The Best Bodyweight Workout Routine for Building Mass
So, you want to be your own gym…
More often than not, our readers ask us questions related to the best types of exercises to accomplish their various fitness goals.
And to more specific, these questions are related to the best bodyweight workouts.
With these questions, come variations along the lines of:
- Can I build muscle by only doing bodyweight exercises?
- What are the best bodyweight exercises for building muscle?
- How many reps, sets, and time do I have to complete before I start seeing results?
- What types of equipment do I need to perform the best bodyweight exercises?
You get the point.
With the increased interest in bodyweight exercises, with natural bodyweight bodybuilders like Frank Madrano, Scott Mathison, and Jason Ferruggia…
…decided it was time to compile all of the best bodyweight workouts into this ultimate guide.ci
Our goals for you, after reading this guide, are simple:
- To teach you the advantages and disadvantages of using strictly bodyweight workouts
- Which bodyweight exercises are best for you (and your goals); and
- To provide you with the best full body bodyweight workout routine you can try today
Are Bodyweight Workouts Good for Building Muscle?
First, it’s important to understand the difference between simply working out vs. training to reach your goals.
Working out, simply put, can apply to anything that results in breaking a sweat, essentially.
While training to accomplish a specific goal implies that you’re following a systematic approach, with a complete workout regimen, nutrition regimen, and supplement regimen designed to help you to achieve specific results.
Next, it’s important to differentiate weightlifting/bodybuilding vs. bodyweight training.
Weightlifting, as most of you know, refers to what you typically see in the gym, right?
Where you’re pulling and pushing weight, simply put.
While bodyweight training implies that you’re using nothing more than your bodyweight to perform each and every exercise.
The focus on this guide is:
Bodyweight training to reach your goals.
When it comes to bodyweight training, there are a number of advantages (as opposed to weight lifting):
- Convenience – bodyweight exercises can be performed anywhere and everywhere, with nothing more than some self discipline and the desire to get better.
- Affordability – bodyweight workouts, again, can be performed anywhere and do not require any form of gym membership or workout equipment to get started and see results.
- Efficiency – bodyweight routines can be performed in as little as 30 seconds, when you think about it. They don’t require you to drive anywhere, prepare your gym bag, or anything.
- Privacy – Perhaps one of the greatest appeals to bodyweight training is that you don’t have to perform it with a training partner, or with anybody at all. You can do it in the privacy of your own home, at a park, or anywhere that you have the time and space to perform your routine.
When it comes to building muscle, bodyweight exercises can be great, but they’re also somewhat limited.
Because of something the bodyweight world refers to as “progressive overload“.
In the gym, you’re able to perform various reps and sets with varying amounts of weight, to increase the amount of muscle tissue breakdown in the muscles, which ultimately lead to increases level of muscle growth and protein synthesis.
Bodyweight exercises, at the end of the day, are limited to your bodyweight and to the extent that you push yourself .
Ultimately, increasing the number of pushups, squats, planks, or dips you can perform in a row, doesn’t necessarily result in as much muscle mass as increasing the amount of weight you’re pulling or pushing under the bar.
But, that’s certainly not to say that you can’t build muscle with the right bodyweight workout routine.
What are the Best Bodyweight Exercises?
If you’ve ever jumped on Google and typed in:
Best Bodyweight Exercises
There’s a good chance you’ve felt the sheer overwhelming feeling of having (literally) hundreds and hundreds of choices to choose from.
But, with all that information, how do you know which exercises are truly best for your bodyweight workout regimen?
We like to refer to what’ known as the Pareto Principle for this one.
Otherwise known as “the 80/20 rule”.
In layman’s terms, this simply means:
80% of your results will come from 20% of the exercises.
With this in mind, we’re able to provide you with this handful of bodyweight exercises and be 100% confident in their ability to deliver your results, if you perform them properly, consistently and with the mindset of achieving your goals.
Without having at least one (of the many) variations of pushups, you can’t have a complete bodyweight routine.
The good news here:
There are literally dozens and dozen of different variations, from incline, to decline, to standard form.
As one of the simplest and most original forms of exercising, the pushup is also one of the most well-respected workouts you can perform.
Ever try to complete 100 consecutive pushups?
How about 50 consecutive pushups?
Pushups help to train the upper body, with the highest points of progress on the chest, shoulders, and arms.
Dips are another incredibly powerful exercises for developing your triceps, chest, shoulders, and traps.
Performed simply by placing your hands behind you on a flat horizontal surface, with your legs out in front of your and simply performing a “dip” motion.
Traditionally, there are two primary forms of dips that are most effective for building a chiseled chest and upper body:
- Tricep (or bench) dips; and
- Chest dips
Chin ups & Pullups
Ah… the pull-up.
Have you ever experienced that very passionate love-hate relationship with anything more than with having to complete a set of pull-ups or chin ups?
Pull-ups are notoriously known for being one of the most difficult bodyweight exercises you can perform.
Mainly because, it provides an intense challenge, regardless of experience, years training, or physique.
There’s simply no way around it.
Challenge aside, this bodyweight movement provides a huge emphasis for the upper body muscles, especially in the upper back and in the lat muscles.
Want a wide back? Do more pull-ups.
Want the “v-taper”? Do more pull-ups.
As with most bodyweight movements, the pull-up provides a number of variations that allows you to tailor your routine specifically to what you’re most looking to achieve, with regards to specific areas of the back, shoulder, and traps.
The Overhand vs. Underhand “Debate”
Pull-ups that are performed with your palms facing away is known as the “overhand” grip. Performing pull-ups with this hand position, with a wide stance, are often considered to be the most challenging pull-up variation.
The underhand grip, where your palms face towards you, are referred to as “Chinups”.
