Personal Trainer, Liverpool Street

The Top 10 Bodyweight Exercises

The Top 10 Bodyweight Exercises

JDP Top Trainer Scarlet Hollands gives you her Top 10 Bodyweight Exercises to be done anytime and anywhere.

Working out and getting in shape doesn’t have to involve an extortionate gym membership, an intimidating rowdy gym environment or doing exercise that you don’t actually enjoy doing. It is possible to train from the comfort of your very own home and/or personal space by using nothing but your body to do so.

Scarlet Hollands

Don’t underestimate bodyweight training. They is no limit to how strong you can get by using your own body for resistance. The primary principle is to understand how to manipulate your body leverage to put yourself at a mechanical disadvantage. So starting with the basics and progressing to a more advanced exercise will ensure you results, power and strength.

Let me give you the low down on my top 10 bodyweight exercises to included/introduce into your workouts:

1. Squat

The squat is one of the most fundamental exercises you can do for the lower body. The legs and glutes are the primary movers in the body and by training the squat correctly, you will get stronger and faster. Although the squat is a lower body exercise, they are still a total body movement. Besides strengthening your quads, hamstrings and glutes, working to stabilise your spine throughout movement even works your abs! Many people get a little too ahead of themselves and feel they need to start challenging themselves with complex variations. Don’t. Stick to the basic squat and perfect smooth and controlled 20 reps with ease before beginning to take on a more advanced version. Be sure to keep the weight in the heel of the foot and focus on sitting back into the legs and driving up with push through the feet and the back of the legs.

Bodyweight Squat

2. Lunges

A lunge is another great lower body exercise that primarily focuses on the glutes while developing strength and flexibility. It being a uni-lateral exercise, single leg focus, means we can develop, progress and even out any imbalance there may be in the glutes. Again, many variations to the lunge so start with the basic format wether thats lunging in and out of the same leg or alternating each time. Be sure to remember to keep the torso and chest lifted as you lunge as this keeps the upper back and core activated and focus just in the legs and push evenly through 2 feet at the bottom of the lunge position.

Bodyweight Lunge

3. Step Ups

Another great exercise to target the posterior chain (muscles in the back of the legs – glutes and hamstrings) and all is needed is a small step or platform to stand onto. By standing up and down on one leg you are loading into one side using using power to drive through to the top of the movement. Before you move you want to create 3 90° angles at the ankles, knees and hips, place the majority of the weight in the heel/mid foot and have an active hinge to pre-load the glutes and hamstrings. From here we are in a good starting position to drive up onto the leg and lower down again, resetting to this position each time. If you wish to load into the quads a little more, keep the load before moving in the mid/fore foot on the box. Adapt exercise by increasing the size of the step.

Bodyweight Step Up

4. Glute Bridges

Adding bridges to your routine is a great way to counter all the forward flexion you do on a daily basis, like sitting at a desk, in a car, or on a couch. The back bridge strengthens your entire posterior chain, including the erector spinae group, hamstrings, and adductors, while stretching the entire anterior chain of the body too. Start with the most basic bridge first before working up into a full back bridge. Do this by lying on your back with arms extended at your sides and palms facing down. Bend your knees so your heels are close to your butt. Press into your hands and feet as you squeeze your glutes and extend your hips upward. At the top position, you should be balancing on your shoulders with your chin tucked into your chest. Lower to the bottom position and repeat.

Bodyweight Glute Bridge

5. Press Ups

A great exercise to strengthen the upper chest and arms while working the core and an exercise which women tend to shy away from as they “don’t have the upper body strength” whereas really it typically tends to be fault in their placement (setting arms to wide and high) therefore resulting in not being able to complete a full rep. Full push ups on the toes are also a rather difficult exercise to perform, so if you struggle to complete full repetitions, try pushing up from an incline (chair or box) to distribute the weight into the feet allowing your arms to assist for better leverage. As your get stronger, ideally begin to decrease the decline until your hands are on the ground for the classic push up.

Bodyweight Press Up


6. Dips

Dips are another fantastic bodyweight exercise for toning and strengthening your arms, particularly the triceps. Depending on your level of fitness, this exercise can be done in several different ways. The bench dip is a great place to start before you try parallel bars. Place your hands behind you on a bench/chair, with fingers pointing toward you and legs extended forward. Be careful not to shrug your shoulders as you lower yourself toward the ground. At the bottom position, your arms should be in a 90-degree angle before pushing yourself back up to the starting position. If this is also a challenge, trying place the feet a little closer to the body to allow for a slight assistance in pushing through the feet are you drive out of the dip.

Bodyweight Tricep Dip

7. Burpees

One of the most effective bodyweight exercises around to target the body as a whole. Again, this exercise has numerous ways to be performed all of which can effect the difficulty. The classic burpee is a four-point move. From a standing position, drop into a squat with your hands on the ground just in front of your feet. Then kick your feet back behind you, keeping your arms extended so you are in a raised plank position. At this stage, the more adventurous can throw a press-up into the mix, which really ramps up the difficulty. In the basic burpee, you remain in the raised plank and jump your feet back towards your hands. Then round off the manoeuvre by leaping into the air with your arms straight above you. Then do it all again. Take out any jumps if these are adding difficulty to the exercise.


8. Plank

In short, the plank is an exercise which primarily is aimed at the abs/core but being an isometric exercise (an exercise performed under consistent tension) it also strengthens the entire body – they make your core pop, strengthen your lower back and build your shoulders. To perform the plank, set your self up into a push up position and then lower your weight onto your elbows and voila! You are in a plank. The aim is to hold this exercise for as long as you can keeping the core tight and without deviating in the hips. Start simple and aim for a 20-30 second hold and relax. As your core strength increases, the time in which you can hold the plank will too increase. If you don’t have the core strength yet to do a regular plank, you can build up to it by doing a bent-knee plank. If you can hold a plank for more than two minutes with ease, you can move onto tougher variations.

Bodyweight Plank


9. Mountain Climber

Mountain climbers are great total body exercise. You are going to be utilizing your core because you are starting from a plank position. Your shoulders have to stabilize your upper body. Your triceps have to work isometrically to keep you in place. To perform a mountain climber, you want to start in the plank position as explained above. Draw your abdominal in and drive one knee into the chest and then switch legs quickly. Continue alternating legs and keep this movement going for a set period of time (30 secs or 30 reps). Prevent bouncing up and down throught the body and be sure the keep the abs tight at all times.

Mountain Climbers

10. Flutter Kicks

Abdominal flutter kicks predominantly targets your abdominal muscles, working the lower abs in particular. They are also a superb workout for your hip flexors, where a large extent of the effect is felt when you are performing repetitions. Start by lying flat on your back on the floor (use a mat or towel if needed) with your arms by your sides and your palms down. Extend your legs fully out with a slight bend in your knees. Lift your heels about 6 inches off the floor. Make small, rapid up and down scissor-like motions with your legs. The key is to focus on having your midsection do all the work and to keep your abs constantly contracted throughout the exercise. To regress this exercise slightly if you are finding it difficult, lift the legs high off the floor to start. The lower the legs to the floor, there harder the exercise.


author: Matt Williams


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