5 Must-Do Exercises for the Perfect Bodyweight Workout

If you’ve committed to exercising every day this month (and want to keep it up all year!),­ we’ve got the perfect bodyweight workout plan for you. Here, you’ll find five moves, complete with the beginner, intermediate and advanced variations so you can progress as you gain strength. Even better, you’ll get cheat sheet on how to put them all together into a circuit that fits your schedule and fitness level. 

RELATED: Got 10 Minutes? 3 Fat-Blasting Bodyweight Workouts

Meet Your 5 Moves for The Ultimate Bodyweight Workout

These five must-do exercises, curated by former Daily Burn 365 trainer Dean Sheremet, will work your body from top to bottom. As a bonus, they require zero equipment (unless you choose to add weights), and you’ll get the swing of them in no time, Sheremet says. That means you can focus on pushing yourself toward more sweat and a better workout, instead of wasting time trying to figure out the exercise.

Start with the beginner version of each move below and work your way up to the advanced version as your strength and fitness improves. It’s the progressive workout that improves right along with you.

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1. Plank (Beginner)

How to: Begin in a forearm plank position with elbows bent and directly beneath your shoulders, forearms flat on the floor (a). Contract your midsection to maintain a straight torso and hold for time. Don’t allow your low-back to sag toward the floor or your hips pike up toward the ceiling (b).

Beginner Bodyweight Workout: Up-Down Plank Exercise

Up-Down Plank (Intermediate)

How to: Begin in a high plank push-up position with arms straight and hands directly under your shoulders (a). Keeping your back flat and your body in a straight line, contract your midsection and bend one elbow to lower onto your forearm, then follow with the other arm (b). Return to starting position by straightening one arm and planting your hand under your shoulder. Then, push up with the opposite arm so both arms are straight and you’re back in a high plank position (c). Continue for time, alternating which forearm goes down first and which pushes back up to starting position.

Up-Down Plank to Push-Up (Advanced)

How to: See up-down plank above, and add a push-up each time you reach the extended arm plank.

Why it’s on the list: No matter which plank variation you choose, you’ll build core strength and stability — a must-do if you want to move with ease and even stand upright. With the intermediate and advanced versions, you’ll also target your chest, triceps, and back.

RELATED: This is How to Do Perfect Push-Ups (Even on Your Knees)

Beginner Bodyweight Workout: Reverse Lunge Exercise

2. Reverse Lunge (Beginner)

How to: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides (a). Step backward with one foot and bend both knees to lower your hips toward the floor. Knees should bent 90 degrees, while the front knee stays behind your front toes (b). Return to standing by pushing through the heel of your front foot (c). Repeat with the opposite leg. Continue alternating sides for time.

Split Squat Jump (Intermediate)

How to: Begin in a lunge position, knees bent with your front thigh parallel to the floor (a). Jump up explosively and switch legs midair so your back leg becomes your front leg (b). Land softly and repeat for time (c).

180 Split Squat Jump (Advanced)

How to: See the split squat jump above, but squeeze in a 180-degree turn as you jump and switch legs to hit each lunge.

Why it’s on the list: You’ll hit your quads, hamstrings, and glutes — some of the biggest muscles in the body. Translation: You burn more calories as you build strength. The intermediate and advanced variations also give you a cardio boost.

Beginner Bodyweight Workout: March Exercise

3. Bodyweight March (Beginner)

How to: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides (a). Simultaneously drive your knee and opposite arm up so both are bent 90 degrees (b). Lower to the starting stance and repeat the movement with the opposite arm and leg (c). Continue for time. When marching, think about pulling your heel directly up to avoid overarching your back. Shoulders should stay over your hips.

High Knees (Intermediate)

How to: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides (a). Standing in place, drive one knee high toward your chest as quickly as possible, place your foot back on the floor and immediately driving the other knee high toward your chest (b). Continue to alternate your knees as quickly as you can while maintaining a straight torso (c). Keep repeating for time.

Quick High Knees (Advanced)

How to: See high knees above, but simply go faster, just like you would on the run. Keep aiming to get your knees as high as possible, too.

Why it’s on the list: Whether you go fast or slow, you’ll get your heart pumping while you strengthen your hip flexors.

RELATED: 3 Quick HIIT Workouts for Beginners

Beginner Bodyweight Workout: Lateral Lunge Exercise

4. Lateral Lunge (Beginner)

How to: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart, arms at your sides (a). With one foot, take a big step to the side, bending that knee and sitting down and back on your leg. Lower your hips as far as possible. Think about hitting a squat position on that side moving leg, as your other leg stays straight (b). Return to standing by pushing off the foot of your bent leg (c). Continue alternating sides for time.

Curtsy Lunge (Intermediate)

How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart (a). Keeping your weight on one leg, step the opposite foot back on a diagonal until you end in a lunge, with your back foot to the back and side of your front foot (b). Drive back to starting position by pushing through the hip of your stationary leg (c). Continue alternating sides for time.

Weighted Curtsy Lunge (Advanced)

How to: See curtsy lunge above. Now pick up some dumbbells or a kettlebell. Added weight will help build your strength even faster.

Why it’s on the list: This move strengthens your quads, hamstrings, and glutes, as well as targets your inner thighs — all important for walking, running, jumping and twisting.

Beginner Bodyweight Workout: Knee Grab Sit-Up Exercise

5. Knee Grab Sit-Up (Beginner)

How to: Lie on your back on the floor with your arms and legs extended (a). Brace your core and perform a sit-up, as you simultaneously bend your knees toward your chest and grab your knees with your arms at the top of the movement (b). Slowly lower back down to the floor and straighten your legs (c). Repeat for time.

V-Ups (Intermediate)

How to: Lie on your back on the floor with your arms and legs extended (a). Keeping your legs straight, lift your feet up toward the ceiling to form about a 45-degree angle at your hips. At the same time, lift your torso and raise your arms to reach your fingers toward your toes (b). Lower your legs, torso, and arms back down to the floor (c). Repeat for time.

Quick Tempo V-Up (Advanced)

How to: See V-up above, but pick up the tempo to amp up your heart rate and the calorie burn. Or pause at the top of the movement to really feel your core fire.

Why it’s on the list: You’ll challenge your entire core as you improve balance and stability.

RELATED: 50 Ab Exercises to Score a Stronger Core

Create Your Own Bodyweight Workout

No matter your fitness level, preference and schedule, you can easily put the five exercises above together to create a 10-, 20- or 30-minute circuit. Here’s how. 

For a 10-minute circuit: Pick three moves. Perform the first move for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest. Then, perform the second move for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest. Finally, perform the third move for 30 seconds, followed by 30 seconds of rest. Repeat two to three times for a total of three to four rounds. Or, run through all five moves two times.

For a 20-minute circuit: Perform all five moves using the same format as the 10-minute routine, working for 30 seconds followed by 30 seconds of rest. Complete four rounds.

For a 30-minute circuit: Follow the same format as the 20-minute circuit, but perform six rounds. You can also play with the work to rest ratio, going hard for 45 seconds and resting for just 15.

Read More
275 Bodyweight Exercises to Shake Up Your Workout Routine
20-Minute Bodyweight Workout for Your Busiest Days
The Quick Calisthenics Workout You Can Do Anywhere

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Originally published on December 31, 2017. Updated on January 25, 2022

GIFs by Dean Sheremet. Cover image by Daily Burn

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