Updated for 2019! The updated routine simplifies the workout considerably – a few exercises have been removed, and a couple new ones were added to optimize gains even more.
You don’t need a gym membership to stay fit.
Bodyweight exercises, together with proper sleep and diet, are enough to keep you healthy and strong. This is an effective and simple bodyweight workout that will get you building more muscle mass, cutting fat, improving flexibility, and turbocharging your mobility.
If you follow the routine as outlined (and maintain a healthy diet), you will see visible results in 4-6 weeks.
There are many variations of body-weight fitness routines out there – the following has been carefully put together by Reddit’s Bodyweight Fitness specialists (including academics and professional trainers).
What follows is a simple, 2-part workout routine that you can do almost anywhere. This workout is commonly referred to as the “Recommended Routine” on Reddit. General pointers:
- This workout should be done every other day (e.g. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and so on.) This is so the body has enough time to recover in-between. On off-days, you can do cardio – go for a run.
- Make sure you sleep for at least 7 hours each night (at least 8 hours after a workout day).
- Try to eat healthy, balanced meals.
- Where possible, video links are provided for each exercise. Maintaining proper form is very important – if you can’t do an exercise without breaking form, don’t do it at all!
- Any time you see a progression (denoted by → sign), it means that you advance to the next exercise in each group once you’re able to do the full set of the previous. For example, once you’re able to do 3 sets of 8 inclined push-ups, you can move on to the full push-ups. Each time you work out, you only do the exercise for level you’re at. At minimum, you should be able to do 3 sets of 5 reps of an exercise (if not, go back to the previous level). Once you can do 3 x 5, aim for 3 x 6 during the next workout, and so on.
Part 1: Stretches (5-10 minutes)
- Shoulder Band Warmup for 5-10 repetitions (reps).
Alternative (not as good, but can even be done with a t-shirt if necessary): Stick Dislocates
- Squat sky reaches (5-10 reps)
- Wrist prep exercises (at least 10, as many as you’d like)
- Deadbugs (30 seconds)
- [Only if you have reached Negative Pull-ups in the Strength Exercises]
Active Hangs (beginner) or full Arch Hangs (advanced). 10 reps
- [If you have reached Negative Dips]
Support hold (30 seconds). Beginners should start with Parallel Bar Support. Advanced hold: Ring Support Hold
- [If you have reached Bulgarian Split Squats]
10 x Squats
- [If you have reached Banded Nordic Curls]
10 x Romanian Deadlifts
Part 2: Strength Exercises (40-60 minutes)
FIRST PAIR (do one set of #1, rest for 90 seconds, one set of #2, rest for 90 seconds, and repeat until you have done each exercise 3 times)
- Pull-up Progression (3 sets x 5-8 reps)
Scapular Pulls → Arch Hangs → Full Arch Hangs → Pull-up Negatives → Pull-ups → Weighted Pull-ups
Tip: don’t have a place to do pull-ups? No problem. Get a Pull-up bar and do them at home. Way cheaper than a gym membership!
- Squat Progression (3 sets x 5-8 reps)
Assisted squats → Squats → Split Squat → Bulgarian Split Squat (pretend barbell doesn’t exist) → Beginner Shrimp Squat → Advanced Shrimp Squats (toes do not touch the ground!)
