Best Bodyweight Exercises: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced

Diving into bodyweight exercises can transform your fitness journey, offering a flexible and equipment-free way to gain strength, endurance, and muscle.

The best exercises vary by skill level—from foundational moves like push-ups and squats to advanced techniques like muscle-ups and handstand push-ups; keep reading to discover how to progress effectively through each stage.

Laying the Foundation with Beginner Exercises

Embarking on your fitness journey with bodyweight exercises sets the stage for remarkable strength and flexibility gains, tailored for beginners and scalable for future progress.

Let's delve into the foundational moves that will build your strength, perfect your form, and prepare you for more advanced challenges.

Why Start with Basics: The Importance of Building a Strong Foundation

Starting with basic exercises is akin to laying the first bricks of your fitness foundation.

These movements teach proper form, reduce the risk of injury, and ensure that your muscles are being engaged correctly.

A strong foundation allows for more effective workouts as you progress, preventing plateaus and maximizing gains.

Mastering the Push-up: Techniques and Variations for Every Level

Standard Push-ups: Begin in a plank position, hands shoulder-width apart.

Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the ground, then push back up.

Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels.

Knee Variations: For those building up strength, performing push-ups from your knees reduces the weight your arms carry, allowing you to focus on form and build upper body strength gradually.

Incline Push-ups: By placing your hands on an elevated surface, such as a bench, you reduce the difficulty of the push-up, making it accessible for beginners.

Squat the Right Way: Form, Benefits, and Beginner Modifications

Squats are essential for building lower body strength.

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out.

Bend your knees and lower your body as though sitting back into a chair, keeping your chest up and knees over toes.

To rise, drive through your heels, straightening your legs.

Modifications: Holding onto a chair for balance can help you maintain form without compromising the effectiveness of the exercise.

Planking for Core Strength: Starting Simple, Aiming for Progression

The plank is a powerhouse move for core stabilization.

Start on your forearms and toes, keeping your body in a straight line and your abdomen tight.

Begin with shorter intervals, aiming to extend the duration as your core strength improves.

Variations: Side planks focus on the obliques, while raising one leg or arm at a time can increase the challenge.

Creating Your First Bodyweight Routine: Combining Exercises for a Balanced Workout

A balanced beginner workout might look like this:

  1. Warm-Up: 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretching or light cardio to get the blood flowing.
  2. Push-Ups: 3 sets of 8-12 reps, using variations as needed.
  3. Squats: 3 sets of 8-12 reps, focusing on form and depth.
  4. Planks: 3 sets, holding each plank for 20-30 seconds, progressing as able.

Rest and Repeat: Allow at least 1 day of rest between workouts to permit muscle recovery and growth.

Advancing with Intermediate Exercises

As you embrace the gains from your foundational exercises, it's time to challenge yourself further.

Advancing to intermediate exercises not only escalates your strength and endurance but also introduces complexity that keeps both mind and body engaged.

Leveling Up: Transitioning from Beginner to Intermediate

The shift from beginner to intermediate demands more than just an increase in exercise difficulty.

It requires an understanding of your body's responses to workouts, recognizing when you're ready to tackle more complex movements without compromising form or risking injury.

Consistent performance, ease in completing beginner routines, and a hunger for more challenge are indicators it's time to level up.

Pike Push-ups for Upper Body Strength: Step-by-Step Guide

Pike push-ups target your shoulders and upper back, serving as a bridge to even more advanced exercises.

  1. Start in a Downward Dog position with your feet hip-width apart and hands slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  2. Elevate your hips so your body forms an inverted V.
  3. Bend your elbows and lower your head towards the ground between your hands.
  4. Push back up to the starting position, maintaining the pike position throughout.

Gradually increase reps as your strength improves, aiming for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Pulling Your Weight: Assisted Pull-ups for Muscle Growth

Assisted pull-ups help you build the necessary strength for unassisted pull-ups, focusing on your back, shoulders, and arms.

  1. Use a Resistance Band: Loop it over the pull-up bar, placing one foot in the band to support some of your weight as you pull yourself up.
  2. Chair Assistance: Place a chair under the pull-up bar. Use your legs minimally to assist with the upward motion.

Focus on form, pulling up until your chin is over the bar and lowering back down with control. Aim for 3 sets of 6-8 reps.

Lunging Forward: Incorporating Lunges for Leg Strength and Balance

Lunges are versatile, allowing for numerous variations to challenge different muscle groups and improve balance.

  • Standard Lunges: Step forward with one leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle.
  • Reverse Lunges: Step backward into the lunge for a different muscle engagement.
  • Side Lunges: Step to the side, keeping one leg straight as you bend the other knee.

Incorporate 3 sets of 8-12 reps per leg, experimenting with variations.

Intermediate Workout Plan: Structuring a Challenging, Yet Achievable Routine

An effective intermediate routine balances intensity and recovery, ensuring continuous progress without overtraining.

  1. Warm-Up: 5-10 minutes of cardiovascular exercise or dynamic stretching.
  2. Pike Push-Ups: 3 sets of 8-12 reps.
  3. Assisted Pull-Ups: 3 sets of 6-8 reps.
  4. Lunges (Variations): 3 sets of 8-12 reps per leg.
  5. Core Work: Incorporate planks, side planks, or bicycle crunches for comprehensive core engagement.
  6. Cool Down: Stretching focusing on flexibility and muscle relaxation.

Mastering Advanced Exercises

Reaching the advanced tier of bodyweight exercises marks a significant milestone in your fitness journey.

It's here that you push the boundaries of what your body can achieve, blending strength, balance, and technique to conquer the most challenging exercises.

Mastery at this level not only showcases your dedication but also your comprehensive physical conditioning.

Reaching the Peak: Preparing for Advanced Challenges

Transitioning to advanced exercises requires more than physical strength; it demands mental resilience, patience, and meticulous attention to form.

Before attempting these exercises, ensure your foundation is rock-solid, with a keen focus on core stability, upper body strength, and flexibility.

Gradual progression, combined with consistent practice and recovery, sets the stage for conquering advanced movements safely.

Muscle-Ups: The Ultimate Upper Body Exercise

Muscle-ups combine a pull-up and a dip, challenging your upper body, core, and coordination.

  1. Start with Pull-ups and Dips: Master these separately, focusing on explosive power for pull-ups and deep, controlled dips.
  2. False Grip: Use a false grip on the rings or bar (wrists over, not just holding) to facilitate the transition from pull-up to dip.
  3. The Swing: Initiate with a slight swing. As you pull yourself up, lean forward to bring your shoulders above the bar, then push up into the dip position.
  4. Transition Smoothly: The most challenging part. Practice the transition with resistance bands or through negative muscle-ups (starting from above and lowering yourself gradually).

Defying Gravity with Handstand Push-ups: Technique and Safety

Handstand push-ups demand exceptional shoulder strength, control, and balance.

  1. Wall Support: Begin with wall-supported handstands to get comfortable with the inversion.
  2. Shoulder Strength: Incorporate shoulder presses and pike push-ups into your routine to build the necessary strength.
  3. Practice: Start with partial reps or use a cushioned surface. Lower yourself until your head gently touches the ground, then push back up.
  4. Safety Measures: Always practice in a safe environment, potentially with a spotter when starting.

Pistol Squats: Balancing Strength and Coordination

Pistol squats test your lower body's strength, balance, and flexibility in equal measure.

  1. Master the Basics: Ensure you're comfortable with standard squats and have adequate ankle flexibility.
  2. Use Support: Begin by holding onto a support like a doorframe or a resistance band suspended from above.
  3. Depth and Control: Lower yourself on one leg, keeping the other extended forward. Go as low as you can while maintaining balance, then press back up.
  4. Progressive Overload: As you improve, reduce reliance on support and increase depth and reps.

Advanced Bodyweight Circuit: A Comprehensive, High-Intensity Workout Plan

An advanced bodyweight circuit pushes endurance, strength, and agility. Here's an example:

  1. Warm-Up: Dynamic stretching and light cardio for 10 minutes.
  2. Muscle-Ups: 3 sets of 4-6 reps.
  3. Handstand Push-Ups: 3 sets of 5-8 reps.
  4. Pistol Squats: 3 sets of 6-10 reps per leg.
  5. Core Finisher: Advanced planks (with leg raises or in an RKC plank) for 3 sets of 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  6. Cool Down: Stretch and hydrate, focusing on muscle recovery and flexibility.

Tips for Success

Embarking on a journey through bodyweight training, from the foundational steps to the pinnacle of advanced exercises, is both exhilarating and challenging.

Along this path, embracing certain strategies and mindsets can significantly enhance your success and enjoyment.

Avoiding Common Mistakes: Ensuring Safety and Effectiveness

One of the key elements to a successful training program is the ability to perform exercises with correct form, which safeguards against injury and ensures the effectiveness of each movement.

Common pitfalls include rushing through exercises, neglecting proper warm-up and cool-down routines, and taking on too much too quickly.

It's crucial to prioritize quality over quantity; executing a smaller number of reps with perfect form is far more beneficial than a higher volume of poorly performed exercises.

Listen to your body and give it the time it needs to adapt and strengthen, reducing the risk of overuse injuries that can derail your progress.

Progression Not Perfection: Setting Realistic Goals and Expectations

The pursuit of perfection can be a double-edged sword in fitness, often leading to frustration and burnout.

Instead, focus on progression, understanding that every small step forward is a victory.

Set realistic, achievable goals that motivate you without setting the bar impossibly high.

Celebrate the milestones, whether it's performing your first pull-up, mastering a new exercise variation, or simply feeling stronger and more energetic.

Remember, fitness is a personal journey, not a competition. Your pace and progress are your own, and they should bring you satisfaction and pride, not stress or disappointment.

Tracking Progress: Keeping Motivated and Acknowledging Achievements

Keeping a record of your workouts, including exercises performed, reps, sets, and any personal notes, can be incredibly motivating.

This log serves as a tangible reminder of where you started and how far you've come, providing a boost during moments of doubt or stagnation.

Reviewing your progress helps in identifying patterns, strengths, and areas for improvement, allowing for targeted adjustments to your routine.

Furthermore, acknowledging and celebrating your achievements, no matter how small they may seem, fosters a positive mindset and reinforces the habit of regular exercise.

Balancing Workouts with Recovery: The Role of Rest and Nutrition

Recovery is as vital to your fitness journey as the workouts themselves.

Rest days are essential for muscle repair, growth, and overall health.

Incorporating active recovery days, where you engage in light, non-strenuous activity, can also aid in muscle soreness and flexibility.

Nutrition plays a key role in recovery; fueling your body with a balanced diet rich in proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and micronutrients supports energy levels, muscle repair, and overall health.

Hydration, too, cannot be overlooked, as it's crucial for optimal performance and recovery.

Remember, achieving a balance between pushing your limits and allowing your body to rest and recuperate is foundational to long-term success and health.


Embarking on a bodyweight exercise journey represents a commitment to personal growth, strength, and resilience.

By understanding the foundational principles, progressively challenging yourself, and honoring your body's need for balance and recovery, you unlock the full potential of what fitness can offer.

Embrace this path with patience, dedication, and a positive mindset, and witness the transformative power of bodyweight training in your life.