The majority of gym goers start off with basic bodyweight exercises before they learn anything else, bodyweight squats, press ups, burpees, planks etc … But once they learn how to bench press properly, or how to deadlift they tend to neglect these awesome moves.
But this could be a big mistake, as a lot of bodyweight exercises are actually better than the resistance alternative. In this article we are going to look at some of the more effective bodyweight exercises and compare them to a common resistance or free weight exercise.
You may already have heard about some of these moves, but you may not have heard some of the expert tips in the videos we feature, so we strongly suggest that you watch the videos in addition to the written instructions to master your own bodyweight routine.
So you’re into pull ups, great, but did you know they are only one part of a complete bodyweight arsenal you can deploy to build the physique you’ve always wanted? We break down the Top 4 Exercises you absolutely MUST be doing if you want a well-rounded full body workout. Seriously, this is not hyperbole, pull ups are great but you need to diversify to work other parts of your body as well.
Exercise #1. Pull Ups
Pull ups are a great exercise for the back. They work the Biceps, the Brachioradialis, Trapezius, Latissimus Dorsi, and the Teres major and Rhomboids. This makes them great for improving posture as well.
The common exercise that is performed instead is the lat pulldown, but as Shaner et al proved free weight exercises (and yes pull ups count as a non-fixed exercise) are more effective than resistance machines .
Check out this awesome overview by natty phenom Omar Isuf explaining how to perfect your pullups. This video is Pullup Professor approved!
This is because the slight instability will result in more muscle fibre activation and more Testosterone and HGH produced. This means that devoting the same amount of energy to pull ups as you would lat pulldown would lead to improved strength gains.
Pull ups also give you so much more variety than lat pulldowns do, you can do overhand, underhand, close, wide, and even mixed grips. You can perform typewriter pull ups, or commando pull ups, or even just eccentric pull ups (which I guess is technically a pull down).
Exercise #2. Press Ups
Or push ups, whatever they’re called. This exercise hits the pecs, the anterior (front) deltoid, and the triceps. It’s also one of the first exercises that anyone remembers doing (badly) in high school. For many people that’s the last time they bother doing them too! But press ups are a fantastic way to build muscle and particularly increase their size.
Comparing press ups with another traditional gym exercise such as the chest press proves just how good they can be. You have regular press ups which most casual gym goers would struggle to hit 10 in a row, whereas the chest press can be as light as 5kg total weight.
Nobody knows how to do a proper press up better than a Navy Seal. Check out this official Navy Seal press up overview below:
Then there are plyometric press ups which increase power, this could be recreated with a chest press but not without getting a ticking off from the gym staff! Press ups can be performed pretty much anywhere too. Next time you want to win a bar bet it’s a lot easier to drop down and get started then it is to drag a chest press machine with you to bars.
Exercise #3. Dips
Bodyweight dips are a very difficult exercise that targets the chest, tricep, and shoulders. Unlike press ups you can’t perform them anywhere you need two parallel bars that are correctly spaced out. But they are a bodyweight exercise nonetheless.
As controversial as this might seem, some people believe that parallel bar dips are a more effective chest exercise than the bench press! There is a greater range of motion and it provides a better chest stretch.
Below natural bodybuilder and general “badass” Scott Herman explains how to SAFELY do dips for your chest and triceps.
The downside of dips is that they are incredibly hard to do, and are not for beginners. This issue can be solved with either a resistance band draped over the bars (takes away a lot of the resistance) or with a dip machine that uses a counterweight to make the exercise easier.
Exercise #4. Lunges
Lunges are an excellent lower body exercise that work the glutes and the quadriceps, many people perform weighted lunges but a well executed bodyweight lunge (particularly walking lunges) can be just as effective.
Lunges; the only exercise hated more than the squat. When done regularly however, they can hit the glutes and hamstrings and outer quadriceps like no other exercise can.
Again there are also a large variety of lunges that you can perform, there are jumping lunges, walking lunges, reverse lunges, side lunges, split squats, front-foot elevated split squats, back foot elevated split squats. Plus many more. Compare this to the leg extension, which is fine but only works the quadriceps.
So there you have it the top four bodyweight exercises, try to find a way to fit each one into your training program. You may be surprised at how difficult they are to complete.
Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below!
 Shaner, A., Vingren, J., Hatfield, D., Budnar, R., Duplanty, A., Hill, D. 2014. The Acute Hormonal response to free weight and machine weight resistance exercise. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 28(4): 1032-40