Are you ready to burn major fat and shape your body? Your workout equipment will be your body. You will use your body for strength and cardio workouts. All it will cost is your time.

pushup on medicine ball

Bodyweight Strength Workouts

This article is also helpful: Burn Fat Like a Female Athlete

Yes, bodyweight strength workouts will transform your body to “lean and mean!” Just get ready for short and tough workouts.

Bodyweight strength workouts allow you to burn fat using natural body motions. Machines limit your natural range of motion. Try doing a squat on the Smith Machine and see how natural that feels.

To be fair, machine workouts can be beneficial for beginners. But, even beginners should not stay with the machines for too long. Why? Because machines also stabilize your body for you. You need to develop strength that allows your body to stabilize itself. Also, no two people have the same exact motions.

Bodyweight strength exercises allow you to train in all 3 planes of motion (machines usually limit you to training in 1 plane of motion–sagittal). You need to exercise with up, down, rotating, twisting, pushing, pulling and side-to-side motions. Train movements and not just muscles.

Research at Duke University, directed by Dr. Cris Slentz, supports high-intensity exercise for better fat loss. The eight-month study showed that people could lose weight with exercise and no dieting. Those who exercised intensely (especially using interval training) lost much more fat than those who exercised moderately.

According to the research, the high-intensity exercisers had these advantages over the low-to-moderate intensity exercisers: more release of fat from cells, more fat used as fuel during exercise and increased metabolic rate after exercise.

Here are some effective bodyweight strength exercises:

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1. Pushups on Medicine Ball (pictured above)This is a tough exercise that not everyone can do! If you need to start with a regular pushup, that’s definitely okay.

How to do pushups on medicine ball:

Put both hands on the ball at arms length. Keep your body straight and torso braced (as if taking a punch in the gut) throughout the movement. Keep your head in line with your torso at all times. Lower your body down to the ball and back to starting position.

This type of pushup requires adequate core strength to do it properly. The pushup on medicine ball will build your upper body stabilizer muscles (chest, arms, shoulders, core, etc.) needed to increase your bench press or other upper body strength exercises.

2. Pullups – The pullup is not just a back muscle exercise. Pullups work your lats (and other back muscles), core, shoulders, arms, chest, biceps and improve grip strength. That’s why you should be doing pullups!

–Hang from a pullup bar with your palms facing away from your body, your arms straight and your feet crossed together with legs bent about 90 degrees. Pull yourself up until your chin passes the bar.

–A wider grip (greater than shoulder width) will work your lats more. A closer grip (shoulder width or less) will work your middle back muscles more.

–If you lack grip strength, you can use straps to help.

Use proper technique when doing a pullup:

–Don’t jut your chin out (it strains your cervical spine).

–Don’t swing. It makes the pullup easier by using momentum. You need to pullup, not swing up.

–Don’t let your chest collapse because that puts too much stress on your shoulders.

–Don’t arch your lower back too much. You want your abdominal muscles to be engaged when you do the pullup. Keep your torso braced (as if taking a punch to the gut) during the pullup.

–When you start the pullup, drive your shoulder blades down and squeeze them together. This will engage your shoulder stabilizers more.

Don’t be afraid of the pullup exercise! Pull it out of the closet and start doing them!

3. Plank on Stability Ball – Isometric bodyweight exercises cause most if not all of your muscles to work during an exercise. To do the plank, you get into position and hold for a period of time (like 20 seconds). Many core exercises are great isometric exercises.


4. Step Ups – The bodyweight step up is one of the best leg toning and strengthening exercises available to you.

step up with knee lift

Step ups will also improve your dynamic balance. Its not that easy to balance all your weight on one leg (with good form) while stepping up onto a platform.

–Face a bench or platform (knee high) and put your right foot on the bench. Your knee should be bent 90 degrees. Don’t do this exercise with dumbbells until you have mastered the bodyweight version.

–As you lift your body on your right leg, keep your body erect (don’t bend over) and look straight ahead. Balance on your leg for 1-2 seconds and descend. Don’t let your left foot touch the platform.

–Do all required repetitions on the right leg and switch to left leg.

You may have to start with a platform lower than knee-high. Your hamstrings and butt will be worked more with a higher platform.

