Bodyweight exercises| Better Strength & Bigger Muscles

 Introduction:

As the name suggests, bodyweight exercises use only the body’s weight. In today’s world, people are so use to the words like gym or weight training that they don’t see anything beyond that.

Of course, weight training is important, but it is not the only way to become healthy and attain a good physique. In fact, many military programs focus on bodyweight training more than lifting heavy weights.

And, these military people are as strong as a bull and they definitely have a good physique.

Can body weight training completely replace weight training?

It depends. If your goal is to get a healthy-lean physique then body weight exercises are good enough. But, if you want to build huge muscles then you’ll need to lift weights.

Look at it this way. When you are lifting your body weight, your muscles are getting some resistance. When you lift weights, then also you get resistance. This resistance makes the muscles grow.

Problem with body weight is that, eventually you’ll hit a plateau. Because you can’t increase your body weight so rapidly.

Some people like to add some weights while doing body weight exercises to increase the resistance. Like, wearing a bag pack while doing push ups. But, this technically will put the exercise in the category of weight training. BodyweightExercisesHealth-Muscles

Benefits of bodyweight exercises

Good for beginners

It is a good idea for a beginner to start with only body weights and after some time move to weight training. This will prepare his body and mind for the greater task.

If you haven’t done any physical activity before starting with gyming, then your muscles probably won’t be developed enough to start with weights.

It is not necessary for a beginner to go on with body weights for months. Even if he/she does body weight training for the first 2 weeks, that is more than enough.

In any case, whether you are a beginner or a professional, you need to go one step at a time. Skipping steps for faster results can work in the opposite direction also.

 

Less chance of injury

It is a common logic that if you lift heavy you are exposing your muscles to a lot of strain which many times can result in an injury.

You’ll rarely hear people saying that they got injured while doing push ups of pull ups. If you have warmed up properly and not going to fast, the chances of injuries diminish to almost zero.

 

No money

Another advantage of body weight exercise is the fact that you don’t have to spend any money to buy equipment or accessories. And, if you are doing them at home, it will save you a gym membership also.

These exercises aren’t as complicated as the exercises like bench press or deadlift, hence you can educate yourself for free using the internet.

Of course, in the beginning you can ask someone to keep your form in check. You don’t need a trainer for that.

 

Women and kids can do it

Lots of women fear that they’ll get bulky if they use weights, which is true to some extent. For such women, bodyweight workout is a good way to go.

In fact, many body weight exercises works on toning your muscles rather than making them bulky. That is what most of the women desire.

As for kids, it is not a good idea for very young teens to start lifting weights. The bones aren’t developed yet and the compression caused by the heavy weight in the spine is not the good at that stage.

If you are very young it is better to stick with body weight alone, you can get great results just by using your own body weight as resistance.

 

You can do them anywhere

Except a few, like pull ups, most of the body weight exercises can be done pretty much anywhere. This makes you more consistent.

For example, you are visiting a cousin’s home for vacation. He/she might or might not have gym equipments and buying gym membership for a small period of time is not a viable option.

So, what really happens, is that you end up staying off exercise for a while and with working out consistency is the key.

If you are used to doing body weight exercises you can go to the bathroom and do couple of pushes and crunches there. You can use a chair to do dips.

Bodyweight exercises you can do:

Push ups:

When you think about body weight exercises the first thing that comes to your mind is push-ups. It is one of the most versatile exercises invented by humans.

Push-ups work on:

  1. Chest
  2. Biceps
  3. Triceps
  4. Upper back
  5. Shoulders
  6. Forearms

There are numerous types of push ups. The type you choose will target different muscles more or less.

Normal push-up:

Level – Basic

It is the most basic way to do a push-up and it targets all the muscles almost equally. If you are a complete beginner these push-ups should be the first thing you should do.

If you don’t have enough strength to do normal push-ups, then you can keep your knees down to make this exercise a little easy.

Diamond push ups:

Level – Medium

They are most difficult things to do. You need immense strength in your arms to do these type of push-ups. It is a good exercise if you want to build triceps.

Be careful– As it is very easy to injury your shoulders during a diamond push up. Make sure to push your self up using your triceps and while going down do the same.

Triceps are big muscles. They are not prone to injuries like shoulders are.

Wide grip push ups:

Level – Medium

As the name suggests, you have to keep your hands at a wide length while doing this exercise. If you have a hunched back, then you should definitely do these push-ups.

It works on your upper back and your chest. When the hands are wide apart you are giving a good stretch to your pectoral muscles.

