5 Body Weight Exercises

5 Body Weight Movements

You guys know I like weight training?  Did you know that I think deadlifts, cleans, squats and presses are the bee’s knees?  The cat’s meow?  The lion’s balls?

I’ve vomited all over this blog on how much I think those exercises and kettlebells help pretty much everything you can think of in terms of performance, and typically speaking when performance improves so does body composition.

However, body weight exercises are also important in being a mobile, agile and a well-rounded ninja.  They can also serve as great tools to strengthen without the use of heavy load by challenging in a ballistic, furthered range of motion and de-stabilized manner.  Almost all of the exercises in this article require full, total body maximum muscle contraction which can’t be said for many weighted exercises, making these a great compliment to any weight lifting program.

For the sake of this entry and reader audience we’re going to assume you are aware that push-ups, pull-ups, squats and lunges are top shelf body weight exercises and try to give you a little more than that.

If you didn’t know that, do all of those first in as many reps as you can as often as you can before you progress to these.  Do weighted pull-ups, different versions of push-ups, single leg and dynamic squats and multi-directional lunges, as well.  They will take you a long ways and you should never ever ever ever ever ever EVERRRRRRR ever ever ever stop doing pull-ups.

American Sit-Ups

The get-up is credited to Turkey.  Bulgaria has a squat variation. Russia has like thirty.  Romania gets a deadlift.  Where’s our shit?

Well here you go.  The American Sit-Up.  No idea if this existed previously, it’s not that complex of an idea so it probably does but this is what we’re calling them.  It’s a hell of a tough exercise that adds a little flavor to modern sit-ups via range of motion and proprioception.

Take a look at reps three and four on the video after I remove the assistance of my hands.  The starting point on that squat is as deep as you can possibly get it since you are coming up off the floor.  Chances are your legs, hips and core muscles have not been challenged in a loaded back squat to that angle degree.

  • Why It Works: It combines a sit-up into a deep bodyweight squat that’s performed from an incredibly disadvantageous starting position.
  • Progression for Intermediate: Use your hands to push off the ground.  I do this on reps one and two, then remove them for reps three and four.
  • Ideal Reps: 6-10
Single Leg Box Jumps

This is my favorite single leg exercise as it’s ballistic and strengthening.  Clearly, it is not for beginners but it’s a great exercise to further develop already sound knee stability and single leg maximal power output.

Box jumps are my favorite exercise in this family for a few reasons.

Number one, it’s almost entirely concentric so it’s a great sport performance exercise to break the monotony of concentric to eccentric movement.  For athletes, that repetition of the eccentric in excess has been shown to cause hamstring injuries.  So the quick, concentric motion of the jump has a lot of benefit.

Also, make sure you get good drive in your shoulders on these jumps.  You shoulders should always provide initial power whenever broad or box jumping, and I’m doing a shitty job of that in this demo.

  • Why It Works: You have to launch your entire body weight with only one leg, so it overloads single side at a time.
  • Progression for Intermediate: Two leg box jumps.
  • Ideal Reps: 2-3 per side.  Keep those low rep, high intensity so form does not break down.

I hate burpees.  Just hate them with a fervor that burns deep within my loins.  But, the reality is that they are a pretty great power exercise so long as you are not stringing a thousand of them in a row.  You’re not working every single muscle in the body but it comes damn close as you get a full range push-up, deep body weight squat and then a jump.

When performing burpees correctly in the right rep range, there is no exercise that leaves you feeling as spent and it completely drains the ATP-PCr fuel system we use for power movements.

  • Why It Works: Today body exercise that combines three great movements: push-ups, squat, jump.
  • Progression for Intermediate: Complete the entire motion only without any plyometric movement.  Walk your feet up and then simply stand up, don’t jump.
  • Ideal Reps: 10.  You always want them full speed, full power or they are turn into conditioning, which is fine for some but I like them for power.
Explosive Push-Up to Plank

I am not a HUGE fan of planks to develop functional core performance.  We do them at the gym, I like them a lot in the right role but I believe there to be better exercises that work a bit more dynamic transfer of force.  That said, when you pair them with a few other exercises and don’t isolate them in straight sets, I like planks because they force an already fatigued core to work even harder.  That’s the format we use them at P360 and when I appreciate a good, handsome plank.

  • Why It Works: It takes your core to near failure and also exhausts the chest muscles through repeated plyometric push-ups.
  • Progression for Intermediate: Complete the push-up and then walk over with your hands and feet.  Don’t explode.
  • Ideal Reps: 10 plyo pushups with 15 second plank holds.  Anymore than that and you defeat the purpose of the plyometric aspect: power
Muscle Up
I like this exercise but I have a few thoughts and caveats to go along with them, as I am urge cautious enthusiasm with them.
You’d be hard pressed to find an exercise with greater total upper body contraction as the transition from pull-up to dip is absolutely killer.  The increased range of motion at the base of the concentric portion of the dip had me seriously feeling these the next day after doing just fifteen the first time I did them.   I didn’t feel them in my lats like I hoped, probably because of the kipping which removes a lot of demands on those muscles (and why I am not a fan of kipping).
What I didn’t like?  With that increased chest ROM I also noticed they were tough on my elbows in a way I didn’t necessarily like.
Additionally, it’s just as much skill as it is physical ability that’s not nearly as hard as it looks.  Once you get the grip and the skill of the movement down you can crank them out, assuming you can do about 12-15 good pull-ups first.
  • Why It Works: Complete upper body power and strength.
  • Progression for Intermediate: Doesn’t really exist.  You can do standing varieties on lower rings.
  • Ideal Reps: Low.  Not a fan of these at high rep.
One last thought.  Rings are a great tool to have in your training arsenal but when they are done in any type of upright position are not a taller or larger man’s tool.  It’s much easier for 5’8″ dynamos to crank out consecutive muscle ups and ring dips than those of us who are 6′ and taller, so take your ring abilities with a grain of salt.

What other cool, useful body weight exercises do you guys use to get better?


  1. Nice article, but too much kipping in your muscle up. I find it a bit irksome when people talk down muscle ups as being a “trick” or not an effective strength exercise when it turns out that they’re not even doing them slowly. For strength training purposes, an ideal muscle up is on a pull up bar, with a false grip, legs straight, and no kip. Just a fluid pull into a dip with little extraneous momentum, preventing yourself from slingshotting through the transition. Not that you were really talking it down like that, I just wanted to point out that form is everything with that exercise.

    1. Strict muscle ups are incredibly, incredibly difficult for any male over 180 pounds. Can it be done? Sure. But, the use of momentum on the rings is fine because your shoulders are not locked into place like the bar, making it far less risky on the joint. I don’t have a problem with momentum on this one.

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