The Best Body Weight Exercises for Beginners!

the best body weight exercises for beginners to use

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If you are looking for body weight exercises for beginners, you have come to the right place!

Calisthenics, or bodyweight training, allows you workout at home using simple exercises, and almost no gear.

Body weight exercises and calisthenics are two of the best forms of training that are often entirely overlooked. I’m sure we all remember the physical fitness tests in gym class when we were tested on the number of push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups we could do (I was horrible).

Those same exercises we learned at a very young age, and other bodyweight exercises, can be combined to create an excellent workout routine that is a suitable replacement for traditional weight lifting, or that can also go in correspondence with other types of training!

Which Bodyweight Exercises for Beginners are the Best?

There are an enormous amount of body weight exercises for beginners, which can benefit your overall physique (especially for your core), but I will only talk about a few of my favorites. My favorite body weight exercises include:

  1. Squat
  2. Jump Squat
  3. Pull-up
  4. Inverted Row
  5. Reverse Lunge
  6. Bulgarian Split-Squat
  7. Push-up
  8. Jumping Jacks
  9. Mountain Climbers
  10. Glute Bridge
  11. Step Ups

All of these exercises include the use of no additional weights at all, but you will not believe how much lean muscle mass you can produce and how much fat you can burn with these “simple” exercises!

Bodyweight Squat (Air Squat)

simple bodyweight exercises that beginners can do

One of the best body weight exercises for beginners to train your legs is the body weight squat (otherwise known as the air squat).

One of the best advantages of performing bodyweight squats is that you can improve your normal squatting position, while also getting a great cardiovascular workout. In the past, I have hit over 500 bodyweight squats in one workout!

I cannot say for sure whether or not this helped me to put on muscle mass at all, but I can say for a fact that it improved my natural squatting position, and has tremendous carry-over to both the back squat and the front squat.

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 at 6′ 10″!  Practice makes perfect, and practicing air squats allows you to advance to more challenging training methods!

Performing high-rep body weight squats is an excellent cardiovascular challenge regardless of your level as an athlete. One of my favorite workouts is to combine bodyweight exercises such as the push-up and squat, along with stationary biking to get a full body workout that puts a lot of stress on your cardiovascular system. These workouts are an excellent calorie burner and great for boosting athletic performance!

For an even more significant cardio challenge, try doing high-rep body squats while wearing an elevation training mask!

Body squats work great with the mask because they become more taxing on your lungs, but the mask doesn’t hinder your movement in any way!  If you don’t have an elevation training mask, they are affordable online; and worth it! You can have yours in 2 days off of Amazon, and be ready for some of the toughest workouts of your life!

Jump Squat

Similar to the body weight squat, the jump squat will improve your natural squatting position and help you become better at other types of squats. Along with this, the jump squat itself has a tremendous correlation with building lower body power and speed!

Body weight only jump squats are actually proven to be nearly the best amount of “load” for jump squats at all!

If you are looking to build your vertical jump, doing sets of 3-5 bodyweight-only jump squats after a set of heavier back/front squats, or deadlifts, will elicit a unique and amazing response in your muscles!

There are not many bodyweight exercises for beginners that build “power,” but this is one very effective movement that you can add to your workout routine!

Pull-Up

easy body weight workouts

Pull-ups are probably the best overall movement for adding width and thickness to your back, but are overlooked far too often because they are considered a body weight exercise!

Don’t fall into this trap!

Even beginners can quickly add this movement to their body weight training routine!

Although I have yet to be able to achieve this myself, you can be pretty sure that anyone you see who can perform 20 straight dead-hang pull-ups is both muscular, and lean! My personal record is only 15, but I am sure I will break through this barrier soon!

Pull-ups work great as an antagonist exercise to any pushing, or lower body movement.

One of my favorite ways to build a high volume of pull-ups into a workout is to perform a moderate-low 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 can undoubtedly be done weighted as well, but they are incredibly effective as a bodyweight exercise alone!

Inverted Row

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.

Since I have a torn labrum in my left shoulder, I have always found inverted rows to be much more comfortable.

In my opinion, the inverted row is one of the best body weight exercises for beginners because the movement can be learned quickly, and it has a ton of value! Many beginners start their training careers off with a lot of bench press and curls.

Although these movements do have their place, they can easily cause the front of your shoulders to be much more dominant compared to the rear.  Adding inverted rows to your daily workout is an excellent way to combat this imbalance.

