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Six amazing bodyweight exercises, and some more.

Here is a short list of six really great bodyweight exercises which will target all of the main muscle groups in your body. You might find some of these exercises to be too easy or too difficult for you, for which we offer some alternatives you could try out instead. Also, if you are really interested in calisthenics and want to learn in more detail how you can build yourself up to be able to perform all of the exercises which you find most difficult, then we highly recommend you to check out a book like convict conditioning. Now, be safe and have some fun with these amazing bodyweight exercises!

Remark: Targets are just for reference, we encourage you to set your own ;)!

1. Developing your pressing muscles

The Push-up

Main muscles worked: Triceps, Chest and Shoulders

The push-up is an all time favorite bodyweight exercise of p.e. teachers and military drill instructors but there is good reason for this. When performed correctly the push-up can be a tough and challenging exercise which works more than just the chest and triceps as is often misjudged. Other muscles worked isometrically (by having to contract constantly) include the lats, the spinal muscles, the abdomen and waist, the glutes and the quadriceps. What constitutes perfect form is always a matter of opinion and will depend on what you want to get out of the exercise but here we focus on gaining strength and conditioning yourself to be able to move towards more advanced and difficult versions of the exercises. With this goal in mind we would advise you to perform the push-up in a slow fashion (see Timing below for more details) along the guidelines presented in the following link:

“How to Do a Perfect Push Up”.

Timing: Take two seconds to get down to the bottom position, half second pause at the bottom, and two seconds to get back to the starting position before immediately going back down.

Target: Aim at getting at least 20 push-ups in perfect form before trying out harder exercises

Alternatives

Too hard: Try out half push-ups or kneeling push-ups

Too easy: Try out close push-ups, inclined push-ups or one arm push-ups

 

2. Building your arms and a strong back

The Pull-up

Main muscles worked: Biceps and Lats

The pull-up is another great compound bodyweight exercise which works a larger number of muscles including your back shoulders and arms. There are many variations to the pull-up including a close vs. a wide grip or the palms of hands facing inwards aka supinated grip vs. the palms of hands facing outward aka pronated grip (although some might argue that when employing a supinated grip we are talking about chin-ups). Just make sure to use good form as with any other exercise. Here is a great video where you can learn how to perform a pull up with perfect form:

Timing: Take two seconds to get to up, one second pause at the top, and two seconds to get back to the starting position before immediately going back up.

Target: Aim at getting at least 10 pull -ups in perfect form before trying out harder exercises.

Alternatives

Too hard: Try out inclined pull-ups or assisted pull-pups.

Too easy: Try out weighted pull-ups or muscle-ups.

 

3. Standing on building the shoulders of giants

The Hand Stand

Main muscles worked: Shoulders, arms and the abdominal core

The hand stand is an amazing compound exercise delivering a full body isometric workout as well as training your balancing and motor skills. In addition, it will allow you to develop incredible strength in your shoulders. However, the hand stand is an advanced exercise and you could easily hurt yourself if you’re trying it for the first time. Therefore you should slowly build yourself up before even considering attempting an unassisted hand stand for the first time. There are many exercises which can help you to develop the strength and balance you will require to master the unassisted handstand (see the alternatives below for reference). Here is a good video tutorial which should be of great help for teaching you how to slowly approach the hand stand:

Target: Try to hold a hand stand for at least one minute

Alternatives

Too hard: Try out frog stands, head stands, wall assisted hand stands.

Too easy: Try out hand stand push-ups

 

4. Building legs of steel

The Squat

Main muscles worked: Quadriceps

The Squat is often referred as the king of all leg exercises since it is hands down the best exercises you can use to develop your leg muscles. Being another compound exercise, if done correctly, it also trains many other muscle groups like the spinal muscles and the glutes to a greater or lesser extent. So, many will agree that if you had to pick one leg exercise to do for the rest of your life, it should definitely be the Squat. We again have to address the importance of proper form because only by mastering the entire movement properly, will you be able to get the most out of the exercise and avoid any injuries. Watch this video to see how a proper bodyweight squat should be performed:

Timing: Take two seconds to get down to the bottom position, half second pause at the bottom, and two seconds to get back to the starting position before immediately going back down.

Target: Aim at getting at least 30 squats in perfect form before trying out harder exercises.

Alternatives

Too hard: Try out half squats (not going down all the way)

Too easy: Try out pistol squats

 

5. Working on your core

The Planche

Main muscles worked: Core muscles, shoulders and arms

The planche is a really impressive bodyweight exercise which only few people can perform since it requires an very well trained and truly strong body, but with patience and dedication it can be mastered as well. The planche places a great stress on your shoulders, arms and your core muscles and therefore you will have to strengthen all of these regions before even coming close to achieving the full planche.    This is one of the best video tutorials we’ve seen so far for learning how to do the planche, so please enjoy:

Target: Try to hold the planche for 30 seconds.

Alternatives

Too hard: Try out the frog stand, tuck planche or straddle planche.

Too easy: You’re a bad ass mothafucka!

 

6. Blasting your Abs

Hanging Leg Raises

Main muscles worked: Abdominals

Hanging leg raises will help you develop rock hard abs, this does not mean that you will automatically have a stunning six pack once you’ve mastered them, since you can be strong enough to perform perfect leg raises yet still have a layer of fat covering your abs. Nevertheless, if you’re able to perform numerous hanging leg rises with perfect form, then chances are good that you will be in such a great shape that your abs will be visible. The following video will teach you how hanging leg raises should be performed the proper way:

Timing: Take two seconds to get your legs up, one second pause at the top, and two seconds to get back to the starting position before immediately raising your legs back up.

Target: Try to get at least 10 leg raises in perfect form.

Alternatives

Too hard: Try out Knee Raises.

Too easy: Try out Hanging V Raises.

If you are already able to perform all of these bodyweight exercises, as well as the harder alternatives, then you can consider yourself a bodyweight exercises master. However, if you are still struggling even with some of the easier exercises, and thus probably have little experience and knowledge on bodyweight training, then you should do yourself a favor and invest in some education on the topic. This will save you a lot of time and frustration because knowledge is the key. So, again, if you haven’t done so already, we highly recommend you to read a book like Convict Conditioning for this purpose.

Yours truly,

Johnny Z.

 

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One Response to “Six amazing bodyweight exercises, and some more.”

  1. […] go out and run or drive a bicycle. Hell, you don’t even need any of this! You can simply do body weight exercises from the comfort of your home, just start doing something and keep doing it regularly. In the long […]

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