So here we are, all of us, at home. Quarantined and starting to lose our marbles, amirite? Did you know that exercise can help keep you sane? Mm-hmm. I want to show you 10 of the best bodyweight exercises you can do at home that will not only get you in shape but help you chill the eff out!!
I should first let you know that I used to be a personal trainer and an aerobics instructor for my local YMCA a few years ago when I lived in Canada. So I’m not just making this stuff up. I kinda know what I’m talking about, even just a little bit.
Getting Motivated to Work Out at Home
Ooph. Not so easy, right? I get it. Trust me I get it. Even for someone like myself who has stayed healthy and in shape most of her life, once we’ve stopped working out, it’s hard to get motivated to do start exercising again.
We just get kinda lazy and fall into a slump. Don’t feel bad, it happens to a lot of us. Especially now people are feeling so helpless and less than motivated to do anything.
You might like this article I wrote about how to stay motivated to exercise at home. Getting started is the hard part, staying motivated is just as hard.
(this post contains affiliate links so if you make a purchase I make a small commission- affiliate disclosure)
How to find good bodyweight exercises
There are literally a bajillion YouTube videos, and blogs, just like this one you’re reading now, filled with exercise tips and bodyweight exercises but I want to caution you right now: Don’t follow all of them and remember to listen to your body.
You know better than anyone else what you are capable of doing and what limits you have. Please find one or two fitness gurus who you trust and like and stick with them.
Many of them want you to buy their products or sign up for monthly membership stuff and all that’s fine but just be cautious is all I’m saying.
I’m not here to sell you anything. Nudda. I just want to share some really good bodyweight exercises that I’ve been doing recently that I know will help you.
What are your fitness goals?
Are you looking to just tone up a little bit or keep your body moving? Do you want to build some muscle or lose some weight?
The bodyweight exercises I’m going to share with you or simple and easy but are mostly just to stay moving and tone up. If your goal is to lose weight you may want to change up your eating habits and incorporate a little bit of cardio into your workout each week.
You may like this article from Psychology Today on changing eating habits.
If you’re looking to bulk up and build some muscle these bodyweight exercises, though I think are awesome, may not be enough. You may need some free weights or bars. It really all depends on your fitness goals.
Also keep in mind that once you get started working out and feeling on top of the world, your fitness goals may change. You may want to go harder and push yourself to see how far you can go! Yay, you!!
But for now, let’s just stick to getting motivated to work out at home and doing the bodyweight exercises suggested in this article.
Are bodyweight workouts effective?
Hell ya!! Let’s face it, it’s better than doing no exercise at all.
But yes they really are effective. You are using your entire body weight (for many of the exercises) and that’s an awful lot AND a super good workout.
Take pushups for example. Whether you do them military-style or on your knees you are pushing your entire body weight! That’s amazing!!
If you’re looking to lose weight, increase your intensity! Work up a sweat. Kick it up a notch.
20 of the best bodyweight exercises you can do at home
I’m gonna break this up a bit for you. I’ll start with upper body exercises, then we’ll do lower body exercises, some core exercises, and some full-body exercises.
I”m also going to give you a small example of the fitness routine I do here at home myself, all without equipment.
I had a helluva time finding images (that are legal for me to use for the purpose of this blog) of an exercise without free weights. Please keep in mind when viewing the images I have chosen that all these exercises can be done without weights.
Upper Body Exercises
When doing upper body exercises make sure you are standing nice and tall, back straight, tummy tucked in, feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Form is important! And don’t forget to breathe.
Breathe in on the release, breathe out on the exertion.
Yes, believe it or not, you can do these without equipment. I don’t have anything here and I do curls all the time. How you ask? With the power of your mind.
Many of my members in my aerobics class had hand or wrist issues and couldn’t hold or lift weights. I would tell them to use the power of their mind. Here’s how to do that:
- imagine you are trying to pull your hands through a big tub of molasses or peanut butter or some other really thick gooey substance.
