Body Weight Workout

The request for this post came from Chase in San Jose. (If you have a question or want an answer to a specific question, you can Ask Us! by clicking on the Ask Us tab in the top navigation bar.)

total health,body weight workout,body weight lifting,body weight exercisesChase owns a pair of dumbbells, and he wanted a way to to exercise but didn’t want to buy any other equipment and didn’t want a routine that involved aerobic exercise; however, he did want to build muscle and create tone. Chase’s routine can also work for you if you travel or if you’re on the road. This routine can also be made progressively more intense by either doing more reps, doing more sets, or increasing the weight used.


To get started, the first thing you need to know is that any workout involves more than just exercising. To achieve the best possible results, you have to be properly hydrated. So, thirty minutes to two hours before your workout, you should drink 16 ounces (or 2 to 3 cups) of water. If you’re dehydrated it’s hard for your body to perform, and, according to dietitian Leah Perrier,  “Being dehydrated by even 2 percent can decrease performance by 10 percent.”  In addition, proper hydration decreases cramping and regulates your core body temperature.

While you work out you should also stay hydrated; however, your desire for water is decreased because of exercise, so, to make sure you’re staying properly hydrated, every fifteen to twenty minutes of exercise, drink 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water. Keep in mind hydration is critical if you want your muscles to have oxygen and if you want your body to perform optimally.


When you’re ready, start with  warm-up exercises because they mentally prepare you for exercise. Research has shown it is better to warm-up before exercising and stretch after exercise. Warm-up exercises increase your muscle, blood, and body temperatures, and they also dilate your blood vessels and improve your range of motion so you can perform more complete movements.

Warm-up should last ten minutes, and the best way to find an appropriate warm-up routine is to try different exercises and intensities until you hit on the right combination. Typical warm-up routines include walking, jogging, marching in place, jumping jacks, or calisthenics—sit-ups, push-ups, crunches, pull-ups, squats, or dips but done slowly. The goal of the warm-up is to get your blood flowing and raise your body temperature, so you’re prepared to exercise.

Exercise Routine 

Okay, now that you’re hydrated and warmed up, you’re ready to begin. The exercises you’ll be doing are abdominals, the airplane pose, alternating dumbbell curls, dips, dumbbell squats, hovers (also known as planks), jumping jacks, lunges, pull ups, push ups, supermans, and wall sits. The chart below tells you the exercise, the number of sets and reps, and the benefits of each exercise, as well as how to make the exercise easier or harder. Click on each exercise to learn the proper steps before your actually perform the exercise. Additionally, you can arrange the exercises in any order that suits you. Once you’ve finished your last exercise, click here to discover some cool down Stretching Exercises.

Exercise Sets/Reps Benefits
Abdominals 3/20 Even though you might feel you are just contracting your upper abdomen, you are in fact contracting your entire abdomen when you do these exercises. As you improve, you can increase the number of crunches you do, or you can make the exercises harder by sitting on an exercise ball and doing them. Keep in mind abdominal exercises alone won’t reduce belly fat. If you want to do that you need a two-pronged approach, which includes a nutritious diet and specific abdominal exercises that target problem areas.
Airplane Pose 1/10 This is an advanced pose. It works your back, glutes, and hamstrings and is a great exercise to improve balance.
Alternating Dumbbell Curls 3/10 These curls are one of the most popular exercises to build biceps. To ensure maximum results make sure you do the exercises slowly and always use correct form. If you want to build bigger muscles use heavier weights, and if you want to tone and tighten use lighter weights.  
Dips 3/20 Dips are a great exercise to isolate and build triceps, and all you need is a chair or two.
Dumbbell Squats 3/10 Dumbbell squats are a variation of squat exercises that use a bar bell behind the neck. However, this lower body exercise with dumbbells is handier than the bar bell squats because you don’t need a spotter. It also enhances your metabolic efficiency by adding extra weight to the exercise.  
Hover Exercises 3/10 Hover or plank exercises target the abdomen and build core body strength and stability. This exercise uses the same position as a pushup, except you rest your upper body on your forearms and you place your feet together. If you need to make the exercise easier, hold the position but rest on your hands rather than on your forearms. If you need the exercise to be more difficult, raise one leg off the ground and hold it for three seconds before returning it to the ground. You can also shift the weight to one forearm and then with your free arm hold it straight out in front of you. Hold that position for three seconds before returning your forearm to the ground.
Jumping Jacks 3/100 Jumping jacks are a great cardio and calisthenic exercise. They are also a good exercise to use in your warm-up routine.To make jumping jacks easier you can do the half-jacks popularized by Jack LaLanne. It requires your arms go up half way with each jump. If you want to increase the difficulty, do the full jumping jack and bend over and touch the floor in between each jump.
Lunges 3/20 Lunges are a particularly effective lower body exercises because they simultaneously work the major muscles in your legs, as well as your buttocks and thighs. They also lengthen and tone your legs, build muscle, improve stability, enhance balance, and burn fat. However, if they are not done correctly, they can result in knee injuries, so be careful and watch your form. 
Pull Ups 3/10 Pull ups are one of the best ways to build upper body strength, and you may be wondering how you can accomplish a pull up without equipment. The short answer is you can’t; however, there are plenty of tree branches and playgrounds that can provide the bar you need to achieve this exercise. You want to find a bar where your feet hang free without touching the ground. Additionally, you need to make sure when you do these movement they are controlled and done slowly. If the pull ups described are too difficult, use a box or find a lower branch so your elbows are bent 90 degrees when you grip the bar. This altered position requires less upper strength, and over time you can straighten your elbows to make the pull up more difficult. 
Push Ups 3/10 Push ups are another core body exercise that build strength. They are also probably one of the best exercises for your whole body because you use your shoulders, back, chest, triceps, abdominal muscles, and legs. If the standard push up is too difficult you can make it easier by doing a push up against a wall or table. You can also do a bent-knee push up. If the standard push described is too easy, you can make it more difficult by using a raised box or bench. You place your feet on the raised platform, which thereby decreases or increases the resistance depending on the height of the platform. If you want a really difficult push up, the plymetric exercise can be done. You accomplish it by pushing yourself up and clapping in midair. However, this exercise shouldn’t be done by a novice because you can injure yourself. So, be careful if you decide to try it.
Supermans 1/5 I love supermans because these are the last exercises I do in my routine, and by the time I get to these I’m always exhausted. These are also another good core body exercise.
 Wall Sits  3/5 Wall sits are a great way to improve lower body strength and endurance. If you have knee pain or if you can’t do squats or lunges, one of the best ways to strengthen your quads are wall sits. They are essentially supported squats with an isometric contraction. Hopefully, over time, wall sits will strengthen your quads enough you can move to squats and lunges. To make this exercise more difficult you can raise one leg out in front of you and hold the position.