Clap push ups:

Level – Advance

In this variation, you have push yourself off the ground and clap before coming down. It is difficult and requires lot of strength.

Whenever you push yourself off the ground, using your legs or hands, this causes breaking down of muscle fibres. The general rule is, more muscle fibre you break, the better it is.

Landing back on your hand and allowing your body move to the ground in a controlled way is also the reason behind the effectiveness of this exercise.

As it is an advance level exercise, move on to it after perfecting your normal push ups, otherwise you would be inviting injuries.

 

Fist push ups:

Level – Medium

Name tells everything. Instead doing push ups on your palms, make a fist. It is good for developing strength in your forearms and build triceps.

You can do supinated, pronated or neutral grip. Pronated is the simplest of them all and very less prone to injuries. Look at the front while doing this to bring your pecs more into picture.

Crunches

Crunches are very closely associated with abs and getting ripped. But, giving you six pack abs is one of the many things crunches have for you.

Many people say you can’t lose fat by doing crunches, as you can’t reduce fat from a spot. True, but crunches can help to lose fat in-directly.

First of all, many crunches can be seen as compound exercises  which allows you to burn more calories as more number of muscles are being used simultaneously.

Secondly, doing crunches is a pretty good way to increase the testosterone production naturally. And, you might be aware of the fact that when your body gets testosterone dominant it burns the fat faster.

Crunches are also good for core strength, which is helpful if you want straight back and confident posture.

 

Normal crunches:

Level – Basic

These are the most basic types of crunches. Depending upon the range of motion you can either just train your upper abs or just entire abdomen area.

If you crunch to lift the body just above the ground it will target more of your upper abs. If you are more into building core strength and less into getting abs then you should always do a complete crunch.

Tip – Don’t go too fast, that way you’ll use the momentum to do the crunches and you don’t want to do that. You should only use the core and abs to move your body in a steady-controlled way.

Bicycle crunches

Level – Medium

Bicycle crunch is a very effective compound movement, which requires effort from almost your entire body. It uses your leg muscles, abs, core, shoulder, back, etc.

All you have to do is alternate between left leg-right shoulder and right leg-left shoulder. First of all, when your upper back and legs are above the floor, then it takes a lot of energy to stabilise the body.

Tip: Lots of people bring the elbows to knees. That’s not the right way. Try to touch your shoulders to your knees and not your elbows. It will give you that extra crunch.

 

Reverse crunch

Level – Medium

Sometimes it may not be an option to do a normal crunch as you might be having a sore neck or an injured shoulder. The way around it is doing reverse crunches.

As the name suggests, instead of moving your upper body and keeping the lower body static, you do the other way round.

People move their upper body also while doing this type of crunch. It is not necessary. You can just hold your head a a place which is already squeezing the upper abs and do the crunch using lower body.

Steps to do it:

  1. Lie flat on the floor facing ceiling.
  2. Start bending your knees and move them towards the chest.
  3. Squeeze at the end.
  4. Then take back legs to the floor but don’t put them down. Hold them there for a second before starting with the next rep.

Lunges

Lunges are one of the best exercises for your glutes and your legs. Initially, you might find it a little complicated, but you’ll get use to it very soon.

How to do it:

  1. Put a step 2-3 feet forward.
  2. Bend the knee of the other leg and slowly touch it to the ground.
  3. Unbend and bring the leg in front in the neutral standing position.
  4. Do this for other leg too.

How you do a lunge will target quads or hams more. It is very simple, while lunging if the forward knee moves ahead of the toe you’ll target mostly the quads. And, if the knee is stationary then you will be targeting the hams more.

To make it more simple, if the step you took was long then hams and if that was short then quads.

Long stride lunge:

Level – Medium

When the distance between the front foot and the back foot is large, then while going down you won’t be able to bend the front knee forward.

This will automatically help you target your hams. And, when the stride is a small one, in order to lunge/go down you’ll have to bend your front knee which will put more pressure on the quads. Try it yourself.

You can do alternate legs or do continuous reps of one leg at a time. The later one is more difficult, but keeps your muscle under tension for a longer period of time.

 

Static lunges:

Level – Basic

In this variation, after performing a lunge you don’t bring the foot back to the neutral position. In stead, you perform all the lunges for one leg and move to the next after it is complete.

This is helpful for the beginners as going back and forth can result in losing balance which results in your focus moving from lunging with a proper form to balancing yourself.

 

Side lunge

Level – Medium

This exercise works more on the glutes. Lots of people tend to curve their back while doing this. You have to remember no matter what variations of lunges you are doing you need to keep your back ARCHED.