5. Lunges – Use bodyweight lunges as part of your dynamic warm-up or as a strength exercise. Lunges are great for adding muscular balance and dynamic balance to your lower body because you work one leg at a time (stronger leg can’t compensate for weaker leg).

You also need adequate core strength to keep your body upright during the lunge. Walking lunges improve your speed because you use the same pathways it takes to run fast.

When you do the walking lunge, don’t let your front knee go past your foot and don’t let your back knee touch the ground on the descent. Also, don’t let the front thigh go past parallel to the ground.

To work your hamstrings more, lunge out further with the front leg. A shorter lunge will work the quadriceps more. Most people need more hamstring strength to prevent injuries.

Include walking lunges, forward lunges, reverse lunges, clock lunges and side lunges in your workouts!

6. Squats – Do single leg squats, Y-squats, split squats, Bulgarian split squats, side squats, sumo squats, prisoner squats, sissy squats, etc. Include some sort of squat exercise in every strength workout.

squat on bosu

7. Inverted Rows – Include bodyweight inverted rows in your workout routine to work your back muscles in a different way. I will see many people doing barbell rows and dumbbell rows but very few people doing inverted rows. And, inverted rows strengthen much more than just your back muscles…

Inverted row start

Inverted row finish

Inverted rows build strength in your upper back, shoulders and arms. Your core muscles are also engaged during the movement. Inverted rows also improve your stabilizing strength in the low back, glutes and hamstrings. And, when you superset the inverted row with the pushup, you will get better muscular balance between the frontside and backside of your upper body.

–Hang from the bar of a Smith Machine (back to the floor but not touching) and pull your chest up to the bar.

–Keep your body in a straight line throughout the movement and brace your abs. Also, keep your head in line with your torso. Don’t drop the head or jut it forward.

8. Mountain Climbers – Do bodyweight mountain climbers if you’re serious about taking your workout to another level. The mountain climber is a versatile exercise in that you can do it on level ground, on an incline, knee-across-your-body, etc. I like to include mountain climbers as part of a bodyweight cardio session also.

Mountain climbers

You will burn more abdominal fat and overall body fat by doing mountain climbers.

Either way, include mountain climbers in your workouts more often. It is one of the best and toughest exercises out there. It is a compound exercise in that it works the calves, quadriceps, glutes, back, chest, triceps, abdominals and shoulders. You will need high levels of core strength to do this exercise the right way for each set.

Do mountain climbers this way:

From a push-up position, keep your back flat (do not let your back bow) and pump your legs as fast as possible (if doing as a speed exercise) like you are running in place. Don’t scrape the ground with your shoes as they run forward. And, don’t let your glutes “sag to the ground” when you are fatigued.

If you feel low back pain when doing mountain climbers, stop immediately. It is impossible to do this exercise the right way if you have a bad back.

Download your Free Bodyweight 500 Metabolic Fat Burner Workouts and start shaping your body faster!

Bodyweight Cardio Workouts

Note: The exercises listed under “bodyweight strength exercises” can be used in a bodyweight cardio workout.” (this gives you a dual strength/cardio benefit)

Burn more fat with bodyweight cardio (including running interval cardio). If you’re bored with your cardio, just try bodyweight cardio! You won’t get bored again. You need to ramp up the intensity of your cardio workout to get better fat loss and weight loss results.

I don’t recommend doing cardio exercise on machines. Cardio machines do alot of the work for you. Personally, running on cardio machines bores me to tears! Try doing sprint cardio intervals outside on grass and see how tough it is to fight against gravity, ground forces and the elements. You are forced to generate all the momentum and force.

Here are some effective bodyweight cardio exercises:

1. Mountain Climbers – see discussion above

2. Squat Jumps – Use the bodyweight squat jump exercise to better sculpt your body and burn more fat and calories during your workout. Squat jumps remain one of the best exercises to burn fat and help you lean and tone your body because of the high intensity.

If you’re having trouble toning your butt, hips and thighs then you need to do more squat jump exercises in your workouts.

If you are into sports, squat jumps will also help to increase your speed and power for sports like track and field, soccer, lacrosse, tennis and basketball.

To do the squat jump, descend into your squat, swing your arms back and forward and jump up explosively (reaching upward with your arms) and repeat for the required repetitions.

