The Top 50 Best Bodyweight Exercises (Calisthenics)

The Top 50 Best Bodyweight Exercises (Calisthenics)

I’ve told people so many times in articles we’ve previously written, that I love bodyweight exercises (or calisthenics to be technical).

And so, one of the major searches I perform quite regularly is which exercises to be doing next!

Hence, our own collection of the 50 best bodyweight exercises has been created.

The reason why I love calisthenics workouts so much is because they can be done anywhere, and they never get boring. There’s always another variation to be mastered.

Take a look at the list and enjoy!

P.S. At the end, there’s also a bonus section that includes the 5 hardest bodyweight exercises…

 

A List of the 50 Best Bodyweight Exercises (Calisthenics)

This list of calisthenics exercises has been split down into 5 different sections:

  • Back/Biceps
  • Chest/Triceps
  • Shoulders
  • Legs
  • Core

We’ve done it this way so that it’s much easier for you to scroll through and find what you were looking for. Some of the exercises featured here could well have been included in more than one section, but we’ve kept them in the area they fit best!

Here are our favorite, and what we consider to be the 50 best bodyweight exercises:

 

1. The Best Bodyweight Exercises For Your Back/Biceps

1. Pull-ups

Regular pull-ups are one of the most common calisthenic exercises. All they require is a bar that you’d normally find at a park, or can potentially buy to attach to your door frame. Failing that, just use a tree branch!

Simply grip the bar with both hands facing away from you, shoulder width apart, and pull yourself up until your chin clears the bar.

 

2. Chin-ups

Chin-ups are essentially pull-ups, except you grip the bar so that your palms are facing you. Your hands will normally be spaced a little closer together also. Chin-ups are easier than pull-ups because of the different grip variation.

 

3. Wide Grip Pull-ups

Wide grip pull-ups require your hands to be spaced out further than usual. The wider grip works your back more, making this an awesome exercise your building your back muscles. Your hands will be facing away from you like regular pull-ups.

 

4. Narrow Grip Pull-ups

Narrow grip pull-ups… exactly the opposite of wide grip. Just move your hands close together with your palms facing away from you, and pull yourself up. In this case, your biceps will be worked more than they would in any other standard pull-up variation.

 

5. Archer Pull-ups

Archer pull-ups are performed by gripping the bar with a wide grip, and pulling up to one side. Then rolling your opposite forearm on top of the bar.

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6. Back Extension

A back extension is a simple isometric exercise that targets your lower back muscles. Lie on the floor with your feet flat on the ground and your knees bent. Then lift your bum off the floor, so your back is in line with your thighs.

Hold that position…

 

7. Australian Pull-ups

Australian pull-ups are a slightly easier pull-up exercise, making them great for beginners. With this exercise, the bar will need to be a lot lower down (roughly waist height).

Position yourself under the bar, so that your feet are on the floor in front of the bar, and the bar is just in front of your shoulders. Grip the bar as you would do a normal pull-up, and pull yourself up, keeping your feet on the floor. There is less resistance for you to pull in this exercise.

 

8. Behind the Neck Pull-ups

You’ll find behind the neck pull-ups harder on your back an shoulder muscles than regular pull-ups, because of the angle you’re performing the movement at.

Hold your head forwards, and bring the back of your neck up to the bar.

 

9. Around the World Pull-ups

Around the World pull-ups are pretty damn cool. There also harder than standard pull-up variations. To do this exercise, grip the bar with a relatively wide grip. Then pull yourself up on one side, keeping the majority of your weight on that side of your body.

When you reach the top, use the momentum to move to the other side and shift your weight before your come back down. This will become a circular motion.

 

10. Front Lever Tuck Pull-ups

Front lever tuck pull-ups sound a lot more complicated than they really are. What you do is grip the bar like normal, then pull your knees into your body and use your strength to rotate your body so it’s parallel to the ground.

Then from that position, pull yourself up. It’s not an easy exercise to do, considering it requires a lot of core strength.

 

11. Pull-up Hold

Pull-up holds are a great isometric exercise to improve your endurance. Just pull yourself up so your chin is over the bar, then hold that position for as long as you can. Your back will probably be shaking like crazy!

 

There’s a bunch of other awesome pull up exercises that weren’t mentioned here. Don’t forget to research C2B pull ups, back lever pull ups and explosive pull ups.

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2. The Best Bodyweight Exercises For Your Chest/Triceps

12. Regular Dips

Regular dips are one of my favorite upper body exercises, and they’re great for working your chest and triceps.

Find some parallel bars, waist height, take your legs off the floor and bend them. Then lower yourself by bending your arms slowly until they’re close to a right angle, and push back up, straightening your arms out.

 

13. Regular Push-ups

Regular push-ups are another of the core bodyweight exercises, and they quickly become too easy for people to bother continuing with them. Simply get on the floor, straightening your body and placing your weight on your hands and feet, shoulder width apart. Keep your elbows in as you bend your arms, then push back up.

