Who needs a gym when there’s the living room floor?
Bodyweight exercises are simple, effective ways to improve balance, flexibility, and strength without gym machines or equipment. You can do all these bodyweight exercises at home.
From legs and shoulders to chest and abs, we’ve covered every part of your body that can get stronger with body resistance alone.
We’ve also provided some basic bodyweight exercises for beginners and compared bodyweight workout results to those of weighted, gym, and cardio routines.
Bodyweight workouts are exercise routines that use a person’s own bodyweight to create resistance and improve strength, flexibility, and endurance, as well as coordination.
You’ve probably done a push-up before — well done. You’ve already met bodyweight exercises. On occasion, you can use a wand or resistance band to support an exercise.
While there are bodyweight exercises you can do in a gym (pull-ups, anyone?), having a calisthenics or plyometrics routine means you can stay in shape without the need for a gym membership or expensive equipment.
You might be thinking, why not go to the gym? If you’re paying all that money, it must be better than simply using your own bodyweight.
But here’s why bodyweight exercises can make all the difference to your routine:
- They’re efficient. You can get impressive results from short workouts alone, and they can work alongside other types of exercises to boost performance.
Rodriguez-Rosell D, et al. (2015). Effects of 6 weeks resistance training combined with plyometric and speed exercises on physical performance of pre-peak-height-velocity soccer players. DOI: 10.1123/ijspp.2015-0176
- They’re both strength and cardio. Keep your heart pumping while building muscle and flexibility.
Myers TR, et al. (2015). Whole-body aerobic resistance training circuit improves aerobic fitness and muscle strength in sedentary young females. DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000790
- They’re crazy good for burning fat. The burn continues looooong after the workout. For example, one study found that a 45-minute workout increases how fast your body burns fat for 14 hours.
Knab AM, et al. (2011). A 45-minute vigorous exercise bout increases metabolic rate for 14 hours. DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182118891
- You can switch up with ease. No wiping down and changing machines, and no restrictions on how to exercise based on your ability level. You’re unlikely to get bored during a bodyweight workout — the challenge stays.
- You have zero excuses not to exercise. In the immortal words of Shakira: Whenever. Wherever. You don’t need to be in a gym — you just need enough space to move around a bit.
- They’re free. ‘Nuff said.
- The results. Bodyweight exercises may help you get results. They use compound movements that engage several joints and muscles with each move. This makes exercises like push-ups and lunges super effective for improved strength and performance.
For more on the benefits of bodyweight exercises, check out our rundown of reasons to start.
We compared bodyweight exercises to other modes of working out. They compared pretty favorably.
Bodyweight exercises vs. gym
- You can do them anywhere, anytime, removing the “excuses” barrier from your workout routine.
- Bodyweight workouts are free, so they’re accessible to anyone.
- Some gym equipment reduces the resistance of certain motions, meaning that you might see less benefit when using a machine.
Wirth K, et al. (2016). Effect of 8 weeks of free-weight and machine-based strength training on strength and power performance. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5260589/
- In a post-COVID-19 world, there may be times when the use of a gym becomes unsafe or impossible — meaning that if you focus on bodyweight exercises, it’s guaranteed that you’ll be able to carry on your routine anywhere.
- While beginners can start with full-body exercise, the reduced resistance of some gym machines may be a simpler entry point.
- A gym’s pricing can be a barrier for some, but may still motivate others.
- You might benefit from the trainers and staff that a gym provides, as well as the communal feel of an exercise class or group training session. But many group sessions are also available for bodyweight exercises (although they might be limited because of the pandemic).
Bodyweight vs. cardio
- Bodyweight exercises continue the burn after a workout, enhancing the metabolic advantages of the exercise. With cardio, like running, you’re only burning while you’re working out.
- Bodyweight exercises give you cardio benefits while you’re working anyway, alongside the strength boost that comes from a hearty push- or pull-up.
- An intense circuit of bodyweight exercises will get your heart going as much as any run.
- Switching it up is important to get the widest range of benefits from exercise. So, go on a run from time to time, as research has shown that combining cardio and weight-based exercises is the best way to shift body mass for adults with overweight or obesity.
Beavers KM, et al. (2017). Effect of exercise type during intentional weight loss on body composition in older adults with obesity. DOI: 10.1002/oby.21977
Bodyweight vs. free weights
- You don’t need access to a gym.
- While you still need to be careful, you can’t drop a weight on yourself if you’re not holding one.
- You can switch between moves more quickly because you’re not dealing with equipment. So, bodyweight exercises may be better for cardio.
- Bodyweight exercise are also better for flexibility as opposed to pure bulk.
- While there are some beginner bodyweight exercises, you can scale up the difficulty of free weights in a more controlled and gradual way than with bodyweight exercises.
We’ve got several moves you can try, but you might also want to check out these full beginner’s bodyweight workouts.
