16 body weight exercises you can do at home (and how to do them)
You don't need a gym membership or fancy exercise equipment to work out. Here are 16 highly effective body weight exercises which you can do right here, right now, at home.
1) Pull ups
Pull ups (overhand grip) are awesome for your entire back, building an impressive V-taper and strong lats. Use a chin up bar, place your hands wide and with an overhand grip, and pull using your back (not your arms). Think about bringing your chest and sternum towards the underside of the bar. Use assistance from a partner or a resistance band (under your knees) to progress upwards at first.
2) Inverted rows
Inverted rows are easy, low impact, and incredible for back and core development. Lie underneath a bar, take hold of it at shoulder width with an underhand grip, and pull your chest to the bar, keeping your heels on the ground and your body straight. Experiment with hand width, and try an overhand grip once you've got the technique right.
3) Wall squats
Use time under tension to turn the bodyweight squat into a quad-burning muscle-toning winner! With your back to a wall, lower into a squat and press your back into the wall when your knees are at right angles. If you have a Swiss ball/gym ball at home, pop it between your back and the wall to challenge your stability slightly. Hold for as long as you can (30 seconds is a great start), power up to standing, then go again.
4) Muscle ups
Made popular by the Crossfit movement, muscle ups are a great exercise for the back, shoulders and core. Muscle ups combine a pull up and a dip: using a pull up grip, raise yourself into a pull up, then take your elbows up and above the bar so you are at the bottom of a dip position. From here, push up into the top of the muscle up.
5) Handstand press ups
Forget overhead pressing with a barbell or dumbbells. Turn the movement upside down and handstand press up for incredible shoulder size and strength. Once you can do a full handstand, get into a handstand with your feet against a wall. From here, you can lower into handstand push ups.
6) Press ups (and press up variations)
Press ups are just as effective for the chest and shoulders as a classic bench press. Try the traditional press up, with hands wider than shoulder width, fingers facing forward, up on your toes with the body straight. Send your elbows out wide as you lower your chest to the floor, then push up strongly from the bottom of the movement. Or try one of these variations:
7) Incline press up
Perform a regular press up, but with your feet raised, either on a step or bench, or (for less stability and therefore more muscle recruitment), suspended in rings, straps or bands.
8) Diamond press ups
These target your inner chest. Perform a press up as normal but have your hands together beneath the centre of your chest, with your thumb and forefingers forming a diamond shape. Your elbows will go out very wide.
9) Triceps press ups
These work the triceps more than the chest but are still an awesome movement to master. Place your hands narrower than in a normal press up, and further back towards the ribs. As you lower into the press up, send the elbows directly backwards, so the upper arms brush the ribcage. Push up using the triceps, keeping the arms tucked in close
10) Pistol squat
Master the pistol squat and you'll not only have a great way of targeting the muscles of the lower body, but you'll be the proud owner of a new party trick, too. Pistol squats work your core, legs, hips and glutes and challenge your balance and stability. They are a deep, one legged squat. Start by holding onto a solid surface at chest height, take one foot off the ground, and send that leg out in front of you as you squat down to the ground with the standing leg. The aim is to get your bottom to your calf/heel, with the foot flat on the ground, and the other leg straight out in front of you (it doesn't touch the ground). Then power up to standing. Eventually, you should be able to perform the pistol squat movement without holding on to anything for support.
11) Split squat
You don't need a heavy weight on your back for squats to be effective. Try the split squat for a bodyweight squat which will tone the muscles of the lower body and raise the heart rate. Get into a lunge position, with both knees bent at 90*, and put the back foot up on an elevated surface such as a bench or low box. Squat downwards, taking the bottom towards the floor and feeling the work in the front leg. Push up through the heel of the front foot. Repeat 10-12 reps then switch sides.
12) Plank holds
One of the best moves you can do for your core, shoulders, back, hips and whole body is the humble (but deceptively challenging) plank hold. Here's how. Lie on your front, and place your hands, forearms and elbows on the floor beneath your shoulders. Push up onto your forearms and toes. Keep your spine straight from head to tailbone and don't sag at the hips, nor lift into a pyramid shape. Keep the core very tight (imagine a candle flame burning below your belly button). Breathe normally. Hold this position for 30 seconds and work up to 2 minutes.
13) Thread the needle
Taken from Pilates, this is a core exercise which works your obliques in a gentle but dynamic movement. Lie on your side, and get up into a side plank position, resting on one forearm (directly beneath your shoulder) and feet (with feet stacked on top of each other). Keep the body straight. Put the top arm in the air, pointing at the ceiling. Bend at the elbow and "thread" that hand under the waist, twisting at the shoulders but not sagging or bending the body. Imagine threading the hand under the body. Reach underneath, then reverse the movement. Repeat 10-15 times and then switch sides.
L-sits are another awesome core and abdominal exercise (we have gymnasts to thank for this one!) Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. If you have small yoga blocks, or a couple of large (and sturdy) books under your hands. From here, press into your hands and keep your arms dead straight, so your bottom lifts off the ground. Keep your legs out in front of you, at a right angle (L-shape!) to your body. Excellent for your abs!
15) Glute bridge/hip thrust
Don't forget your back and spine! The back bridge is one of the best ways to gently but effectively challenge your posterior chain without putting it under a heavy load. Here's how to do it: lie on your back, and bring your feet back towards your hips until your knees are at right angles. Press through your heels to lift your bottom and back, until you are resting on your feet and upper back/shoulders. Squeeze the hips, legs and glutes at the top of the movement, and slowly lower. Repeat for 10-12 reps. If you feel any pain or discomfort in your lower back, stop immediately.
All sorts of crawls can be used to develop incredible shoulder, back and hip strength, and will do wonders for your mobility. As an added bonus, crawls are a great way to inject a little cardio into your body weight session. Crawling essentially involves getting down onto your hands and feet and moving along the ground using hands and feet, without standing or using your knees. Make your crawls more effective by playing around with speed, direction (forwards, backwards and sideways) and even crawling under obstacles. Crawls are best done at the very beginning of your workout (as a warm up) or at the end (as a finisher).