12 Basic Bodyweight Exercises To Build Tremendous Functional Strength

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T12 Basic Bodyweight Exercises To Build Tremendous Functional Strengthhis week, we will discuss 12 basic bodyweight exercises that will build tremendous functional strength and get you lean.  Just because these exercises are basic in their movements, doesn’t mean they are only for the inexperienced.  These exercises can be arranged into a circuit routine that would make the fittest enthusiast beg for mercy.


This particular exercise is a favorite amongst prisoners living within California detention centers. Do you know why? Interestingly, it’s because you need very little space in order to do it, which makes it the perfect exercise for prisoners living in tiny prison cells.

To start this bodyweight fitness exercise, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. In one continuous movement, squat and place your palms flat on the floor, slightly outside and in front of your feet. Then shift your weight to your hands as you throw your feet behind you, such that you are in the traditional position to do a regular push-up. Complete one push-up, then do the reverse of your actions by pulling your feet back to your hands and standing back up. This counts as a single repetition of this exercise.

Burpees look deceptively simple; they are in fact quite strenuous and are an excellent bodyweight exercise for improving stamina, co-ordination and muscular strength. How you breathe while doing burpees is very important; you need to establish a rhythm that you find comfortable.

When you first start doing burpees, you will want to start out slow by doing sets of 20-30. As you get fitter and stronger, you can start increasing the number of sets you do. A good way to do this is to increase them in increments of 20 – so after starting with 20, you move on to 40, then 60, and so on, keeping minimum breaks in between sets.

Bear Crawls

This particular bodyweight exercise requires a considerable amount of space as you will need to move around. Lower yourself until you are on your hands and feet, and move back and forth in whatever space you have, just as a bear would. This might sound easy, but this exercise will have you sweating in no time. This is also an excellent way to warm your body up before moving on to other exercises or before doing sports.

Crab Walk

The crab walk is somewhat similar to the bear crawl in that you are also on your hands and feet, but instead of facing downward towards the floor, with this exercise you face upward, toward the ceiling. Moving in this position is very counter-intuitive, making it difficult but extremely effective for strengthening your core muscles and improving your balance.

Crocodile Walk

Ever notice how a crocodile drags its belly along the floor as it moves? The aim of this bodyweight exercise is to mimic that movement as closely as possible. Try to move around on the floor with your torso just off the floor. Describing the positions your hands and feet should be in for this exercise, but as long as you keep your torso close to the floor you should do fine.

Jack Knifes

This is one of the best bodyweight exercises to strengthen the muscles in the core. Start by laying flat on the floor, with your legs straightened and together and your arms held straight out above your head. From this position, contract your stomach muscles to bring both your arms and legs up, as if you were trying to touch your hands to your feet. Your arms and legs should remain straight throughout this exercise.

Neck Nods

Many boxers swear by the effectiveness of this particular exercise in building stamina and strength in the muscles of the neck. Doing this exercise is supposed to help you recover more quickly from being punched. It starts with you lying on your back with your hands resting at your sides. Using the muscles in your neck, bring your chin forward to touch your chest, then let your head fall slowly back down. This exercise should be done continuously, in sets of between fifty to a hundred repetitions, depending on how many you can do before becoming exhausted.


Lunges are a simple bodyweight exercise designed to strengthen your legs. Simply stand with your feet together, then step as far forward as you can with one leg without losing your balance, keeping your other leg straight. One word of warning, however, is to never let your knees move beyond your toes on the leg that you step forward with. Start with ten to twenty lunges on each leg in the beginning, as this exercise is much more strenuous and tiring than it may seem to be at first.  Do remember to keep your back as straight as possible when using weights with this exercise, however, as you might hurt your back otherwise.


Starting from the position of a regular push-up, move your hands slowly back towards your feet until they are roughly two to three hand-spans in front of your feet. Keep your legs straight as you do so, and you should end up doubled-up in a ‘jack knife’ position. Next, bend at the knees, bringing your buttocks down to your heels, while keeping your arms straight all the while. Bring yourself back up to complete one repetition. This particular bodyweight fitness exercise is great for building strength in your knees and also for improving your flexibility.

