One of the absolute best ways to build a lean, athletic, and healthy body is to perform bodyweight exercises. Too many people blow off bodyweight exercises because they think they are only for beginners, such as push-ups. Others think they are too tough, and don’t even strive to perform them, such as pistols or pull-ups.
Side note: everyone should be doing some form of push-ups. I don’t care if you are a beginner or if you can bench press 1000 pounds. They can benefit everyone.
Another bodyweight exercise everyone should be doing is chin-ups. Forget doing lat pull-downs or using some machine; chin-ups are the ultimate upper body pulling exercise. It is so much more beneficial than pull-downs could ever be. If you only do cable pull-downs in your training, switch over to using your bodyweight today and do some chin-ups. If you can’t perform them on your own, you can do assisted versions (bar at shoulder level in a power rack) where your feet are on the ground and you can use leg drive, or you can use a thick band to wrap around the bar and place your knee or foot in for assistance.
Moving on. Some of the best exercises to help you burn fat and build lean muscle are bodyweight exercises. Here is a quick list of some of the best bodyweight exercises you should be doing.
- -Inverted rows
- -Hand stand push-ups
- -One arm push-ups
- -One arm chin-ups
- -Jump squats
- -Jump split squats
- -Pistols (The ultimate test for lower body strength and mobility. The best way to progress to these is to do one leg squats to a box, and try to lower it each session.)
- -Glute ham raises
Keep in mind there are several variations for every exercise listed above. Furthermore, every exercise is scalable for beginners and advanced trainees. If you did nothing but bodyweight exercises, you could build a strong, lean body with no questions asked. This is good news if you want to workout at home, outside, or while traveling. In fact, I am considering doing an experiment in the future where I train with nothing but bodyweight exercises for an extended period of time.
Another reason I love bodyweight exercises is because they are closed-chain movements whereas most upper body exercises people perform are open-chain movements. Closed-chain movements mean your hands or feet are in contact with a stable surface, such as the floor during push-ups or a fixed bar during chin-ups and dips. An example of an open-chain exercise is a bench press because you are moving a bar through space.
I have heard some people say that if you can’t do the previously listed exercises you have no business lifting weights. I won’t go that far, but there are things bodyweight exercises can offer you that other exercises cannot. For example, push-ups allow you to work your serratus muscles to a much a higher degree than a barbell bench press. This in turn promotes shoulder health, which is very important and often neglected in the general training population.
Some people just don’t have the strength to perform many of the exercises because they are beginner trainees or they have too much body fat. However, like I mentioned earlier, every exercise in that list can be scaled for the beginner and advanced trainee.
If the above explanations haven’t convinced you to start incorporating bodyweight training into your program, perhaps this will. Some of the strongest and leanest athletes perform bodyweight exercises. The best example is gymnasts. Every time the Olympics rolls around people can’t help but notice and comment on the physiques of the men and women who compete in that sport.
Now I’m not saying you’ll get a gymnast’s body from doing bodyweight exercises alone, but it will help take you in the right direction.
If you’re looking for a change in your workout or simply want to take your body to the next level, include a lot of bodyweight training. Truly work on mastering exercises with your bodyweight and your physique and strength will be on a new level.