Originally appeared at jasonferruggia.com.
We’re talking about really working hard on high tension, advanced bodyweight exercises that can only be done for somewhere between five and twelve reps, on average.
The nice thing about these is that they’re very natural and can usually be done pain free by most people.
Below is a list of my top 20 bodyweight exercises for size and strength.
1) Chin/ Pull Up
These build the lats and biceps very effectively. An impressive number of full range, perfect reps is twenty. 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.
2) Rope Climb
Awesome for true functional, relative strength. Your goal is to climb a twenty foot rope using just your hands.
3) Inverted Row
To increase the difficulty try holding each rep for a few seconds at the top.
To target the upper back musculature (teres minor, rhomboids, rear delts) you want to have your elbows directly out to your side when rowing. For more lats and mid-back, row with your elbows tucked to your sides.
4) Front Lever
This is one of the absolute BEST exercises for activating and building the lats. Maybe even better than chin ups. It’s also one of the best abdominal exercises you can do and will put crunches and sit ups to shame. To progress into doing the front lever, I recommend starting with isometric holds. Four sets of 10 seconds twice per week will be good for most people.
5) Muscle Up
Very few people will ever master the muscle up but if you take the time and have the dedication it’s very impressive to be able to pull off. Doing five perfect reps is a good goal to shoot for.
6) Handstand Pushup
These will build big shoulders and cause less pain than a barbell military press. An impressive number to shoot for is ten full range reps. To get started on these you need to first master the handstand.
It’s been said by high level gymnastic coaches that the ability to do handstands is one of the most important things you can develop to improve your overall athleticism.
Once you are able to hold a handstand with your feet against the wall for 60 seconds you can start progressing into handstand pushups.
Some of the variations I use most often in training myself or clients are the steep incline suspended pushup (with your feet in the straps), regular suspended pushups on rings, divebomber pushups and one arm pushups.
A good goal for most people is ten one arm pushups. That’s strong and impressive.
8) Ring Fly
The function of the pecs is to draw the arm across the midline of the body. Vince Gironda and Larry Scott introduced me to this exercise back in the early 90’s and I was blown away by how well it worked.
It’s one of the most challenging, yet brutally effective moves you can do for building your chest.
Lower yourself slowly, always being sure to brace your abs, squeeze your glutes and pause in the bottom position. Be prepared for some HARD work and expect to see some biceps growth from this exercise as well.