Rest for 3 minutes
SECOND PAIR (do one set of #1, rest for 90 seconds, one set of #2, rest for 90 seconds, and repeat until you have done each exercise 3 times)
- Dip Progression (3 sets x 5-8 reps)
Parallel Bar Support Hold (3 x 1 minute) → Negative dips → Parallel bar dips → Weighted dips (adding weight to parallel bar dips)
- Hinge Progression (3 sets x 5-8 reps)
Romanian Deadlift → Single Legged Deadlift → Banded Nordic Curl Negatives → Banded Nordic Curls → Nordic Curls
Rest for 3 minutes
THIRD PAIR (do one set of #1, rest for 90 seconds, one set of #2, rest for 90 seconds, and repeat until you have done each exercise 3 times)
- Row Progression (3 sets x 5-8 reps)
Vertical rows → Incline rows → Horizontal rows → Wide rows → Weighted Inverted rows
Tip: Don’t have a place to do rows? You could use a table: video
- Push-up Progression (3 sets x 5-8 reps)
Vertical push-ups (do pushups against a wall standing up) → Incline push-ups → Full push-ups → Diamond push-ups → Pseudo planche push-ups → Advanced Pseudo planche push-ups (increase forward lean)
Rest for 3 minutes
CORE TRIPLET (do one set of #1, rest for 60 seconds, one set of #2, rest for 60 seconds, one set of #3, rest for 60 seconds, and repeat until you have done each exercise 3 times)
- Anti-Extension Progression
Plank (work up to 30 second holds for plank, ignore other exercises in video) → Ring Ab Rollouts (3 sets x8-12 reps)
- Anti-Rotation Progression (3 sets x8-12 reps)
Banded Pallof Press
- Extension Progression (3 sets x8-12 reps)
This entire routine should take you about 45-60 minutes to complete. Considering the immense benefits to your health and strength, I believe it’s worth it for everyone to find 60 minutes every other day to go through these exercises. Make this a habit and you’ll reap the benefits for life.
Pro tip: don’t worry if you mess up the order of the exercises. As long as you do the proper stretches before the Strength portion, you can mix up the order of the Strength pairs/triplet and it will be just fine.
Next, to answer a Frequency Asked Question re: free weights.
(Optional) Integrating Barbell Squats and Deadlifts
The only real “weakness” of the bodyweight routine – indeed, of any pure bodyweight routine – is the legwork. Simply put, you will likely speed up your gains by strategically integrating Squats and Deadlifts into the routine.
Note: you will still make rapid and noticeable gains by sticking to 100% bodyweight exercises – this is just an optional addition for people who are willing to go the extra mile.
To integrate Barbell work into the routine:
- Replace the Squat progression (1st Pair of Strength Exercises) with Barbell Squats (form is CRITICAL to prevent injury). Do 3 sets x 5 repetitions each workout.
- For every 1st and 3rd workout (e.g. every Monday and Friday), replace the Hinge progression with Romanian Deadlifts (3 x 8 reps).
- For every 2nd workout of the week (e.g. every Wednesday), replace the Hinge progression with Regular Deadlifts (3 x 8 reps).
- For all the barbell exercises, start with just the empty bar – then add a small amount of weight (5-10 lbs) with every workout.
- Summary: every week, you’ll be doing Squats three times, Romanian Deadlifts twice, and regular (stiff leg) deadlifts once.
Please don’t blindly follow supplement advice from the Internet – everyone’s personal situation is different, and you’re better off consulting a specialist. As a general rule, supplements are taken to make up for a deficiency of something – and only you will know what exactly you’re lacking (e.g. vitamins, zinc, magnesium).
The only supplement that is generally safe to recommend is Whey Protein (ONLY if you’re not getting enough protein from your diet.)
How much protein do you need?
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you should take in 0.5-0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily (1.2-1.7g per kg) to increase muscle mass. To simplify, someone weighing 170 lbs should be eating 85-140 grams of protein daily.
I find it helpful to supplement my workouts with some good old protein shakes. The brand that’s generally recommended is Optimum Nutrition – they make a great protein isolate that’s aptly called the Gold Standard (my favorite flavor is the Extreme Milk Chocolate, but many others prefer the French Vanilla).
Protein shakes are great if you’re tired of eating nonstop chicken breasts – a quick shake of 2 scoops post-workout and you’re already at 48 grams of your recommended protein intake. Boom!
If you find yourself plateauing for multiple weeks, it may be time to move on to the next level. The Reddit community has also put together some advice for “Intermediate” bodyweight exercises.
To learn more, check out these great books that will help you understand the science and technique behind all bodyweight workouts:
- Overcoming Gravity: A Systematic Approach to Gymnastics and Bodyweight Strength
- You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises