Jason Ferruggia of Renegade Strength & Conditioning posted this excellent collection of bodyweight exercises. I've become a big fan of bodyweight exercises for my clients, for rehabbing injuries, and for cardio fitness that maintains strength. This collection that Jason has assembled is an outstanding foundation.
If you don't think bodyweight training works, take a look at a male gymnast or even Bruce Lee, who never liked weights because they hurt his flexibility.
Go read the whole article.
Bodyweight exercises are awesome for building muscle and strength. Unlike a lot of barbell and dumbbell moves, bodyweight exercises are very natural and can usually be done pain free by most people… as long as you take the time to strengthen your connective tissue and work through the progressions properly.
If you have never done pistol squats before and attempt full reps today without preparing your knees for them over the course of several weeks you will end up hurting yourself. Then you will say that pistols suck and cause knee injuries. In order to work up to advanced bodyweight exercises you need to be patient and take the time necessary to master them. This will prevent injuries and also build tremendous muscular size and strength.
Most of my programs include 1-4 heavy barbell or dumbbell exercises along with a boatload of bodyweight exercises and some strongman stuff. I think that combination is the ultimate way to build bad ass size, strength and explosive power.
But if I had to pick between traditional weighted exercises, strongman and bodyweight I’d go with the latter every time. I enjoy it the most and I find it the most impressive.
Most people I know have almost no reaction to a guy bench pressing 500 pounds anymore. But if you show them a video of someone doing a dozen muscle ups or elevated handstand pushups they’re pretty impressed.
One huge mistake people make with bodyweight training is they never work up to more difficult levels of the exercises so they end up doing nothing but high reps.
High reps won’t build muscle and gain weight nor will they add any real strength. Once you can do more than ten, and in some cases of lower body exercises- 20 reps, you need to progress to the next level otherwise you’re just doing cardio.
Below is a list of my top 20 bodyweight exercises for building muscle and strength.
My favorites: chins/pull ups, inverted rows, muscle ups, push ups, pistols, hill sprints, dips (I need some extra weight for this one, or a very slow negative followed by an explosive positive), and ab wheel roll out. Any time an exercise gets easy, just slow it way down for the negative and make the positive motion explosive.
For example, most guys who have been lifting for a while can rep our 50 or so Prisoner Squats without much difficulty, so next time try doing a 5-10 second descent into the bottom position, then explode into a full jump, getting as high as you can. It makes a difference.