Side lunges also activates your inner legs which many exercises fail to do. The things you have to keep in mind is that keep your toes point straight. And, try to put the maximum force from the leg you moved.

 

Reverse lunge

Level – Medium

It is like a normal lunge, but instead of moving your foot forward you try to move it back, which will get you into the lunge position.

Although, there is no additional benefit of doing this, for some people this might seem easier to learn than normal forward lunge.

 

Leg raises

One of the best exercise you can do for your core and lower abs. But, like everything good it is also very difficult. Although, there are few modifications you can do to make the exercise simpler.

You can do leg raise on a bench, floor, pull up bar, Captain’s chair. The difficulty level can vary drastically and it is up to you to choose a level which lets you do at least 6-8 reps without losing your form.

Tip – You can use a little jerk while raising your leg, but while coming down make sure to be in complete control.

 

Pullup bar/captain’s chair(straight leg)

Level – Advance

If you have strength in your arms and you have worked on your abs before than doing this exercise on pull up bar is the best option for you.

First of all, when you hang for 30-45 secs on a bar, it activates your entire arm. Doing this will increase your strength overtime.

Now, while hanging you also raise your legs, then your quads, hip flexors, lower back, lower abs are also targeted. Making it a quintessential compound exercise.

Note – Make sure to keep your body steady at all times. Many people starts swinging back and forth while doing this. This happens when you drop your legs down too fast.

If you don’t have strength to hold onto the back too long then you can use captain’s chair.

 

Pull up/captain’s chair(bent knees)

Level – Medium

If you can’t do straight leg, then you can try the same exercise with bent knees. It will discard legs from the picture and direct all the tension onto your core.

Or, you can choose a middle path, bend your knees a little bit and check if you can do it that way. And, keep on bending and trying to reach a middle ground.

 

Floor/bench leg raise 

Level – Medium

Doing a leg raise on a bench and the floor is almost the same, except the fact that you can go negative when you are doing it on the bench.

Keeping your palms just above your hip bone will facilitate the movement. If you are doing it on a bench you can hold the bench from sides to keep your body stable.

If you are finding it hard to bring your legs up, you can also use your hands as a support to lift the legs. Try to use your hands as a spot only.

 

Dips:

Level – Medium to Advance

Again a very good compound movement which trains almost every muscle in the upper body. You can either do this on a dip bar or  use a chair.

How you do this exercise can make a huge difference in the results you get. Let us see how you should do it on a chair/bench.

Try to keep your hands a shoulder width. Doing this won’t necessarily mean that you’ll hit the triceps properly. Every body design is different. You have to experiment a little with the distance between the hands.

Doing dips on a dip bar requires a lot of strength and it is an advance level exercise. Move to a dip bar only when you are ready.

 

Pull ups

Pull ups is the most versatile body weight exercise. You can do a pull up in a variety of ways in order to target different muscles.

 Pull ups for biceps(Chin-ups):

Level – Medium

Doing close grips supinated pull ups works your biceps very well. Whether you target the short head of the biceps or the long head of the biceps will depend upon the range of motion.

If you go half way down and pull yourself back from there, it will only target your bicep’s short head. But, if you go all the way down and come all the way up you will train both the heads.

Plus, going all the way down will also stretch your chest and back muscles too.

Wide grip pull ups:

Level – Advance

Wide grip pulls are the toughest kind of pull ups, because of two reasons. First of all, the muscles that we use aren’t very active in our day to day work.

Secondly, our body is not use to such kind of motion. Yes, it is true. Having muscle strength is not enough to do pull ups or for that matter any other exercise, your body also need to get use to it.

If you are looking to build v-shape body, then wide grip pull ups should definitely be in your workout routine.

 

Suryanamaskar

Suryanamaskar means sun salutation. It is basically a set of yoga postures that target pretty much every muscle in your body.

It is a very effective way to warm up your entire body, but it is not limited to that. If you increase the intensity it can be very exhausting.

The postures are designed in such a way that they give good stretch to your muscles and get the blood flowing. You can do these postures just once or multiple times.

Apart from muscle development, each of these postures have some good effect on your health. From your skin to your digestive system they effect everything.

You can do suryanamaskar on frequent basis if you suffer from stress and depression. It is a natural stress buster. Just make sure to breath deeply and in a controlled manner.

 

 

Jumping:

Whenever you throw yourself off the ground for even a millisecond you are breaking lots of muscle fibres. Jumping is one of the best ways to build strong and muscular legs without any weights.

