Bodyweight workout plan: woman in a high plank positionBodyweight workout plan: woman in a high plank position
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Kickoff's certified personal trainers and registered dietitians share detailed analysis, discussion, and how-tos about the questions we get most often

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Bodyweight Workout Plan: What It Is and How to Create One

A bodyweight workout plan is just what it sounds like: a workout plan consisting of exercises that use nothing but your own bodyweight. No fancy equipment or gym membership required! 

Conveniently, these can easily be home workouts. All you need is your body – and yes, you’ll still get a very effective workout even though you’re not using equipment.

Read on to see some sample bodyweight exercises, how to turn them into a workout plan, and how to set realistic goals and stay accountable. (Of course, when it comes to accountability, nothing beats having a personal trainer – more on this later.)

Best Bodyweight Exercises

Bodyweight workout plan: Michael from The Office doing high knees GIF

Here, we’ll go over some of the most effective exercises for bodyweight training. Done together, these exercises could start off your bodyweight workout plan, but we’ll talk about other ways you can design your workout plan in the next section.

1. Lunges

Lunges are a fantastic exercise for your lower body, targeting all the muscles in your legs. 

  1. Begin in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart.

  2. Step forward with your left leg while bringing your right knee down to the floor, so that both knees are at right angles.

  3. Bring your left leg back, and straighten both legs to return to the starting position.

  4. Repeat with your right leg.

Modifications: You can step out to the side for side lunges, or step backwards for backwards lunges. For a greater challenge, alternate forward, side, and backwards lunges.

2. Jumping Jacks

This explosive, full-body exercise targets every major muscle group in the body, especially your leg muscles. Plus, you look super cool when you do them!

  1. Begin in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart.

  2. In one motion, jump both legs out to the side while raising both arms. Land with your feet more than hip-width apart, and your hands above your head. (You can also clap your hands together.)

  3. Jump back to the starting position.

Modification: If you need to make this low-impact, simply remove the jump. Instead, alternate stepping one foot to the side to bring your legs further apart while raising your arms, then bring your foot back to the starting position.

3. Bodyweight Squats

The classic squat is a great way to target your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and abs, building strength in your lower body and core.

  1. Begin in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart, and clasp your hands in front of you or keep them at your sides.

  2. Squat down as though you’re about to sit in a chair, keeping your waist above your knees and your upper body straight.

  3. Bring yourself back to the starting position.

Modification: For more intensity, try jump squats by adding a vertical jump between reps. You can also try single-leg squats, keeping one leg lifted and alternating which leg you squat with.

4. Crunches

Crunches are one of the most effective ways to strengthen your core muscles. You’ll get all the same benefits of sit-ups or curl-ups in a shorter motion. This video shows you how to do each step.

  1. Begin on the floor, lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. You can cross your arms in front of you, behind your head, or at your sides.

  2. Raise your upper body off the floor, bringing your chest towards your knees, but stop as soon as you feel the burn in your abs. (Your head and shoulders should be fully off the ground, but you don’t need to come all the way up to your knees.)

  3. Lower yourself back to the starting position.

5. Push-ups

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Perhaps the most classic of all bodyweight exercises, the push-up requires you to lift your bodyweight with the strength of your arms. It’s a very effective way to target all the muscles in your upper body.

  1. Begin in a plank position. Keep your back straight and knees unbent.

  2. Lower your bodyweight to the ground by bending your arms, and stop when your nose is just above the ground.

  3. Raise yourself back up.

Modifications: If you need to make these easier, try knee push-ups. Keep your knees on the ground so you have less weight to lift up and down. You can also try standing wall push-ups. Stand next to a wall, place your hands on it, lean towards the wall, then push yourself away.

6. Mountain Climbers

Just like climbing a mountain, from the comfort of your floor! This powerhouse exercise targets many major muscle groups, especially your upper body and core muscles.

  1. Begin in a plank position (same as with push-ups).

  2. Lift your left foot, and bring your left knee towards your chest.

  3. Bring your left leg back to its starting position.

  4. Repeat with your right leg.

7. Burpees

You knew these were coming! Burpees are like a full-body calisthenics workout, targeting all the major muscle groups in the body. Here’s a video to show you how it works.

  1. Begin in a standing position with feet shoulder-width apart.

  2. Do a vertical jump, keeping your knees slightly bent.

  3. As you land, do a squat (see exercise 3).

  4. Place your hands on the floor, keeping your arms between your legs so that your elbows are just inside your knees.

  5. Frog kick your legs behind you, getting yourself into a plank position.

  6. Do a push-up (see exercise 5 above).

  7. Bring your legs back towards your chest, keeping your knees outside your elbows.

  8. Stand back up, and repeat starting with step 2.

Modifications: To make these low-impact, remove the vertical jump (step 2). If you can’t do a full push-up, you can also try a knee push-up (see modifications for exercise 5).

How to Create a Bodyweight Workout Plan

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While the seven exercises above make a great workout by themselves, there are many other ways you can combine them for a bodyweight workout plan (and many other bodyweight exercises you can try). Here’s a list of things to keep in mind as you plan:

1. First, consider whether you’d like to target your lower body, your upper body, your core, or a combination. While a good workout plan includes exercises that target all the major muscle groups, you can carefully emphasize areas you’d like to work more on. 

For a full-body workout, consider trying two upper body exercises, two lower body exercises, one core exercise, and one cardio exercise.

While the above exercises can all be done with zero equipment, you can also include equipment you already happen to have. For instance, pull-ups require the use of a pull-up bar or barbell. If you have those, feel free to include pull-ups in your workout. Dumbbells can also be added to some of the exercises for more intensity.

2. Next, you need to decide how long you want your workout to be, or how many reps of each exercise to do. To get started, try 10-12 reps of each exercise, and modify if you feel that’s too challenging or easy. You can also time yourself instead of counting reps, aiming for 1-2 minutes for each exercise.

3. You’ll also need to consider how often to do your bodyweight workout plan. Start with 2-3 times per week (with at least one rest day in between) if you can. 

As exciting as it is to start a new workout plan, you’ll want to be careful not to overdo it. Without sufficient rest time, you’re more susceptible to injuries, which can set you back even further.

4. Of course, you don’t have to stick with just one workout. Create as many different workouts as you’d like, focusing on exercises you can do with your bodyweight. 

For instance, many HIIT workouts include only bodyweight exercises, and they target both strength training and cardiovascular endurance. Try alternating between at least two different workouts.

After you’ve been consistent with your workout routine for at least a couple of weeks, you can consider ways to make it more challenging. We like to focus on progressive overload, or making the exercises more challenging so you continue to build muscle.

Setting Achievable Goals and Staying Accountable

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By now, we hope you’re convinced that having a bodyweight workout plan is an easy, convenient, and effective way to start your strength training off right! 

We’ve seen some sample exercises, many of which you were likely already familiar with (jumping jacks, push-ups, crunches, etc.), and we’ve seen how you might combine them into a workout routine.

But as we all know, having a plan is very different from actually doing it. You might have the best of intentions, but life’s challenges and distractions can throw a workout routine off course. So, make sure your routine makes sense for your schedule.

Of course, even if you’re able to set achievable goals, you still need to hold yourself accountable. This is where other people can help, especially personal trainers. The online personal trainers from Kickoff will not only help you plan the right bodyweight workout routine for you, but they’ll quickly learn what sort of external accountability really motivates you.

For just $3 a day (way less than you’d pay for an in-person trainer), you’ll have a friendly expert in your corner, giving you invaluable advice and rooting for you every step of the way. Take this quiz to get matched with a Kickoff trainer today.