- the level of resistance will depend on what you are imagining.
Same theory as above. Use your imagination.
I really liked this pic of a tricep extension because she is using really good form. Remember that you can do this without weights as well. I do all the time!
I do both because I love them both! FYI- tricep exercises target and tone that flabby loose underarm skin so many of us call “batwings”.
And who the heck wants batwing arms when we’re trying to look super cute and sexy in our tank tops and cute summer dresses!!?
You can also do tricep kickbacks which don’t put any strain on the shoulders like the above exercise may do (for those who have shoulder issues).
You can actually do these standing or sitting. Yippee. I always suggest standing so you can work your core and lower body at the same time (balance and strengthen lower back) these are pretty easy to do sitting down as well.
These can be a wee hard to do if you have shoulder issues so please listen to your body. I had a hard time doing front shoulder flies for the longest time due to an injury so I had to discontinue them. Don’t push yourself to the point where you may cause even more damage. It’s just not worth it.
These are great to build upper body strength, something we lose as we age.
I couldn’t find a decent image for this exercise or any other back exercise so please take a minute to check out this great article over at womenshealthmag.com for 17 great back workouts with videos on how to do them.
Chest presses and flies
You can do these lying flat on your back on the floor or even standing up! I do them both ways! Chest presses and flies not only work the chest but also your shoulders too!!
If you happen to have a stability ball kicking around use that too!!
Presses are done almost the same except you don’t extend your arms out like you are flying. They stay close to your sides and you push straight up!
Lower body exercises
There are so many amazing lower body exercises you can do at home using only your body weight but if you’re like me ( or many of us) you have knee (that’s me) or hip issues which greatly limits your ability to do these kinds of exercises.
I feel ya.
Thank God there are so many variations to these bodyweight exercises so while you may not get the full effect from the bodyweight, you still get the exercise and the workout in, and in my books, that’s still a win!!
Probably my least favourite simply because of my old cranky knees but I def do them, just not as many. Lunges are also really good at helping you with balance too.
Please take a good look at her form in the image below. Form is so important in all your exercises.
Squats are so exhausting but so good for your butt and thighs!! Again, make sure your form is good!
Lunges and Squats alternatives
Now for those of you who have a super hard time doing these bodyweight exercises let me share a couple of easy alternatives for you.
I used these all the time in my aerobics classes and the women loved them.
The different variations will still target all the main muscle groups minus the taxing on our knees, ankles, hips or whatever other lower body part hurts you!
Standing nice and tall and about 18″ away from the wall, facing the wall, place your hands at shoulder height on the wall.
Starting with your right leg, slowly lift your leg to the side in a very controlled manner (meaning don’t swing it like you’re swinging a golf club), knee slightly bent, as high as you can comfortably, hold it there for a count of 5 then slowly lower it. Control this motion carefully. That’s where the muscle burn is! Yess!!
For more glute, hamstring and lower back work, still standing in that same position, raise your leg up behind you but careful that you don’t raise it so high you hurt yourself. As always, listen to your body!
I love these just because they are super easy and fun. They work your butt, your hamstrings, and your abs too!
You can do these easily if you have stairs but if you don’t that’s ok. Find a nice solid and sturdy box (not too high or tall) or stepping stool. The goal is to have to step up at the very least 12″, the higher the better.
You really can use a chair too for this but if you have bad knees or hips I’d suggest using something a little shorter for this.
If you do these with enough intensity, you’ll get a good cardio workout in too.
Now while this is a really good ab workout, it also really targets the inner and outer thigh if you focus on those muscle groups.
The wider you open (scissor) your legs, the more of a workout you’ll get for your thighs!!
Let’s move on now to core exercises.
Core exercises and full body exercises
So core exercises are any bodyweight exercise that works your abs, back, hips and your entire core area. This area is very important to exercise and strengthen to help you with posture, balance, and overall strength.
