20 Most Effective Bodyweight Workouts

Bodyweight exercises are a highly effective method for building muscle, often overlooked in favor of traditional gym workouts. They utilize one’s own body weight as resistance, promoting muscle growth and strength.

Numerous reputable sources, including studies published in the Journal of Sports Science & Medicine and the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, emphasize the benefits of bodyweight exercises in achieving muscle hypertrophy and overall fitness.

These exercises can be tailored to suit various fitness levels and offer the advantage of being versatile, cost-effective, and easily adaptable to any environment, making them a valuable option for muscle building.

Push-up (target muscle: CHEST and back)

Description: A push-up (or press-up) is a common calisthenics exercise performed in a prone position by raising and lowering the body using the arms. Push-ups exercise the pectoral muscles, triceps, and anterior deltoids, with ancillary benefits to the rest of the deltoids, serratus anterior, coracobrachialis and the midsection as a whole.

Handstand push-up (target muscle: Shoulders, triceps, trapezius)

hand stand push ups

Description: Also called the vertical push-up (press-up) or the inverted push-up (press-up) – is a type of push-up exercise where the body is positioned in a handstand.

The Workout: For a true handstand, the exercise is performed free-standing, held in the air. To prepare the strength until one has built adequate balance, the feet are often placed against a wall, held by a partner, or secured in some other way from falling. Handstand pushups require significant strength, as well as balance and control if performed free-standing.

Planche (target muscle: Full Body)

Description: A Planche is a skill in gymnastics in which the body is held parallel to the ground, giving the illusion of floating. It is a move that requires a great deal of strength and balance.

The Workout: Holding one’s body in the air, in a line parallel to and facing the floor through balancing one’s entire bodyweight on both hands with straight arms.

Dip (target muscle: triceps, chest, back)

The Workout: To perform a dip, the exerciser hangs from a dip bar or from a set of rings with his arms straight down and shoulders over his hands, then lowers his body until his arms are bent to a 90 degree angle at the elbows, and then lifts his body up, returning to the starting position. Short people are able to cope better with a narrower grip, but not with a wider one.

Due to natural flexibility in the shoulder joints, it is important to try to “lock” them as much as possible during this exercise. Otherwise, the supporting rotator cuffs may become strained.

Plank (target muscle: Core (abdominals, back and shoulders)


The Workout: The plank (also called a front hold, hover, or abdominal bridge) is an isometric core strength exercise that involves maintaining a difficult position for extended periods of time. The most common plank is the front plank which is held in a push-up position with the body’s weight borne on forearms, elbows, and toes.

Sit-up (target muscle: Abdomen, hip flexors)

Description: The sit-up is similar to a crunch (crunches target the rectus abdominus and also work the obliques), but sit-ups have a fuller range of motion and condition additional muscles. Sit-ups target the hip flexors, rectus abdominus and also work the iliopsoas, tensor fasciae latae, rectus femoris, sartorius, and, to a very small degree, the obliques.

The Workout: It begins with lying with the back on the floor, typically with the knees bent in an attempt to reduce stress on the back muscles and spine, and then elevating both the upper and lower vertebrae from the floor until everything superior to the buttocks is not touching the ground.

Crunch (target muscle: Abdomen)

Description: The crunch is one of the most common abdominal exercises. It primarily works the rectus abdominis muscle and also works the obliques.

The Workout: Lying face up on the floor, the shoulders are curled towards the pelvis while the lower back remains flat against the floor. Focus is put on contracting the abdominal muscles.

Russian twist (target muscle:Abdomen especially the Obliques)

Description: The Russian Twist is a type of bodyweight exercise that is used to work the abdomen muscles by performing a twisting motion on the abdomen. The exercise is believed by those who practice it to build explosiveness in the upper torso, which may help in sports such as swimming, baseball, track & field, hockey, golf, lacrosse, or boxing.

The Workout: Sitting on the floor with knees bent as in a sit-up, with the back kept straight and at a 45 degree angle to the floor, the straightened arms are held outstretched with the hands locked together. The arms are moved from one side of the body to another in a twisting motion.

For a more advance level add a barbbell plate to your workout for more resistance.

Leg raises (target muscle: Abdomen, hip flexors)

Description: The leg raise is a strength training exercise used for strengthening the rectus abdominis and hip flexors.

The Workout: Lie on the floor on your back. Keep the lower back in contact with the floor and place hands to sides or under lower back for support. Lift legs upward as far as possible. Lower down to starting position slowly and with control. Make sure the back stays flat on floor and that the abdominal muscles are tight. The exercise can be made significantly harder by performing the exercises from a hanging apparatus, such as a pull up bar, and lifting the legs upwards until parallel with the ground. The exercise can further be increased in difficulty by lifting the legs to the utmost vertical position (to the head), and keeping the legs fully straight.

L-sit (target muscle:Obliques, arms triceps)

Description: The L-sit is an acrobatic body position in which all body weight rests on the hands, with the torso held in a slightly forward-leaning orientation, with legs held horizontally so that each leg forms a nominal right-angle with the torso. The right-angle causes the body to have a notable “L” shape, hence the name “L-sit”. It requires significant abdominal strength.

The Workout: The person will sit in an L position with the legs straight and parallel to the ground and the upper body perpendicular to the ground. The hands are placed beside the glutes. The hands then push the entire body upwards off the ground. The legs must remain off the ground and parallel to the ground. The exercise taxes the muscles through isometric tension. A more difficult version is the V-sit, where the legs are held higher than parallel.

