Bodyweight and environment are one of the most under-appreciated strength training tools. Number one benefit is that all the weight is built-in in you. It's very convenient, huh? One of the greatest things about pure bodyweight training in my opinion is that you won't use any external resistance. Why? It feels very much different and opens new horizons for you.
The Main Bodyweight Training Difference
Let's face it. Barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, sandbags. They are all different but the principle is the same. You lift weights. With bodyweight training you lift your own body and the weight is quite fixed. So what to do when exercise becomes too easy? Progress to more difficult variation and/or decrease the leverage and/or add weight. Here comes the fun. Once regular Push-Ups became easy, work on Close-Grip Push-Ups. Once Close-Grip Push-Ups became easy, work on Handstand Push-Ups etc. Strategies vary slightly from individual to individual. But you should always strive for the most difficult exercise.
Hand Balancing and Static Exercises
The unique bodyweight exercises are levers and handstands. No weights can provide you analogs of such static loads. The funny thing is that you don't need any equipment to practice these skills. You'll be amazed how weak you are in real life. You NEED to master your bodyweight for complete strength and muscle development. It is no-brainer but some people are still obsessed about their bench while they can't perform even 5-10 push-ups which is ridiculous.
Environment can help you big time in your bodyweight training. Playgrounds, schoolyards, tree branches, steps, whatever you will find. You can do Dips, Pull-Ups, Muscle-Ups, Human Flags etc. Use whatever you find helpful.
Bodyweight Training and Joint Problems
Bodyweight training is easier on joints. It can be a fair alternative if you have an existing injury. Couple of weeks of exclusively bodyweight training can give you a break of weight training and can be something like de-load. You will feel fresher and more powerful when you return weights to your training regimen.
Basic Bodyweight Exercises
I divided them into categories.
1. Upper Body Push
Get into push-up position. Dip down until chest touches the floor. Push back up.
Get into a handstand. Dip down until head touches the floor. Push back up.
Get between the dip bars, rings or any sturdy objects. Dip down at least until your upper arm will be parallel to the ground. Push back up.
2. Upper Body Pull
Grab the bar, rings or tree branch (or any similar object). Pull yourself up.
This is a little bit easier variation of pull-up. In Ukraine it is called "pull-ups for girls" (:
3. Legs and Lower Back
Squat down. Stand up.
Squat down and stand up but with one leg only.
Lie down on the floor on your back. Push up with your hands and legs. Hold.
Hold your body on your elbows only. The body should be parallel to the ground.
Hold your body with your arms only. The body should be parallel to the ground.
Get on the bar (or rings) and hold yourself parallel to the ground with your hands behind you.
Get on the bar (or rings) and hold yourself parallel to the ground with your hands in front of you.
Hanging Leg Raises
Get on the bar. Raise your legs without bending them.
This exercise is so old that it is nothing here to descript (:
Some people can experience hard time on muscle gain with bodyweight training. Especially skinny guys. But strength that you gain with bodyweight training will carryover to real life and any sport you participate in. Overweight people can benefit from bodyweight training tremendously in terms of fat loss and strength gain. Bodyweight is not the ultimate training tool. But it is so different, so natural and so fun that it would be a big mistake to neglect this unique tool.