Top 20 Bodyweight Exercises for Building Muscle & Strength

Written by Jason Ferruggia Topics: Training

Handstands are a great bodyweight exercise

Bodyweight exercises need to be part of your program if you want to get jacked.

But not just pushups, sit ups and high rep calisthenics.

That’s beginner stuff that won’t build any real muscle.

We’re talking about really working hard on high tension, advanced bodyweight exercises that can only be done for somewhere between five and twelve reps, on average.

The nice thing about these is that they’re very natural and can usually be done pain free by most people.

Below is a list of my top 20 bodyweight exercises for size and strength.

1) Chin/ Pull Up

These build the lats and biceps very effectively. An impressive number of full range, perfect reps is twenty. Everyone should do at least fifty total reps per week of some sort of chin up variation.

The parallel grip chin/ pull up is easiest on the shoulders and elbows and is the one I recommend most. Doing them on rings is safest as it allows for the most natural movement but is also significantly more difficult.

2) Rope Climb

Awesome for true functional, relative strength. Your goal is to climb a twenty foot rope using just your hands.

3) Inverted Row

Some type of inverted row variation, either on a bar, rings, ropes or suspension straps should be included for mid back thickness and strength.

To increase the difficulty try holding each rep for a few seconds at the top.

To target the upper back musculature (teres minor, rhomboids, rear delts) you want to have your elbows directly out to your side when rowing. For more lats and mid-back, row with your elbows tucked to your sides.

4) Front Lever

This is one of the absolute BEST exercises for activating and building the lats. Maybe even better than chin ups. It’s also one of the best abdominal exercises you can do and will put crunches and sit ups to shame. To progress into doing the dynamic movement I recommend starting with isometric holds. Four sets of 10 seconds twice per week will be good for most people.

5) Muscle Up

Very few people will ever master the muscle up but if you take the time and have the dedication it’s very impressive to be able to pull off. Doing five perfect reps is a good goal to shoot for.

6) Handstand Pushup

These will build big shoulders and cause less pain than a barbell military press. An impressive number to shoot for is ten full range reps. To get started on these you need to first master the handstand.

It’s been said by high level gymnastic coaches that the ability to handstands is one of the most important things you can develop to improve your overall athleticism.

Once you are able to hold a handstand with your feet against the wall for 60 seconds you can start progressing into handstand pushups.

7) Pushup

Some of the variations I use most often in training myself or clients are the steep incline suspended pushup (with your feet in the straps), regular suspended pushups on rings, divebomber pushups and one arm pushups.

A good goal for most people is ten one arm pushups. That’s strong and impressive.

8) Ring Fly

The function of the pecs is to draw the arm across the midline of the body. Vince Gironda and Larry Scott introduced me to this exercise back in the early 90’s and I was blown away by how well it worked.

It’s one of the most challenging, yet brutally effective moves you can do for building your chest.

Lower yourself slowly, always being sure to brace your abs, squeeze your glutes and pause in the bottom position. Be prepared for some HARD work and expect to see some biceps growth from this exercise as well.

9) Ring Dip

If you do them straight up and down they will blast your triceps better than just about any other exercise. Twenty five reps done in this manner is a good goal to shoot for.

For more chest emphasis you can lean forward by flexing at the hip and holding your legs out in front of you and instead of simply pressing your way out of the bottom, try to squeeze/pull your way up.

10) Inverted Shrug

The big knock on bodyweight training is that it does nothing for your traps to give you that yoked look. But that’s because people don’t know about the inverted shrug. Get on the rings and flip yourself upside down. Once you’ve stabilized your body simply shrug up and down.


11) Hand Walking/ Crawling

Walking on your hands is an outstanding way to develop shoulder strength and stability. This can be done upside down in the handstand position or it can be done in pushup position with your feet in the Power Wheel.

Done in the latter manner it will train your abs harder than anything you’ve ever done. Shoot for 100 yards with perfect form, meaning no sagging or A-framing hips.

Aside from walking on your hands, any type of crawl is awesome for full body strength and athleticism.There are numerous types of crawls such as bear crawls, tiger crawls, crab walks, etc.

I suggest incorporating them into your workouts at least once per week as a finisher or a warm up.

12) Pistol Squat

Pistol squats develop every muscle in the lower body along with great balance, stabilization, coordination and athleticism. Like many of the bodyweight exercises listed here the pistol will take several weeks of preparation to do properly and pain free.

Even if you have the strength to do them the first time out your connective tissue won’t be prepared for the stress, so please take the necessary steps to work up to them.

An impressive number of pistol squats to shoot for is twenty reps.

13) Back Foot Elevated Split Squat

Pistols are great but a lot of people will never be able to do them. This variation is more user friendly. Get in a lunge position and put your back foot up on a box or bench of about 6-12″ in height.

The quads respond very well too high volume so doing multiple 10-20 rep sets on this exercise is the preferred plan of attack.

14) Skater Squat

To do this exercise simply bend one knee behind you and squat straight down to the floor. It’s like a pistol squat only the leg is bent behind you instead of straight out in front of you.

Touch the back knee to a padded surface and then stand back up. The range of motion is far less so this is often a good first progression into pistol squats.


2nbuh5315) Single Leg Hip Thrust

While pistol squats take care of most of your lower body needs you may want to include some hip extension work to make sure you have all your bases covered.

This is especially important for girls who want an ass you can rest a drink on.

A great bodyweight exercise that does that for you is the single leg hip thrust.

