How to Do Bodyweight Exercises and Why They're Important

Woman outside performing bodyweight walking lunges

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Bodyweight training is an effective and convenient form of exercise that suits any fitness level. Bodyweight movements can be added to traditional weight training, added to cardio programs, or used alone. Using bodyweight versions of exercises is a great, safe way to learn a movement's correct form.

What Are Bodyweight Exercises?

Bodyweight training uses your body weight for resistance in weight-bearing movements. This type of training can build strength and muscle and improve your functional fitness, and cardiovascular health.

Gravity is used to provide resistance when performing bodyweight training, using eccentric and concentric contractions (extending and flexing) of the muscles to work your muscles so that they adapt, becoming stronger in response.

Benefits of Bodyweight Exercises

Like other forms of resistance training, bodyweight exercise is effective for increasing strength and muscle and reducing visceral fat. This affects body composition, metabolism, and daily functioning while preventing some types of illness and disease.

You can expect to see some strength gains using bodyweight training, especially if you are new to the style of exercise. It's important to progress your workouts with increasingly challenging forms of bodyweight movements in order to keep seeing results.

In terms of exercise planning, using bodyweight exercise is efficient and convenient since you need no setup or equipment. You can use bodyweight movements to do HIIT or circuit-style workouts since the lack of equipment makes transitioning between exercises quick and effortless.

How Do You Do Bodyweight Exercises

Bodyweight exercises can be done using only your body weight and the ground, or you can use props and other equipment to change the angle and positioning of your body. For instance, you can use a bench, table, step, or chair to elevate your feet or hands, changing the intensity or muscles used during the movement.

Here are some examples of bodyweight exercises to try.

Push-Ups

Push-ups are a compound, functional movement that works your chest, back, and core. You can increase your spinal stability and core strength while also building your chest, which makes push-ups an efficient movement to try.

Woman doing a pushup.

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

  1. Place your hands flat on the floor below your shoulders, with your legs extended behind you balancing on your toes and balls of your feet.
  2. Contract your core to keep your hips up and squeeze your glutes.
  3. Bend your elbows to lower your chest towards the floor until almost touching and you feel a stretch across your chest and the front shoulders.
  4. Press through your hands straightening your arms to return to start. Don't let your hips collapse and stay braced.
  5. Try 5 to 10, or as many as it takes to challenge you.

Walking Lunges

Walking lunges are unilateral movements that help increase strength and athleticism. They also help increase your balance and stability, reducing your risk of falls and injuries.

Woman doing walking lunges

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

  1. Stand with your feet at a shoulder-width distance, hands by your sides or on your hips.
  2. Step forward in a long stride with one leg and your other foot behind you.
  3. Bend your knees as you step to lower toward the ground, keeping your back straight. Your knee should come just above the ground.
  4. Hold for a count, then push through your front foot and straighten your knees to rise. After you rise, bring your foot forward, next to your front foot.
  5. Repeat with your other leg to complete one rep.
  6. Try 15 to 20 reps.

Bear Crawls

Bear crawls are a fun movement that challenges your entire core and your legs.

Woman doing a bear crawl

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

  1. Get on the floor with your knees under your hips and your hands stacked beneath your shoulders. Lift your hips and extend your legs and arms, keeping your neck neutral.
  2. Step your right hand forward while simultaneously stepping your left foot forward. Repeat on the left hand and right foot to move forward. This is one rep.
  3. Continue alternating and moving the opposite hand and foot forward each time. Keep your core tight throughout.
  4. Try 10 to 20 reps, or aim for 30 to 60 seconds.

Bodyweight Shoulder Press

This bodyweight version of a shoulder press is challenging and may surprise you if you are used to using weights. You can make it more difficult by elevating your feet (on either a chair, table, or exercise ball as shown below). The more vertical you get, the more difficult the movement will become.

Woman doing a bodyweight shoulder press

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

  1. Get into a push-up position and then push your bum up, walking your feet into a downward-dog pose.
  2. Bend your elbows and slowly lower your shoulders towards the ground.
  3. Lightly tap your forehead on the ground, then push up and back into the starting position.
  4. Repeat for 8 to 10 reps.

Glute Bridge

Glute bridges will target your glutes, hips, hamstrings, and core. They are a fantastic exercise for reducing and preventing back pain.

Woman doing a glute bridge

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place your hands by your sides, palms pressing into the floor for stability.
  3. Extend your hips by pressing into your feet to raise your glutes off the floor.
  4. Continue raising until your back, hips, and thighs form a straight line. Squeeze your glutes and hold for a count. Don't arch your back.
  5. Lower back down to the starting position with control.
  6. Repeat 15 to 20 times.

Up Your Game With Suspension

You can use a suspension trainer to increase the variety and challenge of your bodyweight workouts. Suspension trainers allow you to use your body weight in the air so you aren't limited by the floor. You can perform hundreds of movements this way, both increasing and reducing the challenge of some bodyweight movements.

A Word From Verywell

Bodyweight training is an effective form of resistance training that can work your entire body, no matter your fitness level. To continue seeing results, introduce new exercises and increase the repetitions or adjust the angles to provide more resistance. A personal trainer can guide you if you are unsure how to perform any of these movements. If you experience any pain or lingering discomfort, see a healthcare professional.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who should do bodyweight exercises?

    Anyone can do bodyweight exercises, from beginners to advanced. They are excellent for learning correct form and getting down the basics before moving to weights. Bodyweight exercises also help you move in natural, functional ways that could be missed with gym equipment-based exercise.

  • Why are bodyweight exercises important?

    Bodyweight exercises are important for practicing form and safely learning strength-based movements. They ensure you know how to move your body effectively to work against gravity and perform functional movement patterns like squats, presses, and pullups.

  • How long does it take to see results with bodyweight exercises?

    How long it takes to see results with bodyweight exercises depends on your consistency, program, and other lifestyle factors. You can expect to see an increase in strength each week as you progress your workouts to continue challenging you.

7 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Hollingsworth, J.C., Young, K.C., Abdullah, S.F. et al. Protocol for Minute Calisthenics: a randomized controlled study of a daily, habit-based, bodyweight resistance training programBMC Public Health 20, 1242 (2020). doi:10.1186/s12889-020-09355-4

  3. ARCHILA LR, BOSTAD W, JOYNER MJ, GIBALA MJ. Simple bodyweight training improves cardiorespiratory fitness with minimal time commitment: a contemporary application of the 5bx approachInt J Exerc Sci. 2021;14(3):93-100.

  4. Maeo S, Chou T, Yamamoto M, Kanehisa H. Muscular activities during sling- and ground-based push-up exerciseBMC Res Notes. 2014;7:192. doi:10.1186/1756-0500-7-192

  5. Marchetti PH, Guiselini MA, da Silva JJ, Tucker R, Behm DG, Brown LE. Balance and lower limb muscle activation between in-line and traditional lunge exercisesJournal of Human Kinetics. 2018;62(1):15-22. doi:10.1515/hukin-2017-0174

  6. Yoon JO, Kang MH, Kim JS, Oh JS. Effect of modified bridge exercise on trunk muscle activity in healthy adults: a cross sectional studyBraz J Phys Ther. 2018;22(2):161-167. doi:10.1016/j.bjpt.2017.09.005

  7. Philippon MJ, Decker MJ, Giphart JE, Torry MR, Wahoff MS, Laprade RF. Rehabilitation exercise progression for the gluteus medius muscle with consideration for iliopsoas tendinitisAm J Sports Med. 2011;39(8):1777-1786. doi:10.1177/0363546511406848