Save money and time. Bodyweight training matches gym-based exercise for muscle building and overall fitness.
Parallel bar dips with knee raises
The dip – often baptised as the upper body squat – works upwards of 87% of your triceps. Add an abs working knee raise and you’ll also add more cuts to your abs.
How: Grab the parallel bars of a dip station and lock your elbows. Keeping your elbows close to your sides, lower yourself until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Push up to the start, then at the top of the move raise your one knee as high as you can. Lower that knee then repeat on the opposite leg.
Underhand pull-up with legs parallel to the ground
Pull-ups use 96% of your biceps and 44% of your pecs, according to research in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
How: Grab a pull-up bar with an underhand grip, fingers facing you. Hang at arm’s length then bend your hips so your legs are parallel to the ground. Bend your elbows to pull your chin over the plane of the bar. Pause then slowly lower yourself to the start.
The more press-ups you can do the more weight you’re likely to shift on the bench press, found research in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. The bench is the gold standard for chest power and size so get good at press-ups and you’ll furnish yourself with both of these.
How: Lie face down on the ground. Support your body with the balls of your feet and put your hands shoulder-width apart. Keep your arms straight, but not locked. Bend your elbows, keeping them tucked to your sides, to lower yourself to the floor. When your chest touches the floor straighten your elbows to push back to the start
Pull-ups were a close runner up, but research in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that of all the rowing exercises, the inverted row recruits the most muscle in lats, upper back, glutes and hamstrings.
How: Lie under a horizontal bar that’s arms length above the ground, a tree branch or low set pull-up bar will do. Grab the bar with an overhand grip and hang from it with your body in a straight line from ankles to shoulders. Pull your chest to the bar, pause and lower yourself.
Parallel bar shrugs
This allows you do to a shrug with a good portion of your entire bodyweight making you work harder across several muscle groups to keep good form.
How: Place your hands on the parallel bars and lock your elbows. With your arms extended, slowly lower your body, which will raise your shoulders towards your ears then push then push them as far away from your ears as you can.
Single leg squats
Above all other leg exercises, this one is the best at working all the muscles around your hips and boosting ab strength, found research in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. It’s almost better than squatting on both legs.
How: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold your arms above your head. Raise your left leg off the ground so its knee is straight and in-line with the base of your abs, toes facing the ceiling. Bend your right knee to lower yourself until the top of your thigh is parallel to the ground. Straighten your knee to press yourself to the start.
Quadruped hip extensions
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse measured the glutes workload of the most popular leg moves and this exercise came up trumps because it used as much of them as your 1 rep max squat.
How: Get onto all fours with your hands beneath your shoulders and knees beneath your hips. Your back should be straight. Raise your right foot off the floor and while keeping your knee bent, lift it until your hamstring is in line with your back. Slowly lower to the start and repeat on the other leg.
Researchers at San Diego State University pitted 13 of the most popular abs exercises against one another and found that the bicycle crunch was the toughest abs exercise you can do.
How: Lie on your back with your feet in the air and your knees bent to 90°. Lace your fingers behind your head. Bring the knees in towards the chest and lift the shoulder blades off the ground. Straighten your left leg so it is at 45° to the floor while turning your upper body to the right, bringing the left elbow towards the right knee. Switch sides, bringing the right elbow towards the left knee. Continue to alternate sides and pump your legs back and forth in a cycling motion.