The Bodyweight Exercises You Should Be Doing
Hand Clap Squat
“This move adds rotation and greater movement of the upper body in the squat, and more movement means more calories burned and more muscles worked,” shares Jonathan Ross, award-winning trainer and author of Abs Revealed.
A Stand with feet wide and drive hips back and down to squat. At bottom of movement, clap hands by drawing right hand between legs and left hand outside left leg to reach underneath hip to touch right hand.
B Clap hands overhead at top of squat.
C Repeat pattern to the opposite side, completing one rep. Continue alternating sides.
Turkish Half Get-Up
“The Turkish half get up is truly a functional exercise that helps you to get up off the floor while gaining total body strength,” notes Julz Arney, southern California-based master trainer and program developer for top fitness brands.
A Lie on back with right knee bent and foot on floor while extending right arm toward ceiling.
B Perform an abdominal crunch to lift the upper body, moving to a seated position.
C Place left hand on floor next to left hip and shift bodyweight onto hand as you push through right foot and lift hips off floor.
D Extend through hips as much as possible and reach back with right arm performing a slight backbend to stretch the front of the body. Slowly lower back down to starting position and repeat all reps before switching sides.
Reps: 5-10 per side
“While this is an advanced move that might not be appropriate for everyone—especially if you have neck or shoulder issues—if you have strong healthy shoulders and sufficient thoracic spine mobility this is a great exercise that will challenge your fitness. This exercise requires you to activate your entire body, and any movement that requires strength and coordination from hands to feet is a great exercise in my book, as it provides you with better results in less time,” says Doug Balzarini, founder of DB Strength and head coach and program director for 22 Athletics in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
A Facing a wall, place hands slightly wider than shoulder-width distance approximately 6-10 inches away from wall. Kick feet up so heels rest on wall, bracing core, glutes and thighs through the movement to keep body in a relatively straight line from wrists to feet. Before progressing on to the full push-up you should be able to hold yourself up for at least 30 seconds.
B Bending at elbows, slowly lower body until head barely touches the floor. Reverse the movement, allowing elbows to re-extend and body to return to starting position.
“Bodyweight scissor kicks work a variety of muscles—including the rectus abdominis, external obliques, and transverse abdominis—making it the perfect equipment-free exercise to strengthen your core,” shares Elliott Rivera, NPC athlete, personal trainer and founder of HealthHaven.com.
A Lie on back with legs extended, placing hands flat on ground underneath glutes, palms down.
B Raise feet approximately one foot off the ground and hold this position briefly. With core engaged kick feet back and forth from side-to-side.
C Continue alternating sides for desired number of reps, maintaining control of breath.
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Short Leg Pull Front
“This short-lever plank is a variation of a tradition Pilates exercise designed to strengthen the arms, chest, and legs while simultaneously stabilizing the core, which is challenged even more by the addition of the jump,” says Andi Wardinski, Pilates instructor and fitness educator based in Seattle, WA.
A Begin on all fours position with knees below hips and wrists below shoulders.
B With core engaged lift both knees 2-4 inches off the floor. C Exhale and jump feet into air, maintaining a neutral spine. Inhale to softly land and repeat.
Low Lunge Push-Up into Split Dog
“This combo move works your entire body—including the core, chest, shoulders, butt, legs, and back—while also boosting your heart rate and providing a bit of a stretch,” notes Violet Zaki, life coach, black belt and founder of Zakifitness.
A Start in plank position with hands under shoulder, feet together and toes tucked under, maintaining neutral alignment of the spine.
B Push back and raise hips, simultaneously extending right leg back and up.
C Step right foot forward outside of right hand for a low lunge. Keeping both hands on floor bend elbows and perform a push-up.
D Bring right leg up and back again, hopping on the left foot to add more height and increase the cardio challenge. Repeat sequence for one full minute before switching sides.