1. Arm circles
Remember PE class?
- Stand with your arms extended by your sides, perpendicular to your torso.
- Slowly make clockwise circles about 1 foot in diameter for 20—30 seconds.
- Then reverse the movement, going counterclockwise.
2. Standard push-up
There’s a reason this one’s a stone-cold classic.
- With your hands shoulder-width apart, keep your feet flexed at hip distance and tighten your core.
- Bend your elbows until your chest reaches the floor, then push back up.
- Be sure to keep your elbows tucked close to your body.
Nope, we’re (thankfully) not walking the plank, although it may feel that way sometimes during this notorious ab-builder.
- Lie facedown with your forearms on the floor and your hands clasped.
- Extend your legs behind you and rise up onto your toes.
- Keeping your back straight, tighten your core and hold the position for 30—60 seconds (or as long as you can hang).
Learn how to nail the squat here.
- Stand with your feet parallel or turned out 15 degrees — whatever is most comfortable.
- Slowly start to crouch by bending your hips and knees until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor.
- Make sure your heels do not rise off the floor.
- Press through your heels to return to a standing position.
One step forward, two back? We’ve got more advice on how to perfect your lunge here.
- Stand with your hands on your hips and your feet hip-width apart.
- Step your right leg forward and slowly lower your body until your left (back) knee is close to or touching the floor and bent at least 90 degrees.
- Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
- For a variation, try stepping backward into the lunge.
6. Shoulder bridge
Cross that bridge when you come to it.
- Lie faceup with your knees bent and your feet hip-width apart.
- Place your arms at your sides and lift your spine and hips. Only your head, feet, arms, and shoulders should be on the floor.
- Lift one leg, keeping your core tight.
- Slowly bring your leg back down, then lift back up.
- Try to do 10 reps per leg, then lower your spine back onto the floor.
One of the most effective full-body exercises around.
- This one starts in a low squat position with your hands on the floor.
- Next, kick your feet back to a push-up position.
- Complete one push-up, then immediately return your feet to the squat position.
- Leap up as high as possible before squatting and moving back into the push-up portion of the show.
We give you the full lowdown on burpees here.
Do it for Channing!
- Find a step or bench.
- Place your right foot on the elevated surface.
- Step up until your right leg is straight.
- Return to the starting position.
- Repeat, aiming for 10—12 reps on each side.
Here’s how to feel the benefits of your bodyweight routine right across your body.
- Stand up tall with your legs straight, making sure your knees aren’t locked.
- Slowly lower your torso toward the floor, then walk your hands forward.
- Once in a push-up position, start taking tiny steps so your feet meet your hands.
- Continue bugging out for 4—6 reps.
10. Tuck jump
This is a powerful workout for your abs and thighs.
- Stand with your knees slightly bent, then jump up as high as possible — pretend Jeremy Lin is watching!
- Bring your knees in toward your chest while extending your arms straight out.
- Land with your knees slightly bent and quickly jump (on it) again!
11. Bear crawl
Embrace that inner grizzly.
- Starting on your hands and knees, rise up onto your toes.
- Tighten your core, and slowly reach forward with your right arm and right knee, followed by your left side.
- Continue the crawl for 8—10 reps (or until you scare people off) (grrrrr!).
12. Mountain climber
Next stop? Everest.
- Start on your hands and knees.
- Bring your left foot forward to directly under your chest while straightening your right leg.
- Keeping your hands on the floor and your core tight, jump and switch legs.
- Your left leg should now be extended behind you, with your right knee forward.
13. Plyometric push-up
Ready to catch some air?
- Start on a well-padded surface and complete a traditional push-up.
- In an explosive motion, push up hard enough to come off the floor (and hang ten for a second!).
- Once back on solid ground, immediately head into the next repetition.
Get to know plyometrics, a workout style based around explosive movement.
14. Stair climb with bicep curls
Turn those stairs into a cardio machine — no magic wand necessary.
- Grab some dumbbells (or heavy household objects).
- Briskly walk up and down the stairs while simultaneously doing bicep curls to work your whole body.
15. Prone walkout
Start on all fours with your core engaged.
- Slowly walk your hands forward, staying on your toes but not moving them forward.
- Next, gradually walk your hands backward to the starting position, maintaining stability and balance.
- This dance comes next.
16. Plank to push-up
- Start in a plank position.
- Place one hand at a time on the floor to lift into a push-up position with your back straight and core engaged.
- Move one arm at a time back into the plank position (forearms on the floor).
- Repeat, alternating your arm that makes the first move.
17. Wall sit
Who needs a chair when there’s a wall?
- Slowly slide your back down a wall until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Make sure your knees are directly above your ankles and keep your back straight.
- Go for 60 seconds per set.
Need more fire? Add some bicep curls.
