Build the perfect bodyweight workout

Unleash true strength with our ultimate at-home lean muscle training guide

This may seem like an obvious point but, exercise can be exhausting. Who really wants to spend hours stuck at the squat rack or suffering through endless reps on the weights bench. Thankfully, carving a great physique doesn’t take a bench, it doesn’t take a dumbbell, and, hell, it doesn’t even take a gym; all it takes is you, because bodyweight exercises are all you need to build a lean and mean machine.

But bodyweight exercises and workouts aren’t just time savers; they’re also extremely effective. A study published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal found that bodyweight workouts are an efficient way to decrease body fat, improve VO2 max and boost muscular fitness. “As the hectic pace of today’s corporate world continues to infringe on the amount of time individuals have for exercise, these types of programmes can offer a good option to help busy individuals improve their health and recover from stress via exercise,” the study’s authors claim.

Knowing that, we expect you’ll want to find out which moves are best, right? Well, we’ve collected the best bodyweight exercises and put them into a simple, little workout, so you can carve a perfect body whenever, wherever.

The Benefits of Bodyweight Exercises

To find out why you should put down the dumbbells and give bodyweight training a go, we spoke with Bobby Windebank, personal trainer at Sweat It, who explained why training your body using just your body is so great.

Bodyweight Exercises are Accessible

Bodyweight training can be modified for whatever fitness level you are,” says Windebank. “Whether you’re starting at zero and trying to do one press-up or you’re a seasoned athlete, bodyweight exercises can be incredibly challenging and beneficial. Progressing the exercises is also very straightforward, so you can keep challenging yourself and building strength.”

 Bodyweight Exercises Will Increase Your Mobility and Stability

“We were born to move, and mobility and stability are an essential part of the way we move and life in general,” Windebank explains. “Weightlifting can have many positive effects on your body, but it can also limit your mobility. The movements involved in bodyweight training can help to increase that mobility and challenge the bodies ‘stabilisers’ by using complete movements. This can in turn, lead to strength gains in the gym.”

Bodyweight Exercises are Brilliant for Developing Technique and Injury Prevention

Bodyweight training is a great way to really hone your technique and form,” says Windebank. “Weightlifting can take a serious toll on your body and in particular, your joints. With bodyweight training, the stress on your joints is lower, so you’re less likely to pick up an injury that could hamper your long term training.”

Bodyweight Exercises Can Be Quick and Easy

“These days, everybody is time poor, so finding quick, effective workouts is essential,” Windebank expains. “Fortunately, bodyweight training doesn’t require a dedicated gym and uses minimal equipment, so you can fit in a workout whenever you have some spare time, wherever you are. Bodyweight training also allows you to combine cardio and strength training, meaning you can smash that workout in the most efficient way.”

Can You Build Muscle with Bodyweight Exercises?

Those benefits are all well and good, but if you can’t build real, tangible, bursting-through-your-t-shirt muscle then what’s the point? Well, you’ll be pleased to know, bodyweight exercises are just as good as throwing around weights when it comes to muscle hypertrophy (or getting stacked to you and me).

Research published in Physiology & Behavior showed that muscle growth “can occur independent of an external load,” and, in fact, all it takes to get swole is performing exercises through their full range of motion. A bodyweight squat, performed with immaculate technique, can be just as effective as traditional weight training methods, and, when it comes to building muscle, there’s really no need to keep adding more and more weight to your barbell.

10 of the Best Bodyweight Exercises for Building Muscle

So you know that you can build muscle with bodyweight exercises, but which exercises should you make staples of your workout? We’ve collected the 10 best bodyweight exercises, each of which are capable of giving you a full-body workout that guys throwing tin around in a gym somewhere can only dream of.


How to do the exercise

  • Set up with your weight supported on your toes and hands beneath your shoulders, body straight.
  • Take care to keep your core locked so a straight line forms between your head, glutes and heels.
  • Lower your body until your chest is an inch from the ground then explosively drive up by fully extending your arms.


Pressed for time? Perform 20 reps of this classic blubber-burner. “This age-old exercise activates every muscle in your body when performed correctly,” says Frost. And how do you get it right? “Just ensure your hands are an equal distance apart and directly underneath your shoulders. Squeeze your glutes and abs too. That’ll create body tension to maximise efficiency during the execution of the exercise.”

Step-up with Knee Raises

How to do the exercise

  • Place a bench or a box in front of you and step onto it with one foot.
  • As you plant your foot, drive with your other foot bringing your knee up as high as you can. Lower it back down and step back onto the floor.
  • Repeat on the other side.


Whether you’ve noticed a slight muscle imbalance in your pins or you’re simply trying to carve some serious lower-body strength, stop fretting: this is the move for you.

“Unilateral (single leg) training can help strengthen stabilising muscles and can be used to even out imbalances,” says Frost. Your left side weaker than your right? Give it a leg up by dedicating an extra 15 reps to your frailer pin.


