Best bodyweight exercises to build muscle

What is calisthenics?

To put it simply, it’s a group of exercises that are done with minimal equipment and include a range of pushing and pulling movements.

Why are bodyweight workouts good? Why do I do them?

What I like about bodyweight exercises is that they can be done from the comfort of your own home most of the time and can be done around a busy schedule. There may be some days where going to the gym just isn’t possible, so before skipping a workout and getting down about not being consistent, check out this article.
Here are the best bodyweight exercises to build muscle!

Push ups

If i am doing a chest day, with or without any weights, push ups will be a staple to that workout. They a great way to test your strength and an even better way to overload your chest.

There are several variations of push ups you can use to hit most parts of your upper body. The standard press up will hit the chest and shoulders well, whereas the close hand position push ups (closer than shoulder width) hit the triceps as good as most exercises.

Placing your hands in a diamond shape and doing a push up also engages your triceps, although this one is tricky and you may need to build up your strength first.

Personally I love one arm push ups as they seem to help me focus on my balance and driving force through my legs and back. This mind to muscle connection is useful for compound movements like deadlifts!


There are two main ways of performing dips, using a bench and using a dip station. For beginners, using a bench is easier as the ground is supporting your bodyweight so it is easier to focus on form.

On the other hand, dips using a dip station require you to support your own bodyweight as you lower yourself down. I’d advise trying bench dips first as they put less strain on the shoulders and require good strength and form to avoid injury. They target both your chest and triceps well so can be used in either workout.

Pull ups and Chin ups

Pull ups are a staple of your back development as they hit your lats perfectly. You’ll also build shoulder and arm strength in the process. Have you seen that classic v shape and want it? Then get on the bar and try some pull ups!

Chin ups are a great exercise that hit the biceps and brachialis (the muscle inbetween your biceps and triceps that makes your biceps look bigger).

You can perform both of these exercises with a static hold. This means doing only part of the full movement and holding in a place that puts challenge on the muscles. I tend to them at the end of the workout because they tire my muscles out without need too much range of motion and the need to focus on form, which can go out the window when you’re tired!

With that in mind, here’s a pull up bar review for you to check out.

Bodyweight squat

Squats strengthen your leg muscles as well as your glutes and lats. They are a compound movement so engage multiple muscle groups at once, so why wouldn’t you do them?

You could do these in the form of jump squats, which burn fat and improve mobility whilst building muscle and strength. If you’ve never done a squat before then they are good to start with! If you want to start more simple with a regular squat opposed to a jump squat then by all means do this.

Ensure you do controlled movements to start with to work on form (technique). Afterwards, you could focus on explosive movement to improve power and speed!

Six pack?

Almost everyone who starts training wants good set of abs! Someone once told me there’s no need to spend over 15 minutes isolating your ab training. This is because abs react best to short intense exercise and also that they are trained during many exercises, specifically those where you’re standing up straight. Keeping this in mind, I target my abs with a mixture of steady repetitions and explosive movements so I first stretch the muscles and then obtain a state of hypertrophy.

I begin my workout with russian twists. This exercise is done in a sitting position with legs raised off the ground and then you twist from side to side, reaching with your arm as far to the side as it takes to get a burning feeling! This exercise targets your obliques, which are span over the side of your rib cage to your waist.

Next I lie flat on my back and lift my legs up (whilst straight) to a 90 degree angle and then lower them again. If you are a beginner then try this with your hands pushing against the floor and if you are more experienced then do it with your hands off the ground (resting behind your neck or on your stomach). This exercise primarily targets your lower abdominals.

What area is left? It’s the upper abdominals, to do this I do the exericse commonly known as the crunch. However, in this case I hold my legs static in the air and only do the other half of the movement, which isolates the upper abdomen. This exercise can be good, however you must squeeze your muscles when you lift up and not just count reps, focus on a squeeze at the top and hold it if you like!

Remember that you can’t get abs by just isolating them in the ways I’ve just mentioned, these exercises help to shape your abs but do NOT burn fat in just that area. To get abs you need to eat a healthy and balanced diet as well as training.

I’ve listed some starter exercises above, however if you want something more then check out Athlean X’s ab workout here.


I’m not a frequent user of calisthenics but I do enjoy bodyweight exercises here and there to test how my strength is improving. If you are rushed for time then I’d recommend trying some of these exercises just to maintain a good level of fitness!

I often mention across all of my content, the importance of morning exercise, this fits well with a workout like the one I’ve mentioned here! If you don’t have time to go to the gym before the school run and work, then as soon as you get up, try a few of these exercises just to get your body up and give your brain something to focus on other than the stress of a busy day!

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