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Exercise & Training, Fitness

Best Bodyweight Workouts For Beginners (The Complete Guide)

Written by Tara Mazanec
Master Personal Trainer, Holistic Health Counselor and Yoga Instructor
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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.

Best Bodyweight Workouts For Beginners (The Complete Guide)
    Photo Credit: Kaileen Pfeiffer of Pfeiffer Photography

    Need more convincing?

    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.

    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

    (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.


    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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