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My Top 17 Bodyweight Movements for More Strength, Power, and Muscle

I’m constantly being asked about bodyweight training and if it’s really all that important to use in order to get better results.

The short answer is HELL YES!

You need must to be implementing Bodyweight training into your workouts in some way, shape, or form because if you’re not, it means you’re neglecting one of the most critical and essential aspects of your training.

Bodyweight training serves as the base of support for all of your other strengths and if you’re lacking in skill and abilities when it comes to bodyweight, those weaknesses will show through in pretty much everything else you do.

Bottom line, Bodyweight training is essential.

Now, I’m not saying that you have to stick to just bodyweight all the time, rather I’m strongly recommending you blend it in with your other modalities of training for the best results possible.

Within this article below, I’ve outlined my favorite 17 bodyweight movements I personally use and have my athletes use to help build up more strength, power, and athletic muscle.

So without further adu, here’s my 17 top bodyweight movements…

1 – Sprints

Sprints are number one my list of bodyweight movements for more strength, power, and muscle because sprinting is simply one of the best movements you can do period.

Everyone should be sprinting at least 1 time per week, if not two.  Sprinting will help shred you up and keep you strong all at the same time  It’s the all in one movement.

Sprinting will also keep you athletic.  If all you do in regards to running is go out for longer marathon like pace runs or keep yourself on a cardio machine, you’re going to lose your athletic abilities.  You going to lose your ability to move.

Sprinting forces you to be somewhat coordinated and if you want to run fast, you’ll need some good amounts of muscle mass so if you continually go out and sprint and combine that with strength training, you’re body will naturally build more muscle to help you sprint more effectively.

Just look at the ol’ “Sprinter vs. Marathoner” pic…

I’m sure this picture isn’t new to you, but it just goes to show that if you want to be strong, jacked, and athletic, you need to be sprinting.

There’s a number of ways you can add in sprints to your workout program.  My favorite by far is with hill sprints.  Just find a hill and sprint up to the top at 100%.  Use the walk back down as rest and repeat x 8-10 total reps.  Something like that takes only 25-30 min max.

Other types of sprints you can do are 20’s all the way up to 100’s.  Just make sure you’re properly warmed up and ready to go before you attempt a near maximal speed sprinting effort.  If you haven’t sprinted for a while, I would def recommend building yourself up first by doing some build-ups and submax speed sprints for 4-6 week prior.

Also make sure your hips flexors, quads, and especially your hamstrings are properly loosened up and flexible enough to sprint.  Trust me, you do NOT want to tear and hammy or quad.

Bottom Line –Make sure to add in some form of sprinting at least 1-2 times a week within your training program.

2 – Dip + Knee Tucks

One of my favorite upper body movements to do to help pack on slabs of lean muscle to my upper body is the dip , but what I like to do is take this bodyweight movement up one step further by combining it with a knee tuck.

Why?

Well, when you combine one of the best upper body strength and muscle building movements together with one of the best core training movements, you create yourself a strength and muscle building winner.

Obviously you need to master the dip first before you go hitting this movement full blast.  Once you get yourself to the point where you’re hammering out 10-15 dips solid, you can go ahead and progress to the full dip + knee tuck.

If you have shoulder issues, you may consider skipping this one and sticking to push up variations to help build more muscle and strength for your upper body, but if you can manage it, throw these in for a good one-two combo!

3 – Vertical Push Variations – HSPU’s, Pikes, and Wall Walks

Another great upper body strength and muscle building bodyweight movement is the HSPU.  Only problem is, most people can’t hit these with solid form and technique.  It’s a tough movement to get down.

So, what do you do when you can’t perform a certain movement?  YOU PROGRESS.

My favorite ways to progress this movement are by mastering the following movements:

1 – HSPU HOLDS – build yourself up to the point of being able to hold a HSPU for at least 40 secs.  No need to go past 60 secs on these.  Once you get to 60 secs, it’s time to progress…

2 – Forward / Backwards Wall Walking – Take your HSPU holds to the next level by adding in this movement to make your HSPU holds more dynamic.

