Pull Your Own Weight

You are the resistance. Whether you weigh 150 or 300, you’re hauling those pounds around every day. What you’re probably not doing is using your body’s weight for a workout. However, you could, and maybe you should. With a minimum amount of stationary equipment— chinning bar, dipping bars—or no equipment at all, you can train your entire physique, so, when you can’t get to a gym, you have no excuse for not squeezing in a workout.

You’re a member of a gym chock-full of dumbbells and barbells and all manner of machines, so why would you want to train without all those tools? Maybe you’re traveling, stuck in a hotel room or a campsite. Maybe you’re too busy to get to the gym for a few days. Or maybe you just want to try something different to free yourself from the rut of those same old metallic moves. And you don’t have to do a full workout sans weights. There are likely several flesh-resistance exercises that you can incorporate into your current routine. 

CHEST Dips focus on your lower pecs. Lean into each rep to work your chest more and triceps less. There’s also the grade-school favorite: the pushup. Done in the standard style, it’s the equivalent of an upside-down bench press. But there are several variations. With your legs elevated, pushups focus more on the upper pecs. Conversely, with your torso elevated, the tension is greater on the lower pecs. Place your hands closer together and you’ll work the inner pecs (and triceps) more.

BACK Like chest, this is another easy body part to hit without weights, though to some degree that depends on how strong you are in the pullup. Pullups can be performed with a variety of grips (wide, moderate, close, overhand, underhand). If you can’t get eight reps on your own, use a band under your legs or helping hands to remove some stress. If you can get more than 15 reps on your own, use a chain or helping hands to add resistance. The other key back exercise is the inverted row. This is essentially a pullup with your heels on the floor and body held at. Set a Smith machine bar or a barbell in a power rack at slightly higher than arm’s length when you’re lying on the floor, and pull yourself up as if rowing upside down.

SHOULDERS You can approximate a shoulder press with your body weight. The handstand pushup is done next to a wall, facing away, with your heels against the wall. Press yourself up and down. Your head will limit your range of motion. If you’re not strong enough to knock out 10 handstand pushups, do pike pushups. Again, your torso will be upside down, but your toes will be supported on a bench or chair so your legs are approximately parallel to the floor and your body forms an inverted L. There’s also the pushback pushup. Each rep starts and ends like a traditional pushup, but you push yourself back, straightening your arms and bending your knees. Pushbacks have the advantage of a longer range of motion than handstands or pikes. Each of these will target your front delts, as do, to a lesser degree, conventional dips and pushups. Rear delts will get some work with pullups and inverted rows. Medial delts get a rest.


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BICEPS Go underhand on pullups or inverted rows (and set the bar higher so you’re more upright), and you’ll work the biceps more and your back less.

TRICEPS Stay upright on your dips and do your pushups with narrow hand placement, and you’ll focus more on your triceps and less on your pecs. You can also do bench dips with your hands slightly behind you and your legs straight out in front of you. 

THIGHS Don’t think you can escape squatting. You can do squats with one leg at a time. (The nonworking leg is bent with that foot behind you and against a bench.) You can also work both legs simultaneously but go glutes-to-ankles on each of many, many reps. You should be able to crank out at least 30 reps. Wall squats and walking lunges are two more exercises that can be effective without weights.

CALVES Make the standing calf raise harder. Try going barefoot on a at floor and not holding anything to steady yourself. Rise up very slowly, squeeze hard, and hold each contraction. You can also do weightless calf raises unilateral, raising and lowering yourself with only one calf at a time.

ABDOMINALS Many ab exercises—leg raises, planks, crunches—can be very productive with only body weight. 


  • Body-weight workouts can be done almost anywhere.
  • The easiest way to use virtually all your body weight as resistance is to pull or push while suspended, as with a pullup or dip.
  • Because choices are limited, you may need to focus on a single exercise for eight or more sets.
  • Change hand or foot placements. 


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  • When you can do 15 reps of a body-weight exercise, increase difficulty by reducing rest. 
  • Boost intensity by doing supersets, trisets, or giant sets.
  • A training partner can add or reduce resistance. For example, he can hold you down or lift you up during pullups. 
  • Leg exercises usually require high reps and maximum ranges of motion. 


  • Dip | SETS: 4 | REPS: 8-15
  • Wide-Grip Pullup | SETS: 4 | REPS: 8-15
  • Decline Pushup | SETS: 4 | REPS: 8-15
  • Close-Grip Pullup | SETS: 4 | REPS: 8-15
  • Incline Pushup | SETS: 4 | REPS: 8-15
  • Inverted Row | SETS: 4 | REPS: 8-15