Below are some of my go-to Body weight exercises for beginners, and once mastered, they can be completed without any excuses or equipment (except perhaps for the pull-up! if you can’t find something to hang from ). The reason that I wish to share these Body weight exercises for beginners is that they can give you an intense workout to blow away the cobwebs even if you do not have any equipment.
The Air squat is a great strength builder for the legs and initially can be completed while lowering your body weight to a chair if you are unsteady.
How too Level 1
- Place a chair against a wall to stop it from slipping backwards
- Ensure while sitting in the chair that your thighs are just below parallel
- stand in front of the chair and lower yourself slowly under control toward the seated position
- As your butt touches the seat, “attempt not to sit” but pause and stand back up
Initially, I would suggest ten repetitions with a minute rest and repeat – Complete this for three sets
Once you feel more comfortable standing beside
the chair and use it to stabilize yourself (if needed) and complete using the same repetition
Again once you are confident without the chair, move on to the complete air squat.
- Start straight up legs at shoulder-width apart.
- Lower yourself with your hands not touching your body into a position with your butt below parallel
- ensure your back stays straight and your calves upright ( do not lean forwards)
Start with ten reps and three sets and build to an unbroken set of 100 by increasing the number of reps or sets every session.
Complete three days a week.
Remember, speed is not the aim here but staying in control is.
Ensure you keep yourself steady and your back straight during the whole movement.
Arghhhhh, the push up I hear you say. The starting variation of the push up is an excellent exercise to build upper body strength and should not be overlooked. This may be one of the most brutal Body weight exercises for beginners, but following the progression below will be possible.
How to Level 1
- Start on your knees and reach forward onto all fours – fingers facing forwards.
- Look toward the ground and slightly forwards – do not crane your neck
- Slowly lower yourself to the ground with your elbows staying close to your body
- Once you reach the bottom push yourself up to the starting position
Once you can complete ten unbroken knee push-ups, move to a standard push up technique.
- Lay on the ground face toward the floor
- Raise yourself onto your toes and hold your legs straight and engage your core
- Push yourself to a plank position ( you should have a level back and legs – Butt not high – you should pivot from your feet)
- Lower yourself to the floor again, keeping your elbows close to your body
Attempt to add more unbroken push-ups every week – progression is vital – 5 standard and five knee push-ups one week unbroken – attempt next week five standard and six knees.
Once you can complete 20+ standard push-ups, unbroken moves to an intermediate push up workout
Body weight Pull up
This has always been my nemesis, but I managed to defeat them after a few weeks of perseverance.
At this point, it doesn’t matter if you are using an overhand or underhand grip – Time on the bar is the most crucial factor.
Performing a pull up is essentially ensuring your strength verse weight is at an optimum level. Too heavy, and you will never get off the ground, and the same goes for lack of upper body strength or grip strength.
If you carry a little extra weight, as I was, I’d suggest that you focus upon weight loss alongside the below routine.
Firstly, you need to purchase a pull-up bar or find a location you could safely hang from. Ideally, this will allow for a full grip of a bar rather than hanging by your fingers ( yes, I tried this )
Once you have a suitable bar that can safely hold your Bodyweight I would progress through the below levels.
Get used to hanging on the bar (dead hanging)
- Stand under the bar and either jump up and grasp it or lift your legs
- The key here is to dead hang under the bar for a set duration of time (I started with 10 seconds which felt like forever)
- Once you are used to hanging from the bar for 10 seconds, increase the time of each hang
- Perform ten sets of timed hangs – resting the remainder of the minute and restart your next hang when the next minute starts
- I would initially suggest performing this three times a week and aim to increase the hang time each workout
You will progress quickly in both grip strength and time hanging. (confidence that the bar will hold your weight and you will not fall off the bar is key to developing the full pull up).
Once you have mastered Level 1 and do not feel like your arms will pull out of your shoulders after 30 seconds, I would progress to this level.
During this level, you will move your body weight above the bar. Either by jumping (if you are able) or by standing on a chair/box to allow you to get your chin above the bar.
- Hang from the bar with your chin above it
- Arms at slightly wider than shoulder-width
- Lower yourself as slowly as possible until you resume the dead hang position
- As per level one – increase your time at the above position or time taken to descend to the dead hang.