18. Clock lunge
Time for a challenge.
- Complete a traditional forward lunge, then take a big step to the right and lunge again.
- Finish off the semicircle with a backward lunge, then return to standing. And all that’s 1 rep! Phew.
- Aim for 10 reps, then switch legs.
19. Lunge to row
- Start by doing a normal lunge.
- Instead of bringing your forward leg back to the starting position, raise it off the floor while lifting your arms overhead.
- Your leg should remain bent at about 90 degrees.
- Add weights to really bring the heat.
20. Pistol squat
- Stand holding your arms straight out in front of your body.
- Raise your right leg, flexing your right ankle and pushing your hips back.
- Lower your body while keeping your right leg raised.
- Hold, then return to standing.
21. Lunge jump
Ready to impress some friends?
- Stand with your feet together and lunge forward with your right foot.
- Jump straight up, propelling your arms forward while keeping your elbows bent.
- While in the air, switch legs and land in a lunge with your opposite leg forward.
- Repeat and continue switching legs.
Try to do 10!
22. Curtsy lunge
Let’s show a little respect.
- When lunging, step your left leg back behind your right leg, bending your knees.
- Lower your hips until your right thigh is almost parallel to the floor.
- Remember to keep your torso upright and your hips square.
Here’s how to get the most cardio benefit from your bodyweight workout.
23. Single-leg deadlift
Deadlifts are the bomb.
- Start in a standing position with your feet together.
- Lift your right leg slightly.
- Lower your arms and torso while raising your right leg behind you.
- Keep your left knee slightly bent and reach your arms as close to the floor as possible.
- Raise your torso while lowering your right leg.
- Switch legs.
We took a closer look at the mighty deadlift.
24. Squat reach and jump
Ready to add some pizzazz (and cardio!) to your squat?
- Perform a normal squat.
- Immediately jump up, reaching your arms straight overhead.
- Aim for 15 reps.
- Take a quick breather before the next set.
25. Chair Pose squat
A yoga derivative, this squat hits all the butt spots.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor while swinging your arms up.
- Straighten your legs, then lift your right knee while swinging your left arm outside your right knee.
- Return to a standing position and repeat on the other side.
26. Quadruped leg lift
- Start on your hands and knees, with your back flat and core engaged.
- Raise your left leg straight back, stopping when your foot is at hip level and your thigh is parallel to the floor.
- Balance for as long as possible, then raise your bottom right toe off the floor, tightening your butt, back, and abs — try to be graceful here!
- Hold for up to 10 seconds, then switch legs.
27. Calf raise
Never skip leg day – even without a gym.
- From a standing position, slowly rise up on your toes, keeping your knees straight and heels off the floor.
- Hold briefly, then come back down.
- Aaaand repeat.
- Try standing on something elevated (like a step) to achieve a wider range of motion.
Here are some ways to puff your chest with pride and muscle. (And here are some more.)
28. Dolphin push-up
No ocean necessary, and you don’t even have to communicate in clicks.
- Start out in Dolphin Pose (think Downward-Facing Dog Pose with your elbows on the floor).
- Lean forward, lowering your shoulders until your head is over your hands.
- Push up with your arms and return to the starting position.
29. Contralateral limb raise
Sounds fancy, huh? Here’s the breakdown:
- Lie facedown with your arms outstretched and your palms facing each other.
- Slowly lift one arm a few inches off the floor, keeping it straight without rotating your shoulders and keeping your head and torso still.
- Hold the position, then lower your arm back down. Repeat on the other side.
- For an extra challenge, lift your opposite leg a few inches off the floor at the same time.
30. Donkey kick
Ee-aw! It’s time to embrace that wild side.
- Start in a push-up position with your legs together.
- Tighten your core and kick both legs into the air with your knees bent, reaching your feet back toward your glutes.
- Try to land gently when returning to the starting position.
This move plays a starring role in this epic core and butt workout.
31. Handstand push-up
Fair warning: This move is for the pros.
- Get set in a handstand position against a wall.
- Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle, doing an upside-down push-up so your head moves toward the floor and your legs remain against the wall.
- First-timer? Grab a friend to spot you — safety first!
(Here’s how to do a handstand, if you struggle with that part.)
32. Judo push-up
There are plenty of ways to do a push-up. This is a really effective one.
- From a push-up position, raise your hips.
- Use your arms to lower the front of your body until your chin comes close to the floor.
- Swoop your head and shoulders upward and lower your hips down, keeping your knees off the floor.
- Reverse the move to come back to your raised-hip position.
- Try to repeat for 30—60 seconds.
33. Reverse fly
- For DIY dumbbells, grab two full cans or bottles.
- Stand up straight, with one foot in front of the other and your front knee slightly bent.
