Basic bodyweight exercises have to be a significant part of your workout plan if you want to get truly exceptional results. They can increase both strength and endurance, and build high-functioning muscle mass. Unlike barbells and other weights, they will not produce bulky muscles. They can easily be added to your existing fitness routine. Bodyweight exercises are especially valuable because you can do them wherever you are, anytime. Anybody can do them, you do not need special training or equipment. You can still get in an effective workout even if you have only a few minutes to spare or are unable to get to the gym.
There are two ways you can tweak bodyweight exercises to better suit your needs. If you want to build functional strength then you want high tension exercises that can be repeated for ten reps max. If you are want better endurance then you want exercises that can be performed many times in each set. Luckily, bodyweight exercises can be made to accomplish either goal.
While there are many different but useful bodyweight exercises, you really only need to know three of them. Between them, these three work out every muscle in your body.
Any serious fitness professional would rather use pushups than barbell presses any day. Start out lying face down with your hands under your shoulders. Keep your feet spread at hip width. Tense your core and straighten your elbows so that your whole body is pushed up. Do not bend your back. Next, bend your elbows until you touch the floor, keeping your elbows tucked in as much as possible.
If you are not ready for real pushups, or need to work more on your endurance than your strength, try the easy inclined version. For these, find a heavy chair, couch, or other object that you can put your hands on, and push up from that. The incline here will make the pushup easier because your legs are doing more of the work. If your fitness level is very low, you might need to start by standing a couple feet away from the wall and pushing off from it.
If you need higher tension exercises for strength then try then try this: the declined pushup. Put your feet on a solid heavy object like a couch, so that they are a little higher than your head is. The elevated feet mean that your arms and chest do more of the work.
If even the steepest inclines are getting too easy then you're prepared for the major leagues. Be warned: this version of the exercise is only for the pros. Get into a hand stand position against a wall. Bend your arms to lower your head down while your legs are supported by the wall. This kind of pushup makes your arms and chest do all of the work.
Pistol squats will give each muscle in your lower body major development. They will also seriously improve your balance, stabilization, coordination and overall conditioning. Even if you are very strong, your ligaments and tendons probably are not conditioned for the stress of this exercise, so please take the time to work into this exercise slowly.
To do a pistol, stand holding your arms straight out in front. Raise one of your legs up parallel with the arms. Lower your body while keeping that leg held up high and straight. Hold this position for a moment or two, and then stand again. Don't just stand, explode upward if you can manage it. This will give you unbelievable leg strength.
One of the most powerful full-body workouts there is, the burpee starts out from a low crouching position. Put your hands on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Then kick your feet back out behind you, so that you are in a push-up position. Do a push-up, then quickly return to the squat position. Then explode back up, then return to the crouch.
To make the burpee more difficult, leap up as high as you can instead of merely returning to the standing position. You can also do the pushup with your fingertips, or on an incline, in order to add difficulty. If you are looking for an easier version then do the pushup portion with an elevated head and torso.
Bodyweight exercises are ideal for runners, fighters, and anyone else who wants to develop insane functional strength without bulking up. Ideally, you should alternate exercises on different days. Doing pushups one day and pistols another will give one muscle group the time it needs to heal and develop while you work out the other. Alternate days where you focus on strength developing exercises like pistols with those more suited to endurance, such as Burpees. Whenever you can find a few minutes to spare, do one of these bodyweight exercises. In very little time you will start seeing results.