Most people write off bodyweight training as a way to achieve conditioning, fat loss, and not much more. While bodyweight moves are good for conditioning and burning fat, you can use bodyweight workouts to build muscle as well. To do that, you need to mix the right movements with the right amount of volume.
The seven bodyweight workouts below will help you do it. Each of these workouts focuses on building muscle in a specific part of the body, and they can be completed in 30 minutes. For these workouts, all you’ll need is a TRX system or gymnastic rings, a pullup bar, benches and blocks, resistance bands (and a stable object, like a squat cage, to anchor them to), floor space, and some good old fashioned gusto. These are the best bodyweight workouts to build muscle—grab your gear and get to it.
The 7 Best Bodyweight Workouts to Build Muscle
Directions: These workouts contain a mix of straight sets, supersets, and compound sets. Straight sets are listed as A, B, or C. Perform the set and immediately take the prescribed rest. Supersets and compound sets involve pairing two movements back to back. They’re listed as A1 and A2, B1 and B2, etc. For these, perform one set of each movement and then take the prescribed rest.
Workout 1: Arms
- A1. TRX/Ring Dip x Max reps: Use a pair of gymnastic rings or TRX straps hung at waist level. Place a hand in each ring/strap and get into a dip position. Be sure to keep the straps close against your body—any gaps between your arms and the straps will cause instability. Perform the dips by leaning forward slightly and lowering yourself while keeping the straps close as described above.
- A2. TRX Rocker x 12: Hold a gymnastic ring or TRX strap in each hand and lean back into a supine position, with your chest facing up. Keeping your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, pull yourself upward into a sitting up position, bending at the waist. Let your butt swing under your torso as this happens. That’s one rep. Return to your starting position and repeat. Perform A1 and A2 as a superset for 4 rounds. Rest 60 seconds between rounds.
- B1. Close-grip Pushup x 20
- B2. Flexed Arm Hang x 30 sec.: This one is simple. Use an aid like a box or a step to assist you up to the top position of a chinup (chin over the bar). Then hold that position, focusing on good form and engaging your back, for the allotted time. Perform B1 and B2 as a superset for 4 rounds. Rest 60 seconds between rounds.
Workout 2: Legs
- A1. Band-assisted Nordic Curl x 8: Start on a mat or pad in an upright kneeling position (chest perpendicular to the floor) with your heels secured under something immovable. Attach a resistance band to something immovable above you (like a pullup bar or squat cage) and position the band around your chest or ribs. Next, keep your hands by your sides and slowly “fall” forward, without losing your tall body position; bend at the knees and try not to “take a bow” by leading from the hip joint. Aim for the chest to make it all the way to the ground, and use your hamstrings and the band assistance to pull you up to the top position.
- A2. Band-assisted Reverse Nordic Curl x 12: Using the same resistance band setup as above, start on a mat or pad in an upright kneeling position, this time facing the band (keep the tops of your feet facing the floor). Hold the free end of the resistance band in both hands and keep your arms held straight out in front of you. Perform the same Nordic curl action in reverse: Stay tall and lean backward. Focus on lengthening the quads while keeping them contracted. Go as far as you comfortably can before using your quads to return to the top position. Perform A1 and A2 as a superset for 4 rounds. Rest 60 seconds between rounds.
- B1. Foot-Over x 10 (each leg): Sit on your butt with outstretched legs and place a kettlebell or a similarly sized object near one foot. Pointing your big toe and keeping your leg straight, lift the leg nearest the kettlebell slowly over the kettlebell and touch down on the other side of it. Return to the start position in the same fashion. As you move your leg, remain tall and keep the knee as straight as possible. Make sure your hip and quads in the working leg are engaged the entire time.
