8 Challenging Bodyweight Exercises for When You Can’t Hit the Gym

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Many people love going to the gym, spending hours each week making use of the abundant collection of weights and equipment. Others prefer to build their own fully equipped gyms, investing in dumbbells and other gear to replicate the experience at home.

But those aren’t your only options.

If your membership has grown dusty with neglect (or never existed to begin with), and you don’t have the extra money or time to purchase your own fitness equipment, you have everything you need to get a full-body workout in the comfort and privacy of home—and you’re already carrying it everywhere you go.

With bodyweight exercises, you can work all of the major muscle groups without a single piece of gear. If you don't have the time or interest to go to the gym, these exercises allow you to still get a challenging and intense workout. Best of all, you can do them anywhere—from your living room floor to a hotel room to your backyard.

Certified Fitness Trainer Trudie German, founder of Body Envy, shares these eight effective moves that use your own body resistance to build strength, balance and flexibility, while burning calories and raising your heart rate. Just grab an exercise mat, your favorite playlist and get started! (And go ahead and wear your pajamas, we won’t tell.)

As these exercises engage the entire body, you will feel the benefits everywhere, but each one targets specific muscles.

“For a full-body workout, it’s best to do the same number of reps for each exercise, but it’s fine to cut down the number of reps until you can do the move comfortably [and correctly],” German notes. “For an optimal workout, each exercise should take 20 seconds with a rest of 15 seconds, repeating [one to] three times.”


Target muscles: Glutes, hamstrings
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Lower into a squat position.
  3. Jump up, then kick your legs back into a plank position.
  4. Step or jump back up to the starting position.


Jump Squats

Target muscles: Abs, quads
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Lower into a squat position, engage your core and jump up explosively.
  3. Land lightly and move back into the squat position.


Mountain Climber Crossovers

Target muscles: Glutes, hamstrings
  1. Start in a plank position with your hands and feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Bring your right knee across to the left side of your chest.
  3. Return and repeat on the other side. Continue alternating sides.


Pushups with Alternating Leg Up

Target muscles: Deltoids, pecs and triceps
  1. Start in a plank position with your hands shoulder width apart.
  2. Center one foot and lift the other leg up, keeping it straight.
  3. Move into a pushup, bending at the elbows and coming down 90 degrees, keeping your core tight and your extended leg straight.  
*Keep your spine straight and don't lock your elbow in the extended position.



Target muscles: Abs, obliques, shoulders
  1. Start in a push-up position.
  2. Contract your abdominals to keep your spine in a neutral position and prevent your glutes from sticking up or sagging down.
  3. Keep your back flat — picture your body as a long straight board.
  4. Hold for 30-60 seconds or as long as you can.


Lunge Hop

Target muscles: Calves, quads
  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Step back with your right leg and lower into a lunge position. 
  3. With your core engaged, jump up explosively. Land back into a lunge position on the opposite side.



Target muscles: Glutes, abs
  1. Start with on your back on the ground with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent with arms at your sides.
  2. Push your hips up to the sky, keeping your core tight without arching your back, and then come back down to a hover, just above but not touching the ground.
  3. Extra credit: Squeeze and hold at the top for two seconds.


Plank Jacks

Target muscles: Deltoids, abs
  1. Start in a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart and feet together.
  2. Hop your feet out, keeping the plank position intact, and then hop your feet back together.

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BILLTHOMSON 11/20/2020
I am thankful I started putting a gym togeather in my basement. I read that some of these exercises aren't for people in their 60s. I'm in my 70s and I'm bench pressing 190 pounds , French presses of 62 pounds, Fly's with 27 pounds. It took me 3 1/2 years to work consistently to get to this point and I started at 60 pounds overweigh. Report
IMUSTLOSEIT1 11/3/2020
Not doing those with this body. Just getting down and up from the floor is a challenge, let alone doing jumpy things is NOT going to happen. Need more thing for the senior populations. Report
NUHUSKY95 11/3/2020
Great article, and these exercises are good! One can modify exercises as needed. Very much enjoyed the bodyweight exercise suggestions and photos. Thank you. Report
CECTARR 11/3/2020
A recent 2020 Sparks article said some of these are bad for your back and knees Report
Good ideals and some of them I already do.
RO2BENT 11/3/2020
Oh yeah Report
NEPTUNE1939 11/3/2020
ty Report
Thanks Report
JANIEWWJD 11/3/2020
Fantastic info!!!! Report
KOHINOOR2 10/30/2020
Great article. Thanks! Report
Some of these are really tough Report
PATRICIAANN46 9/16/2020
Thank You for the great information............ Report
These pictures are really helpful - and wow this woman is beautiful and SO STRONG & healthy! Report
CKEYES1 6/6/2020
Jump squats are too hard Report
When I first joined Sparks I used a power chair, now though with over 110 lbs GONE, some of these I can NOW DO!! WOOHOO!!

For those of you just starting this journey why not bookmark this for the "DREAM BIG" page? Report
GOFORGIN 4/4/2020
Ok Report
Great article. Thanks for all the pictures to show how to get it done right. Report
Thanks! Report
CD24912514 12/20/2019
thanks Report
ONLYME33 12/18/2019
Great ideas if you are already 'FIT.' Nice that most of these can be adapted to start slow and still get your body moving in the right direction. Report
JAMER123 12/16/2019
Thank you Report
RCLYKE 12/15/2019
Great info Report
EMGERBER 12/15/2019
Great information to have on hand. Report
CECTARR 12/15/2019
Thanks Report
NANASUEH 12/15/2019
thanks Report
DMEYER4 12/15/2019
thanks Report
SARAAMG 12/15/2019
Nice article and great movements! Report
LEANJEAN6 12/15/2019
The pictures really help Report
CGEM61 12/15/2019
wow! great! burpees are not easy but results are great! Report
NEPTUNE1939 12/15/2019
ty Report
AZMOMXTWO 12/15/2019
thank you Report
FERRETLOVER1 12/15/2019
Not for me, but thanks for the information anyway. Report
LIS193 12/15/2019
Thanks Report
JANIEWWJD 12/15/2019
Fantastic article!!! Report
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
Thanks for the info Report
You have to build up to these...I'll keep them in visual sight! Report
Awesome! I love when you show the exercise! Thank you so much. Report
Thanks Report
I incorporate a few of these in my body weight exercises. Great information. Report
I am only able to do two of them, ,, Report
thanks Report
once again thank you Report
Thanks for sharing. actually on my way to class this morning Report
A little too challenging for me! Report
OH yeah, definitely feel it after this work out. Report
Thank you Report
Thanks for sharing. Report
im 60 years old. This would not be my go to exercise. I thought they were tough when I was young! Report