 

14. Diamond Push-ups

To perform diamond push-ups, get into a push up position, then move your hands close together and rotate them inward slightly. Then spread your legs wider apart, and perform the push-up. This exercise targets your triceps more than normal push-ups do.

 

15. Bench Dips

If regular dips are too hard for you, try bench dips. Sit on the edge of a bench with your legs straight out in front of you, feet on the floor, and your hands flat on the bench beside you.

Lift your bum off the bench, move your feet forward slightly, then lower your bum to the ground until your arms reach a right angle. Push back up.

 

16. Clap Push-ups

Clap push-ups are great for working your chest. Just get in a regular push up position, lower yourself, but as you push back up, explode and quickly clap your hands together before going back down. They require a good deal of strength and speed.

 

17. Wide Push-ups

Wide push-ups work your chest more than regular push-ups do, just like with wide pull-ups working your back more. Spread both your hands 6-8 inches further apart, then perform a push-up as per usual.

 

18. Incline Push-ups

Incline push-ups are the easiest of the variations in this section. They’re like regular push-ups, except your hands are on a surface such as a table. Your body is still straight, but because it’s at a smaller angle, less resistance is placed on your upper body, and more of your weight is rested on your feet.

 

19. Spiderman Push-ups

Spiderman push-ups are called that because of the way spiderman looks when climbing up a wall. Get into a regular push up position, then put one arm further in front of you, and as you go down bring your opposite leg off the floor, towards your elbow and bend it at a right angle.

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Then go back to the starting position and alternate sides.

 

20. Straight Bar Dips

Straight bar dips are done on the same bar you’d do a pull-up on. Make sure you’re able to get over the bar and on top of it. Keep your hands shoulder width apart and lower your chest to the bar like you normally would, then push back up.

This variation is harder because of the way you have to grip the bar.

 

21. One-Arm Push-ups

Everybody wants to be able to do a set of one-arm push-ups. To make this exercise easier, you can spread your legs wider apart to reduce the resistance. You can also place your other arm on the ground far away from your body, to give you a little more support.

 

3. The Best Bodyweight Exercises For Your Shoulders

22. Handstand Push-ups

Handstand push-ups are very hard to perfect, but with the helpful of various progression exercises, the learning curve can be reduced. They require a lot of balance, and tonnes of upper body strength.

Once in the handstand position, slowly lower yourself and push back up. Use a wall to assist you if you’re worried about balance.

 

23. Pike Push-ups

Pike push-ups are one of the simplest exercise for working your shoulders. It requires you to get on your hands and feet with your bum in the air (upside down V position).

Keep your arms inline with your back, so the weight is placed over your shoulders, then bend your elbows and lower yourself until your head touches the ground, then push back up.

 

24. Hindu Push-ups

Hindu push-ups are pike push-ups combined with an extra element at the end. Get back in the upside down V position, but once you lower yourself, act as if you’re moving under something, moving forward and pushing back up with your shoulder in front of your arms.

Your chest will be pushed out in front of your arms, then simply reverse the moment to get back to your starting position.

 

25. T-Bar Push-ups

The T bar push-ups are performed using a bar that’s lower than waist height. Stand up, grip the bar, move your legs back so you’re at an angle. Keep your head tucked in as you lower yourself to the bar, but dip your head underneath it, so the back of your shoulder blades are just touching the underside of the bar.

Then push back up. The extra resistance is created here by performing a movement with a higher range of motion.

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26. Pseudo Push-ups

Pseudo push-ups are basically regular push-ups, except your hands are rotated the other way, so your fingers are facing away from you. The way your hands are positioned makes it places more stress on your shoulders.

It also places more stress on your wrists, so be sure to warm up first.

 

27. Helicopters

Helicopters should be done carefully, because rushing the exercise can cause shoulder injuries. Get in a position as if you were just about to do a one arm push-up. Keep your legs wide apart and one arm straight, underneath your shoulder.

Hold your other hand on the back of your head, then rotate your body so your elbow is pointing towards the sky. Then rotate back down and touch your grounded arm with your elbow as well. That’s a single rep. Continue to do this, and then switch arms.

 

28. Single Arm Plank

There’s two ways you can do the single arm plank; either with your arm straight and your hand flat on the floor, or your arm bent and your forearm on the floor.

It’s exactly like you’d normally do a plank, but with one arm off the ground and raised in front of you.

 

29. Decline Push-ups

Remember we mentioned incline push-ups earlier on in the article? Decline push-ups are the opposite (your hands are on the floor and your feet on an object roughly waist height).

As you’re facing downwards, this places more stress on your upper body than regular push-ups do.

 

30. Korean Dips

Korean dips are very similar to straight bar dips, however the bar is behind you in this instance. So find a straight bar, stand in front of it, grip the bar and perform dips as usual.

 

31. Alternate Push-up Hold

This is an exercise I used to love to do at the end of my workouts when my shoulders weren’t that strong.