Set up two benches, put your upper back on one and one foot on another with the non working leg bent and up near your chest.

Now let your hips drop down toward the ground as low as you can. Drive your heel into the bench and lift your hips all the way up, while consciously contracting your glute.

After you can knock out 15-20 reps with perfect form while keeping your hips stabilized and not hyperextending your lower back I’d throw some chains or band resistance over your waist.

16) Single Leg Back Raise/ Glute Ham Raise

Ok, I cheated here because I’m calling it a tie between these two exercises for the number 15 position.

I love glute ham raises for hamstring development and protection against knee injuries. But they aren’t 100% necessary.

Whenever you squat deep enough, like you do in a pistol squat the hamstrings get worked. The glutes also get a pretty good workout from pistol squats. But this does leave the lower back lagging behind a bit in the stimulation department if all you were doing was bodyweight stuff.

So to cover that part of the body a single leg back raise would be a great option. Of course you could do these with two legs until sets of twenty become easy. After that I’d switch over to the one leg variation on either a parallel or 45 degree angled bench.


17) L-Sit

This exercise is awesome for developing core strength and mastering it will do you a world of good and have great carryover to numerous exercises and physical activities. If you have lower back or hip pain this exercise can often cure it. Start with the bent knee version and progress slowly from there. Four sets of 10 second holds two or three days per week will be enough for most people.

18) Hanging Leg Raise

This is an advanced abdominal exercise so work your way up to it slowly over the course of several months. I’d have the L-Sits down pretty good first. If you’re a beginner it may two years until you’re ready for this one. The ability to do 15-20 really picture perfect reps without jacking up your lower back is pretty impressive.

19) Side Plank

Each of the exercises listed incorporates all of the core muscles but this is the only variation that really targets the obliques. The obliques are crucially important in maintaining a healthy lower back, locking out a heavy squat or deadlift and overall core strength and stability.

If you have strong obliques chances are good that you’ll possess a decent level of functional strength. This exercise can me made as easy or as difficult as you need it to be depending on whether you bend your knees, straighten them, use a back extension bench to do it on or use a weighted vest.

bodyweight exercises lubricate the joints

20) Back Bridge

This is a great exercise to improve the health of your spine. Start very slowly and be careful on these. If you have preexisting injuries you may never be able to do this.

Those with healthy spines should aim to work towards the point where they can bridge backward from a standing position to the floor and back up again.

Bonus Exercise: Neck Bridge

Once you’re capable of doing a back bridge you should strongly consider working your way into neck bridges, both the front and rear versions. A thick neck looks powerful and commands respect. Don’t walk around with a stack of dimes.

There you have it, the top 20 bodyweight exercises for building muscle and strength.

Of course, there are tons more and it was tough narrowing it down.

This is far from a complete list and is only a fraction of the bodyweight exercises I use regularly. I like to mix these in with some barbell/dumbbell and strongman exercises but there’s no reason you couldn’t get by with just these alone. If you’re not already doing so add a few of these exercises to your program today and work your way up to the highest level of each.

I guarantee you’ll be happy with the results.

PS. For a complete, fully detailed body weight only training program that will build a strong, jacked physique, check out Body Weight Body Building. You can download it right HERE.

bodyweight exercises for building muscle

Click HERE to download Body Weight Body Building now.

If you liked this post and know someone else who will it would mean the world to me if you could share it with them.

Thank you!

125 Responses to Top 20 Bodyweight Exercises for Building Muscle & Strength

  1. ibrahime July 20, 2011 at 10:05 am #

    I use to do some of them in past. I stopped doing theses exercises because of job, but mainly because of laziness. Then one doing day i thought i was looking though until i tried some close push up, chin ups and partial one leg squat. Oh Boy was I wrong… I realized i skipped some stage on my program/training. I was doing either way too much cardio, or simply not doing the exercise properly.

    I know now that i need to work the basic bodyweight in order to be stronger version of myself(quote from Elliott). The moves you listed above are just freaky great, I intended to master all if not most of them, with time, patience, dedication and practice…

    Anyway, thanks for posting this. Have yourself a nice day

  2. Murds July 20, 2011 at 10:28 am #

    Hells yeah. Thanks for some more ideas. I already incorporate some of these exercises but a few more would be beneficial.

  3. Smitty July 20, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    Great post bro.

    • Jason Ferruggia July 21, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

      @Smitty: Thanks brother.

      @Jason- Yup. And he would hate the curl up as well. But if you’re really strong and have no lower back problems they’re fine in my book.

      @Paul- No need to convince me, Jon is a friend of mine. I love all the stuff you guys do.

      @Uncle Timbo- Smart move.

      @Liam- Thanks

      @John- No doubt. Being born with a pencil neck has haunted me my whole life. So I could never forget that.

      @John- Yes, the GHR will help and is a great exercise.

      @Sean- That’s the kind of workout I love.

      @Chad- Thanks a lot, man. It would be a whole article or video to explain the proper progressions here but I will get to it in the future.

      @Carl- Yes and yes.

      @dave- You could

  4. Will July 20, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    Although all those exercises are great, none of them comes close to squats and deadlifts in terms of GH and testosterone stimulation, total body growth, mental toughness and ease of progression. They are exactly what Jason lists them as: ASSISTANCE exercises, nothing more.

  5. scott July 20, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    great stuff Jason….I love bodyweight exercises and incorporate them into my workouts…at least 1 per week sometimes 2…thanks mate

  6. Pablo L July 20, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    Awesome info, as usual. I’ve been starting to incorporate many of these exercises in my workouts. Thanks, Jason.