Inverted Row variations include adding weight onto your chest when performing, but also increasing the instability of where your feet balance; or where you are pulling from.

Placing your feet onto a yoga ball or BOSU Ball will be more challenging then resting them on a bench, and similarly pulling from a TRX or rings will increase the difficulty of the inverted row itself. 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:

Reverse Lunge

Typically when I see people write articles about bodyweight exercises, forward lunges are always included. This is dangerous though, as forward lunges have a much higher learning curve, and are more technique oriented than is usually stated.

The forward lunge can put up to 3x your body weight of stress directly onto your front knee and is not suitable for many athletes.

The reverse lunge, however, 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 movement for those recovering from lower body issues.

Don’t get me wrong; I do a lot of front lunges myself. I’ve even done up to 400 yards of lunges on a football field, but this was not until I had already done extensive training and movement practice, to get ready for this.

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 don’t have the glide plates for your feet, you can purchase them online for an extremely cheap price! They are great to add variety to many different movements, especially for reverse lunges!

I am sure you will not regret investing in having your own! 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-Squat

This is probably my favorite exercise in the world, and if I had to pick one exercise to use for any athlete; it would be this.  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, placing your front foot on an unstable device, or using rings or a TRX for your back foot.

All three of these variations will require more control and muscle activation, without needing weights at all.

Learning the Bulgarian Split-Squat will protect your knees, and aid you in building strong, massive, and stable legs!

If I am doing any leg day at all, staring my workout with body weight Bulgarian Split-Squats always makes my legs feel stronger and more powerful for heavy work. Doing sets of up to 20 reps have been increasingly useful for me, and also can give you a pretty good cardiovascular challenge as well!

There are many advanced Bulgarian Split Squat variations. Check out the video below to see one of my favorite Bulgarian Split Squat variations:

Push-Up

The push-up is probably the most basic exercise in the world, and one of the most underrated exercises, just the same. 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.

I did a lot of them, but they worked!

Also, my shoulders felt much more healthy!

I needed to become much better with doing shoulder mobility work consistently, but the push-ups themselves made my shoulders and chest feel extremely strong and functional; compared with years of heavy bench pressing.

Push-ups can be advanced by gripping an unstable surface (such as a BOSU Ball) or adding weight.  High-rep push-ups can be extremely effective, so don’t feel pressured to go into anything advanced too quickly! If you want, you can even try to add them both together like I did in this video:

I do not do as many push-ups as I used to, but they still are a valuable tool in my arsenal. As I said before with pull-ups, super-setting an entire workout with push-ups is a great way to add them into your workouts.  Doing them this way will have you doing 250-300 push-ups in a day before you even know it, and your body will show the difference quickly!

Jumping Jacks

Okay, you’ve probably never even thought of doing jumping jacks for any physical benefit since about 4th grade, but believe me, they can be beneficial for you!

If we are talking about body weight exercises for beginners, there is no way we can leave out the jumping jacks!

Especially for someone looking to burn a large number of calories and lose weight fast, sets of 25-50 jumping jacks during your regular training can have a significant impact on the number of calories you burn per day!

They are a bodyweight exercise which is physically easy on your joints and tendons, but effectively work almost every muscle in your body to a certain extent!

Use jumping jacks to elevate your heart rate during your workouts, and you will be surprised how much quicker you can burn stubborn fat off of your body!

Mountain Climbers

Mountain Climbers are the closest exercise to a direct abdominal exercise I am listing.

There are tons of abdominal body weight exercises for beginners, but mountain climbers are easily one of the most useful.

Note, I completely left sit-ups out of this list. Sit-ups can put an immense strain on your back, spine, and neck, while not being that effective for abdominal muscle activation or development. The mountain climber, on the other hand, is entirely opposite in this regard.

Mountain climbers have you in a physically advantageous position, where you are unlikely to strain muscles in your back.

Mountain climbers require a high level of muscle activation in both your transverse abdominal muscles, as well as your posterior muscles.

You can advance the basic mountain climber by placing your hands on an unstable device (i.e., Bosu Ball) or placing your feet on slides or inside of a TRX. All of these 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 mountain climber should be a staple in your core or “abs” routine and is very friendly to high reps. Sets of even up to 100 reps are safe and effective for this movement!