You need to perfect jumping and landing techniques or you will injure yourself. And, if you have knee and low back problems, high-speed jump (plyometric) training is not for you. Tuck jumps, pike jumps, platform jumps and lunge jumps are also very effective fat burners.

3. Sprints – Sprinting burns fat like crazy! Sprinting is one of the best ways to get your total body lean and toned. It is probabaly one of the least used exercises done by general exercisers. And, you don’t have to be fast, just run as fast as you can! To avoid injuries, always sprint on surfaces like grass or sand and never run on hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt.

Sprinting activates your bulkier, shapely fast twitch muscle fibers. These fast twitch muscle fibers lie dormant when you do slow-paced cardio sessions (hint). Sprinting will really burn the fat on your butt, hips, thighs, hamstrings and lower legs. Fat will also be burned on your upper body.

It is important to properly warmup before doing sprinting intervals. A proper warmup is a dynamic warmup such as doing 5-10 minutes of jogging, walking lunges, half-speed sprints and three-quarters speed sprints. Do static stretches after your workout to bring your muscles back to normal length.

To sprint efficiently and avoid injuries, you need to master correct running mechanics. Most people that I see at gyms need to work on running mechanics. Running the right way really does make running easier (and vice-versa)!

A 20-minute sprint interval workout is very simple—and tough! Do it this way:

–Run a 50 to 60 yard sprint
–Walk back to start line
–Run a 50 to 60 yard sprint

Do this rotation for 20-minutes and you are done (exhausted)! Do this type of workout no more than 2 times a week. This will allow your body to recover from this intense form of exercise.

A sprint interval workout will also give you superior heart-health.

4. Jump Rope – Jump rope now with your bodyweight to burn more fat, improve your heart health and better lean and tone your body.

Jumping rope will also help improve your balance, coordination and overall core strength.

Just do intervals for 20 minutes when you jump rope such as jumping for 1 minute and walking for 1 minute. As you improve, you can begin to jump faster and faster and burn more and more fat.

Be sure to look straight ahead, keep your body erect, your core braced (as if taking a punch to your gut) and use your hands/wrists to propel the rope. Keep your arms and body as still as possible as you jump. Land on the balls of your feet and not your toes.

5. Burpees – The bodyweight burpee exercise sounds kind of gross but it burns body fat like crazy and its good for you! Do burpees under control with good technique.

Burpees will increase your strength endurance, power and anaerobic conditioning (aerobics is an exercise done for more than 2 straight minutes).

Exercises like sprints and jumps are anaerobic. Research has proven that anaerobic conditioning will give you superior fat loss and heart health.

From a squat position with your hands on the floor, kick your feet back to a pushup position. Quickly return your feet to the squat position and jump as high as you can from the squat position. Repeat this exercise at full speed for 1 minute. Whew! Walk or jog for 2 minutes and burpee again.

6. Side-to-Side Hops – Jump side-to-side over a cone as fast as possible. Concentrate on jumping laterally and not for height. The squat jump develops the height of your jumps. Do intervals: 1 minute jumps, 1 minute walk and repeat for desired repetitions. Front-to-Back hops work well also.

7. Jumping Jacks – This exercise gets your arms, legs and body moving. The faster you can go, the better fat burning results you will get……just jump 1 minute, walk 1 minute and repeat for desired repetitions.

Download your Free Bodyweight 500 Metabolic Fat Burner Workouts and start shaping your body faster!

Mark Dilworth, BA, PES
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Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist
Certified Nutrition Coach and Nutrition for Metabolic Health Specialist. Since 2006, I have helped thousands of clients and readers make lifestyle habit changes that helps you to achieve better long-term health, which includes body transformation and ideal body weight.
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6 thoughts on “Bodyweight Strength Workout and Bodyweight Cardio–Top Fat-Burning Combo

  1. Mark – Steve and I haven’t worked out for 5-6 weeks because of the holidays, but we love reading your stuff and are anxious to get back to working out. We are back on the right track of eating low fat and you have lots of great ideas. You are such a great inspiration 🙂

  2. Haven’t worked out in about 5 weeks and am anxious to get back to it. You are such an inspiration Mark. My husband and I love reading your stuff.

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