- With your palms facing each other and abs engaged, bend forward slightly from your waist and extend your arms out to the sides, squeezing your shoulder blades.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s you in your living room. Cape optional.
- Lie facedown with your arms and legs extended.
- Keeping your torso as still as possible, simultaneously raise your arms and legs to form a small curve in your body.
- Lower your limbs, and repeat.
We’ll teach you how to take your Superman out of the stratosphere.
Arm yourself and shoulder some responsibility (and bodyweight) while you’re at it.
35. Tricep dips
There are plenty more bodyweight exercises for your triceps here. But first, try these:
- Sit on the floor near a step or bench with your knees slightly bent.
- Grab the edge of the elevated surface and straighten your arms.
- Bend your arms to a 90-degree angle and straighten again while your heels push into the floor, lifting yourself.
- For some extra fire, reach your right arm out while lifting your left leg.
36. Diamond push-up
Rihanna would approve of this one!
- Get into a push-up position with diamond-shaped hands, so that your thumbs and index fingers touch.
- Then, do push-ups! This hand position will give those triceps some extra (burning) love.
Here’s how to get the push-up form right.
Time to make Muhammad Ali proud.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees bent.
- Bend forward until your torso is almost parallel to the floor.
- Keep your elbows in and extend one arm forward and your other arm back.
- Hug your arms back in and switch arms like you’re in the ring!
Here are 12 more boxing moves that can improve your core strength.
38. Shoulder stabilization series (I-Y-T-W-O)
OK, it may look ridiculous, but stay with us.
- Lie facedown with your arms extended overhead and your palms facing each other.
- Move your arms into each letter formation. (Gimme a Y — you know you want to!)
Bodyweight exercises can work wonders for your core.
39. L seat
Take a load off (well, not exactly).
- Sit with your legs extended and your feet flexed.
- Place your hands on the floor and slightly round your torso.
- Lift your hips off the floor, hold for 5 seconds, and release.
40. Rotational push-up
Standard push-ups not cutting it? Here’s a variation:
- After coming back up into a starting push-up position, rotate your body to the right and extend your right hand overhead, forming a T with your arms and torso.
- Return to the starting position
- Do a regular push-up, and then rotate to the left.
41. Flutter kick
- Lie faceup with your arms at your sides and your palms facing down.
- With your legs extended, lift your heels about 6 inches off the floor.
- Make small, quick, up-and-down pulses with your legs while keeping your core engaged.
- Keep kickin’ it for a minute straight!
42. Dynamic prone plank
- Starting in a standard plank position, raise your hips as high as they can go.
- Lower them back down.
- Continue this movement for as long as possible.
- Make sure your back stays straight and your hips don’t droop.
Looking to strengthen your back? Try these moves.
43. Side plank
This is tough for people without plank experience, so ease in.
- Lie faceup and roll to the side.
- Come up onto one foot and elbow.
- Make sure your hips are lifted and your core is engaged.
- Hang tight for 30—60 seconds — or as long as you can stomach!
There are plenty more side planks where this came from.
44. Russian twist
Feel like a fitness czar yet?
- Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet together, lifted a few inches off the floor.
- With your back at a 45-degree angle to the floor, move your arms from side to side in a twisting motion.
- Here, slow and steady wins the race: The slower the twist, the deeper the burn.
Just keep your helmet in the closet.
- Lie faceup with your knees bent and your hands behind your head.
- Bring your knees in toward your chest.
- Bring your right elbow toward your left knee as your right leg straightens.
- Continue alternating sides like you’re pedaling a bike.
Before anyone’s crowned Cap’n Crunch, remember: Form is key.
- Lie faceup with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- With your hands behind your head, lower your chin slightly.
- Peel your head and shoulders off the floor while engaging your core.
- Continue curling up until your upper back is off the mat.
- Hold briefly, then slowly lower your torso back toward the floor.
47. Segmental rotation
Let’s target those obliques!
- Lying faceup with your knees bent and core tight, let your knees fall gradually to the left until you feel a good stretch.
- Hold for 5 seconds, then return to the center.
- Repeat on the right.
48. Single-leg abdominal press
- Lie faceup with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Tighten your abs and raise your right leg, with your knee bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Push your right hand on top of your lifted knee, using your core to create pressure between your hand and knee.
- Hold for 5 seconds, then lower back down.
- Repeat with your left hand and knee.
49. Double-leg abdominal press
Two legs are twice the fun!
Follow the same rundown for the single-leg press (see number 48), but bring both legs up at the same time, pushing your hands against your knees.
50. Sprinter situp
Want to be a speed demon without getting off the floor?
- Lie faceup with your legs straight and your arms by your sides with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Now, sit up and bring your left knee toward your right elbow. Return to the starting position.
- Repeat on the other side.
Thanks to our friends at Lululemon for outfitting our model in the Swiftly Tech Racerback and Ebb To Street Pant.