If you are looking to get into better shape but consider yourself a beginner to exercise, a good beginner bodyweight workout plan is a great place to start.
You don’t need a gym membership to get in a great workout. Bodyweight training can be extremely effective for a beginner at burning body fat, building muscle, and getting stronger. Provided you’re willing to work hard, consistently, and improve your diet.
In the beginner bodyweight workout plan, I will assume you have minimal to no equipment and need a place to start. In this routine, you will work your way through each exercise one at a time until all the exercises in the routine are complete.
Your goal should be to complete the circuit 2-3 times. Once you have worked up to performing this workout for five sets it’s time to level up to the intermediate routine.
The beginner bodyweight workout plan
Move at a pace you’re comfortable with. Use the first workout as a feeling-out process. Get familiar with the movements and what your current level of fitness is.
- Complete all 5 exercises in a row with 0-60 seconds of rest after each exercise
- Once you have completed 1 full circuit or all 5 exercises in a row rest 60-120 seconds and repeat
- Complete 2-3 full circuits
- Try performing this workout 2-3 times per week on non-consecutive days (i.e. Monday, Wednesday, Friday)
5 minutes of movement to work up a little sweat, loosen up, and get your heart rate up. You can walk up and down your stairs, march in place, or step side to side.
Under each bodyweight exercise, you’ll also notice some exercise substitutions.
The order you do the exercises can change based on your personal preferences. But I have structured it so that it focuses on the most taxing body part first
- Bodyweight squats, 8-15 reps
- One arm row, 8-15 reps per arm
- Knee or elevated push-up, 8-15 reps
- Straight arm plank, 5-20 seconds
- Steam engines, 10-20 reps per side
Bodyweight Squat, 8-15 reps
One Arm Rows, 8-15 reps per arm
You can use a gallon water jug or paint can
If you have a resistance band
Knee Or Hand Elevated Push-Ups, 8-15 reps
Straight Arm Plank, 5-20 seconds
Steam Engines, 10-20 reps to each side
Can you build muscle mass with the bodyweight workout plan?
Yes, if you apply progressive overload. In our getting started with strength training guide we go more in-depth but progressive overload can be done by:
- increase reps
- increase sets
- decrease rest times
- perform harder variations of an exercise
- train to failure
- increase time under tension (take 5 seconds to lower yourself in a push up)
- Intermediate and advanced techniques like drop sets and rest-pause.
At some point, bodyweight work and minimal equipment may not be enough, and using weights may be necessary.
An important note here. The cool shit you see calisthenic experts doing on YouTube and Instagram is strength and skill. Building muscle is completely different.
⬇️ Grab a free copy of the beginner bodyweight workout here ⬇️
Can you get ripped (build muscle) with just bodyweight
See above but we’ll go a little deeper here on the getting ripped part.
Bodyweight training can help with getting ripped. But getting ripped is mostly a matter of getting body fat levels low enough to achieve a ripped look.
To do this you need to create an energy deficit (taking in fewer calories than your body needs) through diet over an extended period of time.
To learn more about setting up your diet read our getting started with nutrition and diet guide.
Is it ok to do bodyweight workouts every day?
Yes, for the most part. However, if you are working at higher intensity levels it’s best to take rest days. But a few push-ups, squats, and planks every day shouldn’t hurt your recovery.
Keep in mind that more isn’t necessarily better. When working with clients many of them want to work out more, do more cardio, all in an attempt to burn more calories to help with fat loss. If fat loss is a goal, your return on investment is much better if you improve your diet and create a consistent calorie deficit.
Other ways to progress with your bodyweight workout plan
Progression is the number 1 requirement for getting stronger and building muscle (along with diet). Without this, it is virtually impossible.
At some point, you most certainly will progress past the bodyweight workout plan outlined here. Below are a few other ways to challenge yourself when you’re ready.
Progressing from an easier version of an exercise to a harder one
An example of this would be from wall push-ups to knee push-ups. Then from knee push-ups to elevated push-ups where you slowly start to bring down the elevation. Eventually doing regular push-ups. After regular push-ups would come decline and then explosive or clapping push-ups.
