Build Yourself With Bodyweight Exercises
Bodyweight exercises are handy to know when you can't make it to the gym. But these are so effective we recommend them even if you CAN make it to the gym. Here are the best bodyweight exercises to sprinkle into your regular workouts or use them to completely replace a workout here or there.
As long as you've got something to hang onto, you can build your legs just about anywhere. While critics dislike the knee-over-toe positions, it makes a massive difference on leg day when done correctly. It'll set your quads on fire, and it doesn't require any equipment, just something to hang on to for balance.
- Stand next to a stable object like a power rack, wall, or piece of gym equipment and get on your tip-toes.
- Lock your hips forward into extension. This creates a straight line with your thighs and torso. Squeeze your glutes and engage your core.
- Push forward and lower your knees down while maintaining hip extension. Allow your knees to travel past your toes toward the floor.
- Stop when you feel you've reached a point of a maximal loaded stretch without too much pressure around the knee or ankle areas.
- Move back up, pressing the toes down into the ground and completing the rep with the same execution. Maintain as much hip extension as possible.
- Fully extend the knees at the top for a good peak contraction on the quads at the completion of every rep.
This is just one more bit of evidence that you can build big quads without a squat rack.
Okay, so you DO need a stability ball for this, but that's a lot easier to add to your home gym than a ham curl machine. And if you do it right, the back of your legs will get hit just as hard. Once you've mastered the basic variation, move on to even harder ones.
- Start with your calves on the ball, legs straight, and arms out to the sides for support.
- Raise your hips off the ground by squeezing the glutes while keeping the abs braced and ribs down.
- Simultaneously pull your heels in as you extend your hips upwards. Avoid overarching your back.
- At the top of the movement, there should be a straight line from your knees to your hips.
- Now lower down to the starting position in control by keeping the hips up while straightening the legs.
Like with any squat, the biggest limitations to your depth are ankle mobility followed by hip mobility.
Trying to force this movement without enough ankle or hip mobility is a great way to give yourself a steaming-hot case of patellar tendonitis. So if you're not there yet, start with the basic pistol squat progressions and modifications.
- Focus on a spot on the floor and extend one leg in front of you.
- Sit back in your heel as you push your hips back and drive your knee out.
- Focus on pushing through the heel, big toe, and pinky toe as you rise up, extending your knee and hips.
You can do them with a straight bar, parallel bars, or a dedicated dip station. But one thing we wouldn't suggest (for most) is doing the version where you're positioned between two benches. Here's how to do them:
Chest Dip Guidelines
- Torso forward
- Legs forward
- Medium to wide hand width
- "Gunslinger" elbows position
- Contract the abs to maintain form
- Don't lock out the elbows at the top position
- Shoulder drops slightly below the elbow in bottom position
- Head neutral: Don't look up or down.
- To build the chest, do full-range dips with an additional load of 50% body weight for 6-8 reps.
Triceps Dip Guidelines
- Torso more upright
- Legs back
- Narrower hand width
- Elbows closer to the body
- Squeeze the glutes to maintain form
- Lock out elbows in top position
- Shoulder drops slightly below the elbow at bottom
- Head neutral: Don't look up or down.
If you have experience with the standard inverted row, you likely know how to make it harder: start with your torso more horizontal, add some pauses, or elevate your feet.
But how do you make it hit your lats, specifically? Try this version from Kurt Weber and move the focus away from the mid-back toward your lats.
- Start by hanging directly under the bar with your hips up and feet tucked under your hamstrings.
- As you begin to row, push away with your feet while keeping your hips up, aiming for the bar to touch your belly button.
This simple modification alters the bar path, placing more emphasis on the lats and less on the middle traps and rhomboids.
There are plenty of ways to crawl like an animal, and doing any combination will challenge just about every muscle on your body. But without a clear set of parameters or a goal, you may never find a strong enough reason to add it to your routine.
Put an end to that by using them in a challenge. Here's a way to combine a few crawls, add a push-up and ab exercise, and accumulate a lot of bodyweight work quickly.
- Set 15 minutes on the clock and pick 5 different animal crawl movements.
- Do 10 push-ups, 10 yards of crawls, 10 stir-the-pot revolutions, and return with 10 more yards of the same crawl.
- Repeat the pattern using different crawls for 15 straight minutes and see how many reps and total distance you complete.
Note: This is a test of your core and shoulder stability. Use smooth and controlled movements. If you haven't been crawling, practice before taking the challenge.