When I first began my fitness journey, I focused only on body weight exercises to build strength. I’ve done almost every exercise on this list at one point or another, and I thoroughly researched the ones I haven’t done.
The exercises listed will range from beginner to advanced. Most body weight exercises are compound movements. I organized the exercises in this list according to which muscle groups they hit. There is a section dedicated to just cardio based exercises, but bear in mind most body weight exercises can be done for cardio.
The best part of doing body weight exercises is that you don’t need a gym or fancy equipment to do them. It will help if you have access to a pull up bar for the pulling exercise section. Gymnastic Rings can be used for any of the upper body exercises.
Keep reading to learn more about the various body weight exercises you can use to add to your fitness program.
#1 Pushup (Beginner)
The Push Up is one of the most basic body weight exercises. To perform the Push Up, start by putting your hands on the ground at shoulder level, shoulder width apart. Support your lower body with the balls of your feet. Your body should be completely straight–don’t arch your back or stick your butt in the air. Lower your chest down to the floor while keeping your body in a straight line until your chest is about an inch off the ground. Pause for a moment and push back up into the starting position.
If the standard Push Up is too difficult, you can place your knees on the floor instead of your feet. Make sure to maintain a straight body even from this position. Any Push Up variation is easier if you do them from your knees.
#2 Diamond Pushup (Beginner)
Perform the Diamond Push Up in the same way as the standard Push Up, but the hand placement is different. Place your hands close together so that your thumbs and fingers touch, making a diamond shape with your hands. By placing your hands in this position, the pushup will become more challenging. Extra emphasis is placed on your triceps.
#3 Dip (Intermediate)
Dips are a challenging exercise that do require a little equipment to do. This can be a couple of chairs or dip bars. To perform the exercise, stand between two chairs or bars and place your hands on the equipment. Lift your body and lock out your elbows. You can bend your knees to keep your feet from touching the ground. Lower yourself down slowly until your elbows are at 90 degrees. From here, push yourself back up into the starting position.
You can emphasize the triceps in this exercise by keeping your body upright. If you want to emphasize your chest muscles, lean forward when doing the exercise.
#4 Pike Pushup (Intermediate)
The Pike Pushup is another challenging exercise that places a lot of emphasis on your front delts. Start in a standard push up position and walk your hands toward your feet and create an L-shape with your body. From this position, lower yourself down until your forehead is about an inch off the floor, and press yourself back up into the starting position.
To increase the difficulty of this exercise and progress toward the next variation in this list, place your feet on an elevated surface. The higher your feet, the more challenging the exercise.
#5 Handstand Pushup (Advanced)
To perform the Handstand Pushup, begin in the handstand position. From the handstand position, lower yourself slowly to the floor until your forehead is an inch off the ground, and then press yourself back up into the handstand.
If you are unable to do a freestanding handstand, do this exercise against a wall. Wear socks to ensure that you don’t cheat by using your feet to assist you during the reps.
#6 Planche/Planche Pushup (Very Advanced)
The Planche is a gymnastic movement that requires incredible upper body strength–only experts need apply. The Planche is a unique exercise known as an isometric exercise, meaning that you can build strength simply by holding a static position. To perform a Planche, you must first build up to it through a series of progressions that will allow you to slowly increase your strength in isometric holds. The progressions are as follows:
- Tuck Planche (45 seconds-1 minute)
- Advanced Tuck Planche (30 seconds)
- Half Lay Straddle Planche (optional)(20 seconds)
- Straddle Planche (10 seconds)
- Half Lay Planche (10 seconds)
Perform each variation with fully locked arms and hips in line with shoulders. You can incorporate sets of the isometric holds, each set you want to hold for as long as possible until you can perform the variation for the amount of time shown in a single set. In any of the variations, you can include push ups to build your strength even more.
#7 Australian Pullup (Beginner)
You will need something about waist height to grab onto to do this exercise, such as a table, chairs, or a dip bar. Hold on to the object with hands about shoulder width apart and support your weight on your heels. Make sure to keep your legs straight. From here, pull yourself up until your chest is about an inch from whatever surface you’re holding on to. Hold for a moment and slowly lower yourself back into the starting position.
