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Bodyweight Exercises - Create Your Own Workouts

By Stew Smith

Calisthenics, or bodyweight exercises, originated thousands of years ago in ancient Greece and have been a major component of fitness in athletics, military, law enforcement, and daily fitness for home workouts without equipment. Here is a request from a Perfect push-up customer seeking to do more exercises without having to go to a gym.

A note from a reader:

I need help in making a full body bodyweight routine. Any advice/sample that you can offer? I am seventeen and have been using your push-up PT pyramid on and off for a year now. With it, I am able to pump multiple diamond push-ups more than I ever have in the past years.

I have been creating calisthenics based workout plans for more than twenty years to build muscle stamina, strength, and flexibility. By adding a form of cardiovascular activity like running, swimming, or biking to complete the workout, you can burn more calories and improve heart and lung circulation. I also like to supplement calisthenics with some form of simple weight training like dumbbells in full body movements.

Here are some sample routines that focus on both upper body, lower body, and core exercises:

Upper body Warm-up

Repeat 5-10 times

Jumping jacks – 10

Push-ups – 10

Note: Add pull-ups when multiple sets are possible at 5-10 reps per set.

Lower body Warm-up

Repeat 5-10 times

Jumping jacks – 10

Squats – 10

Upper / Lower Body & Cardio Combo – A full body plan like the one below is a fast way to complete a workout with little or no rest by resting your upper body by working your lower body and abdominal exercises.

Repeat 3-4 times

Pull-ups – max reps

Squats – 20-30

push-ups – 20-30 reps

Lunges – 10-15 / leg

Abs of choice – 50 reps

Optional Cardio of choice – 10 minutes

Supplemental Dumbbell Routine – For a detailed photo-explanation of a great full body routine, click here.

Lower body / Cardio Workout – Here is a quick and challenging workout to build both leg speed and endurance.

Repeat 4-5 times

Run or bike 3 minutes

Squats – 20 reps

Lunges – 15/leg reps

Heel raises (calves) – 20-30 reps

Upper / Lower back Balance Cycle – In order to balance out doing several sets of push-ups or other pushing exercises, add in the below exercises for 2-3 sets at the end of the workout to avoid internal rotation of the shoulder girdle.

Repeat 2-3 times

Reverse push-ups – 25 reps

Birds – 25 reps

Plank pose – 1 minute

Note: Review more ways to balance out your push-up routine.

Push / Pull Upper body Cycle – To fully work the upper body, balance out the pushing muscles (chest, shoulders and triceps) with the pulling muscles (biceps, forearms, back)

Repeat 4-5 times

Push-ups – max reps

Reverse push-ups – 20

Pull-ups – max reps

Birds – 20

Abs of choice – 50

Note: Try to also include some of the supplemental push/pull exercises.

Abdominal Cycle – Do this 2-3 times during the workout and 4-5 times a week. It is fine to do abdominal and cardio exercises several days a week or on back-to-back days.

Crunches – 25

Reverse crunches – 25

Double crunches – 25

Left crunches – 25

Right crunches – 25

Bicycle crunches -25

Plank pose – 1 minute

These workouts can be done throughout the week, but as with weights, it is not recommended to do the same major muscle groups on back-to-back days. So pick a calisthenics day and follow it with a cardio workout on the next day; this is the easiest way to create a fitness routine for yourself. If you are new to exercise, just Google some of the workouts above or visit for articles, pictures, and books complete with workouts and exercise descriptions.

Stew Smith CSCS, is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author specializing in military, law enforcement fitness for future and active duty members who serve the country in physically challenging and potentially dangerous professions. Contact Stew at for answers to your questions.

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