by incorporating bodyweight workouts into your weekly routine. I promise you won’t be sorry.

    More Beginner Workouts You Can Try

    Featured photo credit: Fortune Vieyra via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    More by this author

    Tara Mazanec

    Master Personal Trainer, Holistic Health Counselor and Yoga Instructor

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    Last Updated on January 5, 2022

    7 Practical Stretching Tips to Enhance Your Next Workout

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    7 Practical Stretching Tips to Enhance Your Next Workout

    Stretching is one of the most essential aspects of a healthy fitness routine. It’s also one of the most overlooked. Instead of thinking of this activity as a separate entity, consider stretching as a continuation of your exercise routine. By making stretching tips a part of your workout, you won’t neglect the attention your muscles and joints require to perform effectively.

    Whether using stretching as a way to wake up, get your mind in the game, or recover from strenuous activity, your body will reap its short-term and long-term benefits. In the moment, stretching is a great way to warm up the body and prevent yourself from overextension and injury. In the long run, stretching daily can help loosen your tendons and muscles, and ultimately help you maintain a full range of motion later in life.

    Taking these ideas into consideration, follow these 7 simple tips for stretching to add stretches back into your workout vocabulary.

    1. Stretch and Stretch Often

    Ultimately, your body can benefit from stretching daily. Many of us experience a somewhat stationary lifestyle at work, so we naturally need to warm up our bodies after remaining immobile for long periods of time.

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    With only ten minutes of stretching, you can increase your strength, balance and flexibility. From working out to waking up in the morning, slow, easy movements can warm up the body. Just remember to be gentle; any jarring movements can cause injury and muscle tear.

    For the best results, hold each stretch for at least sixty seconds[1].

    2. Warm up Before a Workout

    Similar to establishing a daily stretching routine, warming up the body pre-workout is vital for having a successful session and one of the most important stretching tips. Just grabbing your foot to stretch your calf for a couple seconds could actually harm your body, so make sure you begin slowly and take your time.

    Attempting any exercise with “cold muscles” or without “waking up the body” will also hurt your body and cause muscle pulls and tendon tears. Try taking a short walk or elongating your stretches for optimal results.

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    3. Gauge Your Tension

    Stretching should never be painful. Monitor how your muscles feel as you stretch. Naturally, you should feel some mild tension, but don’t push yourself past the edge of discomfort.

    If you’re starting to experience sharp pain or sensations that gradually get more severe, you are doing something wrong. Try to focus on one area at a time so you are only pushing yourself so far. When you begin to feel comfortable stretching, deepen your stretch, but don’t over-exert yourself.

    4. Avoid Bouncing

    Stretching tips don’t often mention this, but bouncing can be one of the most detrimental things you can do to your body while stretching. When your body constantly shifts, your muscles can tighten, and you can increase the risk of pulling or tearing a tendon. Find your balance or focal point, and remain steady.

    When in doubt, try using a mirror to watch yourself stretch to improve your form. Don’t be afraid to consult your doctor or trainer for someone to monitor your posture and stance[2].

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    5. Just Breathe

    One of the main benefits of stretching is its ability to help the mind and body relax. Therefore, try to breathe normally and make sure you don’t hold your breath[3].

    As you deepen your stretch, make sure to inhale and exhale slowly. Any abrupt, fast breathing or lack of breathing can cause tension in your body and increase your risk of injury. Make sure you are comfortable so that your mind focuses on the task at hand.

    6. Vary Your Routine

    While stretching, don’t forget to work on opposing muscles and incorporate as many muscle groups as possible in your routine for a holistic workout. Also, one of the most important stretching tips I can offer is to change your routine often so you don’t get bored.

    Often, boredom can cause carelessness and a loss of focus, which, in turn, can cause injuries. Look to Yoga workouts[4] or Pilates classes, as they are great resources for finding new stretches.

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    7. Always Remember to Cool Down

    Stretching is also an excellent form of recovery to avoid muscle soreness. Don’t overlook this part of a workout, as it releases the tension in your body and increases blood flow to muscles that are warm and worked. Cooling down can prevent injury and decrease your heart rate after an intense workout. Do what you can to help your body quickly recover from your daily exercise routine.

    Final Thoughts

    Stretching tips are vital when participating in an active lifestyle. However, your body needs fuel to assist you through these daily routines. Therefore, don’t forget to eat the right foods and stay hydrated. Not only do you replenish your body with fluids and nutrients lost, but you can keep your muscles strong and ready for the next routine.

    If you struggle with stress and anxiety, stretching can help you move into a calmer headspace and find both mental and physical balance. Furthermore, stretching can help you and your body focus on something else, which will help you move past the stress.

    As you plan your next workout, incorporate time for pre and post-workout stretches to see how it improves your exercise experience.

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    More Stretching Tips

    Featured photo credit: Oksana Taran via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Harvard Health Publishing: The ideal stretching routine
    [2] Harvard Health Publishing: Six tips for safe stretches
    [3] Penn State: Balance, Breathing and Flexibility
    [4] Health: Best Yoga Poses for Your Trouble Spots

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