But, jumping like that for no reason sounds less moronic than it looks. So, there are 3 exercises that allows you to jumps,but in a seemingly more purposeful way.

Running stairs:

Level – Medium

You might think running stairs is not jumping. It is if you skip 2-3 step with every stride. Running stairs is the most underrated exercise on the planet.

The effectiveness of an exercise can be measured(to some extent) by how quickly is exhausts you. Even if you do this exercise with very low intensity, you can drain yourself.

The fact that you have to reach at the top of a building or stairs makes this exercise purposeful. Just don’t try to go too fast.

 

Jump box:

Level – Medium

Again, jumping a box is compound exercises and takes a lot of strength, especially when you are doing reps of it.

Box jumps helps to improve the rate of force development, which will prove helpful if you are an athlete. It helps to increase jumping, running and throwing capacity.

What makes box jump exciting is the fact, that you are always thriving to jump higher and higher. And, unlike many exercises the improvement is quite visible.

 

Burpees:

Level – Advance

Burpees is not an isolated jumping movement, it involves pretty much every muscle in your body. But, the jump is what makes this exercise intense.

There are two kinds of jump in burpees. One is horizontal jump that you have to make to get into plank/push up position.

Second one is a vertical jump which is most difficult as you are going against the gravity. The combination of all these movements makes this exercise an excellent fat burner and mass builder.

 

 

Bodyweight exercise for particular body parts:

The best part about bodyweight exercises is that they are mostly compound, this is also the worst part of the exercise. So, we will talk about some routines that you can do to target muscles in isolation.

Isometric contractions for biceps:

Frankly there are very few body weight exercises that can directly target your biceps, but most of these exercises hits your biceps more or less.

You’ll do get a little pump, but that won’t be enough. One way around this problem is isometric Contraction. Basically, there are two types of muscle contraction; isometric and isotonic.

In isometric contraction we don’t move a joint and in isotonic we do.

After doing couple of upper body exercises, when you have a little pump in your biceps. Do this. Try to do a bicep curl with one hand and add resistance with other hand.

Tip – You might find it uncomfortable to do it standing up. Hence, you can sit on a bench/bed and do it like a concentration curl.

Important – Keep the arm you want to curl parallel to ground, that way you’ll be able to concentrate more on your biceps. If you keep the forearm part at an angle to the horizontal, forearms will get affected more.

 

Pike push ups:

Lots of people do pike push ups to prepare their body to do more intense hand standing push ups. But, they can be very effective exercise for your shoulders.

There is no fixed angle to do pike push ups, it is up to you to choose a position which allows you to target your shoulders properly.

You can do this with your feet on the ground and if you want to make this exercise more difficult keep your feet at an elevated level. Use Chair or table.

Tip – You want to go down till your head touches ground. So keep a towel for cushioning.

After doing pike push ups for a few weeks you can move to hand stand push ups.

 

Forearms:

The main job of forearms is to allow you to grip things properly. So, one way of training your forearms is by holding heavy things.

Since this article is about body weight exercises we will hold onto our own weight. Get to a pull up bar and just hang on to it for as much time as you can. Do this for at least 3 times.

Slowly and steadily when after gaining enough strength you can move to a single arm at a time to increase the resistance.

Another way to train your forearm is to get into fist position and hold there for as long as you can. To get maximum effect hold your position at the bottom most position, make sure not to touch your chest to the floor.

 

Glutes:

There are two body weight exercise you can do to train your glutes in isolation. First one is the glute bridge and second one is hip thrust.

How to do bridge properly:

  1. Lie flat on the ground facing the ceiling.
  2. Bend your knees and keep your feet at shoulder length.
  3. Slowly move your hips up to maximum.
  4. Squeeze your glutes hard at the top.
  5. Move back to bottom and repeat.

The only problem with this exercise is that the range of motion is not very less, to get around this problem you need to do hip thruster.

 

Hip thrusters:

Hip thruster is also a kind of bridge but in this one you have to rest your upper body(shoulder blade) on a bench and do exactly what you did in the bridge.

The benefit of doing hip thrusters is that it allows full range of motion which is important to really activate your glutes.

Tip – Make sure to push through your heals and not the entire sole.

 

Back:

Back hyperextension is one of the best exercise for your lower back. When it comes to training your core and giving you the right posture, hyperextension is as powerful as deadlift, in spite of the fact that you are using only your body weight.

To make it most effective, it is always a good idea to do it on a hyperextension bench. But, if your gym doesn’t have one or you workout at home then you can do hyperextension of a sofa or bed also with someone sitting on your legs.