The Top 10 Bodyweight Exercises to Tone and Build Muscle

The last time you went to the grocery store, did you notice the magazines lining the checkout aisle? In many cases, these magazines are plastered with headlines about slim-quick tips and the latest workout craze. There are an unlimited array of options out there when it comes to workout plans, but sometimes simple is the best way to go.

Bodyweight exercises like push-ups are a great way to tone muscles.

If you want to tone and build muscle, give these top ten bodyweight exercises a try:

  1. Push-Up – One of the best chest-building exercises, there are many variations on the standard push-up that can be used to work different muscles. You can try wide-arm push-ups, incline push-ups, military push-ups, and much more.
  2. 2. Pull-Up – This exercise is one of the best bodyweight exercises in general, though it is particularly great for building lats and biceps. The correct way to perform a full-range pull-up is to start from a dead hang and to pull up until your chin clears the bar.
  3. Squat – This exercise targets your glutes as well as your legs, and there are variations you can try to work in some cardio fitness. Stan with your feet hip-width apart then thrust your hips back while bending at the knees, as if sitting in a chair – don’t let your knees track out past your toes. Squeeze your glutes as you return to the start position.
  4. Dips – This exercise can be performed on parallel bars, and it is the best exercise for your triceps. To make it more challenging, pause in the bottom position before going back up.
  5. Lunge – You can perform lunges in many different ways to train different leg muscles. There is the standing lunge as well as the walking lunge – you can also to step-back lunges or side lunges. You can even start standing on a step to increase the difficulty.
  6. Bicycle Crunch – A great workout for your abdominal muscles, this exercise targets your obliques as well as your lower abs. Start laying flat on the ground then raise your upper half to a 90-degree angle and bend your legs. Bring one knee in toward your chest while rotating your upper half to meet your knee with the opposite elbow then alternate.
  7. Burpee – This bodyweight exercise incorporates aspects of strength as well as cardiovascular fitness. You perform a push-up then hop your feet in to a crouch then explode upward into a jump before returning to the start.
  8. Rope Climb – This exercise is great for functional strength because it builds your forearms, lats, pecs, abs, and upper back. The best way to do this exercise is to use only your hands and to climb twenty feet.
  9. Glute Bridge – If you want to target your glutes, this exercise is a great way to go. You lie on your back with your knees bent and your arms at your sides. Raise your hips off the ground until your body forms a straight line, squeezing at the top, then lower and repeat.
  10. Plank – This is a great exercise for strengthening your abs but it will also help you to build endurance in your lower back, shoulders, and legs. You basically hold yourself in push-up form while keeping your core tight for as long as you can manage.
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Tips for Building Muscle with Bodyweight Exercises

Now that you have a better understanding of which bodyweight exercises are best for toning and building muscle, you may be wondering how exactly to formulate a workout using these exercises. When you are first starting out, your own body weight will be enough resistance for you to start building muscle. As you get stronger, however, you’ll need to switch things up a bit because your body will adapt – you’ll need to make things harder over time if you want to keep building. Here are some tips for getting the most out of your bodyweight workouts:

  • Engage in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) by alternating between periods of high exertion and periods of rest.
  • Do two versions of each exercise – one that is power-based and another that is strength-based. For example, do a set of plyometric push-ups followed by a set of regular push-ups.
  • Alternate between increasing sets and increasing repetitions. For example, one week you would do five sets of 10 push-ups followed by 5 pull-ups with no rest in between. Week 2, do six sets with the same number of repetitions. Week 3, go back to 5 sets but increase the repetitions for each.
  • Train to failure OR volume. Instead of doing a certain number of repetitions, do a certain number of sets and perform as many repetitions as you safely can.

There are many ways to tone and build muscle, and you don’t necessarily have to use weights to do it! It may be a little more difficult to create an effective workout plan to build muscle if you only use your own bodyweight, but following the tips above will help you figure it out.

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Kate Barrington
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Kate Barrington

Kate Barrington is a certified Fitness Nutrition Coach and writer specializing in the health and fitness niche. She uses her coaching experience to inform and inspire her creative content in addition to supporting her own efforts in maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle. She graduated from Marietta College with a degree in English and shares her passion for health and wellness by spreading knowledge about healthy eating, exercise, and natural remedies. She enjoys cooking, painting, and climbing and is a loving mother to a collection of pets.
Kate Barrington
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