The Only 4 Body-Weight Exercises You Need for a Total-Body Workout

Personal trainer doing a single-leg glute bridge during full-body body-weight strength workout
Calendar for the 'New Year, Do You' body-weight workout challenge
illustrated GIF of four people doing body-weight exercises — squat, push-up, plank and glute bridge
Glute bridges are often considered a lower-body move, but they build core strength, too.
Image Credit: Morit Summers/LIVESTRONG.com Creative

This 31-day body-weight workout challenge will inspire you to move more, no matter your starting point. Get all the details on the challenge here.

What do the alphabet and body-weight exercises have in common? They're both foundational for learning and perfecting what comes next. Just like memorizing the ABCs helps you learn to read, practicing body-weight movements helps you learn proper weight-lifting form.

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Morit Summers, CPT, creator of Brooklyn-based training studio Form Fitness and host of our "New Year, Do You" Challenge, has designed this workout with some of those foundational no-equipment strength moves that benefit exercisers of all fitness levels.

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If you're doing the challenge, follow the weekly rep scheme below. If you're doing this workout on your own, increase or decrease the reps and sets based on your fitness level. You should be able to do all the reps with good form, but the last two should feel challenging.

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In between sets and exercises, rest for 20 to 40 seconds. You won't feel fully rested (like you were before your workout), but you should feel ready to tackle the next set.

Reps and Sets Per Exercise

Sets

Squat

Push-Up

Plank

Glute Bridge

Week 1

2

10

5

10 sec.

10

Week 2

3

12

8

15 sec.

10

Week 3

3

15

10

20 sec.

12

Week 4

4

12

8

25 sec.

10

Week 5

4

15

10

30 sec.

12

4 Body-Weight Moves for a Full-Body Workout

The "New Year, Do You" Challenge is accessible to all fitness levels. That's why we're providing a main move and at least one modification or variation.

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In the videos below, you'll see one trainer — either Summers or her Form Fitness co-founder Francine Delgado-Lugo — demonstrating the base exercise along with a modification or variation from the other trainer. Choose the version of the exercise that works best for you.

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1. Squat (shown on right)

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Lower Body
  1. As Summers demonstrates on the right, start standing, feet hip-width apart.
  2. Extend your arms out in front of you and slowly bend your knees as you push your hips back to squat down. Focus on lowering your body as if you were going to sit on a chair.
  3. Squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor, or as low as you can go comfortably while maintaining good form. Your knees should be over your toes and your gaze should be straight ahead.
  4. Pause for a moment at the bottom of your squat.
  5. On an exhale, reverse the motion by pressing through your heels to return to standing. As you stand, lower your arms back to your sides.

Modifications and Variations

To modify, stand in front of a chair or bench (shown on the left). Briefly touch your glutes to the chair at the bottom of your squat before standing back up.

To advance, try a squat jump. From the bottom of your squat, press through your feet and explode into the air, making sure to land with your knees slightly bent.

2. Push-Up (shown on right)

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Full Body
  1. Begin in a high plank (see Summers on the right) on your hands and toes with your glutes and core engaged. Your shoulders should be stacked over your wrists and your hips should be in line with your head and heels.
  2. Bend at the elbows at about a 45-degree angle from your torso and lower your body toward the ground.
  3. On the way down, squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  4. When your chest hovers just above the ground (or however far down you can go), press into the ground and push your shoulder blades apart to return to the starting position.

Modifications and Variations

To modify, place your hands on a bench, countertop or wall to do incline push-ups (shown on the left).

For variety, place your hands or feet wider or closer together, change the incline or decline of your push-up or try another push-up variation.

3. Plank

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Core
  1. Like Summers (in back), prop yourself up on your palms and toes. Your hands should be under your shoulders.
  2. Press through your palms to lift your hips into the top of a push-up position. Your body should make a straight line from your heels through your hips to the top of your head.
  3. Draw your navel toward your spine and squeeze your glutes.
  4. Look at the floor directly below your head to keep your neck in a neutral position, and breathe normally.
  5. Hold, then lower yourself back to the floor.

Modifications and Variations

To make this move a bit easier, drop to your knees (shown in the front) or perform an incline plank with your hands on a box, bench, counter or other sturdy surface.

4. Glute Bridge (shown on left)

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Body-Weight Workout
Region Lower Body
  1. Like Delgado-Lugo (left), lie on your back with your arms at your sides, feet flat on the floor and knees bent.
  2. On an exhale, squeeze your glutes, press into your heels and drive your hips up toward the sky.
  3. Raise your hips until you form a diagonal line from knees to hips to chest.
  4. Pause here for a moment.
  5. Reverse the motion and lower down to the starting position.

Modifications and Variations

After you've perfected the standard glute bridge, try the single-leg version (shown on the right). Hold one leg in the air while performing the same steps as listed above. Be sure to do the same number of reps on each side.

Follow Along With the Challenge

Use the calendar below to help you stay on track with the "New Year, Do You" Challenge. Do the workout listed, then check off each day as you complete it. (Get a printer-friendly version here.)

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Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com Creative

​Back to the "New Year, Do You" Challenge

Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com Creative

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