15 Bodyweight Exercises Everyone Should Be Doing

How does this sound: increased muscle strength, healthier bones and improved balance, coordination and posture, as well as reduced joint pain, risk of injury and even chronic health conditions like osteoporosis? These are just some of the benefits you can enjoy from regular resistance exercise – even when using just your own bodyweight.

Start with these bodyweight exercises for strength, conditioning and mobility that, frankly, everyone should include in their weekly routine. Whether you’re new to exercise or a seasoned veteran, they should provide the foundations for a fitter, stronger, happier body now and long into the future.

Bodyweight Exercises For Strength

Fitness trainer and online coach Ila Divina has recommended two core moves, two lower-body exercises and an upgrade on an upper-body staple for all-over strength.

Dead bug

Targets: core, abs, lower back

Don’t let the name put you off – this is a superb core-strengthening move and will help you avoid developing lower-back pain. Lie on your back with your arms pointing straight up. Raise your legs and bend your knees at 90° so your lower legs are parallel with the floor. Press your lower back into the floor to engage your deep-lying core muscles. Keeping your lower back pressed down, lower one leg and the opposite arm until they are just above the floor, then raise them back to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.

Split squat

Targets: glutes, quads, hamstrings

A great warm-up exercise and one that helps you progress from both lunges and squats. Stand with one foot in front of you and the other behind you. Don’t line them up directly in front of each other – keep some lateral space between them to make it easy to maintain your balance. Keeping your torso upright throughout, bend at both knees to lower until your back knee is just off the floor, then rise back to the start. Take two seconds to lower, and two seconds to come back up. Do all your reps on one side, then switch legs.

Cossack squat

Targets: glutes, quads, hamstrings

Stand with your feet double shoulder-width apart and your hands together in front of your chest. Bend one knee to lower to one side, pushing your hips back and driving your knee forwards in line with your toes, which will protect your knee. Keep the other leg straight and your torso upright as you lower. You should feel a light stretch in the back of the straight leg so only lower as far as is comfortable. Push back up to the start and repeat on the other side.

Side plank

Targets: core, abs, obliques, glutes

The side plank targets the deep stabiliser core muscles, and strengthening them helps reduce the risk of back pain. Lie on your right side with one foot stacked on top of the other, and your torso propped up on your right forearm, with your elbow under your shoulder and your forearm pointing away from your body. Raise your hips and squeeze your core and glutes to hold your body in position. Once your target time is complete, or your form falters, swap sides.

Hand-release press-up

Targets: chest, shoulders, triceps, core

Divina says this is the best way to learn press-ups without cheating the exercise. In the top of a press-up position take a deep breath to brace your core and glutes. Lower your chest to the floor, lift your hands off the floor briefly, then exhale as you push back up to the start. These can be performed on your knees or done by focusing just on the lowering part of the move until you have the strength to drive back up.

Bodyweight Exercises For Conditioning

These bodyweight exercises will challenge multiple muscle groups at once for an added cardiovascular challenge. They come from Tom Eastham, a former London Irish RFC strength and conditioning coach and founder of The Minimal Fitness Method.

Unweighted squat

Targets: quads, glutes, hip flexors

The ultimate lower-body move. Stand with feet around hip-width apart, toes pointing out slightly and hands together in front of your chest. Bend your knees and push your hips back as you lower until your bum is level with your knees. Keep your heels in contact with the floor at all times, don’t allow your knees to travel in towards each other, and keep your chest up to protect your lower back. Push back up, squeezing your glutes at the top of the move.

Glute bridge

Targets: glutes, hamstrings, lower back

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your heels close to your bum. Keep your knees hip-width apart as you engage your glutes, lower back and hamstrings to lift your hips as high as you can. Pause, then lower under control until your bum taps the floor and repeat. Press your hands into the floor if you’re having trouble maintaining your balance, or keep them off the floor to challenge your core stability.

Walking lunge

Targets: glutes, quads, hamstrings

Stand with your feet together. Take a big step forwards, then bend your knees to lower until your back knee is just off the floor. Push up off your front foot, then bring your back foot through and continue into the next lunge. Keep your torso upright throughout and keep a lateral distance between your front and back leg to make maintaining your balance easier. Still find this tricky? Eastham suggests building up to this excellent exercise by simply walking with an elongated stride.

Bear crawl

Targets: core, chest, shoulders, quads, hamstrings

Start in a four-point position – from all fours lift your knees just off the floor, so your weight is on your hands and toes. Keeping your core tight and knees just off the floor, walk your right hand and foot forwards, then repeat on the left side to move forwards. Aim for a set distance or, if space is limited, move a few steps forwards, then a few back.


Targets: everything

This essential exercise is one of the first moves we learn as toddlers. The only problem is we stop practising it as we get older and miss out on its full-body conditioning benefits. The goal is to drop to the floor and simply get back up. You can drop to touch your chest on the floor and back up, or roll onto your back or bum or side or however you like. Aim to do this for one minute and you will be breathing harder than you expected. Once you’ve mastered a minute, Eastham suggests building up to the famous “100 burpees for time” test. Don’t worry, it’s not mandatory.

Bodyweight Exercises For Mobility

These exercises come from Christian Lewis-Pratt, head coach and founder of The Move Studios. A former England rugby sevens player, Lewis-Pratt’s moves are intended to “rewild your movement” and improve overall mobility for a more robust and pain-free body.

Rolling wave

Targets: Hamstrings, calves, lower back, chest, shoulders, abs

Think downward-facing dog into an upward-facing dog or cobra. Start at the top of a press-up position. Lift your hips high and back and gently drive your heels towards the floor. From here, lift your heels to begin rolling forwards, all the time pushing the space between your shoulder blades upwards. Bring your shoulders as far over your wrists as you can, then engage your glutes and drop your hips until just off the floor. Retract your shoulder blades hard, then reverse the movement back to the start.

Loaded beast to front kick

Targets: chest, shoulders, hips, hamstrings, core

Start at the top of a press-up position. Drive your hips back so your bum is over your heels, knees just off the floor and arms straight. From here you can simply return to the start and you will have completed the loaded beast.

To advance this move further, Lewis-Pratt suggests stepping your right foot outside your right hand as you come forwards, then releasing your right hand as you kick your trailing leg forwards between your front foot and supporting hand to point it forwards. Reverse back into the high plank and repeat on the other side. The aim is to kick forwards – think true north on a compass.


Targets: chest, shoulders, hips, hamstrings, core

Start in a four-point position, with your hands below your shoulders, your weight on your toes and your knees bent at right angles so they’re just off the floor. Release one hand, rotate towards this side and kick your opposing leg through the space between your supporting hand and foot. Keep your foot close to the floor as you kick through and trust your upper-body strength to support your weight. Return to the four-point start position and repeat on the other side. Start slowly and build up the speed as you improve your technique.

Deficit press-up

Targets: chest, shoulders, triceps, core

A progression from the standard press-up. Use weights or yoga blocks for press-ups to create a greater range of motion with each rep. These can either be performed on your toes or knees. With hands on the weights or blocks, start with your shoulders directly over your wrists, keeping your head in a neutral position. Lower into a deep press-up until your chest is just off the floor, then push back to the top. Build your range gradually as you go and keep a strict line between your shoulders, hips and knees.

Overhead squat reach

Targets: hips, glutes, ankles, calves, upper back, core

Lower into a deep squat position, keeping your knees wide apart and your weight on your heels. Fold forwards, rounding through your spine and reach your hands forwards on the floor to release tension in your upper back. Extend your spine to sit up as tall as possible and lift your arms overhead with hands together and fingers pointing up. Reverse to the start and repeat.

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