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Top 20 Best Bodyweight Exercises for Building Muscle & Strength

Bodyweight exercises need to be part of your program if you want to get build muscle, burn fat and improve your overall athleticism.

Not everyone needs to or should lift a barbell, but bodyweight exercises are essential. I’ve used them to rapidly transform the bodies of professional athletes, models and entertainers. One of the many things I love about them is they can be done anywhere at any time.

But I’m not just talking basic pushups, sit ups, air squats and high rep calisthenics.

That’s beginner stuff that won’t really build muscle beyond your first few months of training.

We’re talking about really working hard on high tension, advanced bodyweight exercises that can only be done for somewhere between six and fifteen reps, on average.

The nice thing about these is that they’re very natural and can usually be done pain free by most people. You’re not locked into a fixed range of motion like you would be on a machine and your hands aren’t linked together like they would be when using a barbell. That makes these calisthenic movements far easier on your joints.

Safety and ease of use is all well and good but what does it matter if the exercises don’t get you jacked? That’s the real question- do bodyweight workouts and exercises build muscle?

The answer is a resounding YES.

Ever hear of Herschel Walker? Ever see the male gymnasts in the Olympics? What about some of the freaks you see on YouTube who only train outside on the bars in parks like Tompkins Square in New York City? Remember the size of Mike Tyson’s legs after he got out of prison, where he did thousands of bodyweight leg exercises every week?

Old time Iron Game legends always said that dips and chin ups were the two greatest muscle building exercises anyone could do.

Arnold Schwarzenegger always did tons of pull ups in his back workout.

There are countless other examples but you get the point by now. If you want to build a badass body, with functional strength, power and mobility you need to make bodyweight exercises a staple in your workout program.

Below is a list of my top 20 bodyweight exercises for size and strength.

1) Chin/ Pull Up

Definitely in contention for the single greatest exercise on the planet, chin ups build the lats and biceps better than anything else. An impressive number of full range, perfect reps is twenty. And by perfect reps I mean starting from a dead hang and pulling up so that your chin clears the bar. You have to do that without kicking your legs, climbing an invisible ladder and rounding your upper back.

To maximize size and strength development everyone should do at least fifty total reps per week of some sort of chin up variation.

The parallel grip chin/ pull up is easiest on the shoulders and elbows and is the one I recommend most. Doing them on rings is safest as it allows for the most natural movement but is also significantly more difficult.

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