by Melanie Hearse & Elliot Harris

The beauty of bodyweight training is there’s no minimum (or maximum) skill level – and no equipment required. All you need is a space to spread out in, and an optional exercise mat or towel to work out on. By working through the following eight exercises, you’ll work all the major muscle groups in the body and raise your heart rate as you go.

Find them a little too easy or want more of a workout? Each exercise has a variation to make it that little bit harder. You can also increase the number of repetitions and sets you do to get more out of them.  For each exercise, we recommend completing three sets of 12-15 repetitions.

1: Squat

Area of the body worked: Glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles.

  • Stand your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart, hips stacked over your knees, and knees parallel with your ankles.

Squat, start position

  • Push your hips back as you bend your knees.
  • Use a similar motion to that used when lowering yourself to a chair.
  • Lower your bum down to a comfortable level – try and get low enough to tap your hands to the ground.

Squat bend

  • Keeping the weight in the middle of your feet, raise yourself back into a standing position.

Finish squat standing

Take it up a level:  When you get to the bottom of your squat, explode up through the heels and leap into the air, arms over your head. Return to the standing position.

Squat jump

2: Push ups

Area of the body worked: The pectoral muscles (chest) and triceps, some benefit for the deltoids (back) and midsection as a whole.

  • On the ground, set your hands at a distance slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Raise up onto your arms and knees, making sure your body is a straight line – your bum shouldn’t be sticking way up in the air or sagging down. If you’re having trouble staying straight, concentrate on tightening your abs, pulling your belly button to your spine and tilting your hips towards your chin.)

Push up start position

  • Steadily lower yourself until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle or smaller.

Push up

  • Once your chest touches the floor (or your arms go down to a 90 degree angle), push back up until you’re back in the same position.

Take it up a level: Do the same exercise, but balance on your toes instead of your knees.

Push up on toes

3: Plank

Area of the body worked: Core muscles – your abdominals, back muscles and the muscles around your pelvis.

  • Get into the push up position.
  • Bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms.
  • Engage your core by sucking your belly button into your spine.
  • Your body should form a straight line from shoulders to ankles – try tilting your pelvis towards your chin if you find your bum are poking up.
  • Hold this position for 10 – 15 seconds, extending the amount of time you can hold the position.

Plank position

Take it up a level: while in the plank position, extend your right arm and left leg and hold. Return to the plank position and repeat the move with your left arm and right leg. You may wish to lower between sides as you build up your strength.

4: Glute Bridge

Area of the body worked: The abdominals, glutes and hips.

  • Lie on your back with a bent knee position with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Place your feet hip-width apart with the toes facing away from you.
  • Contract your abdominal muscles to flatten your low back into the floor. Keep this contraction throughout the movement to make sure your back remains in the correct position.

Glute bridge

  • Lift your hips up off the floor, pressing your heels into the floor. Avoid pushing your hips too high, as this can cause you to arch your back.

Glute bridge, hips off floor

  • Slowly lower yourself back to your starting position.

Take it up a level: Lie on your back with one bent knee, the other leg straight out. Follow the steps above, while lifting the straight leg, then lower back into starting position, swapping legs.

Glute bridge, leg extension

5: Crunches (Photos: 580 – 582), progression: (Photos: 583 – 584)

Area of the body worked: Abdominal area.

  • Lie on your back, with knees bent. Put your hands behind your head, hands lightly touching the back of your head.

Sit up

  • Curl your shoulders towards your pelvis, ensuring your lower back stays in contact with the floor. Take care not to use your hands or your neck to pull yourself forward, concentrating on making the movement from your abdominals.


  • Slowly lower yourself back to the floor.

Take it up a level: Following the same ‘crunch’ movement, pull your left knee in to your stomach as you curl up, and your right elbow in to tap it. Lower back to starting position, then repeat on the opposite side.

Crunch with leg extension

6: Lunges

Area of the body worked: Calves, thighs, and glutes.

  • Stand with your hands on your hips, legs shoulder length apart.

Standing with feet hip width apart

  • Step forward with your right leg, slowly lowering the body until your front knee is bent to 90 degrees, taking care not to touch the floor with your knee.

Lunge at 90 degrees

  • Push yourself back up to the starting position as quickly but safely as possible, then repeat on the opposite leg.

Take it up a level: Compete the same movement, instead of slowly coming back to the starting position between lunges, jump and switch legs in the air (like a pair of scissors) so that you land with your left foot in front.

7: Calf Raises

Area of the body worked: Calf muscles

  • Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, pull your belly button towards your spine and tilt your hips towards the ceiling, pulling your shoulders back and chin up to stabilise your core.
  • Keeping your core steady, rise slowly up onto your toes, then slowly lower.

Calf raise

Take it up a level: Complete the same exercise, raising up on a single leg at a time.

8: Mountain Climbs

Area of the body worked: Total body – arms, shoulders, abdominals, glutes, thighs and calves. It’s also great for raising your heartbeat!

  • Start from the push up position, with hands directly under your chest, shoulder width apart with straight arms.
  • Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles.

Mountain climb

  • Pull your right knee as close to your chest as you can.

Mountain climb

  • Return to the starting position and repeat with your left leg.

Mountain climb

The content of this article is not tailored for any particular individual’s circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.