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Build Strength by Using Bodyweights

Purpose: Bodyweight exercises may improve strength, joint mobility, and cardiovascular health.


Bodyweight exercises do not require any equipment and can be practiced by using only the weight of the body. The 42 bodyweight practices in the Practice section below are intended to improve the strength of muscles and the mobility of joints that are commonly used in everyday living.


Strength is considered to be the ability to generate force. Strength can be classified into three categories: maximum strength, explosive strength, and endurance strength. There is a bodyweight exercise for every muscle group in the body. The level of difficulty of each bodyweight exercise can be made easier or more difficult by using the following methods:

  • Increasing or decreasing leverage: This involves changing the angle for which a bodyweight exercise is performed. For example, in order of increasing difficulty, a push up can be done: Against a wall, against a counter top, against a coffee table, against the floor, against the floor with feet elevated on a coffee table, or against the floor with feet elevated overhead as in a handstand.

  • Using an unstable platform: This involves performing an exercise on an unstable platform.

  • Pausing at the beginning, middle, or end of a movement: This involves maintaining a position for an extended length of time during an exercise.

  • Using a single limb: This involves using only one arm or leg to perform an exercise.


A sedentary lifestyle can result in muscle loss, which decreases metabolic rate. A way to improve metabolism is to regain lost muscle through strength training. Strength training exercises of high-intensity such as push ups or squats lead to greater fat burn after the workout than do moderate-intensity aerobic exercise such as running or cycling. Consistent practice and nutrition are the biggest factors that lead to muscle gain and fat loss. Please review the WavyFields topics “Decrease Inflammation by Eliminating Inflammatory Food” and “Understand How to Use Supplements and Herbal Remedies” for more information about nutrition.


Bodyweight practices are intended to improve seven areas of fitness:

  • Muscular strength: The ability to generate force over a specified distance.

  • Power: The amount of force that is generated over a specified time period.

  • Muscular endurance: The amount of time that muscular force is sustained.

  • Cardiovascular endurance: The ability of the cardiovascular system to supply oxygen to muscles over a specified time period.

  • Speed: The rate that a series of movements can be performed over a specified time period.

  • Coordination: The ability to coordinate multiple movements into one specified movement.

  • Balance: The ability to maintain the body’s stability over a specified time period.

  • Flexibility: The ability to move through a range of motion.

Practice: This practice may help someone to build strength by using bodyweights.

A bodyweight exercise consists of repetitions and sets. A repetition is one complete movement of a particular exercise. For example, doing five repetitions of squats means doing five squats. A set consists of the number of repetitions that are done in a row. For example, if five squats are done before needing a break, then five squats would be one set. Muscle failure occurs when doing another repetition is no longer possible. 


Once a desired repetition count of a particular bodyweight exercise can be exceeded, then use a variation (leverage, unstable surface, pauses, single limb, added weight) to make the exercise more challenging. Mark Lauren, a bodyweight trainer and author of the book, You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises, believes that using slow, controlled, negative movements is as important in developing muscle as is using maximum intensity and speed. Breathing technique is also very important and a general rule is to exhale as a muscle contracts and inhale as a muscle stretches. For example, during a push up, inhale as the body is lowered towards the ground and exhale as the body is pushed back up.


Mark Lauren recommends exercising each major muscle group only once a week. He suggests doing three or four different exercises per muscle group, with three or four sets per muscle group. Furthermore, he suggests doing one set until failure, resting for two to three minutes, and then doing another set until failure. This may translate to working out four or five days a week for twenty to thirty minutes each day.


Please click on a muscle group below to view several bodyweight exercises that target the muscle group:


These bodyweight exercises focus on the muscles of the shoulders.


These bodyweight exercises focus on the muscles of the triceps.


These bodyweight exercises focus on the muscles of the chest.

Biceps and forearms

These bodyweight exercises focus on the muscles of the biceps and forearms.


These bodyweight exercises focus on the muscles of the core.


These bodyweight exercises focus on the muscles of the thighs.


These bodyweight exercises focus on the muscles of the calves.

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