Top 5 body weight exercises to build strength and muscle

Whether you’re on holidays and don’t have access to a gym, you don’t have a gym membership, or maybe you just need to go back to basics for a while and test your own body weight strength, these 5 exercises in my opinion will give you the most bang for your buck and are highly effective at building strength and lean muscle tissue.

These exercises cover all areas/muscle groups of the body and there are progressions and regressions for all 5 of these exercises to cater for the beginner, intermediate or advanced gym goer.

Remember body weight exercises are more often than not some of the hardest exercises to complete, especially if you don’t perform them often!

Let’s get into it shall we…

Exercise #1: Push ups


Main target areas: Chest, shoulders, triceps, core

Ways to increase difficulty:

-Widen or narrow your hand position (wider will target more chest whereas as narrower will target more triceps

-Elevate your feet by using a step or a ledge just below knee height

-Add some form of resistance onto your back while performing the push up

Ways to decrease difficulty:

-Complete push ups on knees (feet should’t be crossed over each other)

Exercise #2: Pull/chin ups


Main target areas: Back, biceps, core

Ways to increase difficulty:

-Widen your grip

-Slow down the eccentric phase (way down)

Ways to decrease difficulty:

-Perform a jumping pull up with a slow negative on the way down

-Use a theraband for assistance

Exercise #3: Squats


Main target areas: Quads, glutes, hamstrings

Ways to increase difficulty:

-Slow down the eccentric phase (way down) or pause at the bottom for 1-2 seconds

-Add in a jump, making it an explosive/plyometric movement (jump squats)

Ways to decrease difficulty:

-Use a chair or bench just above knee height and sit down as slowly as possible while keeping the weight through your heels and your chest up

-Only squat to where you are comfortable with (depth wise)

Exercise #4: Glute bridges


Main target areas: Glutes, hamstrings

Ways to increase difficulty:

-Hold at the top of each rep for 2-3 seconds

-Place a theraband around your knees forcing you to activate your glutes more by pressing your knees out to prevent them from collapsing in

-Perform the exercise one leg at a time

Ways to decrease difficulty:

-Everybody can do this, I have not seen one person who can’t. It’s simply a matter of doing it right and getting the glutes to fire up without the quads and hamstrings taking over

Exercise #5: Plank/plank variations


Main target areas: Core

Ways to increase difficulty:

-Elevate your feet by using a step or a ledge just below knee height

Ways to decrease difficulty: 

-Perform the plank on your knees (feet shouldn’t be crossed over each other

So there you have it, my top 5 body weight exercises that will help build strength and lean muscle even with the most advanced lifters out there. 


I wanted to add a little bit extra to this post so I’m going to give you a sample routine that you can complete using all 5 of these exercises along with my 2 runner ups (bench dips and walking lunges).

The following exercises are to be completed in a circuit like fashion with NO rest between exercises and only 2 minutes rest between rounds. You are to complete a total of 5 rounds!

  1. Chin ups x max reps
  2. Squats x 25,20,15,10,5
  3. Push ups x 10-15 reps
  4. Bench dips x 15
  5. Glute bridges x 12
  6. Plank x 30-60 seconds (depending on your capabilities)
  7. Side plank x 30 seconds
  8. Jump squats x 5 (Be as explosive as possible and focus on a soft landing. Do not perform if you have knee problems)

9. Walking lunges x 10 reps between every exercise above


Danny’s Youtube channel: Danny Kennedy Fitness