Reps: 60 seconds
“This full body exercise places a high metabolic demand on the body due to the simultaneous work of the upper and lower body and offers effective loading through the shoulders and upper back based on the relationship with gravity. It also provides neurological benefits, integrating both hemispheres of the brain given the coordination of the cross crawl motion of opposite arm and leg,” shares Anthony Carey, inventor of the Core-Tex™ and CEO of Function First in San Diego, CA.
A From hands and knees position rise up onto balls of feet with butt up in the air to better load the shoulders, keeping arms straight, spine long and knees slightly bent.
B Move left hand and right foot forward 6-10 inches, keeping knees and toes pointed straight ahead at the hand.
C Immediately repeat with the right hand and left foot, continuing to alternate sides without pausing, moving rhythmically across the floor.
Reverse Tabletop With Arm Reaches
“This is a great to counteract our forward-facing activities of everyday life—such as computer work and driving—while also balancing out other exercises that are commonly performed in a forward-facing position, such as push-ups and mountain climbers,” says Stephanie Thielen, certified group fitness instructor and personal trainer.
A From a seated position with feet flat, knees bent and hands several inches behind hip with fingertips pointed toward toes, straighten elbows and lift hips off floor. Draw shoulder blades firmly into back and lift chest, keeping legs and glutes active, bringing chest, hips and knees into one straight line.
B Maintaining this tabletop position reach left arm towards ceiling. Repeat reach with the left hand and continue alternating side, maintaining alignment throughout the move.
“The Cossack squat is a move that will work the lower body in a similar way that the one-legged squat does, however it also adds challenge to the hamstrings and adductor muscles on the opposite leg. Overall this move challenges not only your strength and balance, but also your stability and mobility,” notes Don Bahneman, certified strength and conditioning specialist and fitness director at The Energy Club in Arlington, VA.
A Stand in an upright position with feet relatively close together.
B Step out to the side with the right foot, flexing knee and hip to lower into a squat position. Simultaneously, keep left leg fully extended and as you near bottom of squat transition weight to the heel of left foot, lifting toes. Reverse the movement and return to starting position. Complete all reps to the right before switching sides.
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Forearm Downward Facing Dog
“Forearm dog is an awesome move to work the entire body and a great alternative for people with wrist issues who cannot do a traditional downward facing dog or plank. What I love most about this pose is how it opens up and strengthens the shoulders and upper back while also working the core and legs,” says Kristin McGee, celebrity yoga and Pilates instructor in New York City.
A From hands and knees position release forearms to floor, keeping elbows narrow and drawing shoulders blades toward one another.
B Walk feet back slightly and tuck toes under, engaging core and lifting hips to come into a downward facing dog position.
Reps: 30-60 seconds
“The scorpion slide is a fantastic cardio exercise that works the entire body from the ground up. It incorporates side-to-side movement in the lower body with the added element of challenging the core with a lateral lean of the upper body,” says Amy Dixon, fitness expert and creator of the Breathless Body series.
A From standing with feet together, step or jump right leg out to right side while simultaneously sending left leg back into reverse lunge position. Reach right fingertips to ground outside of right hip while leaning right, while drawing left arm above head in a hooking motion.
B Repeat the same movement to the opposite side for one complete rep. Perform this move at an all out pace for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds before completing another set.
Reps: 30 seconds
Clam Shell Exercise with Variations
“This exercise strengthens your glutes, hips, pelvic muscles, and inner and outer thighs all with no equipment required, giving you the ability to perform it anywhere, anytime,” notes Lyssie Lakatos, registered dietitian and certified personal trainer. “This is also a great move for runners, dancers, and anyone who wants to help protect their knees against injury while also toning and strengthening their legs,” adds Tammy Lakatos-Shames, also a registered dietitian and personal trainer who along with Lakatos authored the book The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure
A Lie on right side with knees bent at a 45 degree angle with knees and ankles touching, resting head on an outstretched arm.
B Simply open the knees, lifting top knee until it is parallel with hip, keeping feet together and core engaged, sing outer thigh and glutes to control the movement.
C Perform a variation by moving top leg so that the knees come together and the heels come apart. Continue alternating these two moves, performing all reps on one side before repeating with the opposite leg.
