3 min read

7 Bodyweight Moves for Building Muscle

By: Natascha Klemm

Picture it: your 5 p.m. meeting ran long (why do they schedule meetings at 5 p.m.?!) and any hope of getting to the gym for more than 15 minutes has been scuttled. No sweat! You can get a totally great muscle-building and internal-furnace-firing workout in your living room! Here’s how. 

Two-part workout:

Part I: Do two rounds of the first four exercises for 40 seconds each, resting up to 1 minute between rounds. Then do two rounds of those same moves for 20 seconds each.

Rest two minutes. 

Part II: Do three rounds of 5 to 15 reps of the last three exercises. 

Related: Which is more effective for weight loss: Cardio or weight training?

  • Alternating lunges

Muscles used: Hamstrings and glutes

Stand with hands on hips. Step left foot forward and drop right leg to floor, ensuring that left foot tracks above left ankle or toes. Press through left foot to return to standing, then reverse, stepping forward with right foot. Continue switching sides. If that’s too challenging, do reverse lunges. If that’s too easy, grab any kind of weights (dumbbells, kettlebells, gallons of water) in each hand. Or place your back foot on a chair or couch and do a Bulgarian split squat.

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  • Push ups

Muscles: Chest, triceps, front shoulder

Start in a high plank, hands beneath shoulders, feet together, a straight line between heels and head, gaze neutral, to start. Maintaining that straight line, lower chest to ground without elbows flaring out, then push up to start. If that’s too hard, work eccentrically, meaning against gravity. Lower your body from the top push-up position to the floor as slowly as you can. When you reach the bottom, drop to your knees and push yourself back up to start. If that’s too easy, do an elevated push-up with feet on yoga blocks or the couch. 

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  • Side plank

Muscles: Obliques, shoulders, hip abductors

Start lying on your side, resting on your forearm, elbow below shoulders, forearm perpendicular to your body, palm on floor, feet stacked. Press through your forearm and raise hips toward the ceiling. Hold for 5 to 15 seconds. That’s one rep. 5 reps equal one set. Do all reps on the same side before switching sides. To make it easier, bend the knee that’s on the floor to create more stability. To make it harder, pulse your upper leg up and down. 

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  • Hollow hold

Muscles: Rectus and lateral abdominal muscles

Like on the floor, arms and legs extended, to start. Keeping hands together and arms outstretched, legs together, lift arms, head, shoulders, and legs off the floor so top of butt and lower back are on floor, while gazing at your thighs, and hold. Return to start. To make it easier, bend knees slightly. To make it harder, rock head to toe slightly. 

Looking for more ways to help your body? Check out our Body Check! 

  • Peak push–up

Muscles: shoulders, triceps

Start in a downward-facing dog position, butt creating a high peak, legs and arms locked out, gaze facing floor beneath body. Shift bodyweight forward, and bend elbows to lower head to floor so forehead is just in front of fingertips, then reverse to start. To make it easier, hold downward-facing dog. To make it harder, elevate your feet on yoga blocks.

  • Single leg glute bridge

Muscles: Hamstrings, glutes, lower back

Lie on the floor, knees bent, feet on floor, to start. Press through heels and raise hips toward ceiling until your body creates a straight line between shoulders, pelvis, and knees, then lift right leg to form a straight line between right heel and shoulders. Return to start and switch sides for one rep. To make it easier, do traditional glute bridges without raising legs. To make it more challenging, elevate your stable foot on a yoga block or stack of books.

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  • Plank row

Muscles: Latissimus dorsi, rear shoulder, obliques, and rectus abdominis

Start in a high plank, hands under shoulders, feet slightly apart, creating a straight line between heels and head. Without twisting hips, raise one hand toward pec, then return to start. Switch sides for one rep. Continue back and forth. If that’s too hard, place feet further apart, and if it’s too easy, place feet close together or lift a weight like a large can or dumbbell.

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