The Best Bodyweight Exercises for Beginners (and Workouts!)
Looking for a guide to bodyweight exercises for beginners? You have come to the right place!
Doing bodyweight exercises is one of the best forms of exercise but it is often entirely overlooked.
However, bodyweight exercises can be utilized to create an excellent workout routine that is a suitable replacement for other forms of weight training, needing nearly as much equipment!
Which Bodyweight Exercises for Beginners are the Best?
Although there are many bodyweight exercises, in this article we will focus on a variety of bodyweight exercises that beginners can use. My favorite bodyweight exercises are:
- Air Squat
- Jump Squat
- Inverted Row
- Reverse Lunge
- Bulgarian Split-Squat
- Jumping Jacks
- Mountain Climbers
- Glute Bridge
- Step Ups
Keep reading below to learn about each of these exercises!
Bodyweight Squat (Air Squat)
One of the best bodyweight exercises for your legs is the bodyweight squat (otherwise known as the air squat).
Bodyweight squats are great because not only will they help you improve your physical conditioning, but they will also improve your normal squatting position if you intend on doing weighted squats in the future.
If I didn’t routinely practice bodyweight squats, there is no way I would be able to get through a set of 20 Rep Squats!
In the past, I have done over 500 bodyweight squats in one workout!
Bodyweight squats are great for a majority of the muscles of your legs, mainly including your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
Additionally, bodyweight squats help develop your calves and core muscles.
Performing high-rep bodyweight squats is also an excellent cardiovascular challenge regardless of your level of physical fitness
For an even more significant cardiovascular challenge, try doing high-rep body squats while wearing an elevation training mask!
Bodyweight Jump Squats
The bodyweight jump squat (also known as the bodyweight squat jump) is the simplest bodyweight exercise for building lower body explosive power.
Bodyweight jump squats are actually proven to be the best amount of “load” for jump squats at all!
If you are looking to increase your vertical jump, bodyweight jump squats are a perfect addition to your vertical jump workout routine!
There are not many bodyweight exercises for beginners that build power, but bodyweight squat jumps are a very effective exercise that you can add to your workout routine!
Pull-ups are probably the best exercise for adding width and thickness to your back, but are often overlooked because they are a bodyweight exercise!
Pullups work all the major muscles of your back, while also helping you get big arms and a strong grip. If you want to make pullups even more challenging, you can try doing them with a pair of Fat Gripz!
One of my favorite ways to build a high volume of pull-ups into a workout is to perform a low-to-moderate number of pull-ups in between all of my sets for the day.
If you can do 3-5 pull-ups in between each set of a 12-15 set training day, you will have done 50-75 pull-ups before you even know it!
Pull-ups are one of the most effective bodyweight exercises!
The inverted row is another excellent pulling exercise for upper body mass and strength.
Aside from the benefits listed above with the pull-up, the inverted row can also be a more comfortable alternative for those with nagging shoulder issues, or for those who aren’t strong enough for chin-ups or pullups yet.
Since I have a torn labrum in my left shoulder, I have always found inverted rows to be much more comfortable.
Inverted rows are a valuable bodyweight exercise for beginners because they counter the movement of the bench press.
Instead of adding weight to inverted rows, you can make this bodyweight exercise more challenging by placing your feet on a yoga ball or BOSU Ball.
If you are interested to try one of these variations, you can check out this video of me performing inverted rows with my feet on a yoga ball:
Typically when I see people write articles about bodyweight exercises, forward lunges are always included. However, forward lunges are dangerous for beginners because the forward lunge can put up to 3x your bodyweight of stress directly onto your front knee, which can cause knee pain or knee injuries.
The reverse lunge is a safer alternative.
Reverse lunges reverse the plane of stress on your patellar tendon, making them safer and more effective for those with knee issues. Along with this, they also require more stability and control, making them an invaluable teaching exercise.
I’m not saying front lunges are bad or useless, but there are better alternatives in some scenarios!
One variation which I really enjoy doing myself is the “reverse-slide lunge.” If you want to try some advanced reverse slide lunge variations, check out this video to see a few of my favorite options:
Bulgarian split squats are probably my favorite exercise in the world, and if I had to pick one exercise to use for any athlete, it would be them. As a bodyweight exercise, it is hard to find a better combination of mass building potential, leg strength, stability, and core control in a single exercise!
The Bulgarian Split-Squat can be enhanced or made more difficult by increasing the range of motion, adding weight, or using rings or a TRX for your back foot.
Learning the Bulgarian Split-Squat will protect your knees, and aid you in building strong, massive, and stable legs!
There are many advanced Bulgarian Split Squat variations. Check out the video below to see one of my favorite Bulgarian Split Squat variations:
The push-up is probably the most basic bodyweight exercise, and it is still one of the most underrated exercises. While playing my first professional basketball season in Macedonia, I added over 10lbs of muscle to my frame solely with push-ups! As in, I literally did not use weights. Our weight room was only available 1-2 times per week (at most), and push-ups were all I had.
Not only are pushups one of the best chest and shoulder exercises you can do at home, but they are an effective exercise you can add to any workout program.