Pushup With Rotation and Kick
“This variation turns the regular pushup into a full body exercise for the chest, core, hips, shoulders, and triceps. It’s an easy way to involve more muscles and burn a few extra calories during a workout, and you’ll see and feel the difference almost immediately,” shares Pete McCall, science officer for the Institute of Motion in San Diego, CA.
A Begin in a plank position before lowering toward the floor for a pushup.
B On the way up, press left hand into ground and rotate right hand into the air while kicking left leg across the body, rotating on the right foot so the inside edge of foot is on the ground with right leg straight. Return back to starting position and repeat on opposite side.
Total Body Extension
“This exercise is an easy to perform low-impact move which helps to counterbalance the poor posture, overuse of the neck and low back muscles, and incorrect movements that we tend to perform all day long, whether sitting in a car or using electronic devices,” notes Jodi Sussner, director of personal training and programming for LIFT Brands.
A Begin in a flexed position, squatting down and rounding forward at the spine and shoulders.
B Press up to standing, pulling hips forward, drawing arms back and lifting eyes and chest. If possible, rise up onto the toes at the top of the movement. Hold for 2-3 seconds and repeat.
Standing 3 Point Leg Swings
“This is a great move for strength, balance, and flexibility that works everything from the core down,” says Mike Z. Robinson, certified personal trainer and owner of MZR Fitness.
A With core engaged, balance on right foot and swing left leg forward as high as possible until you feel a stretch and engagement of the core.
B Draw left leg back into starting position without touching ground then immediately swing leg out to side until you feel a stretch in the inner and outer thighs, glutes, and obliques.
C Return left leg to starting position—once again without touching the floor—then swing left leg backwards as high as possible, engaging the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. Repeat entire sequence as fluidly as possible, perform all reps on one side before switching and repeating with opposite leg.
Single-Leg Glute Bridge
“This version of the bridge trains the glutes and hamstrings while helping to improve gait function which ultimately translates to improved standing balance,” shares Lawrence Biscontini, world-renowned fitness educator and mindful movement specialist. Biscontini also suggests adding a crunch between reps to add some variety and added core challenge to this move.
A Lie on back with knees and ankles touching, positioning the feet close enough to glutes to that fingertips can touch the heels. Allow arms to rest at sides, palms facing down.
B Extend right leg and raise hips towards ceiling, opening the right leg slightly to the side, keeping the left knee and hip stable and core engaged. Slowly lower hips and repeat, performing all reps on one side before repeating on opposite leg.
“The bird-dog exercise is a great choice to train the back, hamstrings, glutes, and core in a meaningful way through a reciprocal movement pattern, which can help to enhance posture and gait. It also trains the core muscles in a way to help develop spinal stability, so it’s a real winner in my book as it’s an easy to do move that adapts to all fitness levels without the need for equipment,” says Keli Roberts, international fitness educator and certified personal trainer in Pasadena, CA.
A Begin on all fours position, placing hands directly under shoulder and knees directly below hips keeping core fully engaged.
B Simultaneously raise right arm and left leg until level with torso. Hold for 3 long breaths.
C Draw right arm and left leg out to the sides in opposite directions, keeping limbs in line with torso. Once again hold for 3 long breaths. Slowly return to starting position, pause briefly and repeat sequence on the opposite side.
Reps: 4-6 on each side
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“Navasana—boat pose—is a great option for strengthening the hip flexors, abdominal muscles, and thighs while building heat and increasing vitality,” shares Stacy McCarthy, creator of the Yoga Body DVD series and author of Transformational Teaching Through Yoga Adjustments.
A Start in a seated position with knees bent, resting weight squarely on sitting bones. Create a neutral position for spine by gently lifting the chest and releasing shoulder blades down.
B Slowly lift feet off floor, outstretching legs and reaching hands forward with palms facing one another, arms parallel to ground. Continue to engage the core to maintain an elongated spine. Hold for 5-10 rhythmic breaths—approximately 30-60 seconds.
Reps: 30-60 seconds