- Repeat three times a week until you can hold yourself with ease at the top position for 30 seconds
The muscles used will be slightly dependent upon using an overhand or underhand grip. I will explain this in a later post – do not worry about the difference at this point.
I have recently purchased myself a set of gymnastics rings. I find them so much fun and have incorporated them into my pull up bodyweight exercises.
The routine I use is called the ring-pull up.
- Position the rings hanging at just below chest height
- lean back while holding the rings
- let yourself travel backwards until you are at an angle with the ground
- Pause at the bottom and pull yourself up, so the rings and your hands are at chest level
- Pause again and lower yourself back to the lower position
- Repeat until you perform a set number of pulls or for a set duration
- I started 3 sets of 10 repartitions, but id suggest starting low and building upon every routine –
Progression is the key – build on every workout. As you get stronger, push the intensity – trust me, you can complete one more rep.
I love to chase my best times/weights/durations etc., and I advise that you log your results to allow this to occur.
I have seen and used to use assistance bands to aid in getting the first “real” pull up.
I would suggest using these at this level when you are close to your first pull up. The bands are usually graded by a colour equal to the assistance strength.
- Loop the band over your bar – so that it does not slip or come loose
- Place the other end over your foot or knee ( ensure it does not slip ) – I have been slapped in the face many a time by a troublesome band – trust me, it isn’t pleasant
- As in Level 2 – Start at the top point (chin over bar)
- Lower yourself to the bottom point slowly and with the band’s assistance, then pull yourself up far as you can.
Pull-ups have been my nemesis for a while, and level 3 was a point I needed the most help and motivation hence the many variations I am suggesting.
Once you can get to the top position three times in a row with ease – change to a less powerful band.
Repeat 3 times a week – 10 repartitions for three sets
As I have stated the
The final variation I found helpful was the partial range pull up.
- Hang from the bar – arms shoulder-width apart
- Pull yourself up as far as possible
- This will start at a few mm or inches – Hold at the top position as long as possible.
The initial pull is performed by using your back to pull, not your shoulders or arms – The most challenging part of a pull up (once you can hang for 30 seconds) is the first 50 mm (2 inches) and the final 100 mm (4 inches).
If you struggle to start a pull up, I suggest using bands (they offer the most significant assistance when stretched or at the bottom of a pull up ).
If you struggle with the final part, I would use gymnastics rings because you can adjust the intensity by adjusting your angle with the floor. (lower angle = more strength needed)
Once you achieve the full pull up for one repetition.
You will build on this excellent result by aiming to add one additional pull up a week. This can be completed by moving between levels 3 and 4.
week 1 -1 complete pull up + 9 assisted or partial range
week 2 – 2 complete pull ups + 8 assisted or partial range
Increase each week – if you have a lousy week, reflect on your progress.
Bad weeks happen particularly if you have been not looking after your weight.
Remember lifting 1 kg or lb more than your maximum strength allows is close to impossible. However, adding this weight can be done with a single substantial meal.
The dip is an excellent move for transitioning into other areas and focuses on your triceps and therefore is essential to have in your repertoire.
They can be quickly completed using a chair or low ledge, but if you like equipment as I do, a set of dip bars is a great affordable purchase (but not essential)
- Place a chair against a wall to stop it from slipping backwards
- Start by sitting on the chair or ledge
- Move so your hands are resting the palm on the edge about should width apart.
- Allow your butt to come off the edge of the chair and lower yourself down (start with a 25 -50 mm or 1-2 inches dip)
- Once you have lowered yourself a set distance, push yourself up to the starting point.
- Initially, start with three sets of 10 repetitions with a minute rest – 3 times a week.
- Aim to lower yourself more each workout or perform more repetitions
Using a chair or ledge seems complicated as it did for me. If so, I can advise purchasing equipment that will help me as they did me. These can be used in many other ways.
These are dip stands and a plyobox. Both would be excellent additions to any body weight workout routine or garage gym. They are not essential, but I would personally recommend them.
Once you can perform all the above Body weight exercises for beginners with at least one repetition, you will be significantly stronger than many people.