- B2. Copenhagen Plank x 10 (each side): Find a bench and lay sideways on the floor perpendicular to it: Place the shin of the top leg on the bench and rest on your opposite forearm. Assume a side plank by raising the hips off the ground while staying anchored to the bench by your top leg. The bottom leg should “sandwich” the bench from below—it’s okay if the knee bends to do so. Repeat this motion for 10 reps per side. Perform as a superset for 4 rounds. Rest 60 seconds between rounds.
Workout 3: Back
- A. Band-assisted Chinup 8 x 8: Rest 60 seconds between rounds.
- B. Inverted Row 5 x 12: At a squat rack, securely place a bar at waist level. Then place both hands on the bar and hang under it, maintaining a straight body from head to heels. Pull your chest to the bar while engaging the upper back and squeezing the shoulder blades together. Rest 60 seconds between rounds.
- C1. Bear Dog x 6 (each side): Start in a quadruped position (on all fours facing the floor). Keep your knees off the ground by a couple of inches—only your hands and feet should touch the ground. Slowly raise one arm and the opposite leg off the ground simultaneously while maintaining stability. Aim for a full extension of each limb, and repeat on the opposing sides.
- C2. Blackburn x 10 (slow reps): Start out lying on your stomach with your hands beside your shoulders, elbows bent, and arms parallel to your body. Pull your shoulder blades together and slowly move your arms straight above your head to full extension (creating a flying Superman pose). Make sure not to let any part of your arms or hands touch the floor through the entire range of motion. Perform C1 and C2 as a superset for 4 rounds. Rest 60 seconds between rounds.
Workout 4: Chest and Core
- A. TRX/Ring Pushup 5 x 12: Rest 60 seconds between sets.
- B1. Pushup with Single-arm Deficit x 7 (each arm): Set up a low platform and then get into a pushup position with one hand on the floor and the other on the edge of the platform. Lower yourself to the bottom of your range of motion and then push up until the arm on the platform is completely straightened. (The other hand will leave the ground.)
- B2. Hanging Leg Raise x 10: Hang from a pullup bar with both arms straight. Raise both legs together, keeping them straight, until they are parallel to the floor. Repeat. Perform B1 and B2 as a superset for 4 rounds. Rest 60 seconds between rounds.
- C1. Hand Walkout x 6: Start in a standing position. Then, bending at the waist, place both hands on the ground right in front of your feet and “walk” with your hands outward, past a pushup position. Keeping your body off the ground, hold that position for 3 seconds before “walking” your hands backward to your start position. It’s OK to stand up between reps.
- C2. Band-assisted Plyo Pushup x 12 (max effort): Place a resistance band around your chest or ribcage and attach the other end to a high, sturdy fixture like a pullup bar. Keeping the band around your chest, lower yourself into a pushup position. Perform explosive pushups with the assistance of the band; your hands should leave the ground on each rep. Perform C1 and C2 as a superset for 4 rounds. Rest 90 seconds between rounds.
Workout 5: Shoulders
- A1. Suicide Pushup x 10: Place both feet on a bench, and set up two more benches or other sturdy platforms for your hands to rest on. You want to position your hands a bit closer to your feet than normal—the pushup will be performed from a pike position. Lower the body headfirst to “dive” between the two hand platforms for an inverted shoulder press.
- A2. Isometric Shoulder Extension x 30 sec. (max effort): Start in a squat position in front of a wall. Reach back with straight arms so your fists make contact with the wall while in the squat position. Push as hard as you can against the wall with your arms. Keep your upper back contracted while doing so. Perform A1 and A2 as a superset for 4 rounds. Rest 90 seconds between rounds.
- B1. Bodyweight Bridge x 30 sec.: Lay flat on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. Place your hands behind your shoulders, palms down. Press into the floor with your hands and feet and raise your body off the ground. Aim for a full extension of your arms, and squeeze your glutes to open your hips up. Hold that position.
- B2. Single-arm Burpee x 8 (each arm): Start in a standing position. Then reach down and place one hand on the floor, and quickly extend your legs back so you’re in a single-arm pushup position. Then quickly bring your legs back underneath your body and return to a standing position. That’s one rep. Perform B1 and B2 as a superset for 4 rounds. Rest 90 seconds between rounds.