A wider grip will place more emphasis on your lat muscles. A narrower grip will place more emphasis on your mid back (rhomboids). You can also place more emphasis on your biceps by having your palms face you. To make this exercise easier, place your feet flat on the ground. To make it more difficult, elevate your feet.
#8 Chin-Up (Beginner-Intermediate)
The Chin-Up and the Pull-Up are very similar; the only difference is the hand position. Chin-Ups use a supine grip (palms facing toward you). This will place more emphasis on your biceps. To perform the exercise, start from a hanging position and pull yourself up until your collar bones are at the same level as the bar. Hold for a moment, and then lower yourself back into a hanging position.
If you find you are unable to pull yourself up to the bar, you can build up your strength by doing negatives. To do this, stand on a chair and begin at the top portion of the rep to get yourself into position. Walk off the chair and lower yourself into a hanging position as slowly as possible. Repeat this for reps until you build up enough strength to do a single Chin-Up.
#9 Pull-Up (Intermediate)
To perform the Pull-Up, start from a hanging position with your hands pronated (palms facing away from you). From here, pull yourself up until your collar bones are at the same level as the bar. Hold at the top of the movement, and then lower yourself back into the starting position.
Just like the Chin-Up, you can progress to the Pull-Up by doing negatives. A wider grip places more emphasis on the lats and a narrower grip places more emphasis on the rhomboids.
#10 Archer Pull-Ups (Intermediate-Advanced)
To perform the Archer Pull-Up, pull yourself up toward one of your hands, keeping the arm you’re pulling away from extended. At the top of this movement, one arm is straight and the other bent, looking much like the position an archer takes when drawing their bow. Lower into the starting position and pull yourself up to the other side.
This is a difficult pullup variation that can help you progress to doing One Arm Pull-Ups. It is not recommended that you try this exercise until you can do at least 7 strict Pull-Ups. Strict means no swinging (kipping) to cheat to make the reps easier.
#11 Typewriter Pull-Ups (Advanced)
To perform this exercise, start by performing an Archer Pull-Up. At the top of the Archer Pull-Up, move yourself to your other hand, extending the arm that was originally bent. Do this again and return to the original side you pulled up toward. Lower yourself back into a hanging position. Then do this again on the other side. That’s one rep.
Note you can shift back and forth in the upper position as many times as you like when doing this exercise.
#12 Front Lever/Front Lever Pull-Ups (Very Advanced)
The Front Lever progressions are identical to the Planche progressions. The progressions are as follows:
- Tuck Front Lever (45 seconds-1 minute)
- Advanced Tuck Front Lever (30 seconds)
- Half Lay Straddle Front Lever (optional)(20 seconds)
- Straddle Front Lever (10 seconds)
- Half Lay Front Lever (10 seconds)
- Front Lever
As with the Planche, you must be able to hold the progression shown for the specified time with good form for a single set before moving onto the next progression. You may add a Pull-Up into any of the progressions to add to your workout.
#13 Lunge (Beginner)
Perform the Lunge by stepping forwards or backwards. To begin, start with your feet shoulder width apart. Step forward (or backward) and lower your body until your front leg is at 90 degrees. Make sure the knee of your back leg does not slam into the floor. Press up with your legs from this position and return to the starting position.
For your hand position, you can either put your hands on your hips or hold your arms out in front of you for balance.
#14 Calf Raises (Beginner)
To do this exercise, start with your feet shoulder width apart and simply lift your heels off the floor while staying on the balls of your feet. Hold for a moment and return to the starting position.
To make this exercise more difficult, do it on a ledge so that your heels go lower than your toes for a greater range of motion. You can also do this exercise on one leg to increase the difficulty further.
#15 Glute Bridges (Beginner)
Start by lying on the ground with your legs bent, feet flat on the ground. Your arms may rest by your sides. Raise your hips and squeeze your glutes until your thighs and upper body are in a straight line. Lower back down to the floor.
To make this exercise more challenging, lean up against something about knee height and lift your hips until your body is parallel to the ground. You can also do this one legged for an even greater challenge.
#16 Nordic Curls (Intermediate-Advanced)
Start on your knees with your body upright and in a straight line. Lower yourself down to the ground as slowly as possible using your hamstrings. Place your hands out to catch yourself so you don’t faceplant. From here, explosively push up and then use your hamstrings to pull yourself back into the starting position. Your ultimate goal is to be able to do this exercise using only your hamstrings. That is very advanced and will take awhile to build up that level of strength.
