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Did you know that you never have to go to a gym to actually get fit and strong? You can really get in good shape from your bedroom, office, hotel room or anywhere else by doing these bodyweight exercises for small spaces.
I recently read an article by the Art Of Manliness about prisoners, their workouts and their ability to get super strong.
It was extremely interesting to me because for years now, I also have been implementing these sort of bodyweight routines into my life which resemble prison workouts.
How often do you or anyone you know come up with excuses for not being able to train, eat well and get in shape?
It happens a lot!
We can blame the weather, fatigue, the cost of a gym, the drive there and back, or just having a bad day.
But if there’s one thing we can learn from prisoners, it’s the fact they there are zero excuses for getting in shape.
Heck, take a guy like the famous prisoner Charles Bronson.
He became so obsessed with fitness whilst in solitary confinement that he was able to do 172 push ups in just 60 seconds.
There are many other stories of prisoners who have been able to use their time in their prison cells wisely, all through doing bodyweight exercises.
Now I am not suggesting we need to go to prison in order to get strong, but we can take a lesson or two from these folks.
The Best Bodyweight Exercises for Small Spaces
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When I started travelling across Europe in 2014, I knew I would never be able to add daily gym fees into my budget.
That was just out of the question.
So I forced myself to try and remain as fit and strong as possible without any sort of equipment, and usually without having to leave my accommodation.
And this is where I started discovering how one can really gain strength by doing basic bodyweight exercises, and doing them all in your room.
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Benefits of Doing Bodyweight Exercises
We should all be in love with bodyweight exercises, seriously.
They are awesome.
And they just require your own body.
Shit, you can even do them naked if you want to.
Below are just a few benefits that come from focussing on bodyweight exercises.
1. You can do them anywhere. This is the biggest benefit of all. You can keep training whilst on holiday, in your home, or even in your office in between meetings. No excuses, ever!
2. They are free. No need to pay for a gym membership. No need to buy any sort of equipment for your home. Bodyweight exercises literally just require your body, which is why I love them so much.
3. Long term focus. I personally find my strength that I gain from bodyweight exercises lasts more long term than what I used to get back in the day when pumping iron. Seeing and feeling results from bodyweight training takes time, but they stick around.
4. Works your cardio too. You can combine certain bodyweight exercises to create intense workouts which will increase strength and cardio at the same time. Or you could do the one exercise that works it all, the famous burpee!
Below are some of the most popular and best bodyweight exercises you should start with.
1. Body Squats
Body squats are a really effective exercise to do, and they work more than just one muscle.
Squats work almost every single lower body muscle, and have many benefits.
Some of the benefits of doing bodyweight squats include:
- Building muscle
- Increases strength
- Improves hip mobility
- Can burn fat
The most important thing about bodyweight squats is your form.
How to do a basic body squat:
If you want to, you can try out a few body squat variations to mix things up.
Jump squats. Explode upwards when doing a normal body squat and try get as high as possible. Then immediately go back into a squat once your feet hit the ground.
Box jumps. Squat normally and jump onto a flat surface which is higher up. This can usually be a ledge, a stair or whatever. Start off low and slowly work your way up. Eventually you’ll be a master and be able to jump onto a surface which is waist height.
Prisoner squats. Perform a normal body squat, but place your hands behind your head.
2. Push Ups
My favorite bodyweight exercise of all time, push ups should be part of your daily routine.
Push ups target your back, core, triceps, chest and shoulders, and are a great way to build up long term upper body strength.
I personally aim to reach a certain number of push ups every single day. It’s a great daily habit I have created.
How to do a basic push up:
There are many variations of push ups which you can do.
Below I have put together just a few of the most popular ones.
Narrow push up. Place your hands more close together when doing a push up. This focuses more attention on your triceps. If you feel confident in your ability, then have your hands touch by creating a diamond shape. This is the ultimate narrow push up.
Wide push up. Widen your hand placement further than a normal push up. This works your chest area more.
Feet elevated push up. Put your feet on your couch or bed and perform your push ups. This will work your shoulders more.
One arm push up. This is a tough one, but you are sure to impress a few people if you are able to pull this one off!
Clap push up. If you want a more explosive push up workout, then try the clap push up. Perform a normal push up, and when pushing up, push yourself as high off the ground as high possible and clap your hands together.
Burpees are the ultimate full body exercise which you can do anywhere on the planet.
It pumps your cardio, your strength and your functional fitness.
How to do a basic burpee:
As with most bodyweight exercises, there are a few variations which you can try.
The burpee in the video above is the most common burpee with the added push up. These are the burpees we mostly do.
Basic burpee. Feel free to leave out the push up part of the burpee, and you got yourself a basic burpee.
Burpee and pull up. If you have a pull up bar, then you can combine pull ups with burpees. Stand beneath the bar, perform a basic burpee and then reach up for the bar to perform a pull up.
4. Pull Ups
Pull ups are another body workout which really work your upper body and core muscles.
You can do them anywhere with a place to hang.
Nowadays most cities have outdoor gym facilities in public parks and beaches that are free to be used, so you can always find a pull up bar somewhere. Otherwise you can buy one for your door frame.
How to do a pull up:
Let’s take a look a few pull up variations which you can do.
Chin up pull up. Move your hands in the opposite direction and you can do chin ups. These work your biceps a bit more.
Narrow & wide grip pull up. Adjust your grip to work different muscle groups.
One hand pull up. Just like the one arm push up, you’ll be considered to be an absolute beast if you can perform these!
A Few Workouts To Use
If you want to use these above exercises in a workout, then keep reading!
It can be confusing sometimes when you want to actually create a 20 minute workout using only a handful of bodyweight exercises.
Below are a few ideas you can use.
Feel free to mix and match as you please!
One Exercise a Day
This is a simple and effective way of doing bodyweight training.
Select one bodyweight exercise, and only do that for the day.
Below are a few examples of how I have used this method in the past.
150 Pull ups. Walk to your nearest pull up bar, stretch a bit, and don’t leave until you have performed 150 pull ups. It doesn’t matter how many sets you do, just get it done!
350 Push ups. Complete 350 push ups within the space of 30 minutes or less. This is actually really achievable. I have added 350 push ups to my daily workouts lately and it feels great.
150 Body squats. As with the pull ups, complete 150 squats in a number of sets.
In order for these to work, you want to try and get them done as quickly as possible.
Who ever said you need complicated workout routines?!
10 to 1 Workout
Start with 10 reps, then work your way down to 1.
You will be performing all of the above bodyeight exercises.
So you’ll start off like this:
- 10 Push ups, 10 body squats, 10 pull ups, 10 burpees
- 9 Push ups, 9 body squats, 9 pull ups, 9 burpees
- 8 Push ups, 8 body squats, 8 pull ups, 8 burpees
- ….And so on
Take a quick breather in between each set.
100 Rep Workout
For this workout, we will only use 3 out of the 4 exercises. If you want to, feel free to replace push ups with pull ups.
You’ll end up doing 100 reps of burpees, push ups and squats.
Below is the workout:
- 40 Burpees, 40 push ups, 40 squats
- 30 Burpees, 30 push ups, 30 squats
- 20 Burpees, 20 push ups, 20 squats
- 10 Burpees, 10 push ups, 10 squats
This is a real tough one!
Remember you don’t have to do 40 in a row. You can split it up. So for example in the first set, I usually do 20 burpees then 10 then 10. I then move onto push ups.
Take a 1 minute breather in between each set.
We can definitely take at least one positive from prisoner stories, and that being how to stay fit by using bodyweight exercises for small spaces!
No matter where you are right this moment, you too can start training.
Just stick to these bodyweight exercises and you are good to go.