Workout 6: Legs Part II
- A1. Glute L-bridge x 10 (each leg): Lay on your back with your feet on the floor and legs bent, then raise your hips up into a bridge position. While holding that position, lift one foot off the ground, and bring your knee back toward your chest, keeping that knee at a 90-degree angle. Next, slowly rotate the raised leg out to the side, keeping your knee in the same position. Go as far as you can without tilting your body, and slowly return to the start position. Repeat for 10 reps.
- A2. Hip Thrust With Added Range of Motion x 10 (each leg): Start with your upper back on a bench (body extending sideways off the bench) and one foot resting on another bench or other sturdy platform. Perform a single-leg hip thrust with the opposite leg. Allow your butt to travel all the way to the floor, not just the level of the platform. Perform A1 and A2 as a compound set for 4 rounds. Rest 60 seconds between rounds.
- B1. Band-assisted Pistol Squat x 8 (each leg): Set up a band across the pins of a squat cage, or between two other sturdy anchor points, and perform single-leg squats into the band (your butt should contact and stretch the band downward as you move). The band will act as a sling to assist you through the difficult bottom end of the movement and back up to the top position.
- B2. Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat x 8 (each leg): Stand in front of a bench. Extend one leg backward and place the top of your foot on the bench behind you. Then slowly lower your body into a squat, flexing the opposite knee. Return to the start position and repeat. Perform B1 and B2 as a compound set for 4 rounds. Rest 60 seconds between rounds.
- C. Bench Leg Extensions 4 x 12: Place both feet on a bench (rest on your toes) and both hands on the floor. Keep the hips high (similar to a pike position), and then lower your knees toward the floor. Aim for as much knee flexion as possible. Next, drive the knees back up to the original position, aiming for straight legs at the top. Flex your quads hard as you return to the starting position.
Workout 7 – Core Part II
- A1. TRX Bear Stance Shoulder Taps x 10 (each arm): Set up a gymnastics ring or TRX strap so the handle is about a foot off the ground. Start in a quadruped position with your knees hovering off the ground by a few inches and your feet spread apart behind you (a bit wider than shoulder width). Grab the handle with one hand and push up so your arm has just a slight bend at the elbow. Hold that position. Carefully lift your other hand off the ground and touch the opposite shoulder. Avoid shifting or twisting the body as you do this, and repeat on the other side.
- A2. Banded L-sit x Max Time: Sit on the ground with legs extended. Place two blocks or other short, sturdy objects on either side of you, at your hips. Wrap a resistance band around your torso, just below your arms, and wrap the other end of the band around your feet. Keeping your legs straight out in front of you, push down on the blocks with your hands and lift your entire body off the ground. Hold that position. Perform A1 and A2 as a superset for 4 rounds. Rest 60 seconds between rounds.
- B1. Pushup to Long Lever Plank x 10: Perform a standard pushup, and at the top of your motion, explosively “jump” with the hands out to a long lever plank—that means finishing with outstretched arms—before “jumping” back into your next pushup rep.
- B2. EZ Dragon Flag x 10: Lay flat on your back in front of a sturdy structure or post. Make sure it’s something you can get a good grip on. Hold the post tightly with both hands and raise your legs and lower- to mid-back off the ground, so your legs point straight up. Then slowly lower your back and legs to the floor. Keep your legs as straight as possible throughout. Perform B1 and B2 as a superset for 4 rounds. Rest 60 seconds between rounds.
- C. Rear Support March 3 x 10 (each leg): Start in a reverse plank position, with both hands on the floor, your body facing upward (supine) and both heels in contact with the ground. There should be a straight line between your head, shoulders, and heels. Maintaining that position, carefully raise one knee into the chest, and slowly return it to the start position. Repeat on the opposite side. Rest 60 seconds between sets.
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