Glute Bridge

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 like I did in this video:

Step Ups

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, step up variations 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!

Best Bodyweight Exercise Workouts for Beginners

Along with the workouts listed below, 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.

If you think the One Punch Man workout is too basic for your, here are a few sample workouts that include only bodyweight exercises. I guarantee you will be surprised at the results!

Sample Beginner Body Weight Workout – #1

5 Rounds

  1. 20 Glute Bridges
  2. 10 Squats
  3. 10 Push-ups
  4. 10 Bulgarian Split-Squats (each leg)
  5. 5 Pull-ups
  6. 10 Jump Squats
  7. 10 Inverted Rows
  8. 10 Reverse Lunges (each leg)
  9. 30 Mountain Climbers (total)
  10. 20 Jumping Jacks
  11. 20 Step Ups

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!

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 2, to see if you can improve on your time! Body weight 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.

Sample Beginner Body Weight Workout – #2

Here is another bodyweight exercise program that is super easy, fast, and is suitable for beginners and intermediates.

Exercise 1 – Push-up

Beginner Variation – Knee Assisted Push-up:

If you’re not yet ready to do a full push-up, use your knees as support, rather than doing a full push-up.

Intermediate Variation – Normal Push-up:

This is your standard push-up. Hands at shoulder length, body straight, and head looking forward.

  • Minimum Reps: 8
  • Minimum Sets: 3

Exercise 2 – Planks

Beginner Variation- Knee Assisted Plank:

Once again, feel free to keep your knees in contact with the floor if you’re not prepared to do a normal plank

Intermediate Variation- Normal Plank:

Same position as the push-up, but no movement

  • Minimum Reps: 30 Seconds
  • Minimum Sets: 3

Exercise 3 – Tricep Dips

For this exercise, you’ll need some kind of volume that will allow you to be at a higher height. A chair, box, or any kind of square volume will do the job. You can even make your dip station at home!

Sit on the floor in front of the volume with your legs straight in front of you, and your upper body at 90 degrees to your legs. Your hands should be palms down to the volume, lifting up your body from the ground.

Raise and lower your body to as close to the ground as possible.

The higher the range of movement, the harder the exercise.

  • Minimum Reps: 8
  • Minimum Sets: 3

Exercise 4 – Mountain Climbers

Holding a plank position, raise your knees, one by one, to the chest, as fast as you can.

  • Minimum Reps: 15 Seconds
  • Minimum Sets: 3

Exercise 5 – Laying Leg Raises

Lay down on the floor, belly up, and if needed grab a heavy object with your hands. Then raise your legs, keeping them straight until as close to 90 degrees as possible.

  • Minimum Reps: 8
  • Minimum Sets: 3

To finish off the workout, we’ll do 2 quick leg exercises.

Exercise 6 – Squats

Beginner Variation – Normal Squat:

To do a normal squat, simply stand on a flat surface and without bending your upper body, bend your knees and get your ass as close to the ground as possible.

Intermediate/Advanced Variation – Pistol Squat:

If doing normal squats becomes too easy, we have a challenge for you. Try squatting with one leg straight, not touching the floor. This is called a pistol squat and is one of the most advanced calisthenics leg exercises, as it requires both strength and balance.

  • Minimum Reps: 8
  • Minimum Sets: 3

Exercise 7 – Lunges

 

Standing normally, bring one leg forward about 2 to 3 foot and kneel. Bring the leg back and repeat with the other leg. If this becomes easy, find some heavy objects laying around the house and hold them while you do this exercise.

  • Minimum Reps: 8
  • Minimum Sets: 3

The workout outlined above shouldn’t take more than 30 to 45 minutes. It can be done anywhere, without any gear, and even the most beginner athlete should be able to complete a variation of it.

Therefore, there are no excuses for not doing it! Do it 2 to 3 a week for a couple of months and the results will be visible.

Of course, you’ll also need to keep an eye out for your nutrition and make sure you rest plenty, but doing this routine is half of the work.