But at some point, you’ll get strong enough where you’ll run out of variations. From here you can try a few things to help with progressive overload.
- Weight vest
- Resistance bands
- Ring, Trx, or other products to add difficulty
Time under tension
Try taking 5 seconds to lower yourself while doing a push-up. Do the same thing with a squat. Notice how much more difficult that is.
Most of the time you want to stop 1 to 2 reps short of failure. The reason being, going to fail on your first set can ruin you for later sets. Thus, decreasing the total volume of the workout.
An example week to week progression in reps may look like this:
- Week 1: 3 sets, 8 push-ups
- Week 2: 3 sets, 10 push-ups
- Week 3: 3 sets, 12 push-ups
Much like the example above, you could keep the reps the same but increase the number of sets you do weekly or bi-weekly.
- Week 1: 2 sets, 12 reps
- Week 2: 3 sets, 12 reps
- Week 3: 4 sets, 12 reps
- Week 4: 5 sets, 12 reps
Decreasing rest time between exercises and or sets
This is a simple and great way to add progression and difficulty to your bodyweight workout plan.
- Week 1: 60 seconds rest after each exercise and or set
- Week 2: 45 seconds rest after each exercise and or set
- Week 3: 30 seconds rest after each exercise and or set
- Week 4: 15 seconds rest after each exercise and or set
- Week 5: 0 seconds rest after each exercise and 60-second rest after each set
How can I start working out at home as a beginner?
Working out at home can be a real challenge. But with a few small adjustments, you can create an environment that encourages you to move more consistently.
1: Dedicate an area to exercise: If you have an empty room or garage this will be perfect. If not, that’s ok. Choose a space and make it the “workout room.” Try not to do anything else in this space. No work, no sleeping, no watching T.V. Put a few pieces of equipment in there, put s speaker in there for good tunes, and create an environment set up for movement.
2: Choose something you enjoy: Many people make the mistake of doing something they feel they need to do. Instead, choose something you want to do. If that’s bodyweight, kettlebell, resistance band, yoga, dance, or something else. Do whatever it takes to get you to move more.
3: Start small. So small that it’s impossible not to start: Even if that means 5 squats and calling it a day. Do whatever it takes to get started. Motivation comes from taking action, not the other way around.
4: Turn it into a routine: Put it in your calendar for the same days and times each week. Trying to “fit in a workout” will almost never happen. For most of us, it needs a dedicated space in our daily routines.
What are some of the best bodyweight exercises?
There are a number of bodyweight exercises you could add to your bodyweight workout plan. Below, I list a few of the basics.
- Push-ups and push-up variations
- Pull-ups and pull-up variations
- Inverted rows
- Handstand push-ups
- Bodyweight biceps curls
- Bodyweight triceps extensions
- Lunges and lunge variations
- Squats and squat variations
- Split squats and Bulgarian split squats
- Pistol squats
- Single leg Romanian deadlifts
- Bodyweight leg curls
Best of luck on your bodyweight journey.
How should a beginner start weight training (progress from bodyweight to weights)?
One of the easiest ways to move from a beginner bodyweight training plan to a weight training plan is to continue with the same movements you’ve been practicing. The only difference is now you add weight.
For example, the bodyweight squat now turns into a goblet squat (can be done with a dumbbell or kettlebell).
The push-ups you’ve been doing now turn into a bench press or floor press with dumbbells or a barbell.
The confidence and skill you’ve built from focusing on bodyweight movements should translate well into weight training. Continue focusing on progressive overload and you’ll do alright for yourself.
For more help on starting weight training check out our beginners guide to strength training and resistance training. In these articles, we talk more about the best exercises, reps, sets, and give easy examples of programs you can follow.
PS: Looking for more great workout routines?
- Beginner bodyweight circuit with progressions and regressions
- Resistance band training routine
- Intermediate bodyweight training routine