Many of these core exercises also work other muscle groups at the same time. It’s a win-win really.
As always, don’t push yourself too hard. Listen to your body always. And remember, if you are just starting out, you don’t want to push yourself so hard that you won’t be able to move the next day.
Starting out with one of my favourites…
The one thing I love about planks is that there truly are a million variations of planks to help you work every single muscle group in your body. Health.com has this great article to show you more ways to plank!!
For the sake of this article, I’ll show you the basic simple plank.
This is the very basic yet crazy effective plank. Start in this position and hold your pose for as long as you can without killing yourself or losing your form. It may be only 15 seconds and that’s totally ok!! That’s where I started.
Work your way up to 30 seconds and then 45.
Planks work your core but also your arms and legs too. They truly are amazing.
Whether you do these on your knees or military-style there’s no question that push-ups truly are one of the best ultimate bodyweight exercises you can do!
I usually do mine on my knees depending on how strong I’m feeling. I can sometimes do 2 or 3 military-style but they are killers!!!
A classic that truly works. Great for the abs, legs and a bit of a cardio kick too!! This would be a great exercise not only to work out your abs but to help with some weight loss too (as you increase your heart rate and burn calories)
If there aren’t a million ways to do an ab crunch, I swear! I’m going to show you the basic one which is always great for your abs no matter what but if form was ever important, it’s with the ab crunch.
So many people do this incorrectly. If you don’t do it right there’s no point in doing it at all.
See how nice her head is in line with her body and she’s NOT rolling her neck and tucking her chin into her chest? See!!?? This is the proper form. So many of us while holding our hands behind our head tend to push our head forward, hence rolling your neck and tucking chin. Bad bad bad.
You can go back to healthline.com for more variations of the ab crunch.
Jumping jacks/ jogging on the spot
I saved these for last because even though they’re not really bodyweight exercises, they still kinda are. You’re using your whole body to do them but they are more geared to getting your heart rate up and burning calories as opposed to targeting a specific muscle group for toning and strengthening.
Does that kinda make sense?
I’m not a jogger so I usually walk on the spot for about 5 minutes before I start my at home work out. Walking on the spot is a great way to warm up those muscles and get that body ready for a good workout too.
My home workout routine
So I thought I’d share my routine with you just to give you a small example of what home workout might look like. I don’t have any dumbells here so all my exercises are bodyweight exercises.
I do this routine about 4 times a week for three weeks and then I’ll switch up to something slightly similar except I’ll switch up the actual exercise (I’ll do different bicep curls or different ab crunches)
I’m also trying out yoga for the first time in my life so I’ll usually watch a YouTube video for that because I’m clueless.
Iva’s fitness routine
- walk on the spot for about 5 minutes
- about 2 minutes of arm punches and leg kicks
- bicep curls 15 reps
- back rows 15 reps
- chest flies 15 reps
- shoulder flies 15 reps
- squats 10-12
- side leg lifts (standing facing wall) 15 each side
- ab crunches 15
I do this routine about 2-3 times depending on how much time I have or how energetic I feel that day. It’s a full body workout with no equipment!
Remember to stretch after your work. I never stretch before because that’s like trying to stretch out a dried up piece of gum. It doesn’t usually go so well. My warm-up is walking on the spot followed by my arm and leg kicks. All of that wakes up my body to let it know the shit’s about to get real :p
The internet is a gold mine for bodyweight exercises
Like…my God… you can find a million and one bodyweight exercises no matter where you look. And for the most part, you really can’t go wrong. Yes there are gurus who want to sell you stuff, but you’ll still find some decent workout routines too.
I’m happy you found my site and this article. I hope this helps you a little to get started on a fitness routine at home using only bodyweight exercises.
The hardest part of any of it is to get started.
Make the decision, pick today, come up with a workout routine, grab your water bottle and watch some YouTube exercise programs to get you started if you have to ( I did!!) and get moving!!!
ox iva xo