Start in the pike push-up position, with your arms straight. Hold this for 15-20 seconds, then move straight into a regular push-up position, and hold this for the same length of time. Then the last hold is in the position you would be in at the end of a hindu push-up, without chest out in front of your arms.

 

4. The Best Bodyweight Exercises For Your Legs

32. Squats

Everybody loves squats, but they can become very easy when there’s no other resistance. If this is the case for you, you can check out harder variations below, or use a weighted vest to increase the resistance.

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33. Lunges

Lunges are simply putting one foot forward an bending your knee until it’s at a right angle, then pushing back up. Lunges are another relatively easy exercise, and are best performed with a weighted vest, or as a constant movement. Instead of moving back to the starting position before repeating.

 

34. Pistol Squats

Now we’re talking!

Pistol squats are squats on one leg. They require a lot of balance and flexibility, but are perfect for anybody who finds regular squats too easy. Use a surface near you to balance yourself to begin with, and to get used to the movement.

 

35. Jump Squats

You can’t leave jump squats out of a fat burning routine. Perform like a regular squat, but on the way back up, explode into a small jump keeping your legs straight. When you land, flow straight back into the next squat.

 

36. One-Legged Back Extension

Remember I mentioned the back extension earlier on? Where you lie on your back with your knees bent, then lift your bum off the ground. This is the same exercise, except one of your legs is raised in the air.

 

37. Wall Sit

Wall sits are a great isolation to work your thighs. All you’ve got to do is find a wall, put your back against it, and move down so your legs are at a right angle. Hold that position for as long as you can. Get ready for the shakes.

 

38. Wide Squats

Wide squats are regular squats with your feet spaced further apart, just to give a little more resistance. This’ll make the exercise slightly harder for you.

 

39. Single Leg Dead-lift

A single leg dead-lift is done by balancing on one leg, and holding a weight is the same sided hand. Lower the weight to the ground, and lift the alternative leg off the ground at the same time. Then push back up to the starting position.

 

40. Calf Raise

Calf raises are done by simply finding a step or ledge on the ground and placing the balls of your feet onto it. Using no other part of your body, lift your feet up and down and squeeze your calves.

It’s best to do this on a single leg for maximum resistance.

 

5. The Best Bodyweight Exercises For Your Core

41. Bear Crawl

Bear crawl’s work your core, back and arm muscle tremendously. Get into a crawl position, with your knees off the ground, and as you move your left hand forward, move your right leg forward as well.

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Then switch, and keep alternation until you simply can’t go any further.

 

42. Dragonflies

Dragonflies are performed by laying on your back, lifting your legs ups and then your hips up, so most of the weight is on your shoulders. Your core is worked incredibly hard in this exercise due to the angle you’re lifting your body up at.

 

43. Hanging Leg Raises

To perform hanging leg raises, find a pull-up bar and hang from it, then swing your legs up and try to touch the bar with them. This is another incredible core exercise.

 

44. Bicycle Crunches

Lay on the floor with your hands behind your head. Bring one knee towards your chest, and rotate your upper body so that your opposite elbow touches that knee, then switch.

Keep your other leg straight in front of you and elevated. Leaving it on the ground makes the exercise way too easy.

 

45. Reverse Crunch

A reverse crunch is done by laying on the floor, then pulling your knees into your stomach, and lifting your bum off the ground, then lowering yourself back down.

 

46. Side Plank

The side plank is probably one of the best exercises to target your obliques. Lay on your side, put your forearm on the ground directly underneath your shoulder, then lift your hips off the ground. Hold this position, and switch sides.

 

47. V-Ups

Lay on the floor, and perform a V-crunch, by lifting your legs up straight and your upper body up as well until you reach a v-shape.

 

48. Flutter Kicks

Flutter kicks can be done either hanging from a bar, using dip bars, or on the ground. Alternately kick each leg up into the air, but don’t let them touch the floor on the way back down.

This exercise becomes a lot harder when performed using bars.

 

49. Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers are performed by getting in a push-up position, with your arms straight and slightly wider apart. Then, one at a time, rapidly lift your knees up into your chest.

 

50. L-Sit

The L-Sit is best performed on parallel bars. Lift yourself off the ground, straight your arms, and move your legs up so they’re at a right angle with your body. Hold this ‘L’ position for as long as you can.

 

6. Bonus: The 5 Hardest Bodyweight Exercises

1. Muscle ups

2. Planche Push Ups

3. Iron Cross

4. One Arm Pull-ups

5. Front Lever

Dan Western is the founder of Wealthy Gorilla. Dan is a young ambitious guy who has been researching self-development for the past two years and is now off travelling the world. His mission is to inspire others to live their dreams and be the person to whom they say; "Because of you, I never gave up." Join Wealthy Gorilla on Facebook.

1 COMMENT

  1. Hey Dan, I like the list! Definitely a fan of bodyweight here 🙂

    I also like the way you formatted the left-right gallery to fit all 50 within a shorter page. Clever. I want that plugin! 🙂

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