Sample Beginner Body Weight Workout – #3

Here is an ab and leg bodyweight workout that is perfect for home. This workout was crafted by Chester Peterson, the founder of HeroMuscles:

  1. Bicycle Crunch (15 reps per side)
  2. Mountain Climber (30 seconds)
  3. Plyometric Squats (2 sets of 15 reps each)
  4. Plank Mountain Climber (30 seconds)
  5. Dumbbell Russian Twists (15 reps per side)
  6. Mountain Climber (30 seconds)
  7. Abdominal Hold (1 minute)
  8. Plank Mountain Climber (30 seconds)
  9. Climb-Up Crunches (8-10 reps per leg)
  10. Mountain Climber (30 seconds)
  11. Plank Heel Push (12 – 15 reps per leg)
  12. Mountain Climber (30 seconds)
  13. Lunge Side Twists (10-12 reps per side)
  14. Cool Down with Light Stretching or 30 seconds Mountain Climber

Exercise 1.) Bicycle Crunch

This exercise targets your oblique while simultaneously giving your legs a moderate workout.

  1. Start by sitting on the floor with outstretched legs and both of your hands touching the back or side of your head.
  2. Lift and bend your left leg towards your torso, and twist your body so your right elbow will touch your left knee.
  3. As you stretch back your left leg, lift and bend your right leg and twist your body to the other side so your left elbow will touch the right knee.
  4. Do this alternating leg and torso movements for 30-seconds or 20 reps. Contract your abdominal muscles towards the end of the side twist and try to hold for a few seconds.

Exercise 2.) Mountain Climber

This is a filler exercise for a workout routine for abs and legs at home. You will do it repeatedly in-between two exercises.

  1. Start with the push-up position with stretched arms and legs, your open palms and toes supporting your whole body.
  2. Lift and bend your left leg as far as you can towards your torso, without any part of that limb touching the floor during the whole sequence. Return the leg to starting position.
  3. Do the same sequence with your right leg.
  4. Continue the alternating leg movements for 30-seconds. Contract your abdominal muscles as you push your knee towards your torso.

Exercise 3.) Plank Mountain Climber

This is a variation of the previously discussed exercise but with a different level of difficulty.

  1. Start with a normal plank, with your forearms and toes touching the floor and supporting your entire body.
  2. Slightly arch your back and draw your left knee towards your left elbow without any part of that leg and feet touching the floor and hold for a few seconds.
  3. Return to the starting position and do the same sequence with your right knee to your right elbow. Don’t forget to tighten your abs as your knee and elbow are about to meet.
  4. Do this exercise for 30-seconds, alternating the legs in each sequence.

Exercise 4.) Plyometric Squats

This plyometric exercise tones and strengthens your quads and calves, as well as your glutes.

  1. Start by standing straight with your legs moderately apart.
  2. Bend your knees as low as you can go and push your buttocks backward, while at the same time, lifting up your arms until your hands are close to your chest. Hold that position for 3 to 5 seconds while contracting your abdominals.
  3. Do a springing jump to return to the starting position. Push down your hands to your side while doing the leap without touching your hips.
  4. Do this repeatedly for 30-seconds or for 15 reps to make one set.

Exercise 5.) Abdominal Hold

You will need a sturdy chair or bench. I’m sure you’ll find one in your place. This exercise tones and strengthens your abs, arms, and legs.

  1. Start by sitting tall on the chair with your palms lying flat and your fingers clasping the edge of the seat’s front edge. Your hands should be near your body and almost touching the sides of your seated buttocks.
  2. Lift your knees as high as you can go, and then stretch your arms completely to lift your entire body off the chair as if your buttocks are levitating over it. Contract your abdominal muscles and hold that position for at least 5 seconds before returning to starting position.
  3. Do it repeatedly for 45-seconds to 1-minute.

If you are planning to start a workout routine for abs and legs at home, then you should consider this one.

Whether you feel you are not giving enough time for said muscle groups in your gym sessions, or simply wanted to give extra attention in toning your mid and lower body, this set of exercises could be the answer.

Designed specifically for your home, wherein you may or may not have access to basic gym equipment save for some light dumbbells, an exercise mat, and perhaps a stability ball. But even if you don’t have any of those, don’t fret as you can still do this set with things you can find inside your house or apartment.

I suppose your place have a floor, right? I’m sorry, that was a stupid question.

I’m just stressing the point that you can absolutely do this set almost anywhere and anytime it’s convenient.

Before you start the whole workout routine for abs and legs at home, let us familiarize ourselves first to the set’s basic exercises and their corresponding movements.

Remember, to get the optimal result from this, or any exercises for that matter, it is important that you do it properly to build or tone the targeted muscles.

