Build Muscle at Home

6 Advanced Bodyweight Exercises

Can’t get to the gym because of the weather, a global pandemic, or a zombie uprising? Build muscle anyway with these moves.

Lifting more weight, or lifting the same weight for more reps, is a guaranteed way to build muscle and strength. But what happens when you’re stuck at home with just your own bodyweight (and maybe a few household items) to work with?

Then it’s time to get creative! Here are six bodyweight exercises you can do anywhere.

Chest: Slider Reaching Push-Up

These are typically done with core sliders, but an old magazine or the lid from a Tupperware container will work too.

Sliding out to a flye on one side is a good way to hit your chest and make your regular push-ups harder. There’s also an anti-rotational component with these, so they’re a good core exercise.

Key Tips:

  • Set up for a regular push-up with one hand on your makeshift slider.
  • Drop into your push-up, sliding one hand out into a flye at the same time.
  • Press back up while sliding back in.
  • The slide should be smooth. If it isn’t, you’ve likely gone wider than you can handle, or need something that slides with less friction.
  • Remember, push-ups are moving planks. Keep your lumbar from overextending and your hips from rotating.

Shoulders: “Floor Is Hot” Drill

Push-up variations will hit your shoulders somewhat, but your medial and posterior delts will require a little more attention. These are hard-to-target areas with bodyweight exercises alone, but fortunately there’s a solution.

This is a great way to hit your delts where push-ups won’t, and a good way to finish any upper-body workout. Just don’t touch the floor.

Key Tips:

  • This can be a challenge for your shoulder mobility. If you struggle, then lay down on the floor using a cushion to prop up your chest. This will raise you off the floor a little.
  • Lay prone and grab some water bottles, cans, or just about anything for extra resistance. You may not even need it.
  • Start with your arms overhead with a thumbs-up grip.
  • Without touching the floor, reach your arms back, keeping them as wide as you can.
  • As you do this, rotate your hands so you end up with your thumbs down by your sides.
  • Try this for timed 45-60 second sets, never allowing your hands to touch the floor.

Back: Chinese Back Plank

Chinese planks can be done on your front or your back. From the back, they’re a good exercise to target your entire posterior chain in an isometric position. With a few alterations you’ll also be hitting your mid traps and rhomboids – usually hard-to-hit areas without free weights or cables.

All you’ll need here are three chairs or, if you’re lucky enough, some gym benches or boxes. If you’ve never done anything like this before you’ll be surprised how weak they’ll make you feel!

Key Tips:

  • Lay down on your back with your elbows pressed into the chairs. Start narrow. The wider you go, the harder it’ll be.
  • Your feet will be on the third chair/bench. This creates a long lever position and forces your entire posterior chain to fire.
  • Clench your butt, hamstrings, and low back. Pull your shoulder blades together, squeezing your upper back.
  • If you’re not shaking, you’re not doing it right. To make it harder, wear a weighted vest or place chains across your hips.

Quadriceps: Split-Squat Sissy Hybrid

If you’re used to squatting with heavy loads, bodyweight squats aren’t going to do much for you. In that case, the best option is to go single leg. Because regular split squats will still likely be too easy, here’s a split-squat sissy hybrid.

Essentially, the front leg is doing a short-step, very quad-dominant split squat, while the back leg almost resembles a sissy squat. You’ll actively be pressing through both your front and back legs at the same time.

If you’ve got a little history with your knees then you might want to omit this, but otherwise it’ll help hammer your quads while building knee resilience.

Key Tips:

  • Start your split squats from the floor. Use a cushion for your back knee if needed.
  • Adopt a short-step position. This should be the narrowest stance you can handle while still being able to keep your heel down on the lead leg and limit “butt wink” at the bottom.
  • Maintain a fully upright torso throughout.
  • Stand up. Keep your feet stationary and your bodyweight evenly distributed through both your front and back legs.
  • Return to the floor.
  • If you don’t feel your knees are up to it, use a wider split squat and encourage more load through your front leg.

Hamstrings: Hamstring Bridge Drop Set

Since deadlifts and loaded hip-hinges are likely off the table, your best option is some form of hamstring curl. If you have a resistance band, then banded curls are a good option. If you don’t, hamstring-dominant bridges can be just as beneficial, if not more so.

With these you’re hitting your hamstrings and your glutes, while also working one leg at a time. As if these aren’t hard enough, you’ll start on one leg then drop to two. Using this as a form of mechanical drop set will help add some intensity to your bodyweight-only workouts.

Key Tips:

  • Use a chair, your couch, or a bench.
  • Place both feet up, creating a 90-degree angle in your knees.
  • Take one leg off and hang it in the air. Point your toes up.
  • Initiate by squeezing your butt and hamstrings, then driving your hips up. Think about digging your planted heel down as you lift.
  • Complete desired reps on each leg, then go straight to both legs. If you’re doing it right, your hamstrings will know about it!

Core: Ab Walkout

These can be done two ways: walking your hands out or walking your feet back while your hands stay put. Both are excellent choices to nail your core.

Ab walkouts are somewhat similar to ab wheel rollouts, but there’s a little more rotary stability required, forcing your obliques to work hard to resist.

There’s also a significant extension force pulling your hips and lumbar region towards the floor. As a result, your entire midsection will light up. Do these with a weighted vest or some chains over your hips to look more badass.

Key Tips:

  • Begin in a push-up position. Engage your core and glutes.
  • For the hand walk version, walk your hands out in front as far as you can. Don’t let your back and hips sag!
  • Hold there for a brief second before walking your hands back.
  • Push your hips up at the top into a pike-like position.
  • For the feet walking version, walk your feet backwards as far as they’ll go, allowing your arms to go overhead to create that same long-lever body position.
  • Tiptoe back to the start and up into a pike.
  • Rinse and repeat.

Bodyweight Program

Because your exercise options are limited, take a full-body approach to your workouts. You can hit these with high frequency up to 3-4 times each week because the volume per body part will be relatively low.

Not used to full-body workouts? This’ll be a challenge. Switching things up to a high-frequency approach might help you push through some stubborn plateaus and even give you a neat little boost in fat loss.

If your gym access is limited, or you’re just looking to mix it up, then give this time-efficient workout a try:

Exercise Sets Reps Rest
A1 Slider Reaching Push-Up 3 AMGRAP/side 30 sec.
A2 Split-Squat Sissy Hybrid 3 AMGRAP/side 1 min.
B1 Chinese Back Plank 3 HALAP/side 30 sec.
B2 Hamstring Bridge Drop Set 3 AMGRAP/leg
then both legs
1 min.
C1 Ab Walkout 3 1 min. 30 sec.
C2 The Floor is Hot Drill 3 1 min. 1 min.
  • “AMGRAP” means as many good reps as possible.
  • “HALAP” means hold as long as possible.
  • This workout can be done as supersets (A1/A2 etc.) as written to save time, or you can just do each exercise individually.
  • If you have access to extra resistance (weighted vest etc.) feel free to work within your regular rep ranges.