3 – Pike Presses – These will help you build up the strength needed within the HSPU range of motion.

Usually, when my athletes get to the point where they can hammer out 10 pike presses with good form consistently in 3 sets, I progress them to HSPU’s.  We start on the low rep range of 3-5 then go from there.

Once you get to that point, you’ll start building up some serious strength.

4 – EXROM Push Ups – Suspended Push Ups

As you may tell, I’m all for the bodyweight movements needed that will  build up that Warrior physique upper body.  Instead of sticking with you ol’ regular push ups, in order to build up more strength and grow more muscle, you’ve got to take your normal push ups and put them on steroids…

Here’s where your Suspended Ring or Jungle Gym XT push ups w/ your feet elevated are the way to go!

What I love about these is that when you’re suspended via rings or straps, you can go through an extra range of motion you normally can’t get with regular push ups off the floor.  Plus you add in the stability factor that is needed when you do anything suspended like in a Jungle Gym for example.

Your hands aren’t anchored by the floor so with this type of push up, you need to make sure to lock in your core and stay tight from head to toe in order to stay in control..

If not, you may just find yourself planting your face to the floor.

Make sure to have the proper strength with your regular push ups first before you try hammering these push ups out!

5 – Rope Climbs

One of my favorite bodyweight movements to use to help build up some serious strength and muscle in the arms and back is none other then rope climbing.

I like to take it a step further and work your abs as well by adding in the L-Sit hold while climbing the rope.  This allows you to hit two birds with one stone, similar to our dip + knee tuck combo from earlier.

With L-Seat rope climb, you get the many benefits of climbing rope plus the core training benefits of holding the L-Sit.

Now, if you can’t climb rope without the use of your legs, start working yourself up to that point by steadily progressing over time.

Rope climbing is an excellent bodyweight movement, especially when you take away the use of your legs.

6 – Pistol Squats

Now, everyone should know that the barbell back squat is the king of ALL major exercises, especially when it comes to building up strength and muscle in your legs.  When we take away the barbell, my favorite lower body movement I like to use to help build up some serious lower body strength is the pistol squat.

The major issue that most people run into with pistols is that they can’t do them.  They either lack mobility or the actual strength needed to do them properly.

The best way to get better at pistols is to do them.  Use progressions to build more strength and focus in on getting your mobility better.  Overtime, you’ll progress up to being able to hammer these out like nothing.  It all takes time.

7 – Chest To Bar Pull Ups

I think it’s safe to say that most people know (that is if you’re SERIOUS about your training) that pull ups are one of the absolute best movements you can do to build up more upper body pulling strength as well as pack on more serious muscle in your back.

For me, I like to take it one step further and work chest to bar pull ups.  Why?

Well the few extra inches you have to pull really push your body that extra bit it needs for more growth and strength.

When I was back working at the large corporate gym, I hardly ever saw people doing pull ups but when I did, they were hardly ever going through the full range of motion and if they were, they were barely getting their chin above the bar.  Those pull ups and chin ups are good, but if you want to take it to the next level, try just working chest to bar pull ups for the next 4-6 weeks and see how much you increase your overall strength.

You’ll love it and when you go back to regular your regular chin above the bar pull ups, you’ll eat those for breakfast.

8 – Bar Muscle Ups

Now speaking of pulling power, in order to hit bar muscle ups, you’re gonna have to master the chest to bar pull up first.  If you can’t pound out at least 5-10 solid chest to bar pull ups, it’s my best guess you won’t be ready for what I like to call, the king of all upper body bodyweight exercises, which is the bar muscle up.

No other move out there will help add on strength, power, and muscle like bar muscle ups will.  These are a highly skilled bodyweight movements and if you can get them down, you’ll reap the rewards.