  7. Jason July 20, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    I am going to have to add Handstand Pushups to my lift of exercises. Not something I have done in the past put I think it would be a good addition.

    Stuart McGill, recommends people stay away from hanging leg raise. But if you ignore his advice, I do agree that is a great ab development exercise.

    That girl doing the pistol is hot. I have seen a few of her videos.

  8. Paul Alexander July 20, 2011 at 12:38 pm #


    Great article! This how we roll @ the Monkey Bar Gym. Body weight exercises, kettlebells for overload, Tubing and other fun things like the power wheel. You can get hormone response out of any exercise as long the overload is great enough. Is it easier to do w/ barbells, yes, are these sound exercises to improve strength, power and athletic performance? Absolutely!
    Don’t ignore the power of body weight training. Jon Hinds, founder of MBG only does body weight pushups, Planches, Tigers and adds tubing for resistance. He has hopped on a bench and done 315 6x w/o benching for 2 years+. Matt one of our trainers can do full pistols for reps w/ 2 28K bells, what do you think he could squat? (He is 6’5″!). Tim, another trainer is doing 5 pullups w/ a 32k bell, he is 5’11” and well over 200 lbs. My point is you can add size and strength through many ways, the key is to get an overload!!

    Paul Alexander, MS, CSCS, CNT

  9. Uncle Timbo July 20, 2011 at 12:39 pm #

    You’re right about joint health and safety with BW exercises. Recently I was doing a warmup set of incline DB presses with only 30lb DBs. The tendinitis in my right elbow started flaring up immediately, so I put down the DBs on like the 4th rep. I got off the bench and dropped down and did 10 pain-free pushups.

    I will never bench again. That’s how I developed the tendinitis in the first place. I’m planning on getting as strong as possible with a variety of pushups. Thanks for the great article!

  10. Liam July 20, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

    That was one of the most interesting articles you’ve done,a very good read! When i actually have some good time on my hands i shall put pistol squats into my routine and a few other body-weight exercises,(looking forward to trying out handstand push-ups) I do include quite a few bodyweight moves already,love doing dips,pull-ups/chin -ups and press-ups. Though i now have to add weight to them as im getting pretty strong with them.

  11. Raymond- ZenMyFitness July 20, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

    I travel a lot for work and use to stress out I couldn’t get find a gym but now I have learned to love body weight exercises it doesn’t matter i can get as kickass workout without leaving the hotel room.
    Great list some I’ve never heard of some but I will make sure I’ll find out how to do them.

  12. John Phung July 20, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    The neck is an under emphasized (yet important) body part, so I would add in neck bridges & reverse neck bridges to the list.

    But nice compilation of bodyweight exercises!

  13. John July 20, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

    @Ricardo: I think what jay means by 75% is “bodyweight exercises” is that about 75% of his exercises have your body moving through space which is usually far more effective than traditional weight training where your body remains motionless and your limbs are moving. So we can assume weighted pull ups and dips to be “bodyweight exercises”. Geddit?

  14. John July 20, 2011 at 5:20 pm #

    Probably the most exciting article I’ve ever seen here. I am a huge bodyweight exercises fan. I just wanna know though, does adding Glute Ham Raises to a bodyweight program of pistols help strengthen the hamstrings more effectively than doing pistols or is that unnecessary?
    One of my most favourite articles. Keep it up Jay!

  15. Sean Barker July 20, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

    Great stuff Jay!

    I LOVE heavy gym workouts too but with the nice summer weather I ditched the gym the last few days, grabbed my Vibrams and Blast Straps and hit my local soccer park and did hill sprints, soccer net post pullups, incline bleacher pushups, blast strap pushups, rows, curls and tri extensions off the top of the net posts, felt awesome!!!

  16. Chad July 20, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    Jason, Thanks for this post i have just started using alot more bweight exercises and adding strong man stuff to my workouts but i obviously am not building up to it properly as i am starting to get the pain you spoke of in my knees i assume from pistols and my elbows are starting to hurt to . Any advice to remedy it would be greatly appreciated .Thanks from a 40 yr old overworked contractor!
    Hey i just wanted to tell you what i mean when i say thanks your site is truly inspirational and makes me want to continually get stronger every workout .Your enthusiasm and love of what we do is infectious ! So THANKS for making me, better .

  17. austin July 20, 2011 at 10:51 pm #

    hey jay,
    what about the deadbug???

  18. Matt July 20, 2011 at 11:38 pm #

    Awesome post mate! Rate it!

  19. Carl July 20, 2011 at 11:51 pm #

    Brilliant!! I always enjoy your new posts and work but this is one of the best exercise reads I’ve had in ages!

    I love bodyweight work (in fact two months ago I gave up my gym membership for home workouts based around bw and kettlebells exclusively) and in my book, in terms of shows of strength, there’s really not much more impressive than watching elite gymnasts, the Cirque guys or the Bar-Barians throw their bodies around.

    Two quick questions:

    1) I assume a combination of swings and farmers walks would do the job for posterior chain work (I don’t have kbs heavy enough to make deadlifts a challenge)?

    2) Any plans to write an exclusively bodyweight strength building programme/product? Something based on those with home gyms/minimal equipment with a sliding scale of suggestions on how to equip your home gym (bw only, dumbells and bw etc) would be a fantastic read and you’d have my money straight away! Just an idea as if you’re not busy enough!

    Keep up the great work!