Abdominal Exercises

  1. Lie on your back, bend your knees, and put your hands behind either side of your head.
  2. Contract your abdominal muscles and flatten your lower back against the floor.  Make sure your hips are stable and that you only lift your torso.
  3. Slowly raise your shoulder blades one or two inches off the floor.
  4. Exhale as raise your shoulders and keep your chin pointed to the sky.
  5. Hold the position for a few seconds, but continue to breath.
  6. Slowly lower yourself back to your starting position, but keep your abdominal muscles contracted.
  7. Repeat steps 1 through 6, for up to twenty reps. Try to do three sets of twenty. However, the most important thing is your exercise form, so if you can only do five crunches correctly that’s better than doing twenty incorrectly.

Airplane Pose

  1. Place your arms at your side and stand with your feet together.
  2. Focus on a spot about 5 feet in front of you.
  3. Extend your arms out to either side. Lift your left foot behind you, and bend forward so that your left leg extends straight out behind you and your chest and leg are parallel to the ground. Ensure your back is flat and keep your abdominal muscles tight throughout the movement.
  4. Hold the position for three to sixty seconds, and repeat at least ten times.
  5. Return to the starting position. Do one set of ten.

Alternating Dumbbell Curls

  1. Place a dumbbell in each hand and use an underhand grip.
  2. Stand with your feet slightly apart, knees bent, and abdominal muscles tight. (If you wish you can do these exercises seated).
  3. Lock your elbows into your sides of your torso so that your biceps do the lifting.
  4. Curl the dumbbell to your shoulder as you inhale.
  5. Lower the dumbbell to the starting position as you exhale.
  6. Repeat steps 4 through 5, for a total of ten curls. Do three sets of ten reps.


Informational Note:

Keep your abdominal muscles tight as you perform this exercise.
Additionally, your body should be straight throughout the exercise, so if
you have to lean back to lift the weight, it’s too heavy. So, reduce it.
To isolate the biceps, remember to keep your elbows pressed into
your body and do the movement slowly so to ensure a full
movement is made with each curl.



Depending on which dip your perform, you will need either one or two chairs.

  1. Sit on one chair, place your hands on the edge, rotate your palms so they are facing away from the body, and you are gripping the chair’s edge.
  2. Position yourself by sliding forward so that your buttocks clear the edge of the chair and your heels are in front of you. (From the side you should look like a chair.)
  3. Drop your weight and lower yourself until your arms are at a 90 degree angle. Remember to keep your torso straight.
  4. Return to the original position, and repeat step 3 twenty times and do three sets.

If you want to make the exercise easier, place your feet so they are even with your knees. If you want the dips to be more difficult, extend your feet farther away from your knees. Another way to increase the difficulty is to do the following exercise. Use two chairs facing each other, and place them about 3 feet apart.

  1. Sit on one chair, place your hands on the edge, rotate your palms so they are facing away from the body, and you are gripping the chair’s edge.
  2. Place your heels on the opposite chair.
  3. Position yourself by sliding forward so that your buttocks clear the edge of the chair.
  4. Dip down between the chairs, and keep your body as close as you can to the chair on the tricep end.
  5. Repeat step 4 twenty times and do three sets.   