If you’d like to try a more challenging version of pushups that doesn’t require any additional weights, try yoga pushups:
If we are talking about bodyweight exercises for beginners, there is no way we can leave out the jumping jacks!
If you are someone looking to burn a large number of calories and lose weight fast, doing sets of 25-50 jumping jacks during your regular training can have a significant impact on the number of calories you burn per day!
Jumping jacks are a bodyweight exercise which are easy on your joints and tendons, but can be physically intense when used properly.
Mountain Climbers are one of the best alternatives to crunches and they are also great as a filler exercise for a workout routine for abs and legs at home.
There are tons of abdominal bodyweight exercises for beginners, but mountain climbers are one of the most useful because they are beneficial for multiple sets of muscles in your body.
Mountain climbers require a high level of muscle activation in both your transverse abdominal muscles, as well as your posterior chain muscles.
You can increase the difficulty of the basic mountain climber by placing your hands on an unstable device (i.e., Bosu Ball), placing your feet on slides, or placing your feet inside of a TRX. All of these mountain climber variations will require more muscle activation to perform the movement, making them much more difficult.
Check out this video of me performing a few mountain climber variations on the TRX:
The glute bridge is one of the best posterior chain exercises, and it is one of the best bodyweight exercises for improving your core and posture.
Glute bridges are great because you can use them as a warm-up for your workout of the day, but you can also do a few sets as soon as you roll out of bed in the morning. Unlike many other exercises, glute bridges will not build muscle mass.
However, they will build strength in both the small and large gluteus muscles, while also developing total posterior chain strength.
Glute bridges are a great warm-up exercise before squats or deadlifts because they will help the “hip hinge” movement, and will help keep your back safe! Once you have mastered the traditional glute bridge, feel free to try other more advanced options on your own as well!
For example, you can try the Single Leg Glute Bridge as I did in this video:
The last bodyweight exercise for beginners on my list is step-ups. There are many different step-up variations, but the traditional step-up will be enough for most people.
Step-ups are my favorite exercise for knee tendonitis, and they are great for vertical jump training. For athletes, you can replace conventional step ups with step up variations that are great for improving knee health and safely performing athletic movements such as cutting, sliding, sprinting, and more.
You can check out this video to see an example of lateral step-ups, which target the glutes, abductors, and adductors more!
The Best Bodyweight Workouts for Beginners
Here are a few useful bodyweight workouts for beginners that use only bodyweight exercises:
Beginner Bodyweight Workout
Do this workout for time, and don’t move on to the next exercise until you have finished the one which you are currently on! If you are a master at one exercise but not on another, feel free to change the reps a bit!
- 20 Glute Bridges
- 10 Squats
- 10 Push-ups
- 10 Bulgarian Split-Squats (each leg)
- 5 Pull-ups
- 10 Jump Squats
- 10 Inverted Rows
- 10 Reverse Lunges (each leg)
- 30 Mountain Climbers (total)
- 20 Jumping Jacks
- 20 Step Ups
By alternating upper body and lower body exercises, you will be able to push through, without fatiguing one muscle group too much. Do this workout “for time,” and then try it again after a week or two to see if you can improve your time!
Bodyweight exercises often can be done with a decent amount of speed, and it is another reason they are so great for burning calories and fat.
This simple bodyweight workout is doable anytime, anywhere.
This 5-10-15 workout is a perfect starter workout for a complete beginner. There are only 6 exercises in there, so if you find the 7-minute workout above too challenging, you can do this one.
Here’s the workout:
- 5 Push-Ups
- 10 Sit-Ups
- 15 Squats
Rest for 10 seconds then:
- 5 Jump Squats
- 10 Alternating Lunges
- 15 Reverse Crunches
and then you’re done. Not too bad, isn’t it?
If you are up for a challenge, repeat the entire circuit 2-3 more times!
The Half Cindy
This CrossFit workout only takes about 10 minutes to complete and uses your bodyweight only.
It’s known as the Half Cindy. As its name suggests, it’s half the difficulty and length of their full Cindy workout, and it’s geared towards beginners. The full workout is double the time (20-minutes).
There are only 3 exercises in this routine, “pull-ups”, “push-ups”, and “squats”
Here’s the workout:
- Pull-ups 5 reps
- Push-ups 10 reps
- Squats 15 reps
Perform each exercise for the prescribed number of repetitions for as many sets as possible within 10-minutes!
Concluding Thoughts – The Best Body Weight Exercises for Beginners
For additional information on bodyweight workouts and other fitness topics, HeroMuscles is a valuable resource.
Bodyweight exercises are overlooked, far too often. If you want a genuinely functional and aesthetic physique, bodyweight exercises deserve a place in your workout routine.
Along with the workouts listed above, one of the best bodyweight exercise routines is the One Punch Man Workout Program. You can check out my article on the Saitama Workout Routine to learn more about it.
Adding these exercises into an already well-rounded training program will give you another tool to accomplish your goals, and also can help you get where you want to be safer, and more healthy. For some people, weight lifting is just too taxing on the body.
Of course, you’ll also need to keep an eye out for your nutrition and make sure you get plenty of rest as well!
Try out these exercises and see if they will help build the body you’ve always wanted!