Back in September, I started exercising again. I do my workout here in my
apartment. For weights, I use jugs of water. I have 6-liter jugs, which
when full, weigh 13 pounds each. Well, 6 liters of water weighs 13.2
pounds, the exact amount for my bottles might be slightly higher because
the bottles are filled almost to the top. I have two bottles hanging from
each end of a broomstick, so the 4 bottles combine for about 53 pounds.
In the chart I call this a 4-jugs barbell.
Numerous people have asked me about my own exercise routine – do I
actually do bodyweight exercises? Yes. I’m going to show you my routine
with details of where I started and how I’ve progressed. I’m showing this
so you have an idea, an example, of what actually works, and this routine
works for me. You will want to start with an easier routine, which I will
describe further down this page.
This is my routine of 11 exercises, this list is one circuit, The first
two months or so I did two complete circuits, then I progressed to three
circuits. I keep the break time between exercises to no more than 20
seconds, although by the third circuit these breaks do get to more than
half a minute. The breaks between circuits is no more than 2 minutes.
- Legs - Squats w/2 jugs - I started with 10 regular squats then
progressed to holding a jug of water. Then progressed to 20 reps with 2
jugs. Also, these are deep squats on my heels on the edge of a step.
- Arms - Biceps Curls - w/4 jugs I started with 10 curls with one jug
in each hand, then progressed to 12 with the 4-jug barbell.
- Core - Planks Started at 1:15, progressed to 1:30.
- Upper Back / Shoulders - Bent Over Upper Rows w/4 Jugs Bend over
forward, raise the barbell up to your chest, concentrate on squeezing
your shoulder blades together. I started at 10 reps with 2 jugs,
progressed to 20 reps with the 4-jug barbell.
- Legs - Lunges w/2 jugs I started with 15 (each leg) regular forward
lunges then progressed to holding one jug of water (15 reps still), then
progressed to 2 jugs (15 reps still).
- Upper Body - Pushups, Diamond Hands next to each other so you can see
a diamond between your thumbs and index fingers. I started at 10 and
progressed to 15.
- Core - Abs Vs Sitting on your tailbone – legs straight out, up at
about 45˚, hands above your knees – hold this V position. I started at
:30 seconds and progressed to 1:30.
- Lower Back - Bent Over Lower Rows w/4 Jugs Bend over forward, raise
the barbell up to your chest, concentrate on squeezing your lower back
muscles only. I started with 10 reps with 2 jugs, progressed to 20 reps
with the 4-jug barbell.
- Legs - Calf Raises Regular calf raises on the edge of a step. I
started with 10 raises, then progressed to 1 jug of water, then to 20
reps with 2 jugs.
- Upper Body - Pushups, Wide Hands wide apart, as much as comfortable.
I started at 10 and progressed to 20.
- Core - Leg Raises Lay on the floor and lift your legs, straight out
and raised up to 90˚. Then lower and repeat. I started at 10 and
progressed to 15.
For the beginner you might start with a short routine that looks
something like this:
- Squats (you can start with a chair, and simply sit and stand when
your bottom touches the seat of the chair)
- Pushups (you can start with your hands on the edge of a table or
counter or a chair, or on the floor with your knees also on the floor)
- Lunges (start with forward lunges, either in place, one leg after the
other, or walking forward lunges if you have room to go at least 2
strides forward, then return for 2 strides, etc)
- Planks (hold until you feel pain and absolutely cannot hold any
longer, that will be your target time. Be sure to maintain a flat back,
with your eyes straight forward, not looking under your belly)
When you are comfortable with that short workout, probably a month or so,
- Biceps curls holding a water bottle (1 quart or 2 liter bottles to
- Pushups (regular style)
- Leg Raises
- Calf raises (first start by standing on the floor and raising up to
your tip-toes, then repeat)
After you are comfortable with those 8 exercises you should be able to
progress them by adding water bottles, or larger water bottles, or by
lengthening the amount of time, or by increasing the number of
repetitions. The goal is to progress you exercises over time, ever 2 to 3
weeks is a good time between each progression. With these exercises there
are countless variations for adding variety and progression.
For example, the simple Biceps Curls can be done with hands close
together, at the normal width, or wide apart. Same for the Pushups.
Pushups have as many 30 or more variations alone. Abdominal exercises,
there are too many variations to count. Leg Raises can include legs
together, legs apart, hold a ball between your feet, and more.