Exploding Star Jumps

Before you attempt this exercise, you should first do adequate warm-ups, and ensure that your muscles and joints in particular are properly warmed-up. This bodyweight exercise is also best performed on a carpet or on the grass with sports shoes on, in order to cushion the impact on your knees. Squat as if you are doing a full squat, then push yourself upward and forward in a single explosive movement, aiming to get as high as you can as fast as you are able. As you reach the peak of your jump, throw your arms and legs out to form the shape of a star, then flex your knees and as you come back down for your landing. If you are looking to develop power in your muscles and also improve on bodily co-ordination, this exercise is perfect for you.

Stomping Grapes

This bodyweight exercise consists of two different movements, and you will need to do both in order to benefit fully from the exercise. First, stand straight and raise your knee as high as it will go. If possible, your knee should touch your chest while you keep the rest of your body ramrod straight. This movement should be controlled and relatively slow, and not quick or jerky. The second movement involves placing your hands behind your head, and pointing each foot out sideways. If you are facing forwards, your toes should be facing to the left or right at a ninety-degree angle. Then raise each knee slowly towards the underside of your arm, bringing it as high as possible and lowering it slowly back down. This exercise will do wonders for the strength and flexibility of your hips.

The Deck of Cards

This bodyweight workout is named in the manner of a game because it is designed to keep your workout interesting and varied so you do not get bored and stop exercising. All you need is a single deck of cards. Shuffle the cards and draw them one at a time. Each card denotes upper body or lower body and rep count. A black card means push-ups while a red card means squats. The Ace means one push-up, face cards are ten push-ups, and all the other cards are worth the number of push-ups equal to what their face value is. For example, if you draw a black nine, do nine push-ups. A red queen means ten squats. You can vary the particular exercises as you like, but remember to have one exercise designed to work your upper body and one exercise designed to work your lower body. You should aim to be able to work your way through an entire deck in fifteen minutes or less. If you like, you can even leave the jokers in the deck and assign them a higher number like twenty or thirty. This is a great way to keep your workout varied and interesting while getting a great workout at the same time.

The Hindu Squat Explained

The Hindu squat originated, as the name suggest, in India, with Indian wrestlers. This bodyweight exercise was one of the most common exercises used by the wrestlers to keep them in peak physical condition.
The Hindu squat is described in full detail below.

  1. Stand straight with your feet pointing forward, shoulder-width apart.
  2. While keeping your back as straight as possible, bend your knees and bring your buttocks down until your knees are bent at a ninety-degree angle and your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  3. As you bend your knees, keep your hands behind your legs, keeping them relaxed as you lower yourself toward the ground.
  4. As the same time as your thighs reach the point where they are parallel to the ground, raise your heels off the ground.
  5. Now, starting from your toes, push yourself up so you are standing up straight again.
  6. While you are pushing your body back up, raise your hands from your sides out in front of your body until they reach your chest level.
  7. Once you have pushed yourself up as far as you can go, pull in your arms in the same motion you would make if you were rowing in a boat. Close your fists and pull them towards your body, keeping your elbows in tight as you do so.
  8. Breathe in as you retract your arms, and breathe out as you lower your heels back to the ground.
  9. Do this as many times as you can without taking any breaks. When you first start, you probably will not be able to do very many. In time, however, you will find yourself doing a hundred or more repetitions of this bodyweight exercise with no trouble at all.
  10. When you are able to do five-hundred Hindu squats without stopping, then you will have progressed far.

One thing about this particular bodyweight fitness exercise is that it requires a great deal of balance to do properly. If you lack the requisite balance, you risk twisting your ankle or knee, and that would defeat the purpose of exercising entirely. So when you first start doing Hindu squats, you should keep one hand on a table or on a wall so you can more easily maintain your balance, until you build up enough strength and balance that you no longer need the added support.

There they are, 12 of the all time best and proven bodyweight exercises.  Use these and you will build the functional strength and endurance you have always wanted.  And best of all, you will never have to pay for a gym membership.  You can even take them with you when you travel.

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