You will need a sturdy chair or bench. I’m sure you’ll find one in your place. This exercise tones and strengthens your abs, arms, and legs.

  1. Start by sitting tall on the chair with your palms lying flat and your fingers clasping the edge of the seat’s front edge. Your hands should be near your body and almost touching the sides of your seated buttocks.
  2. Lift your knees as high as you can go, and then stretch your arms completely to lift your entire body off the chair as if your buttocks are levitating over it. Contract your abdominal muscles and hold that position for at least 5 seconds before returning to starting position.
  3. Do it repeatedly for 45-seconds to 1-minute.

Exercise 6.) Plank Heel Push

This is one variation of planking, an exercise that has become widely popular for its proven effectiveness in tightening and strengthening your entire core.

Besides your abs and legs, this exercise also works out your glutes.

Start with a slightly modified plank position.

While your forearms are supporting your body like in normal planking, your body, from your shoulder to your buttocks must be at almost completely horizontal level instead of the usual slightly inclined stance.

  1. Lift and bend one leg until the thigh is almost at the same horizontal level as your entire upper and your heel is facing the ceiling. Slowly push up the leg as high as you can go then return to the position wherein your thigh is at the same level as your torso. Repeat 15 times.
  2. Do the same sequence with your other leg. Remember to tighten your abdominals each time you push the leg up.

Exercise 7.) Dumbbell Russian Twists

This exercise is usually performed with dumbbells, or a weight, plate or a kettlebell (the weight depends on you).

If you don’t have any of those at home, you can use a heavy book (or several books tied together) or any other sturdy objects of the same size and weight.

  1. Sit on the floor while holding up the weight plate (or books) near your chest. Bend your legs while keeping your feet together until your thighs and calves form a 45-degree angle and slightly lean back your torso as if you are in the middle of a crunch movement.
  2. Twist your body to one side as far as you can, and then stretch your arms and the weight plate away from your torso. Return to the starting position then repeat the sequence towards your other side. Don’t forget to tighten your abdominal muscles while twisting.
  3. Do this exercise until you completed 12-15 reps per side.

Exercise 8.) Climb-Up Crunches

You will need a thin but sturdy towel, a scarf or a pillowcase about 3 to 4 feet in length for this exercise. This workout routine for abs and legs at home will also work out your arms in the process.

  1. Starting position requires you to lie on an exercise mat on the floor and hooking up the towel or scarf on the heel of one raised foot. The leg should be straight and kept flexed to the direction of the ceiling.
  2. With one hand grasping together the two ends of the towel, your upper body will start the gradual climbing movement by alternating your two hands in grabbing a higher piece of the towel. It’s like you are climbing on a rope little by little (remember your gym class in high school?) until you reach the point nearest to your raised foot.
  3. Once you reach the highest point you can touch, gradually climb back down with alternating hand movement until you are back to the starting position. Do this until you completed at least 8 repetitions, and then do the same with the other leg and foot.

Exercise 9.) Lunge Side Twists

This is a compound exercise that works out your abs, legs, arms, and buttocks at the same time.

  1. Start by standing upright with legs slightly apart while holding a dumbbell, or a weight plate (or again, a heavy book) in front of you.
  2. Do the normal front lunge by stepping one foot forward and bending both knees to lower your body until the forward thigh is almost parallel to the floor. Lift the dumbbell to your front as you go down until it reaches the same level as your shoulders, and then twist your body as far as it can go to one side. Keep your arms straight and flexed in both the lifting and lowering stages.
  3. Return to starting position and do the same sequence, but this time, twist your body to the other side. Continue this alternating movement pattern for a minute or until you completed at least 8 reps per side.

Concluding Thoughts – The Best Body Weight Exercises for Beginners

the best body weight workout routines for beginners

Body weight exercises are overlooked, far too often. If you want a genuinely functional and aesthetic physique, body weight exercises deserve a place in your workout routine.

Along with all of the traditional body weight exercises listed above, you can also take advantage of the Maxi Climber for incredible aerobic and anaerobic benefits. Check out Fitness Purity for a list of reasons that you should use the Maxi Climber, and how it can benefit your training routine!

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.

Even for me, in season, weights themselves can be too much at times. Body weight exercises are less taxing on your Central Nervous System and will leave you able to accomplish more work overall.

Try out these exercises and see if they will help build the body you’ve always wanted!

Read Next: What Workout Should I Do?

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