When you walk into the gym and every single bench and machine is taken by a bigger, stronger guy—or, worse yet, by that bro doing curls in the squat rack—you could just turn around, walk out of the gym, and say you’ll come back later.
But you're not a chump, and this is no walk in the park—this is your gym time, dammit, and there's no way you're skipping your daily shred session just because some knuckleheads are taking up all the gear. So instead of waiting an eternity for the bench to free up, find a spare corner of the gym and do these bodyweight moves instead. With these in your arsenal, you'll watch the fat melt off your midsection and that muscle pop through your shirt in no time.
This one's a timeless classic. The pushup is essential for building a big chest, cannonball delts, and triceps that look like the wishbone you pulled out of the turkey on Thanksgiving. Master this move and it will yield the same benefits as the bench press.
Another classic move. The pullup hits every muscle in the body and is underrated in terms of arm and abs development. It stands alone as the original biceps curl, and it's definitely one of the best thing you can do for your arms—not to mention the muscles in your back.
Plenty of fitness experts think that holding a plank for a minute-plus is a very impressive measure of fitness. The plank requires excellent shoulder stability and top-notch muscle endurance of the abs, lower back, shoulders, neck, and legs. Not only that, but it works well to develop an impressive six-pack (more time under tension = more muscle).
Okay, this one's not quite equipment-free—you'll need an ab roller or a barbell. But the ab tension you feel in the rollout is similar to what you experience in a plank—just a notch more difficult. The farther you roll out, the harder the exercise becomes, leading to better results. (It's also a great exercise for shorter guys for that reason.) Plus, you'll look like a total badass—and the meathead on the bench press will fall on his face while trying to do it.
Yeah, not exactly the prettiest exercise—but any trainer will tell you that having strong, mobile glutes is essential for good back health—and other experts agree that having a set of glutes does wonders for your sex appeal. Start doing glute bridges and get ready for two things: spending some money on bigger pants and giving your number to all the women clamoring for it.
Arguably as versatile a back exercise as the pullup, the inverted row is a great opposing motion to work with the pushup. Turn your hands around so you’re holding the bar underhand, and you’ve got a better bicep builder than any curl variation out there. It's a key exercise for building wide shoulders and big arms—and that means more attention on the beach this summer.
This pushup variation specifically targets your triceps—and big triceps make your arms look that much bigger. Plus: Since all your muscles (including biceps and triceps) grow in pairs, bigger triceps means bigger biceps. Add this move to your arm workout and watch your progress soar.
The No. 1 favorite exercise of any trainer who wants to help their clients burn fat, the burpee has become a staple in programs from bootcamps to CrossFit and everything in between. A full-body explosive motion that requires better cardio than hill sprints and more coordination than nearly any exercise, there’s no doubt that a steady diet of burpees will accelerate your progress toward a leaner, shredded body.
Many people think the dip is primarily a triceps exercise—and while that's definitely true, dips also hit your chest and shoulders just as hard. Another underrated aspect of the dip is the core strength it takes to do them properly. Dips aren't for the faint of heart (just try a few) but they can be your greatest ally in getting big pecs and overall upper-body strength.
The challenge of a single-leg squatting motion is tough enough. Add to that the stretch and activation of your rear leg's hip flexor, and you have the makings of an ultra-effective bodyweight exercise that improves strength and mobility at the same time. Use the Bulgarian split squat in place of a squat for a few weeks, and see if your regular squat numbers don't improve. (Spoiler alert: They will).
While the pushup is undoubtedly a great move, you can definitely up the intensity (and stimulate more muscle growth) by performing it on a suspension trainer. Because a suspension trainer's handles are so unstable, suspended pushups are perfect for developing beach muscles and improving long-term shoulder health. Up for an even bigger challenge? Try elevating your feet, and watch how fast you become a shaky mass of sore muscle.
Sure, anyone can do a reverse hyper on a machine, but the tension is most times inadequate for serious muscle development. One thing trainers won’t tell you: the higher amount of tension a muscle is put under, the stronger it responds (So harder contractions mean more muscle).
The prone back extension certainly creates a huge, deep contraction more in line with your natural back motion, helping you forge a strong, healthy lower back.
If you’ve reached a plateau with your standard pushup routine, it might be time to try the pike pushup. This variation directly targets the shoulders and can help improve weak areas, leading to muscle development all over.
We’ve already told you that more tension means more muscle. This exercise provides more tension than any other ab move out there, all while forcing your shoulders to stabilize your body. Also, because there are multiple joints and muscle groups involved, it may lead to a release of anabolic hormones, such as testosterone, HGH, and IGF-1, which all speed up muscle development.
