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The 10 Best Bodyweight Strength Exercises (no extra equipment necessary!)

by Caroline Daniel

Working out is different now. Even if you were a regular at your local gym before the Covid-19 pandemic, you might be unable or feel unsafe using shared equipment now. For many people (myself included), strength training can seem much more daunting when you cannot force yourself out of the house and into the gym, where you can easily be inspired to work hard by the other people around you. We recognize this and we understand! That’s why this blog post is dedicated to 10 of the best full body strength exercises you can do to maximize your at-home workout—with no gym equipment necessary!

If you do happen to have at-home gym equipment, you can make any of these exercises more difficult by adding dumbbells/weighted plates; however, by doing enough reps, these exercises can get the burn going with just your body weight! Tailor the reps/sets to your own personal needs to maximize your workout.

  • Burpees
    1. A tried and true exercise that can get the burn started FAST. Burpees incorporate just about every major muscle group and also have major cardio benefits.
  • Variations: To make the burpees easier, eliminate the push-up at the bottom and/or the squat after the jump.
  • Squats
    • While squats obviously help to strengthen the quads and glutes, they also engage the core, back, and shoulders for a great full-body workout.
    • Variations: Add weight as needed/available for an added challenge.
      • Turn the squats into a “squat jump,” pushing off from the bottom of each squat for a difficult cardio exercise.
      • If you have a weight available, incorporate a “press” of the weight after each squat to further engage the arms.
      • Try a “pistol squat” or “single-leg squat” to incorporate balance into the exercise. This exercise requires a lot of hip strength and stability, so work up to this over time!
  • Planks
    • One of the most commonly employed “core” exercises, planks work to build strength and stability in your core, glutes, and shoulders—areas that need to be strong to prevent injury in activities like running. When you get tired of the basic elbow plank, try one of these variations:
      • Side planks, for the obliques
      • Back plank, for the hamstrings and glutes
      • Spidermans
      • Mountain Climbers
      • Plank Up/Downs
      • Side planks with Hip Dips
      • And so many more! Planks really have endless options.
  • Single-Leg RDLs
    • One of the best balance-related strength exercises out there—with no extra equipment required! The strength focus is on the glutes and hamstrings, but single-leg RDLs can aid in improving full-body balance.
  • Step-Ups
    • Okay, this exercise does require one small piece of equipment—some sort of step! It can be an actual step, a box, a table, a sturdy ottoman—whatever you have around the house that is about 6 inches-2 feet off the ground. Step-Ups engage the core, glutes, quads, and hamstrings—and an added knee drive can also help improve stability and balance!
    • Variations: Step-Ups can be done with or without a knee drive at the top of the step-up. Weights can also be added for an added challenge.
  • “Jumping Lunges” / Split Jumps
    • Another great cardio/strength combo. After just a few reps, this exercise will get your full lower body and your lungs burning! To perform, simply start from a front lunge position and jump explosively, switching legs so that you are in a lunge position with the other leg in the front.
    • Variations: Engage your arms to work on strengthening your running form!
  • Push-Ups
    • Everyone’s been doing these since the elementary school PE days—but they remain one of the most effective upper body/core-related exercises out there. It really is important to focus on correct form when doing push-ups, however: place your hands directly under your shoulders and focus on pushing straight down, keeping the elbows from jutting out to the side.
    • Variations: Since doing push-ups with this form is significantly for difficult for most people than letting your elbows push out, go down to your knees if need be! You will still get a great arm work out until you can work up to a significant number of reps in plank position.
  • Inch Worms
    • These are a great exercise for both flexibility and strength. Start from a standing position and bend over, placing your hands face down on the ground. Walk your hands out until you are in a full plank position. Slowly walk your feet up until they are as close to your hands as your flexibility allows. The key to this exercise is to take it slowly to maximize the movement. Inch worms are great to use both during a strength routine and as a dynamic warm-up!
  • Dips (“Tricep Dips”)
    • All you’ll need for this exercise is a table, bench, or other piece of furniture a couple of feet off of the ground (if you don’t have at-home gym equipment). Focus on performing this movement slowly, being aware of your form—keep the elbows tucked in, just like push-ups. While tricep dips, as the name suggests, mainly develop strength in the triceps, they also engage the core for a full-body movement.
  1. Jackknives
    1. One of the hardest core exercises out there! Core strength = full body stability. To perform a jackknife, fully extend your arms and legs while laying on your back. Simultaneously raise your arms and legs, crunching until the nearly meet at the top of the exercise. Lower slowly and repeat.

With a combination of these exercises, you can get a great at-home, full-body workout with only a little bit of time and no extra equipment. Happy strengthening!

Caroline Daniel is a Student-Athlete running Cross Country and Track at Belmont University while Majoring in Exercise Physiology. She is currently completing her internship at Personal Best Fitness