If you can do these, pound them out weekly.  If not, get yourself up to that level!  Use these progressions and focus in on getting yourself there.

9 – Ring Front Levers

By far one of the most challenging and rewarding core exercises there is when it comes to bodyweight only training are ring front levers.

You work you shoulders, back, chest, triceps, grip, and not to mention your core a ton!

This core movement will tax the whole body and get you strong as a mo fo in no time.  Start will reps of 5-10 of holds for 1-3 secs then go for longer static holds to crank up the intensity even more.

All in good time, you’ll get better.  Give yourself patience with these and you’ll reap the benefits!

10 – Power Wheel Full Body Roll Outs

Another one of my favorite bodyweight movements is a full body core movement, the Power Wheel Rollout.

With these you can start out on your knees if you need to regress, but if you want to crank it up a bit more, you can progress to where you perform a full body rollout which if you’re not used to, will have your abs sore for days after! ( Trust me on this one 😉

For a full on progression from a level 1 roll out to full body rollouts, check out this BLOG POST SERIES on roll outs HERE.

11 – Full Body Plyo Push Ups

This movement takes your normal plyo or “explosive-clapping” push up to a whole new level.

Instead of just exploding off the ground with your upper body, with this movement you explosively jump with your lower body at the same time making it essentially into a full body movement.  Doing this gets the whole body involved and trains it like it’s supposed to be trained, as one whole unit.

I love throwing these in at the beginning of a training session or at the very end to finish things out.  Overall, full body plyo push ups are a very powerful and effective bodyweight only movement.

12 – Rapid Fire Broad Jumps

Want to build up more explosive power in your legs and hips?  Then you need to JUMP!

Think back in time when you were in grade school and they had you do the standing broad jump.   Remember that?

Now instead of just doing one jump, as soon as you land you explosively jump right into another consecutive jump.  This movement not only helps teach and build explosiveness, it also teaches coordination, balance, and improves reaction time.

This is a definite must to add into your training session at the very beginning when you’re fresh.  Broad Jumps are also great for activating the legs and hips to help get your lower body ready for a serious lifting session.

Using rapid fire broad jumps within my training programs have helped myself and my athletes increase our overall speed as well.  I typically will do 4-5 sets with 5-6 total jumps in a set and since this movement is more for power development, I allow myself to rest a bit longer before hitting another set.

Use rapid fire broad jumps to build up some serious power!

13 – Feet Elevated Recline Rope Climbs

Want to take your recline rows to a whole new level?  Start doing feet elevated recline rope climbs.

You’ll get the benefits of rope climbing, but you’ll also hit your body in a different movement plane.  For guys looking to build up some more muscle in the biceps and forearms, any type of rope climbing will help do this, especially this version!

Se how to progress your rope climbs in the video…

14 – Burpee + Jumps – Barrier, Box, Broad Jump

Everyone who trains hard knows about the infamous burpee.  How about taking the dreaded burpee and adding in a bit more of an explosive bonus to the end of it…

There are many different variations and combos you can use with burpees.  You can do a burpee + borad jump (as you saw in the video), burpee + box jump, burpee + lateral hops, or you can even do a set of burpee and then explosively bust out into a sprint. The list goes on.

15 – Towel Pull Ups

Just like with the chest to bar pull ups I mentioned above, towel pull ups will take your regular pull ups and put them on steroids.  One of the major benefits of doing towel pull ups is the gains in grip strength you’ll get overtime.

Mix these into your program and you’ll see some definite gains in overall pull strength and grip strength, not to mention the added gains in muscle.

16 – Kneeling Jumps Into Box Jumps

Just like with the Rapid Fire Broad Jumps I just mentioned before, kneeling jumps will help you build up some serious power in the hips as well as help increase your speed development.