How to do the exercise

  • Start the exercise in a press-up position.
  • Jump forward so both legs land next to your hands.
  • Return to starting position.


Horrible name, brilliant warm-up exercise. Opening up your hips and thoracic region massively increases your body’s range of movement (the distance the muscle extends and contracts during an exercise), according to Frost. So what? Well, perform these exercises through a larger ROM and you’ll garner significant extra muscle growth from your workout, according to The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

But that’s not all. This dynamic stretch also pumps blood to almost all the muscles in your lower-body, drastically decreasing your risk of injury from overstrain while upping your heart rate for the next muscle-building moves.

Spider Crawl

How to do the exercise

  • From a press-up position, raise one foot off the floor and bring your knee up towards your elbow.
  • Pause then return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
  • Make sure to crunch your core at the top of the rep to bring your knee even closer to your elbow and get more out of your abs.


Want to sculpt a superhero physique? This primitive movement crushes your core while also targeting your legs, arms, chest and shoulders (yup, all at once).

Standing Long Jump

How to do the exercise

  • Lower yourself into a squat position with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Swing your arms back and use them to propel yourself forward.
  • Bring your legs forward for additional momentum.
  • Jump as far as you can and land on the soles of your feet.


Want more mass combined with true explosive strength? Deploy the standing long jump, says Frost. The reason: this move targets your body’s all-important fast-twitch muscle fibres.

Unlike small slow-twitch fibres (the ones geared towards endurance) your fast-twitch muscle fibres are used in fast power-packed movements, meaning they’re much bigger. Cast your bullseye on them if you’re looking to upgrade the power in your pins. Or simply want them looking bigger in time for shorts weather.


How to do the exercise

  • Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  • From the bottom of the squat, place your hands on the floor and kick your legs out behind you into a press-up position.
  • Push up until your arms are straight and then tuck in your legs at the bottom of the squat position.
  • Drive upwards through your heels until you are six inches off the floor and then repeat.


By activating muscles almost everywhere on your body, the burpee will give you a massive calorie burn due to the enormous effort required.

Not sure when to try this bodyweight goliath? “Try throwing them in between strength sets or part of a basic bodyweight circuit,” suggests Frost. Just know that wherever you fit them in, they’re still not going to get any easier.

Handstand Wall Walk

How to do the exercise

  • Position yourself in a handstand position with your feet planted against a wall.
  • Move your hands forward and walk down the wall until you reach the bottom.


Can you perform 40 press-ups without breaking? Then you’re ready for this advanced muscle-builder, says Frost: “The handstand walk will challenge your entire posterior and anterior chain [your back muscles]. For me, that’s why they’re one of the best bodyweight moves on the planet.”

But there’s one question you should ask before attempting this Insta-friendly exercise: what’s the best way to do it without landing on your head? Answer: “Squeeze your abs and glutes so you are maintaining a straight line during the handstand,” says Frost.

Wide-grip Pull-ups

How to do the exercise

  • Grab the bar with your palms facing away from you and your arms fully extended.
  • Your hands should be as wide as you can comfortably get them.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together, exhale and drive your elbows towards your hips to bring your chin above the bar.
  • Lower under control back to the start position.


Sure, normal pull-ups are great back-builders. So why not bring your shoulders into the equation too? Wide-grip pulls-ups are the perfect lat attacker, ramping up the effort needed for every rep compared to your normal pull-up.

And there’s a simple secret to getting the most from this move: form. Keep tension in your glutes throughout the move to keep your body straight and muscles injury-free, says Frost. Easy squeezy.

Frozen V-sit

How to do the exercise

  • Lie down on your back with your arms and legs outstretched and your hands and feet lifted just above the floor.
  • Begin the exercise by simultaneously raising your torso and legs up to touch your feet.
  • Hold for five to 10 seconds.


Searching for your six-pack? Take your time, says Frost: “Abdominal exercises should not be rushed; you need to perform them with control to maximise the strength benefits.” And if you want to activate more of your core’s muscle under even more tension then you should trade in crunches for V-sits.

Make sure your shoulder blades don’t roll forwards. This will keep your back straight and help you get the most out of the exercise, advises Frost.

Single Leg Glute Bridge

How to do the exercise

  • Lie on your back with one leg raised in the air.
  • Thrust forward and raise your hips off the ground as high as you can.
  • Slowly lower yourself to the floor.
  • Clench your glutes at the top of the rep to activate more muscle fibres and see greater growth.


As well as shredding your legs, the single leg glute bridges will challenge your entire posterior chain (your backside muscles). And why should a butt-building muscle move make its way into your next workout? “Building strength on your behind improves your posture, relieving any prolonged back pain,” says Frost. Lesson learnt: if you’re feeling sore after your 9-5 then beat away back pain with 10 reps of this move.

And if you’re aiming for a larger lower-body then make sure to perform this exercise with complete control, squeezing your working glute at the top of each repetition as hard as possible. “Once you’ve managed that you can challenge yourself further by placing a barbell across your hips,” advises Frost.


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