Exericse bands/Elastic bands are excellent for adding resistance and
variety, and they are quite cheap to buy. They also require no storage
space in your home and can be easily taken with you anywhere you go.
Many people think they have to pay for a gym to get a worthwhile workout,
but that isn’t true. You can do a very good workout in your own home or
apartment with the stuff you already have – jugs of water, books, etc.
The one negative to home exercise is the lack of “energy”, the
camaraderie, you might get by exercising with other people. Many people
require another person, or other people, to motivate them. At home, you
are typically alone, so you have to have good self-motivation.
A person can easily add more variety by using other objects or by buying
some individual weights or other equipment from a sporting goods store.
Some extra equipment I recommend:
- A floor mat, such as a yoga mat
- Stretch (Elastic) bands with handles (great for working the rotator
cuffs [shoulders], can also be used for upper arms, chest, back, and even
legs, be creative)
- Medicine ball (good for abs/core exercises)
- Exercise (Stability) ball (the big one, most commonly used for
crunches, but if not done correctly, can be more harm than help)
- Step platform (great for calf raises and cardio stuff)
- Foam roller (good for abs exercises)
- Balance Ball/Bosu Ball (It’s a half-ball on a flat, hard, round base,
and is great for standing on when doing upper body exercises, really
helps your core and balance, and you can use it with the base on the
floor, or you can flip it over and have the ball on the floor and stand
on the base, that will really burn your core!)
- Balance Disc (An alternative to the Balance Ball. It is smaller and
doesn’t have the hard base. I like the Balance Ball because it is larger
and more versatile)
Anything else is just icing on the cake. Such as dumb bells of various
weights, barbell set, bench for flat/incline/decline chest work. There
are many websites that show an unbelievable variety of bodyweight
exerices. I’ve seen sites that show more than 80, and as much as 100,
variations of squats, lunges, and just about any other exercise you can
come up with. There is no reason why anyone should get bored with
body-wieght exercises. It just requires good self-motivation.
Do you want to change your body but don’t want to use a gym with all the
muscled-up guys watching you? Start with a bodyweight routine, get
yourself into a good exercise routine, and watch the changes as they
occur right in your own home.
Some things to consider:
- Do NOT check your weight on the scale every day, or even every week.
Once a month at the most is good. Write your weight in your workout
- Do use something for external motivation – a particular
dress/swimsuit or other clothing that you want to be able to wear in the
not-too-distant future. Hang it up in plain site so you will see it every
day. That will remind you to keep exercising.
- Eat healthy, snack occasionally, eat junkfood rarely. Just don’t get
hung up on some fad diet. They are more trouble than they’re worth. They
are temporary, you should be interested in making permanent, lifestyle
changes. The key is to eat good food, and proper serving sizes, and stop
eating when you feel full. Eat healthy snacks. And don’t worry about a
once-a-month hamburger and fries, they won’t kill everything you’ve
worked for. And you won’t feel deprived.
- You should take measurements at the beginning of your new exercise
routine, and write the measurements in your workout notebook. Measure
your biceps (with your arm stretched straight out to the side); your
chest and waist (level with your belly button), be sure to be standing
straight and tall, no slouching; your thighs and calves. It is easier to
do these measurements by having another person do them to you. Then do
new measurements once a month, not more often, just once a month.
- Take photos at the beginning of your new exercise routing, preferably
in a swimsuit or small workout clothes. You will want to make later
photos, maybe every 2 or 3 months, for comparing and seeing the changes.
- Keep a workout notebook. It should be a diary/journel of not just
your exercises but also include your measurements, info about what you
have been eating, how you’ve been feeling, how you’ve been sleeping. The
more detailed you are, the more you will learn about yourself, your body,
- Whatever exercises you do make sure they are natural movements. For
example: you’ve probably seen guys doing the overhead press (military
press) with barbells lowered behind their head. DON’T DO THAT! You’ve
probably seen guys doing pull-ups and they push their head in front of
the bar so the bar is now behind their neck. DON’T DO THAT! Those are not
natural movements and will cause more harm than good.
- Let gravity help you with adding resistance. Think about the movement
you’re about to do – is it possible to do this exercise in a way that
gravity will make it more challenging? Gravity is your friend, let it
help you make your exercises more interesting and more beneficial to your
- If you keep your break times minimal between exercises you can keep
you heart rate elevated and gain some cardiorespiratory benefit as well.