The chin-ups get their praise for the work they put on your biceps and back.
Aside from hand placement and hand position, which can be altered to change the difficulty and muscle focus, pull-ups and chin-ups tend to prove difficult for many people due to a lack of flexibility.
For example, those that spend a good portion of their day working on computers being hunched over will have a harder time with these type of pulling movements.
Air Squat / Jump Squat
Alas… some lower body work!
As much as you may hate them, squats are a pretty incredible bodyweight workout.
Not only do they help to build up full-body strength as you use your legs and core, but you’re also required to focus on stabilizing your core all the way up through your shoulders and neutral neck position.
Air squats, also known as body squats are (or, should be) a staple in every beginner and novice’s bodyweight routine. No questions asked.
The air squat is simply a standard squat, as if you were in the gym in the squat rack under a bar loaded with weight, but without the weight (or the squat rack).
As with all of our bodyweight movements, this is a very diverse exercise in its ability to increase difficulty as you grow in your strength and endurance for the movement.
Along with building muscle, air squats help with a vast array of health and fitness benefits, including:
- Burning fat
- Being highly functional
- Increasing mobility
- Increase balance
- Increase flexibility
- Help to prevent joint injuries in the knees and ankles
- Increasing power; and
- Improving posterior chain
Aside from all the above benefits, squats are also one of the great equalizers, as far as bodyweight workouts are concerned as they are quite humbling when performed properly over time.
Lunges are another great bodyweight workouts used to build incredibly strong legs and core and should be a vital part of each and every bodyweight routine.
It’s an easy to learn and safe exercise that’s incredibly effective.
Primarily, it helps to target the quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves, and core, but comes with a host of other benefits as well.
Some of these benefits include:
- Increasing balance
- Increasing functionality
- Improving muscle symmetry
- Increasing hip flexor flexibility
- Improved glute activation
- Improved core stability
- Decreased spinal load
The most popular lunge movement is the split squat, shown in the image below.
Ah, perhaps one of the greatest cardio exercises known to man (and the Crossfit community), the burpee is the kind of exercise that helps turn boys into men.
Burpees are known for providing a number of benefits, namely:
- They work your entire body. Unlike other isolation exercises, burpees help to activate the entire body when done properly.
- You can do them anywhere. As with all the bodyweight workouts in our guide, you can perform burpees just about anywhere.
- They increase muscle and burn fat. As one of the most exceptional functional workout movements, burpees help to increase full body activation by working on virtually every muscle group.
- They increase your endurance (dramatically). If you’re looking to get fit in a hurry, burpees are perhaps one of the best ways to accomplish a number of fitness goals.
Bodyweight Workout Progression is Key
When it comes to making progress with your fitness goals, as discussed in the opening section of this guide, the best way to make progress is with progressive overload.
In the gym, this can be done by adding more and more weight.
With bodyweight workouts, this can be done in a number of ways also:
- Increasing reps
- Increasing number of circuits
- Increasing time under tension
- Adding weight (dumbbells or weighted vest)
The Best Bodyweight Workout Routine
Alright, time to get to work…
As you start your journey into the world of bodyweight workouts, the first (and most important) step is to perform an initial test to see where you stand and to understand how many of each movement you can perform, as a baseline.
Do one set of each fo the following exercises to failure (until you can no longer do anymore) and record exactly how many of each you were able to perform.
Make sure to rest at least 60-120 seconds in between each of these sets to give yourself ample time to recover before starting your next initial test set.
- Push up
- Pull Up
- Air Squat
The goal of this bodyweight workout routine is for you to be able to dramatically increase the number of each movement you can perform in a single set each week.
Make sure to re-test these “sets to failure” each week to see how much progress you’ve made.
Below, we’re going to provide you with a four-day bodyweight workout routine to perform for the following six weeks.
- 2x set of push ups
- 2x sets of triceps dips
- 6x sets of chin-ups (weeks 1-2, then pull-ups in week 3-4)
- 3x sets of burpees
- 2x sets of air squats
- 2x sets of split lunges
- 3x sets of burpees
- Same as Day 1
- Same as Day 2
Here’s how to perform this bodyweight workout routine:
- All sets should be attempted until close to failure (1-2 reps short)
- Rest between 60-120 seconds between each set
- Once you can do 20-25 reps of a specific movement, progress to a hard variation
- If you can’t do a standard movement, start with a more simple variation for week 1
Should I be Taking Supplements?
When it comes to building out a workout routine, we like to keep the supplements until last.
Simple… because they’re not the most important element to any workout routine.
Whether you’re weightlifting, performing cardio circuits, or simply doing bodyweight movements.
Because supplements don’t build great physiques and deliver results. Hard workout, consistency, dedication, and proper nutrition do.
Now, don’t get us wrong.
Supplements do a play a role in every successful workout regimen, they’re just not the most important.
Primarily, we like to recommend three supplements for people getting started with a new bodyweight workout routine, which are:
Above, we’ve linked to some of our top-rated lists for each respective supplements to help you find exactly what you’ll need when it comes to the best pre-workouts, protein powders, and BCAAs!
The Bottom Line on Bodyweight Workout Routines
Bodyweight routines have their advantages. And by now, hopefully, we’ve been able to display a number of them to you.
Not only are they fantastic for building strength, power, performance, and endurance, but they’re also great at helping you to build muscle and lose fat, simultaneously.
So, whether you’re an experienced gym-goer or a fitness novice, you’re going to find that starting a fresh, new, and exciting bodyweight routine will yield results like you’ve never experienced before.
As always… we love to hear from our readers!
Stop by after each week and leave us your progress marks on each of the bodyweight movements in the program above!