Pull ups exercise 

Description: A pull-up is said to be one of the most effective back training exercise. A variety of upper-body compound pulling motions for the purpose of exercise.

Target muscle: Upper back – rear deltoid, trapezius, erector spinae and especially the latissimus dorsi, also the biceps, brachialis, and abdomen.

The Workout: The pull-up has two main methods of execution; the first is with a pronated (overhand) grip and the second is with a supinated (underhand) grip. Hanging from a bar with arms extended and palms facing away from the exerciser, the body is pulled up until the elbows are bent and the head is higher than the hands. The closer the hands, the more the emphasis on the biceps and elbow flexors.

Muscle up

Description: A pull-up with a maximal range of motion, transitioning to a dip.

The Workout: Generally the initial pull-up uses an overhand grip to make the switch easier and is more explosive in order to take advantage of momentum from the first half of the exercise to aid in the second half. Beginning with an aggressive pull up to chest level, often referred to as a high pull up, the wrists are then rotated to a position vertically above the bar which in turn helps to swing the elbows above the bar.

Human flag (target muscle: Abdomen, shoulders)

Description: Human flag is one of the the most visually impressive bodyweight feat of strength. Any time someone does a human flag, it inevitably attracts attention. The human flag or bar hold is a feat of strength where the body is parallel to the ground supported by a vertical bar. The arms and the body make a straight line. This exercise requires enormous upper body strength.

The Workout: The person will grab a vertical object such as a pole or tree trunk, with both hands palms pronated. The practitioner will lift the entire body using the abdominal muscles into a position parallel to the ground.

Bridge (target muscle: Back (deep spinal muscles), flexibility, arms (triceps), upper legs)

Description: Bridge is an exercise. Many variations of this exercise are employed throughout the world, most commonly the balancing of the body on the head and feet. Hands are occasionally used instead of or along with the head. It is effective in improving lower back strength.

The Workout: The person will begin in a sit up position with the hands positioned by the ears, palms down, fingers facing the legs. The person pushes up with the arms and the back muscles until the body resembles a lowercase ‘n’. The spine must be convex and the limbs straight.

Hyperextension (target muscle: Lower back, erector spinae)

Description: A hyperextension or back extension is an exercise that works the lower back as well as the mid and upper back, specifically the erector spinae.

The Workout: Lying face down on the floor, the torso and arms are lifted at the same time.

Bodyweight Squat (target muscle: Legs and glutes)

bodyweight squat

Description: An effective squat can be perform with just your own bodyweight. In strength training, the squat is a compound, full body exercise that trains primarily the muscles of the thighs, hips and buttocks, quads (vastus lateralus, medialis and intermedius and rectus femoris), hamstrings, as well as strengthening the bones, ligaments and insertion of the tendons throughout the lower body. Squats are considered a vital exercise for increasing the strength and size of the legs and buttocks, as well as developing core strength.

The Workout: Standing up, the legs are bent at the knees and hips, lowering the torso between the legs. The torso leans forward to maintain balance. (Usually called a bodyweight squat to distinguish it from the use of weights.) The single leg squat, or “pistol squat”, can be used to make the exercise significantly harder as it requires one to have a great deal of balance, flexibility, and strength.

Calf raises (target muscle calf muscle)

Description: Calf raises are a method of exercising the gastrocnemius, tibialis posterior and soleus muscles of the lower leg. The movement performed is plantar flexion, aka ankle extension.

The Workout: Standing calf raises are executed with one or both feet on a raised surface with the heel lower than the toes. The exercise is performed by raising the heel as far as possible. The exercise can be made harder by performing the exercise on one leg.

Burpee (target muscle: Legs, Abdomen, Shoulders)


Description: The burpee is a full body exercise used in strength training and as an aerobic exercise. The basic movement is performed in four steps and known as a “four-count burpee”:

The Workout: From a standing position, the person drops to a squat with hands on floor (count 1), thrusts legs back to assume pushup position (count 2), returns to squat (count 3), and returns to standing position (count 4). The military 8-count version adds a pushup after count 2, and a jumping jack after count 4.

Back extension (target muscle: back)

Description: A hyperextension or back extension is an exercise that works the lower back as well as the mid and upper back, specifically the erector spinae.

The Workout: Either lying face down on a floor or lying on a support such as a bench with the upper body extended unsupported from the bench. The person drops down the upper body and then raises it up again to the point where the back is slightly arched back and then lowers again to repeat.

Lunge (target muscle: Thigh, Buttocks, Hamstring)


Description: A lunge can refer to any position of the human body where one leg is positioned forward with knee bent and foot flat on the ground while the other leg is positioned behind.[1][2][3] It is used by athletes in cross-training for sports, by weight-trainers as a fitness exercise, and by yogis as part of an asana regimen

The Workout: The person stands on flat surface and steps forward with one leg and bends down until the front knee is at ninety degrees angle and the back knee almost touches the surface while keeping the upper body straight. The persons then pushes back with the front leg to a standing position and repeats the exercise with the alternate leg.

There you have it all 20 bodyweight exercise. Are there any exercise in the list that you’re already doing? Please do share with us in the comment section below.


2 thoughts on “20 Most Effective Bodyweight Workouts

  • Great list! Going to start incorporating a few of these into my current strength and conditioning routine. Not sure about the human flag though!

  • Human flag is actually a full body exercise, the main muscles involved are the delts, lats, and obliques. You’ll need a good foundation of strength from exercises like pull-ups and handstand push-ups (or barbell presses) to begin training the flag. And like all bodyweight exercises, a high strength to mass ratio is crucial to performing a human flag.

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