I get a ton of emails every week regarding bodyweight exercises. People want to know what are the best bodyweight drills for size and strength.
While, lifting weights will always be the superior way to build brute strength and big muscles, there are several bodyweight exercises that you can choose from to add variety to your workouts or to keep you in shape on the road. My favorites are: Handstand Pushups, One-arm Pushups, Door Pull-ups, One-Legged Squats, Knee Jumps, Headstand Leg Raises, and the Mahler Body Blaster.
Lets get into each exercise in more detail:
Imagine an upper body exercise that is the equivalent to the squat and you get an idea effectiveness of the handstand pushup. In addition to making your shoulders super strong, "pump" addicts will love how this exercise blows your arms up.
To execute a handstand pushup, get a few inches away from a wall and kick in to a handstand against the wall. Your legs should be straight up the wall.
Rather than looking straight down, look forward just as you would when doing a barbell military press. Lower yourself under control to the floor and when your head touches the floor, press yourself back up to the starting position. Repeat for 5-10 reps. If you cannot complete one rep, do a static hold and work in some negatives.
This is a great exercise to build up the pecs. It requires a great deal of stability and will fry the triceps and shoulders as well. Place one arm behind your back and lower yourself to the floor with the other arm. Once your chest touches the floor, press yourself back up.
If you find the standard one-arm pushup to easy apply a technique from strength coach Pavel Tsatsouline, author of "The Naked Warrior"(www.dragondoor.com) and do one-arm one-leg pushups. Hold one leg up in the air as you do a one-arm pushup.
Here is a pulling exercise that can be done with just about any door (assuming that the door that you choose is not too flimsy). Open a door halfway and place a towel over the top. Place your hands on the towel and let yourself hang off of the door.
Pull yourself up against the door until your chin is over the top of the door. Lower yourself slowly back to the starting position.
One Legged Squat
Forget about hundreds of bodyweight squats, the one legged squat is the best leg exercise that you can do with your bodyweight. Moreover, it is one of the best leg exercises period. Hold one leg in front of you and hold your arms out straight ahead. Looking forward at all times, lower yourself slowly on one leg.
As you pass the parallel position, flex your butt and stomach as hard as you can and pull yourself down to the bottom position. Hold the bottom position for a second and rise back up to the starting position. If you cannot complete a rep then check out my article on the stair step approach to the one-legged squat.
Now it is time to work the hamstrings and develop some explosive power. Start the exercise by kneeling on the ground. Make sure that you feet are flat and that you butt is resting on your calves. Look forward at all times. To initiate the exercise, swing your arms back and then forward immediately.
As you swing your arms forward jump from your knees to your feet in one explosive movement. The finish position will look like the bottom position of a squat. Slowly get yourself back to the starting position and repeat.
Headstand Leg Raise
I picked up this exercise from top MMA fighter Frank Shamrock. Fold a towel and place it on the floor. Get on all fours and place the top of your head on the towel. Place your arms out right in front of you and touch the floor with your palms. Now press your palms into the floor and slowly raise your legs off of the floor.
Keep going until you are in a headstand. From there, lower your feet slowly back to the floor. If you cannot do one rep, then hold the bottom position for time with your feet just a few inches off of the floor.
Mahler Body Blaster
Here is an exercise that works just about every muscle in the body and when done in high reps sets of 25-30 will have you huffing and puffing in no time. Start the exercise by standing up and looking straight ahead. Go into a full squat and then do a half roll back.
Touch your feet to the floor behind your head and quickly reverse the motion. Roll forward into the bottom position of a squat. From there jump into the top position of a pushup. Do a pushup and then return back to the bottom position of the squat. Stand up and repeat. Save this exercise for the end of your workouts on the road as a finisher.
Try doing a circuit with the above exercises in which you go from one exercise to the next with short breaks. Do five circuits in one workout and keep the rep range between 5-10 on all of the exercises except for the Mahler Body Blaster. Save that for the end and work up to 25-50 repetitions in on set.
Try doing a circuit with the below exercises in which you go from one exercise to the next with short breaks. Do five circuits in one workout.
- Handstand Pushups - 5-10 Reps
- One-Arm Pushup - 5-10 Reps
- Door Pull-up - 5-10 Reps
- One Legged Squat - 5-10 Reps
- Knee Jump - 5-10 Reps
- Headstand Leg Raise - 5-10 Reps
- Mahler Body Blaster - Work up to 25-50 Reps