For these, you start off on the ground on your knees and in order to get yourself onto a box, you need to explosively use your hips to hop up onto your feet first.  As soon as you land on your feet, you again jump, exploding up onto a box.   Working this quick  transition will help you develop a better level of force development and speed with your hips.

This is a highly advanced plyometric movement that does require a bit of skill so the best way to start utilizing this movement is to start with just a simple kneeling jump up to your feet first without a double jump to a box.   Once you have that mastered, you can progress to jumping onto a box in combination with your kneeling jump.

17 – Spiderman Pushups

Last but not least on my top 17 bodyweight strength movements is none other then the spiderman push ups.  This movement requires a solid level of mobility, core strength and stability, as well as overall upper body strength.

This takes your basic push up and turns it into an all out mobile total body strength and conditioning builder.

I like using these for both strength and conditioning as I’ll use them within circuits to test stamina as well as do them in smaller repped sets with added weight for strength.

Overall, spiderman pushups are a must and should be implemented into your training program at some point as their great to swap out for your normal push ups.

Here’s Zach Even-Esh and I hammering out some spiderman pushups at The Underground Strength Gym when I was in Jersey a while back…

If you watch that whole video, you’ll see how we implemented bodyweight training in with other weighted movements. Doing this is a DEADLY combination for strength, power, and conditioning.

And there you have it!  Those are 17 of my top favorite bodyweight movements for more strength, power, and muscle gain.  That’s just a small little bit of the different movements I use, but as you can see, you don’t always have to train with a ton of equipment nor do you even need a gym.

Use the best training tool you were born with which is your own body and use it routinely.

And since we’re speaking about Bodyweight Training, I figured I’d share my BEST resource in regards to helping your become a BADASS with your own bodyweight…

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 8.16.16 PM

Train and Live Aggressive! 

PS – Tell me, what are YOUR Favorite Top 2-3 Bodyweight movements?  Drop your answer in the comments below.

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  • Rosina

    All of these will help kick my training up a notch, and I will be incorporating them into my routines ASAP. My faves are hill sprints…did some yesterday and can’t stress how important they are and will be as I continue to train for Spartan events at the end of the year. Thanks!

    • Admin

      Sprints will turn you into a Spartan Race BEAST! Don’t neglect those!

  • Madison

    definitely some great choices, my favorites would have to be front levers, back levers Handstands especially on the rings, planche progressions, HSPU, press to HS, and all sorts of jumps.

    • Admin

      Good stuff Madison

  • Ross

    As always I would have to say pullups, weighted variety if there are enough of an audience to want to impress lol

  • Mike Harvell

    Great stuff, Travis! You are opening my eyes to the advantages of bodyweight exercises!

    What is an ideal diameter of rope for rope exercises?

    • Admin

      1.5 to 2 inches is pretty good. 2 inches gets tough on the grip and forearms!

  • Allen Noble

    I’m going to get me a rope. That looks fun!

    I was doing quite a bit of pistol squats a few months back. I don’t know if it was because I was too weak or if my technique was off, but after doing them I would get some burning in my buttock from where my sciatic nerve comes out from behind the piriformis (piriformis syndrome). Man, it hurt! I think when I would go down in the pistol squat, my thigh would adduct and maybe get a little internal rotation putting too much strain on that piriformis muscle. I kept doing them because they were so great, but had to back off when it wasn’t improving.

    I just work out at home and at a local high school field and so I rely a ton on bodyweight exercises (the only equipment I have are a few dumbells, kettlebells and an ab roller and shortly a rope). So thanks a ton for the great info.

    As always, you technique is impecable and I benefit from seeing it in your videos.

    Thanks,
    Allen

  • http://homefitnessmanual.com/ Mitchell – Home Fitness Manual

    Travis, there have been a few times when I’ve cursed myself for putting split-squats in a routine. Great list of BW exercises by the way.

    -Mitchell

    • Admin

      Mitchell,

      Yes I know exactly what you mean!

      Gotta do the things that we hate though to get better!