You will need something or someone to keep your feet held in place to do this exercise. One cool way I’ve found to do this alone is to get a cheap ratchet strap from a hardware store and tie it around my mattress like in the movie “Leon: The Professional”. The strap can hold your feet in place and the mattress will prevent you from hurting your knees. You can also put a pillow or mat down to cushion your knees. DO NOT do this exercise on a hard floor without some kind of padding!
#17 Pistol Squat (Advanced)
Begin the Pistol Squat by starting with your feet shoulder width apart. Keep your arms forward for balance. While balancing on one leg, lower yourself all the way to the ground until your butt touches your heel. While lowering yourself, make sure your other leg does not touch the ground. From the bottom position, press back up into a standing position.
If you’re finding the quads of your raised leg are cramping during this exercise, then you will need to strengthen them to make this stop happening. You can do that by simply doing this exercise more and more until your quads get strong enough to hold this position. You can progress up to this exercise by holding on to something (a pole or door frame for example) until you have enough strength to do this exercise without assistance.
Place your hands behind your back to make this exercise more challenging.
#18 Crunch (Beginner)
Start by lying on your back with your feet close to your butt. You can have your hands by your side, on your chest, or behind your head. From here, raise your shoulder blades off the ground and focus on squeezing your ab muscles. Hold the contraction for a moment and then lower yourself back down.
Keep your head in a neutral position by looking at the ceiling so you do not strain your neck.
#19 Plank (Beginner)
Perform the Plank by placing your elbows on the ground (you can put your hands together if you like) and support your weight on the balls of your feet. Keep your body in a straight line much like the Push Up position. Hold this position to work your core.
To increase the difficulty of this exercise, elevate your feet.
#20 Side Plank (Beginner)
To perform the Side Plank, support yourself on a single elbow and turn your body to the side. Make sure your body stays in a straight line while holding for time. Make sure to do this on both sides as this will make sure you work both of your obliques.
Again, to make this exercise harder, elevate your feet.
#21 Superman (Beginner-Intermediate)
To perform the Superman, lie on your stomach with your arms extended in front of you. From here, lift your legs and chest off the ground and focus on squeezing your glutes and lower back muscles. You can do this for reps or hold the position for time.
#22 L-Sit (Intermediate-Advanced)
The L-Sit is another isometric exercise. You can do this on the ground or with dip bars. Hold your body up by locking out your arms and extend your legs out in front of you, keeping them parallel to and off the ground.
Like the pistol squat, your upper legs may cramp when performing this exercise. You can strengthen your legs over time as you do this exercise more and more. Once you have mastered this position, you can include it into other exercises, such as Pull-Ups to further increase their difficulty.
#23 Bicycle Crunch (Beginner)
To perform this exercise, put your hands behind your head with your elbows flared out. Raise up one knee and twist your upper body so that your opposite side elbow touches the raised knee. Lower your knee and then repeat on the other side.
#24 Bear Crawls (Beginner)
To perform these, start on all fours with only your feet and hands on the ground. Walk forward, backward, or to either side for a certain amount of time.
If you find you do not have enough space, do Bear Crawls back and forth or side to side until your set is complete.
#25 Switch Lunge Jumps (Beginner-Intermediate)
Start in the lower part of a lunge position and explosively jump upward and switch legs. Land back in the lowered lunge position on the opposite side. Repeat until your set is complete.
#26 Mountain Climbers (Beginner-Intermediate)
Start in a Push Up position and raise one knee up toward your chest. Lower it back down and raise the other to your chest. Rinse and repeat until your set is complete.
Make sure when doing this exercise that you keep your body in a straight line. You do not want your butt up in the air.
#27 Burpees (Intermediate)
To do a Burpee, start in a Push Up position. Lower yourself down like a regular pushup, then press explosively upward and bring your feet forward in between your arms and plant them on the ground. From here, raise your arms overhead and explosively jump as high as you can. Once your feet hit the ground, lean forward, place your hands on the ground and shoot your feet back into a Push Up position.
To make this exercise more difficult, you can do the squat jump with one leg.
These body weight exercises are all great for including into your workouts. Check out the workouts section for more details on how you can use these exercises on your fitness journey.