A necessary precursor to the box jump, jump squats are perfect exercises for athletes or bodybuilders looking to improve their explosive lower-body power, and for adventure-race types who want to improve their ability to clamber over obstacles and keep moving fast. Make sure to land softly as yougo into your next rep, forcing your muscles to handle a workload in both the concentric and eccentric motions of the exercise.
Start by standing on a box about 6 to 8 inches high. Lower yourself backwards into a lunge, and then power yourself back upwards into standing position. It's a perfect way to improve lower-body strength, while lunging back up from a deficit will force your muscles to operate at the ends of your range of motion—building not only strength but also flexibility.
As much a triceps-blaster as a chest exercise, the diamond pushup (so named because your index fingers and thumbs form the outline of a diamond when you put your hands together) is a brutal way to improve not only your tricep form but also your balance.
A fitness essential, the basic bodyweight squat (or "air squat") is a vital exercise for maintaining lower-body strength throughout your life. Situate your feet about shoulder-width apart, and make sure you maintain a natural arc in your back and spread your weight through your fet as you hinge your hips and knees into the squat. When you raise yourself back up, make sure your knees are in line with your feet—not drawn inward—so the force hits your knees in their natural hinge.
Another CrossFit favorite, the box jump is a great test of your lower-body explosiveness and power. Make sure you're landing on the box with catlike agility, bending your hips and knees, so that you don't put too much pressure on your joints. (Also: Always step off the box, rather than jumping off—it'll save your knees a lot of stress and reduce your risk of injury.)
The overhead lunge—basically just a lunge performed with your arms raised above your head—is a good way to strengthen your lower body and build up your balance. It might seem like an easy variation, but try enough of them and watch as that perfect touchdown signal becomes a flailing mess.
A notoriously demanding one-legged squat variation popularized by CrossFit, the pistol squat is a premier test of balance, core strength, and leg power. When done correctly, you'll lower yourself into what is essentially a one-legged crouch, so the angle behind your knee is less than 90 degrees. Stick your free leg and your arms in front of you—a challenge in itself—to maintain balance as you lower yourself and then power yourself back up.
A staple of athletic training, mountain climbers are another great core exercise that really fires up your hip flexors and abs while also challenging your upper body to maintain balance. Try them with sliding disks under your toes, or perform them with your hands resting on a medicine ball to ratchet up the imbalance and increasingly challenge your core.
Take your plank work to the next level with this difficult variation that targets your upper body and your core at the same time.
Here's how to do it: Start in a plank position, resting on your forearms. Press yourself up away from the ground one arm at a time into a push-up, while maintaining perfect plank position. Press first with your left forearm, keeping your right palm on the ground. Then return to prone position. Press with your right forearm while your left palm remains on the ground.
Ready to make it even more difficult? Lift a leg while you do it, extending your hip muscles and forcing your upper body to account for an even greater imbalance.
Like the standard plank, a side plank is simple but challenging way to isometrically target your core strength—particularly your obliques and transversus abdominis—not to mention your balance. Form is key with the side plank: Try to keep your hips in line with your body as shown here, or you won't hit your muscles as intensely.
Whether you're looking to improve your explosive power or you just got done watching the Rocky training montage, the clap pushup is a demanding (and, yeah, showy) way to build up your tricep and chest strength. (If you're doing these to failure, just make sure you don't smash your face up when your arms give out.)
The cross crunch is a great oblique exercise for people who want to fire up their abs while also making sure they're not at risk of hurting their back. Because your legs are moving across your body, this exercise taxes your obliques and your rectus abdominus (a.k.a. your six-pack muscles) while also engaging your lower abs.
Simply holding a plank crunch (often called a "Spiderman" crunch) challenges your core, legs, and chest just by virtue of stabilizing your body. Bringing each knee to an elbow will tax your obliques and core, and bringing them back to the starting position forces your chest, shoulders, and arms to compensate for the weight shift. Combine this move with a pushup to make it even tougher.
A notoriously tough core and cardio exercise, the bicycle crunch targets three major components of your core: Your main abdominus muscles (targeted by the main crunching motion), your obliques (the side-to-side rocking), and your lower abs (the "reverse crunch" motion). It's also a good way to target muscles like hip flexors and even your shoulders as you work to stabilize your body.
It's a deceptively simple exercise, but the handstand pushup is also a supreme test of your upper-body strength and core stability. You'll feel this most in your shoulders and triceps—the primary muscles in this move—while also working your core (read: six-pack) as you balance your legs.
Here's how to do it: Get into a handstand, stabilizing your feet against a wall if you need to. Lower yourself toward the floor while keeping your elbows in front of your shoulders. Go as low as you can and push straight up.