  20. dave July 21, 2011 at 12:18 am #

    hey Jason
    is it a good idea to add bodyweight exercises practice during the off day or during training day at the end .

  21. Luke H July 21, 2011 at 1:55 am #

    Cool list Jason, but now I have no excuse while I am on holiday! The press/chin up has been a mainstay of my workout programs for a number of years. I probably wouldn’t try to implement these exercises to my new clients as I don’t think they would get the muscle gains compared to dumbbell and barbell weights….. I haven’t given them a decent enough try so I might be wrong. Thanks again for the informative and quite innovative post.



  22. Stephane Robert July 21, 2011 at 6:12 am #

    It’s interesting how the popularity of bodyweight exercises is coming back.

    Awesome stuff as usual Jason!

  23. Brett July 21, 2011 at 6:42 am #

    Hey Jason.

    Love the article! At the end of each exercise you list what an impressive amount of reps is for someone. I would love to hear where you’re personally at with each of these exercises.

    Thanks and keep up the great work!

  24. Tracy L July 21, 2011 at 9:56 am #

    Awesome. I’ve been getting into handbalancing lately. One exercise that I like to do is handstand shrugs with my feet against a wall. Saw a great photo last year of MMA fighter Tim Kennedy doing uneven handstand pushups with one hand on a medicine ball and his feet against a wall. Now that is Bad Ass! Keep up the great info and inspiration!

  25. Brandon Cook July 21, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    As I continue on this journey I find myself incorporating more and more bodyweight exercises. In fact, like you mentioned doing squats and deadlifts could be the only barbell lifts and bodyweight could be the rest. I love the rings and they really add a new dimension to basic exercises like push-ups, pull-ups and dips.

    Love this list! ;)

  26. chappo July 21, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    Bodywieght exercises are my go to for summer. Climbing, hiking/sprinting, and any man challenge that you can think of. I love it. Thanks for the fresh ideas.

  27. Jamin Thompson July 21, 2011 at 5:55 pm #

    SOLID post bro! It’s funny I was just talking about this stuff with a buddy of mine (literally 20 minutes ago) who recently built a ring set in his back yard. I’m actually going to go up there this weekend for a test run ring workout….hopefully I don’t get my ass kicked too bad lol. I’ll pass this post along to him, he will definitely appreciate it.

  28. Tim July 21, 2011 at 6:02 pm #

    Hi Jason!

    For the dips with chest emphasis, when you say to flex at the hip and holding legs in front of you, is that like doing dips in an L position?

  29. Ollie Chapman July 22, 2011 at 4:58 am #

    Nice post Jason, I love body-weight exercises, the feeling of achievement and master your own body is always good when you do muscle ups or some handstand push ups and I’m a big fan of just simple movements as progressions in bodyweight movement as well such as hand walking and swinging back and forth on the parallel bars handstand holds against the wall etc..

    And you’ve got to love weighted dips on gymnastic rings as they are awesome for building the chest and triceps.

  30. Scott July 22, 2011 at 10:03 am #

    Great info on here. I do wish there were links to at least pictures of all these exercises, if not videos. I don’t know much about bodyweight exercises, and I have no idea what exercises like inverted face pull variations or a hanging leg raise look like. But I’ll look around to see what they look like.

  31. Gianni July 23, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    Thanks J, another post I was hoping for. I am really wishing these articles lead up to a Renegade Bodyweight ebook like Minimalist Training did. Kettlebells thrown in too would siiiick!! :)

  32. Brian King July 23, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    I echo the thoughts of others re a bodyweight training manual. An e-book with instructions, progressions, programs would be great. I would snap it up in a second.

  33. Alexandru Constantin July 23, 2011 at 3:46 pm #

    yeahh maan,you should totally do videos with these…and explain a bit about each of them. :P

  34. Abdiel Rodriguez July 23, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    Great article. Seeing you move more toward health and natural function of the body is a clear indication that you are above a lot of coaches in terms of human body understanding. And I would like to see that article base solely on push ups variations. I also think that a great mix would be the exercises you just listed plus some heavy kettlebell swings/doble swings.

  35. AJ July 24, 2011 at 9:31 am #

    This has to be up there as one of the best things I have ever read online, free or paid. Maybe my opinion is biased because I recently got into body weight stuff, but seriously, amazing. “Ass you can set a drink on” I died when I read that. I use that line all the time. Thanks Jason.

  36. Dale July 25, 2011 at 9:19 am #

    Currently, my strength workout en toto:

    (A) one-arm pushup progressions, feet-elevated inverted rows and box pistols

    (B) handstand pushups, pullups and single-legged deadlifts

  37. Adam July 26, 2011 at 4:19 am #

    Another good bodyweight movement….inverted row with your feet in the power wheel. Worth chucking them in when inverted rows become a little easy

  38. Isaac Wilkins July 26, 2011 at 5:30 am #

    Awesome list, man.

    My clients are always amazed at the amount of bodyweight stuff we do and how we don’t abandon it as they progress. Instead, once they master the basics we start rolling into some of these more advanced exercises and they just keep getting stronger and their joints hurt less and less. We still do a lot of heavy barbell stuff, but there’s always some bodyweight movements in my programs, and I’m noticing more and more from good trainers out there.

    Bodyweight isn’t just for wrestlers and gymnasts anymore.


    PS My goal for the Fall: A couple of good handstand push-ups with hands on blocks at over 250 lb of bodyweight!