Dumbbell Squats 

  1. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand, and allow your arms to hang down on each side. Stand with your feet a shoulder width apart, and look straight ahead.
  2. Arch your back slightly, squat down as if you were going to sit on a chair but keep your thighs parallel to the floor as you inhale.
  3. Exhale as you return to your starting position. Do three sets of ten reps.


Informational Note:

Remember to keep your head forward and your back straight. Also,
keep your feet flat on the floor and distribute the weight equally
throughout your foot. Your knees should also point in the same
direction as your feet throughout movement.


Hover (Planks) Exercises

  1. On the floor position your forearms so your hands touch one another but keep your elbows even with your shoulders, so that you create a triangle.
  2. Raise up onto your toes. Keep your body and torso straight, and maintain a straight line from your head to toes. Do not arch your back or sag in the middle.
  3. Keep your head relaxed and look at the floor.
  4. Hold the position for ten seconds.
  5. Repeat steps 1 through 4. Begin with ten seconds and over time increase the hold to sixty seconds. Do three sets of ten reps.

If you need to make the exercise easier, hold the position using your hands rather than your forearms. If you need the exercise to be more difficult raise one leg off the ground and hold it for three seconds before returning it to the ground. You can also shift the weight to one forearm, hold the other arm straight out in front of you, and hold the position for three seconds before returning your arm to the original position.

Jumping Jacks

  1. Stand with your arms at your sides. Position your feet close together, and hold your head straight.
  2. Bend your knees. At the same time, jump up while extending your arms and legs. Your arms should be raised above your head so you can clap and at the same time your feet should be placed wider than your shoulders. Then you collapse back to the starting position This is one movement.
  3. Return to position 1.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3. Try and do three sets of a hundred reps.


There are two types of lunge exercises described here. Master the reverse lunge before your proceed to the forward lunge. Also, start with no dumbbell until you’ve got the technique down, then add the dumbbells.

Reverse Lunges

  1. Stand straight, legs slightly apart. If you are using dumbbells, they should hang straight down from your hands on either side with your palms facing in.
  2. Look straight ahead.
  3. Step back as far as you can and inhale. Do not let your shoulders or your upper torso roll forward. Keep your body straight.
  4. Lower yourself until your hip is just below your front forward knee. The back knee should be about four to six inches off the ground.
  5. Exhale and return to the starting position using your front forward leg.
  6. Repeat steps 1 through 5. Do three sets of twenty reps.

Forward Lunges

  1. Stand straight, legs slightly apart. If you are using dumbbells, they should hang straight down in either hand and your palms should face in.
  2. Look straight ahead.
  3. Step forward as far as you can and inhale. Do not let your shoulders or your upper torso roll forward. Keep your body straight.
  4. Lower yourself until your front thigh is parallel to the floor and the back knee is about four to six inches off the ground.
  5. Exhale and return to the starting position using your front forward leg. 
  6. Repeat steps 1 through 5. Try to do three sets of twenty.


Informational Note:

When performing the reverse or forward lunge keep the weight in the
heel of your front foot to relieve pressure on your knee. You should also
 NOT drop to your knee but keep a 90 degree angle with both legs.
The maximum benefit is derived when you perform this exercise
SLOWLY. Additionally, make sure your forward knee does
not cross past your front toes.


Pull Ups  

  1. Stand beneath the bar with your feet shoulder width apart.
  2. Grab the bar with an overhand grip.
  3. Bend your knees and cross your ankles.
  4. Pull yourself up until your chin is level with the bar.
  5. Lower yourself until your elbows are straight.
  6. Repeat steps 1 through 5. Begin with three sets of ten reps.

Push Ups

  1. On the floor position your hands slightly wider than your shoulders.
  2. Raise up onto your toes and balance yourself using your hands and your toes. When placing your feet, find a position that is comfortable for you. The placement doesn’t matter as much as your comfort.
  3. Maintain a straight line from your head to toes. Do not arch your back or sag in the middle.
  4. Contract your abdominal muscles, pull your belly button towards your spine, and maintain this position throughout the entire push up movement.
  5. As you bend your elbows, inhale slowly and lower yourself. Your elbows should be at a 90 degree angle.
  6. As you push back to the starting position, exhale, and make sure you don’t lock your elbows.
  7. Repeat steps 1 through 6. Begin with ten push ups in three sets. Again, the most important thing is your form.


  1. Lie on your stomach with your arms stretched out in front of you like superman.
  2. Lift yourself so your arms and legs are not touching the ground and your weight is centered in the middle of your body.
  3. Hold the position for 60 seconds.
  4. Repeat steps 1 through 3 and repeat five times with a thirty second break between each superman.

Wall Sit

  1. Find a wall and place your back firmly against it.
  2. Slide down the wall. Your feet should be about 2 feet in front of you and at a 90 degree angle.
  3. Contract your abdominal muscles.
  4. Hold the position for at least sixty seconds.
  5. Repeat steps 2 through 4,  and try to do three sets of five. 

1 Comment

  1. I don’t often comment on blogs but just needed to stop and say that I like yours.

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