The Only 12 Bodyweight Exercises You’ll Ever Need to Get In Shape

No Gym, No Problem. The Only 12 Exercises You'll Ever Need to Transform Your Body.
4 mins read
The 12 best bodyweight exercises to get in shape

Whether you want to get in shape as part of a new year’s resolution or for some other reason, starting an exercise program is a daunting prospect. The thought of getting up every day and heading to the gym just to sweat and pant for an hour is not something most people aspire to.

However, the benefits of exercise are numerous. Exercise has been associated with improved cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and total body health. In fact, exercise is so beneficial to our health, that some researchers consider sedentary behavior to be a risk factor for more serious health issues.

Granted, it’s tough to navigate the wide, confusing world of the fitness-related internet. There are literally thousands of different fitness articles out there, many of them contradicting each other. But I’m here to tell you right now: exercise doesn’t have to be complicated.

By simply completing a few, basic strengthening moves, 3 times per week, you can improve your health immensely. Add to this some walking or another form of light cardiovascular exercise, and you’ll be well on your way to optimal health. On top of all of this, if you clean up your diet, I guarantee you will move much closer toward your health goals. 

The 12 Best Bodyweight Exercises You’ll Ever Need to Get Fit

The 12 Best Bodyweight Exercises You'll Ever Need to Get Fit

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In this post, I’ll outline a 12-move exercise plan you can perform at home. I recommend starting with this program in the following way:

  • 3 sets of each exercise (unless otherwise indicated).
  • 12-15 reps of each exercise (unless otherwise indicated).
  • 3 days per week.

That’s it! Now, let’s take a look at the exercises in question.

1. Pushups

When it comes to strengthening the upper body, pushups are one of the best things you can do. People have been doing pushups for generations, and they are just as effective now as they were back in ancient times.

How to Perform

  1. Place hands and toes on the ground, keeping back straight. 
  2. Bend your elbows and slowly lower your chest to the floor.
  3. Tap the floor lightly with your chest, then push yourself back up.

2. Low Planks

Planks utilize an isometric contraction to build strength and stability. This is an excellent way to train the abs for improved daily function.

How to Perform

  1. Place forearms and toes on the floor.
  2. Keeping your back straight, contract your abdominal muscles.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 4 times per session. 

3. Hip Thrusts

With or without weight, hip thrusts are perfect for toning and strengthening the glutes.

How to Perform

  • Lie on the floor with knees bent to about 90 degrees and feet on the floor.
  • Push heels into the ground and lift hips to the ceiling.
  • Hold for 10 seconds and return to the ground to complete the rep. 

4. Wide-Step Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers can be used to increase endurance, core strength, and mobility. Try this variation to the standard mountain climber.

How to Perform

  • Start in a pushup position.
  • Bring your right knee to the outside of your right armpit, placing your foot on the floor.
  • Return to the starting position and complete on the other side for one rep.

5. Shoulder Touches

The shoulders are incredibly complex. For this reason, it’s important to include many good stabilizing movements for this joint in your routine.

How to Perform

  • Start in a push-up position
  • Lift right hand off of the floor and tap left shoulder.
  • Repeat on the other side for one rep.

6. Deep Squats

If you can’t go very deep yet, that’s ok. Just go down as far as you can each time to enjoy the many benefits of the squat exercise.

How to Perform

  • In standing, assume a stance with your feet facing forward and spaced about hip-width apart.
  • Bend your knees and push your hips back to descend as low as you can.
  • Stand back up in the opposite way to complete one rep.

7. Side-to-Side Squats

Much like the previous exercise, the side-to-side variation on the squat helps to increase lower body strength and stability. The single-leg variation also helps to address any asymmetries throughout the body.

How to Perform

  • Start in standing, with feet slightly wider than hip-width.
  • Step your right leg straight out to the side and squat down low.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat on the left side to complete one rep. 

8. Plyo Squats

Plyo movements aren’t appropriate for everyone. If you have joint issues or other, similar considerations, you may choose to avoid this movement.

How to Perform

  • Begin in standing, feet hip-width apart.
  • Perform a squat, then explode upward off of the ground at the top of the move.
  • Land with your knees bent to cushion the blow to complete one rep.

9. Plyo Scissor Squats

Again, if you have knee or joint issues, skip this high-level, high-impact move. For those whom this move is appropriate, get ready to feel the burn!

How to Perform

  • Start in a standing position, right foot slightly in front of the left.
  • Perform a lunge.
  • As you stand up, jump into the air and switch the position of your legs.
  • Repeat on the left side to complete one rep.

10. RDLs

Romanian deadlifts, or RDLs are a popular move for a variety of different goals. This movement strengthens the glutes, hamstrings, and low back. 

How to Perform

  • In standing, place all of your weight on your right leg.
  • Bend forward at the waist, attempting to touch the ground with your fingers.
  • Stand back up.
  • Complete a set on one side before switching in order to work on balance as well as strengthening/endurance.

11. Step Back Lunges

By simply modifying the movement pattern slightly, you can totally change an exercise.

How to Perform

  • Start in standing.
  • Step your right leg backward and lower down into a lunge.
  • Step back to the starting position and repeat on the left side.

12. Caterpillars

This alternative to pushups is a great way for anyone, of any level, to improve total body strength, especially in the core region.

How to Perform

  • Start in standing.
  • Place hands on the ground and walk them forward into the pushup position.
  • Then, walk your hands backward and stand up.
  • This is one rep.


Exercise is an essential component of good health. Those who avoid regular exercise are at increased risk for serious health complications. 

Fortunately, by completing a comprehensive strengthening exercise program, such as the one outlined above, you can put yourself on a path to better health. As always, if you have any specific medical concerns or considerations, talk to your healthcare provider before trying this program.

Works Cited

  1. Park JH, Moon JH, Kim HJ, Kong MH, Oh YH. Sedentary Lifestyle: Overview of Updated Evidence of Potential Health Risks. Korean J Fam Med. 2020 Nov;41(6):365-373. doi: 10.4082/kjfm.20.0165. Epub 2020 Nov 19. PMID: 33242381; PMCID: PMC7700832.
  2. Bennie JA, Shakespear-Druery J, De Cocker K. Muscle-strengthening Exercise Epidemiology: a New Frontier in Chronic Disease Prevention. Sports Med Open. 2020 Aug 26;6(1):40. doi: 10.1186/s40798-020-00271-w. PMID: 32844333; PMCID: PMC7447706.

Bennett Richardson, DPT, PT, CSCS

Bennett Richardson, based in Pittsburgh, PA, is a dedicated physical therapist and writer. Certified as a strength and conditioning coach (CSCS) since 2014, he holds a BS in exercise science and a doctorate in physical therapy, both from Slippery Rock University. Beyond his professional pursuits, Bennett enjoys leisurely reading and staying active.

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