Gym closed? Join the crowd that was sent home. For many, working out at a commercial gym is an important facet of a fitness lifestyle. Having access to good equipment and traveling to a place dedicated to exercise helps form and keep up the habit of working out. There’s also the social element, undeniable, which some care more for than others. Serious lifters, bodybuilders and athletes can be among those who share each other’s interest in serious training, which makes working out harder, well, easier, or at least motivates you more.

Push Ups

Image by Keifit from Pixabay

But with the current coronavirus pandemic, now stretching into more than six weeks and counting, you have to find other alternatives to get your workout in. For many under stay-at-home government orders, the logical—and maybe only—answer is working out at home. If you have a home gym set up already, or at least a workout area, great. You’re a long way to solving your workout problem. But what do you do if you don’t have a home gym setup, with ample weights and maybe even a choice of a few machines?

Well, there’s an old favorite, bodyweight exercises. Seriously? Exercising with only your own body as the “equipment” can actually provide challenging and productive resistance. Okay, you might have to use some common household items in addition as equipment.  Some of you may dismiss a bodyweight-exercise workout, especially if you’re used to hoisting heavy weights most of the time. Don’t. Admittedly, if you’re training as a world-class powerlifter or strength athlete, a bodyweight only workout isn’t going to give you everything you need. But for many bodybuilders, athletes and fitness buffs, a bodyweight-centered workout can deliver some muscle, strength and fat burning.

Here’s a basic bodyweight workout routine:

Home Bodyweight Exercise Routine

  • Push Ups
  • Chins/Chair Rows
  • Squats
  • Calfraises
  • Ab Crunches

Nothing too earth shaking, right? But again, don’t dismiss it because it doesn’t look like much on paper. A few words about how and what to do with this workout. You have a great deal of latitude as to how to do this workout. You can do one set or many, fewer reps or more. To start out, maybe do something like 3 sets of 8-12 reps, a standard type of workout when you use weights. Then adjust from there. If you’re even reasonably advanced, you’ll probably have to do more reps. Do so. You might have to start with 20 or 30 reps, but maybe you can do one or two sets. Do whatever amount you decide.

A few words about the exercises. Push ups are a really versatile exercise. Performed in a standard way, with the arms slightly wider than shoulder width, they work the chest, delts, arms and even upper back. Chins are great for the back. If you have a chinning bar at home, great. If not, you can use a straight stick, piece of wood, anything similar you can come up with, set it across two chairs, then get underneath and while laying prone, face up, pull yourself up. This chair row will work your upper back and if you use a wider grip, your lats. Your arms again go along for the ride.

Squats are self-explanatory for most. With bodyweight squats, just as with push ups, you can work up to lots of reps. This can really give your thighs a good workout and can be surprisingly challenging, even if you’re used to squatting with heavy weights.

Calfraises are included simply because most bodybuilders don’t work their calves enough. You can stand on stairs when you do these, so you can get a good low stretch. Or stand on a block of wood if you have one. Again, this is an exercise that can you can do for high reps and that gives you a good burn.

Doing crunch situps for your abs will keep you in the habit of doing ab work, and will be just as effective as when you include them in your weight workouts. You can alternate these with leg raises if you want.

All in all, the bodyweight-based workout is a thorough, whole body workout that can be adjusted for your ability level as well as the time you have to train.

You might ask, “Where’s the arm work? No workout is worthwhile if I can’t work my arms!”

Look to the two upper body exercises you are doing in this workout, push ups and chins (or chair rows.) There is indirect work, more triceps than biceps in push ups, but the biceps get some work in the chair rows.

Add Ons

If you want to add direct arm work, you can do reverse dips for triceps. Place your arms directly in line with your shoulder, reach back and grab a chair or other sturdy object behind you. Extend your legs in front of you out on the floor. Facing forward, lower your body with your arms, dip as low as you can, push back up by means of your triceps.

For biceps, you can do the chair rows/pull ups by using a palms facing shoulder width grip and pulling yourself up. This changes the area of stress on the exercise from the back when you use the standard, palms away facing grip to include stressing the biceps.

If you want to include specific deltoid work, in addition to push ups, you can use a variation of angled push ups leaning against a wall, which throws the stress on the delts more than the chest.

The whole idea of the bodyweight workout is that is has versatility. You can just do push ups, chins and squats, and you will work all the major areas of the body. Or you can include more, plus a few variations.

More Variations

There are so many productive variations of these basic bodyweight exercises. You can use them for variety or to spur additional muscle gains. Push ups can be done with feet elevated, making them harder, or with a wider grip (but be careful of your shoulder joints with this) to hit your outer chest. Chins or chair rows can be done with different width grips so as to target different areas of the back. Squats can be done in regular style, or with different width stances. You can try any of the variations of the deceptively difficult sissy squats,  a leaning back style squat, to really target your quads. While you may not have the versatility of many of the barbell or dumbbell exercises, bodyweight exercise can still provide you with lots of options to zero in on what you want.

The Main Thing

While working out is near and dear to most of us, we also don’t want to forget the main thing going on, which is the terrible pandemic that’s causing suffering and death everywhere. So whatever thing your doing to support the fight against coronavirus, keep at it. Stay close to your family. Maybe exercising with them might be one of the things you can do to relieve stress and share an activity. This bodyweight workout can be adapted to have your kids work out with you.

Whatever exercise and other things you do in these difficult days, stay safe and well.


Greg Sushinsky is a natural bodybuilder who has trained for several years. He is a professional writer who has written extensively about bodybuilding, with numerous training articles appearing in Musclemag International, Ironman magazine, Reps! and others.Greg continues to train hard and enthusiastically.  He strives to maintain a lean, proportionate physique,  write and publish on bodybuilding, and continues to do and pursue many writing and publishing projects in his other areas of interest. He continues to advise and consult with bodybuilders, athletes and fitness people. Read Complete Bio.

Articles by Greg Sushinsky

NOTE: This website concerns the use of nutritional principles and vigorous exercise programs, which can potentially pose physical risks to anyone who may undertake them.  No liability is assumed by the author(s) or owner for the use of any of the information on this website or affiliates. No medical advice or information is intended or implied.  You should always exercise safely and you should first consult your health professionals, physicians and/or nutritionists, before using any of the information contained on this website.