I recommend no more than 15-20 seconds between exercises, and 1 to 2
minutes maximum between circuits.
- Always maintain proper form, always, always, always. Don’t get lazy.
If you see your form is failing during an exercise stop and take a break.
Proper form is extremely important for maintaining proper posture.
- Always work all the muscle groups equally to maintain a balanced
muscle structure in your body. Have you ever noticed the guys with their
hands turned so you see the back of their hands when they are walking
towards you? That is bad, it is not natural for human beings, but it is
natural for apes. It is caused by a muscle imbalance in the deltoid
muscles in the shoulders.
Here’s what it all boils down to: any exercise is better than no
Get off the couch, turn off the TV, and start doing something active and
somewhat stenuous. Put you muscles to work doing something they are not
used to doing. Many parks have exercise equipment of various types, use
that stuff. For a person who lives a sedentary lifestyle they are a great
way of adding physical activity into your lifestyle. And add some of the
body-weight exercises I have taught you about in this paper. And keep at
it, not for one month or six months, or even a year. Make it a habit,
make it part of a lifestyle change. When you can do that, you will make
long-lasting, even permanent positive changes to your body. And that’s a
A list of many common bodyweight exercises
This list uses what I hope are the most common names for these exercises
so you can find them on the internet without too much searching. The
problem is some sites may use different names for the same exercises.
Youtube is loaded with videos of these, and a particularly good Youtube
channel, and web site, is the Livestrong organization.
I have included progressions (when possible) in the descriptions. There
are hundreds of variations of these exercises, but this list should be
more than enough to get anyone started into a very good home body-weight
Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
- Wall pushups, start standing and progress to a lower position, then
to a table, then to a chair, and eventually to the floor. At this point
you should be able to do the “woman” form on the floor (knees on the
floor), and eventually to the “man” form (only hands and toes touching
- Diamond pushups (hands together under your chest)
- Wide pushups (hands wide apart)
- Staggered hands pushups (one hand ahead of your head, the other back
alongside your side)
- Feet elevated (put your feet up off the floor, first on a step then
progress to higher levels such as a chair and even a table or counter)
- One foot raised up into the air, other leg on the floor, progress to
the lower foot being on an unstable surface or up on a bench/step/chair
Back and Biceps
- Door rows (standing at an open door so you are looking at the edge,
hold on the the doorknob with one hand, put yourself into a partial squat
position, lean back from the door, and pull yourself up to the door. You
can do this with one hand on one doorknob or both hands on both doorknobs
which is easier)
- Inverted rows (slide yourself under a table, reach up and grab the
edge of the table with your hands, pull your chest up to the table
keeping your legs straight, progress to raising one let up off the floor,
and eventually to doing the exercise with only one arm. If you have
access to a bar that happens to be about 3 feet above the ground/floor
with room around it, use it for inverted rows)
- Bent over rows (bend at your hips, keep you back straight, head
forward so you eyes are looking ahead at about a 45 degree angle, and
raise the weight to your chest. You can do these with your hands inward,
thus flaring your elbos outward a bit, or keep your hands straight and
your elbows close to your sides. Concentrate on squeezing your shoulder
blades for your upper back. You can do these one hand at a time or both
hands at the same time. You can also word towards concentrating on your
lower back, squeezing the lower end of the Latissimus Dorsi muscles (the
big flat back muscles) together)
- Biceps Curls (simple exercise for your upper arms biceps muscles,
hold your weight in your hand(s), arms down, hands at your hips. Raise
the weight, bending your elbow. There are many variations – hands turned
in, turned out, rotate during the lift, and many more)
- Plank, Side plank, Foot elevated plank (the classic plank exercise,
boring but strenuous and great for your core)
- Superman (Lie face-down on the ground with your arms outstretched in
front of you. Simultaneously lift your arms, legs and torso off the
ground. Focus on squeezing your glutes throughout)
- Bird dog (Start on all fours with your back flat. Raise one arm
forward while simultaneously lifting your opposite leg until both limbs
are in line with your torso. Slowly bring your leg and arm back to the
starting position and then repeat with the opposite limbs)
- Bicycle (Lie down on the ground with your knees bent and hands behind
your head. Lift your legs off the ground and make a pedalling motion
(like you’re riding a bicycle)
- Elbow-Knee Raises (With your hands behind your head (DON’T PULL YOUR
HEAD FORWARD), bring your opposing elbow to meet each leg as it comes
- Flutter kick (lay on your back with arms at your sides and palms
facing down. With your legs extended, lift the heels a few inches off the
ground. Engage your core, and make small up-and-down kicks with the legs)
- Straight-leg raise (Lie flat on the ground with your legs straight.
