The smart way to sculpt your body without weights
Bodyweight training is a great tool for building that toned, sculpted body you’ve always dreamed of. To me, a sculpted body means having reasonable amounts of muscle, with a low-enough amount of body fat to be able to see the muscle definition.
One of the main requirements of building muscle, in order to achieve that sculpted look, is overload. This simply means that the stimulus, or training, must be above a certain threshold to cause the body to adapt. Bodyweight training can provide that overload stimulus, without the need for barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells etc.
As well as providing your body with that overload with ease, it does so in a very safe way. Bodyweight training ensures you are always working inside your own body’s capabilities. What this means is that you can push your body through a full range of movement in a very natural way, without external stimuli affecting your form. This reduces your risk of injury, and allows you to increase your body’s overall mobility and athleticism.
It’s also very easy to progress and regress bodyweight exercises, to match your own capabilities. Adding an explosive element to your squats or press-ups for example, will make them much harder. There’s also great variation with bodyweight exercises. For example, hand or feet positions can be altered to target your muscles differently.
5 bodyweight exercises to sculpt every inch!
Squats are a great way to tone and build strength through the lower body. They predominantly work the muscles in the legs and hips (quads, hamstrings and glutes), and can promote optimal range of motion. Beginners can use chair or bench behind them for safety.
Key points: Ensure knees stay in line with toes, keep back straight.
Progression: Jump squats
Alternative: Sumo squats
Press ups will help sculpt your upper body, by working the chest and arms, and providing stability through the shoulders. If needed, begin on your knees and work up to the full press up position, on your toes.
Key points: Ensure your hands are wide enough to aim for a right-angle at the bottom of the movement. Hands should press from floor at shoulder height.
Progression: Decline press ups
Alternative: Diamond press ups
Although you don’t need any weights, you will need something to pull up too, for example pull up bars, goalpost or climbing frame. Chin-ups will target your upper back and arms, as well as the core. Pulling your bodyweight up is an advanced exercise, so you could use a resistance band or a training partner for assistance. Below I’ve listed a regression, as opposed to a progression.
Key points: Hands should be shoulder width apart, keep elbows tucked in and core braced.
Regression: Inverted Bodyweight row
Alternative: Pull Up
The plank differs from the other exercises listed in that it is a static exercise. The plank will build strength and endurance through the core, mainly the abs and lower back.
Key points: Maintain neutral spine, avoid sagging back or lifting hips too high
Progression: Reduce floor contact – lift a leg or arm
Alternative: Side plank
Lunges use the same muscle groups as the squat, but place more emphasis on one single leg at a time. I have included reverse lunges over front lunges, as they place less stress through the knee, as your weight remains through the leading leg throughout the movement.
Key points: Aim for a 90degree angle at the knee, at both the front and back legs at the bottom of the movement
Progression: Split squat with back leg raised
Alternative: Lateral lunge
Another benefit of bodyweight training is that recovery times are often shorter, compared to weight training. Complete the above exercises as a circuit, repeating 3-5 times. Alter reps and use the progressions where necessary. Begin by carrying out the workout 3-4 times per week, adding extra days if needed as you progress.