  39. jesse July 27, 2011 at 7:04 am #

    …thanks for the article. it’s a good read. i would have enjoyed it better if the author would have assumed the reader was unfamiliar with [each] exercise and explained it as such. I am a fan of bodyweight exercises. I asked the question the other day, “If I improve the number of pullups I’m doing, after a weight loss, is it like cheating?” j/k of course.

  40. John August 3, 2011 at 1:36 am #

    Hey Jason and everyone
    I am a bit late to comment on this post but can anyone recommend me what they think is the best bodyweight/gymnastics book I can get for my money. A book that contains all the good stuff like handstands and muscle ups and maybe front levers. Wanna make a very wise choice. I highly appreciate anyone’s comments.

  41. Raymond August 3, 2011 at 2:45 am #

    @ John,
    only one I know that would fit the bill is “CONVICT CONDITIONING” by Paul Wade?
    Pushups, muscle ups, handstand pushups, hardcore bodyweights etc
    You’ll find heaps of reviews and on youtube ..good luck with it

    • John August 3, 2011 at 11:32 pm #

      @Raymond- ZenMyFitness: Thanks a lot. It has good reviews. Seems like a wise choice.

  42. Steve M August 4, 2011 at 10:40 am #

    Great article I would buy your E book if you create one on the progressions on each of those exercises.

  43. Chetan August 19, 2011 at 1:52 am #

    can i do AMAP reps for body weight excercise?

  44. Lee December 23, 2011 at 1:25 pm #

    This is a very good article. One exercise that was overlooked was the back lever. When I do these I feel it the same way in my paraspinal muscles as I do from a heavy deadlift day.
    It also intensely works the core, chest, shoulders and biceps. It took me about 6 weeks to hold a back lever for even a couple of seconds. I am now up to 48 seconds on a good day. BTW, the front lever is much harder to learn. Although I am solid on the back lever, I still cannot hold a straight out front lever after several months of trying.

  45. Seb January 6, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    Love this article, I’ve been experimenting with different exercises over the past couple of years as I rebuild some fitness after years of sitting on my arse and being generally unhealthy. I have built some strength with weights but have found the body weight exercises I started doing recently to give a more balanced and natural growth of strength and body shape. Most of my mates have already left the gym or just use it occasionally for a few machines.

    Thanks for the thought provoking article, heaps of ideas in here :-)

  46. Clint Schubert January 12, 2012 at 9:09 am #

    Hey Jason,

    Great stuff man! I found your site from Craig B. I recently started focusing on my health, building muscle and improving my fitness level. I was a long-distance runner growing up and have always been a skinny guy.I think these bodyweight exercises should help me pack on the muscle! Thanks for all the great info.


    PS. Found a small typo on #8. Used a bracket instead of parenthesis!

  47. Brad Campbell January 12, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

    Hey Jason, awesome post bro… even “awesomer” is that you took the number one spot in big G for “bodyweight exercises” (CB gave you a shout out on his newsletter)…

    Congrats man and keep up the excellent content.


  48. Jeff January 12, 2012 at 8:29 pm #

    Great article on bodyweight exercises. I found by doing Crossfit, that I’ve been doing many more bodyweight exercises than I ever had before, and realize that by doing the exercises correctly my muscles really start to burn. You have a great list here and I look forward to pushing myself through the list so that I have these mastered. These are especially good for those of us that spend alot of time in hotels and are on the run. Cheers.

  49. Isaac @ crossfit Victoria, Tx January 13, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

    A must read!! We use all these on a daily basis!! Thanks for sharing!!

  50. Koosh February 11, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    I have to admit that the first time I read this I thought Jay was full of crap. OK not full of crap but maybe that this was a flavor of the month. Then I started his Bad Intentions program that he posted on the Inner Circle. I had even turned down his advice earlier to do Uncaged because I was being a big wuss and did not want to learn new exercises. But I thought about it some more, and Jay is always gold, so I took these to a local trainer to make sure my form was good. I found that these BW exercises are the BOMB:

    – I can do MAX effort on shoulders and not blow them out
    – rings are serious business. Dips and levers work you deep, and there is no coming back once you start to fail. I can tell from my soreness that I have not worked these bodyparts in years/ever.
    – better recovery time
    -easier on joints, which is important for me at 40

    Sorry for doubting you Jay- its just the Bostonian in me :)


    • Jason Ferruggia April 9, 2012 at 8:17 am #

      @Koosh- Haha. Thanks man, I appreciate the feedback. Good stuff.

  51. Mysty April 8, 2012 at 1:09 am #

    These are fantastic thank you. I recently came down with a nasty cold and couldn’t hit the gym for 3 weeks and I feel no motivation to go back, at least back to the weights. I want something new and that brings more strength than weights can! I feel stagnated with weights. Like I reached my potential & I need something more. I’ve been doing body weight exercises in the park (outdoors) the past week and I look forward to trying out these exercises!! Thanks so much for sharing!

  52. Danny April 10, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    Great article Jason! I frequently read your pieces on Men’s Health & Men’s Fitness and I admire your knowledge and intellect. In addition to the push-up variations you mentioned, I would add progressions with strength bands/chains as well as the TRX. Muscle Ups/Pull Ups/Chin Ups are all amazing exercises. All of the lower body exercises you highlighted are fantastic, especially the posterior chain ones like Single Leg RDL/hip thrust.
    Although I hope readers of this article don’t rely solely on these bodyweight exercises for achievement of pure physical strength. I’m sure you and I would both agree that barbell squats, deadlifts, bench press and overhead press (first 2 especially) are 4 exercises that would have to be incorporated by anyone seeking strength and lean muscle.

    All in all, this is an amazing piece. I do more than half of these exercises.
    Keep up the good work!!

  53. Gary Deagle April 13, 2012 at 8:36 am #

    I keep re-visiting this article to look at the girl in the pink.

  54. Mik April 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

    Glute raise without a partner? Use the lat pulldown machine. Kneel on the seat, put your ankles under the bar where your knees would go if you were doing a lat pulldown. Then Lower yourself slowly, fingers hit the floor and push yourself up – just like the guy in the video. You will get strange looks, and strong hamstrings.

  55. Kelvin April 25, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

    hey Jason

    What does the dynamic movement of the front lever exercise actually look like? Is it like doing a row but with your body in a ‘front lever’ position?

    • Jason Ferruggia June 7, 2012 at 9:26 am #

      @Kelvin- You start in the dead hand position of a chin up then lift your body up so that it’s parallel with the floor. VERY advanced exercise.

  56. Danny April 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    Hey jason i have been doing bodyweight right from the beggining and have gained from 130 to 155 still kind of thin BUT i have made progress and with these bodyweight exercises it will only help me. So thanks man i am probably going to use the hip thrust to help my lower back along with the single leg raise for the lower back. I am attempting the one arm chin up and push up and have also been doing handstands not completely against the wall because i cant do it with full range of motion but yea those are the upper and i am also doing pistol squats for lower. The squat is like make sure feet waist level apart then go down sticking your hips back and going down until your hamstring touches calf then burst up with driving your hips while keep tension on the legs?

  57. Brian May 3, 2012 at 11:30 am #


    Have you written any programs based solely on bodyweight training. If you haven’t, is anything in the works? I prefer bodyweight training because it can be done anywhere and I don’t have to drive to a gym to workout. I can simply walk to the park.

    Anyway, I sometimes struggle putting exercises together into a workout and knowing how many sets/reps to complete. Was just curious if you had published a program on the topic.


    • Jason Ferruggia June 7, 2012 at 9:27 am #

      @Brian- No. I don’t. But we get into it in more detail in the Renegade Inner Circle.

    • Kevin May 1, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

      I second this! I love to do bodyweight workouts, it’s so much more flexible and can be done anywhere.

      I love the gym too.

      But nothing beats a badass bodyweight workout out in the sunshine.

  58. Paul May 18, 2012 at 12:13 am #

    Wow I think I will be trying some of these exercises. I really like body weight exercises. Who needs a gym.

    • mark July 16, 2012 at 11:38 am #

      there are some good exercises on here if I got to 20 I would be very happy too..

  59. Brandon May 30, 2012 at 10:52 am #

    I like the fact that I do at least one thing from this list each day I train. I have a question about pushups though. I’m doing decline pushups on one of my upper body days. Once I hit the number of reps I’m shooting for, what’s the next step to increase difficulty? Should I make them weighted or put my feet higher? Thanks Jay.

  60. bobby June 3, 2012 at 5:32 am #

    who is the girl with the big ass ??

  61. Eugene June 6, 2012 at 5:02 am #

    AT some point I want to do only bodyweight exercises for a month or so, these are some impressive workouts, some of them I never knew before, awesome post Jason.

  62. Kemo Marriott June 8, 2012 at 12:10 am #

    It’s all about bodyweight man. I like to take these exercises and mix them up even more. So with Push ups for example, experiment with different hand positions to create new neurological pathways to parts of muscles that may not be used to being stimulated. Or try and involve the transverse plane by pushing rotating the torso to one side as i descend- this stimulates more proprioceptors and gets the muscles to react in ways that it may not be used to! Cheers for the Tips Jason.

  63. Alex Backe June 18, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    Hey man,
    Just wanted to thank you for the kickass post. Would it be best to rotate pushing muscles – pulling muscles – legs – rest day when using these to insure the build back of the muscles? Or do you mix it up and use a lot every day? I’ve always been confused on this. I’ve always done split exercise days, but I see many people doing close to full-body workouts in the gym. What do you do/recommend?

    Thanks again for the great post. Huge huge help.

    • ami October 29, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

      I train with weights only these days. (Except 100 pushups now and then). I namely broke my shoulders doing excessively pullups and chinups.

      I split this month and 3 weeks in the next one so, that I train 3 days, rest 1 day and then 3 more days with 6 different workouts with rather light weights, except in doing Squats. Last time I did 15 reps with 140 kg (308 lbs). This is a must for anyone wanting to increase his strength.
      I though appreciate very much the persons training with bodyweight only, but do you really think, that it will give you all, that you want? Great power is only possible to receive with great weights. My record in parcial squats from 2010 is 250 kg. As a young man I did 410 kg ( 903 lbs ). Now I am 75 years and able to do over 20 up-hill sprints, because my feet are strong enough to do so.
      Go on moving people. Live long and be strong!

  64. chris jackson June 20, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    I really like your list. There is enough here to keep anyone busy. I was surprised you left ‘Burpees’ off your list though. Burpees are great for overall conditioning and can be done anywhere. Keep up the good work.

  65. trip June 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    Thats awesome, thanks, Ive been going to the gym 7 days a week for the last 2 months and I have come back exausted every day and I havent gotten anywhere. Im going to try this one

  66. kevin redman June 23, 2012 at 4:51 am #

    serious post love doing 2 and 10 but will give some of the others a go thanks

  67. joe June 23, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    appears to be a very rational method of strength and Conditioning

    perhaps similar to Jack O Lane—–????????????????????

    otherwise, very impressive personal training methods

  68. Michael Finlayson June 24, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    Hi Jason,

    My workout isn’t to the intense levels that you guys go through, but damn it looks like fun, and something for me to work towards.

    Have fun,


  69. Michael June 28, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    Great article. I found a lot of information I will try on my next lifting day.

  70. Jim Lidner July 2, 2012 at 6:35 am #

    That is a very comprehensive list I dont think you left any muscle goups untouched. I have to admit that that chick in pink is a good selling point for your routines. Seriously a great list of workouts.

  71. sam July 4, 2012 at 6:22 am #

    that’s a lot of exercise gonna try it…

  72. John mcgartland July 9, 2012 at 6:00 am #

    Loved the excercises getting back into fitness after an illness so thanks for the descriptions and videos really hard core to start with but will persevere

  73. Jae @ Combat Sports Fitness July 12, 2012 at 4:01 am #

    I am glad I discovered your blog. This is a really informative post. I will try to use some of the exercises you suggested.

    ps. Who is that gorgeous uber-babe in pink?

  74. Rachel Boller July 31, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    This is a great collection. I’m a huge fan of body weight exercises because you can take them with you almost anywhere (provided they don’t need a chin up bar). Definitely looking into picking up a power wheel. Not quite at the level yet of walking on my hands (I’m just happy to be able to do a hand stand period!) and love the idea of combining abs and shoulders.

  75. JC August 16, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    The girl in the picture. Wow. I mean wow.

    • Jaz September 27, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

      I love this article. Will use the workouts to help me get fit. Thanks for the great post.

  76. Adrian August 22, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

    Any chance you will do a complete workout package based on Body Weight movements?

    • Jason Ferruggia September 29, 2012 at 8:42 am #

      Yes, I’m going to do that very soon.

  77. izzo September 2, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    number 14 Best pic ever

  78. fitness programs September 11, 2012 at 12:13 am #

    Great post. I was checking cоnstantly this blog and I
    аm inspired! Very useful info specificаlly the laѕt
    ρаrt :) Ι maintain such informаtion muсh.

    I useԁ to bе ѕeeκing this ρartiсular infoгmation foг a long time.
    Тhanκ yοu and bеst of luck.

  79. RJ September 15, 2012 at 6:54 pm #

    Very good. But, I agree with Chris. Burpees are so beneficial. Also have a huge cardio component to them.

  80. will September 19, 2012 at 4:22 pm #

    this is some good stuff .. just wish my gym had it
    . when do you do these., i mean what days do you do what?

  81. Dave September 25, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    Great stuff i’ll definately be adding some of these things to my training sessions MPF

  82. Daran in Japan September 29, 2012 at 11:57 pm #

    Im a recently started 42 year old white male and no matter HOW MANY push ups i do, i dont look like the girl in the picture .. Should i eat more bananas? :P
    Great work as always Jason .. Execellent collection .. Be good as downloadable pdf with a few pictures too? for those of us alphabetically challenged :)

  83. Jaswinder Singh October 14, 2012 at 7:26 am #

    I have throughly enjoyed reading & watching the video’s here. I am currently doing my workouts with Kettlebells. For variation, I am going to be trying out some of the workouts here.

    Love the posts.

  84. Matthias October 17, 2012 at 5:56 am #

    Awesome exercises, really looking forward to try this out! Do you think these 20 exercises will cover the whole body, or do I have do add something?


  85. Jaswinder Singh October 19, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    Hi Jason, question for you please.

    I workout 20 mins (using kettlebells) everyday except weekends, its taking too long to shift the fat in my belly area.

    Are there any light execrise/ workouts to work the fat in the belly area? kettlebells are very good but at times I find it hard going.


  86. Stone November 6, 2012 at 12:09 pm #

    Some awesome exercises right there, boom! Thanks for sharing.

  87. Marcus November 21, 2012 at 1:11 am #

    No kidding!

  88. Dan December 30, 2012 at 6:40 am #

    That guy in the first picture seems to be really ripped. Rope climb is actually one of my favourites.

  89. Wayne Atwell January 4, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    Great list of exercises. I see a lot of my favorite exercises and few cool new exercises I plan to try out.

  90. Scott Umberger February 28, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    The rope pulls are a hell of a lot cheaper than the machine especially if you own a private sports performance training facility. Obviously there are limitations with a single rope but it’s one hell of a workout. Great list. Always fun to throw into workouts for variety and a new challenge.

  91. Isaac March 22, 2013 at 7:52 pm #

    Great list of exercises. I enjoy body weight works. I dread l sits however. My blog is specifically gear toward body weight workouts without equipment. It would be nice to work some of these exercises into my own routine

    • isaac March 26, 2013 at 1:56 am #

      Ill have to implement the back bridge into my workout routine and fitness blog ( people too often forget to exercise the back and the back bridge is just another arsenal of many body weight exercises to do. should be fun making up some workout routines. I’m sure youll see some of them at my website i listed earlier.

  92. isaac March 26, 2013 at 1:54 am #

    Ill have to implement the back bridge into my workout routine and fitness blog ( people too often forget to exercise the back and the back bridge is just another arsenal of many body weight exercises to do. should be fun making up some workout routines. I’m sure youll see some of them at my website i listed earlier.

  93. mark April 4, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    Your website is the real deal. I prefer working at home over the gym. It’s a great time saver to use your own body and your own dwelling. Body weight training portable and will be with you every time that you travel.