I would suggest that the pull will be the hardest to achieve and is linked to your strength verse weight ratio.
The lighter you are, the less strength you require. I struggled with this single exercise for many months, but boy the excitement to finally perform one. The feeling of strength could not beat this feeling.
If you regularly perform bodyweight exercises for beginners at home, you may wish to invest in some equipment to enhance your gains.
As I have stated above, I have dip stands, a yoga mat, gymnastic rings, and a pull-up bar. Some hidden behind my sofa and a plyobox as a side table were all ready for those impromptu workout sessions.
These are not essential but will enhance your enjoyment as you get stronger.
I hope these beginner bodyweight exercises start your journey towards a life enjoying fitness, and feel free to add below your personal experiences.
Owner and author at shortandintense.com , 25 years as a quality and health and safety professional with an in-depth knowledge of functional and corrective exercises. IHoS registered,lead auditor, personal trainer and human movement specialist.
10 thoughts on “4 Body weight exercises for beginners -No excuses!!!”
I really appreciate this article on body weight exercise for beginners, as it covers everything you need to know to start to get your body into shape. What I really like about these exercises is that the range will give the important muscle groups a good workout. We all need to give our bodies moving and your suggestions seem feasible and practical. It may be difficult in the beginning but with time and effort they should become easier to do. I like how the level of chin ups difficult increases, which is not only practical but important in order to gain more experience.
THankyou Antonio fo the kind comment – I wish you the greatest success on your journey
This is all great information. Exercise is a necessity but it works better if you’re doing the moves efficiently. I do enjoy pull ups but haven’t found a great place for a sturdy bar. Do you know of any alternate exercises that could substitue for pull ups and work the body in a similar way? I love all of the other exercises and find that they do help me feel like I stand a little taller and stronger after I’ve done them!!
Thank you for the comment Aly , A substitute for the pull-up would be anything which pulls with the arms – TRX bands attached to a door maybe, Ring rows, lying on the floor with under a horizontal bar ( i use my squat rack ) and pulling your chest to meet it.
Great article on body weight exercises! These are not just for beginners but are excellent for all levels of experience. Performing the exercises in different positions, adding more repetitions and adding things like ankle and wrist weights can really ramp up the difficulty factor and make anyone sweat! I love all of these exercises – there are some OG work outs listed here! Some others I highly recommend are plank variations, glute bridge variations, lunge variations, and step ups!
Thankyou Sherry for the recommendations I particularly enjoy the step ups and lunge variations for a great leg workout
I like your post a lot. Great choice of exercises. The exercises can be powerful for all levels of athletes, from the beginners to pros. Of course, each level with different intensity, volume, frequency, etc. I am a tennis trainer and know how physical preparation important is nowadays, as always has been. When speaking about beginners I suggest starting slowly, with some testings and then continuing practicing with moderate progress. Depending on the goal of training, setting the proper sets, repetitions number, intensity, and other important factors are a very important step to make. Listening to its own body and its signals during the practice is also a very important factor of the program to get feedback about the training and avoiding injuries. proper warm-up and stretch after the practice will also help to prevent injuries, to relax to the body and be more ready for the next training. Proper recovery, nutrition and keeping the continuum of practice will improve results tremendously. There are many very practical, easy to implement and to execute valuable tips available, but keeping the base safe and sticking to the program is important to see improvements.
Make the basic well and you can build on it. It is important also in physical practice.
Thanks for sharing your post, it is a topic I could discuss for hours. I just love sport and exercising a lot.
Wish you a lot of success. Maybe one day I will also create my website about tennis and sports training.
Thankyou Igor for the comment – I agree get the basics correct and you will prepare your self for future success . Wish you success in your journey
The best one for me is squats. I do anywhere from 25 to 75 squats per day. It is simple and quick. I tried yoga but I don’t have time. I mean a good yoga session takes at least 20 minutes but I can do a 100 squats in 10 minutes.
Exercise for me should take less time to help me. I can’t do something which takes longer because I got a lot to do.
HI and thanks for the comment – I would agree squats are a very quick and functional movements however do not forget to add some upper body and trunk exercises for an all over routine