Contract your abdominals and lift your legs until your hips are bent at
90 degrees. Lower the legs slowly to the ground)
- Hanging leg raises (if you have access to a high bar so you can hang
from it use it for leg raises. The bent knee raise, the straight-leg
raise, and the bent-knee side rise for your oblique musices (in your
Legs - Calves
- Calf raise (the easiest form is simply stand, raise up onto your
toes, reverse, repeat. Progress to standing on the edge of a step or a
step platform, now you can fully raise and fully lower, getting full
extension of the calves)
- One-legged calf raise (calf raises on one leg at a time)
- Squat calf raise (This one takes a little getting used to, but is
great for isolating the soleus. Hang on to the back of a chair for
stability and sink down in to a squat position. Shift your weight on to
your toes and steadily push-up and down. Maintain your hip and knee
angles to prevent it from turning in to a squat)
- Stiff-Leg Ankle Hop (Get in to a rhythm and act like a pogo stick,
using the calves to spring up and down. Try not to bend at the knees and
hips, which brings in the quadriceps and glutes. Although the knees will
bend slightly, stay upright and focus on using the calves for movement)
- Squats (The easiest is to start with your back against a wall and
lower yourself into a sitting position, then push yourself back up agains
the wall. Progress to chair squats – sit and as soon as your butt touches
the chair seat push yourself back up. Pregress to standard squats, then
to adding weights, or feet wide apart or close together. You can also do
single-leg squats by putting one foot up on a chair behind you, and
eventually progress to removing the chair, but stay near a wall or
something else for support in case you lose your balance)
- Lunges (Static Lunge - stand with your hands on the hips and take a
long stride forward. Your feet will stay in this position throughout the
exercise. Slowly lower your body until the knee of your opposite leg is
close to or touching the floor. Push back up into the starting position
and repeat with the opposite leg. Forward Lunges – do lunges moving
yourself forwalk in a lunging-walking fashion. Reverse Lunges are the
same as the Statice Lunges except you now step backward, not forward.
Side Lunges – step outward to your side, both left and right sides. You
can progress to carrying weights as you lunge)
- Step-ups (Using a step or bench, and place one foot on the raised
surface. Step up until the front leg is straight, and then return to
start by stepping down (don’t jump), alternate legs as you do your
step-ups. Progress to several different heights of steps – maybe a series
of 12”, 24”, 36”)
Glutes (Butt) and Hamstrings
- Donkey-kick (Get down on all fours with your back flat. Kick one leg
to the rear, straight out, and slowly return to the starting position.
Repeat with the opposite leg)
- Bent-Leg Donkey Kick (Kneel down on all fours with your legs bent at
90 degrees. Quickly lift one leg up behind you. Return to the starting
position and repeat with the opposite leg. This variation places more
emphasis on the glutes, and less on the hamstrings)
- Glute Bridge (Lie on your back with your knees bent at 90 degrees and
your hands at your sides. Push through your heels and use your glutes
(butt) to lift your hips as high as possible. Pause at the top and slowly
return to the starting position. Progress to using one leg on the floor
for lifting your butt, the other leg is up in the air)
- Shoulders-Elevated Hip Raise (Place your shoulders on a chair, bench,
or bed. With your hands at the side of your head, push through your heels
and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips as high as possible. Hold the
top position for a few seconds before returning to the ground. Progress
to doing it using only one leg. Bend the leg you aren’t using to begin
with, and then try it with your leg straight out in front of you to make
it more difficult still. From there progress to raising both the
shoulders and feet off the floor. Using a raised surface such as a chair
or bed for your upper back, place your feet on another surface (such as a
stool or chair) that is roughly the same height. From there squeeze your
glutes to lift your hips as high as possible, as in other variations of
- Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift (Stand up with your feet together. Pivot
at your hips so you lower your arms and torso in front of you while
raising one leg, straight out behind your body. Keep the opposite knee
slightly bent and reach the arms as close to the floor as possible. To
return to the starting position, raise your torso while lowering the back
leg. You can try to hold that bent position for a few seconds or longer
before returning to the start position)