  94. isaac April 4, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    i like the inverted shrug. its great for hitting the traps like explained.

  95. Dirk April 11, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    Woman’s name is Jaime Koeppe and she is Canadian.
    Awesome post by the way, instant bookmark

  96. Maria Whitman April 15, 2013 at 1:01 am #

    Great list.

    I already do a few of these but most of these are new to me which is great. I particularly love the bridge as it great for relieving tension in my back. The L-sit looks interesting as the core is one part of my body I really need to work on. Thanks for sharing

  97. Ian Myburgh May 9, 2013 at 2:21 am #

    All above mentioned exercises are brilliant! !!!!!!!!!. Doing them almost every day now and seeing great results! !!!!!!

  98. Mike May 23, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

    Awesome list of exercises, Jason. I’ve always done more of the “traditional” type workouts and never really mixed things up like some of the exercises you’ve mentioned above (rope climb, hand walking, etc.). Are you able to add pictures/videos to each exercise listed so someone who is unfamiliar (as myself) with a lot of these can actually visualize how each one works without trying on a whim and then hurting/straining something? Also, that girl is incredibly sexy! Hands down, perfect ass!

  99. Johnny June 11, 2013 at 6:50 am #

    Hey Jason, great article! I admire what you’ve been able to put together at your website. Getting really good results from exercising is not easy when you don’t have the best genetics (trust me I know) but it’s really amazing what you can achieve with bodyweight exercises alone.

    Keep up the good work :).

  100. Kelvin June 19, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    Really awesome Workouts especially the dips which I use for chest, arms and Lats thats a real kool workout and once done correctly you actually get this burning sensation in your chest and lats which makes you feel real great and really awesome girl but my girl have a fantastic body just like her so I dont have to admire a picture when I can look at my girl haha anyways nice article it really encouraged me and opened me out to more different forms. Hey Bro I am interested in purchasing a chin ups bar I am not finding any good one so could you give me access or post one to me and I will pay you.

  101. Eric Pinola June 21, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    Great workout options – I’ll start trying the muscle up’s tonight!

  102. Clayton June 24, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

    One of my favorite no weight moves for abs is to hang from a bar/rings and do either knees up to your elbows or feet to hands. It works great and helps on grip strength. I got it from crossfit and really like it.

  103. brandon July 11, 2013 at 1:16 am #

    awesome workout

  104. JJ July 15, 2013 at 9:03 am #

    Well said!

  105. Nasty Nate July 17, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

    Solid list. One thing that I think is really important to mention is that in order to get even average at handstands, is you have to do them a lot! I mean make it a point to get upside down damn near every day.

    For any of these movements, I like training with frequency AKA greasing the groove. Doing small sets spread out over time. But with such a wide array of exercises and skills to develop, it’s tough to fit it all in.

    Finally, with some of the harder stuff like levers, planches, handstands, and L-sits, a little bit goes a long way. Especially if you don’t have a gymnastics background, the harder skill work is the bodyweight equivalent of pulling heavy singles. Get after it.

  106. Dave Smith July 18, 2013 at 8:57 am #

    Great exercise choices. I like to add some explosive moves to get the fast-twitch fibers involved. Plyometric push-ups or different versions of squat jumps do the trick.
    Thanks for the ideas!

  107. Mike July 27, 2013 at 7:12 am #

    Hi jay, this is my favourite website for advice as I train using bodyweight (wanting to obtain a body like a gymnast as I find it more impressive than a bodybuilder personally). My favourite exercise is handstand push ups. I have been working them for a months now but I always get stuck in the bottom position, trying to push myself back up. I do negatives coming down but I was wondering if you could tell me a better way to get stronger pushing power at the bottom of the rep. Thanks :)

    • Greg September 6, 2013 at 10:26 am #

      I’m assuming you mean headstand push ups? True Handstand push ups are where your hands reach your shoulders.
      ButIf you do mean headstand push ups try Kipping headstands push ups as your next progression. Google ‘Kipping headstand push up’ but basically get into a headstand about 2-3 feet away from a wall (facing the wall). Make sure you are forming a triangle between your head and hands for stability, your hands shouldnt be in line with your head. Bring your knees to your chest whilst keeping your back flat( ideally you should be able to bring your knees to your chest from off the florr) then kick your legs skyward and during that motion push yourself up. Then when your feet reach the wall do the negative, back into the headstand. When your in the headstand ready to kip look at where the floor joins wall, your eye positioning will affect your body shape which in turn will affect where your feet end up, ie on the wall or if you look too high up the wall, on your ass on the floor.
      When you can crank out a few sets of 8 – 10 then you can move onto getting into a headstand but with legs straight, then You fall, instead of Kipping, towards the wall and use that momentum to help you push through into the handstand push up. Start from a few feet away and as you crank out sets of 8 – 10 move a little closer until blam, you don’t need anymore momentum.
      Remember to put a folded towel under your head before doing this. Also Before doing any of this make you can get into a headstand and bring your knees to your chest whilst maintaining a flat back. If youre not strong enough to do that you ain’t strong enough to do a headstand push up with proper form. Also worth practising the Kipping HeSPU without the wall, so you just land on the floor in a plank position. That way you’ll get a feel for the Kipping movement first. Enjoy!

    • Till December 21, 2013 at 10:23 am #

      Hey Mike, practice negatives twice a week for 5-10 singles each. Try to do them very slowly. After the singles, do a few sets of very strict pike presses.