Best Beginner Bodyweight Exercises For Women

The Best Beginner Bodyweight Exercises for Women

Too many workouts treat women like mini-men, but women and men have different strengths (and weaknesses), and they won’t have the same physique goals. So, what bodyweight exercises could a woman do at home while being a total beginner?

Beginners aren’t as coordinated or as strong as people used to working out, so they’ll need to do simple exercises at first before taking on more complicated exercises. But there’s a silver lining.

Women who are new to working out will get much faster results than those who already work out. This is because they’re much further away from the ceiling of their genetic potential. So even though you might feel frustrated when doing some of the exercises, you can take solace in knowing that results will also come easier to you.

Before moving on—you’re a young, healthy female?

This list is not for anyone who’s obese, has an injury (like diastasis recti), back pain, or is elderly. If you fall into that camp, you should make an appointment with your doctor or a sports physiotherapist. That way they can come up with a gameplan to meet you where you’re starting from. We designed this list for young, relatively healthy women who are beginners to working out.

If you’re a man, click here to see our list of beginner bodyweight exercises for men.

What makes an exercise the right one for a beginner?

Exercises that meet your level of strength and coordination.

When browsing around on the Internet, I saw a bunch of articles recommending one-legged pistol squats. Not only are those not that effective for building muscle or getting toned, but they’re also incredibly challenging. You need a high level of strength and coordination to pull it off—so even though it’s a bodyweight exercise, that doesn’t make it a good one for a gal trying to get started.

A guaranteed payoff without needing to hurt yourself

Some exercises are athletic, or they look cool—but they aren’t all too helpful for getting a good working in to build muscle or tone up. For example, the burpee is a super common exercise that gets butchered all the time, and its main goal is just to get your heart-rate up. There are better and safer ways to do this. Beginners have to take things slow to build up coordination, so complicated moves are out, and zombie-simple moves are in.


The Best Exercises for Women Who are Beginners

Below we’re going to talk about the 7 main movements for women, adapted a bit from the esteemed strength coach Dan John:

  • The push. Mainly works your chest (pectorals), shoulders (deltoids), and the back of your arms (triceps.)
  • The pull. Mainly works your lats, the front of your arms (biceps), and can also do the back of your shoulders (rear deltoids.)
  • The hinge. Mainly works the back of your thighs (hamstrings), your butt (glutes), and your lower back muscles (spinal erectors.)
  • The squat. Mainly works the front of your thighs (quads), and your butt (glutes.)
  • The carry. Mainly helps with athleticism, coordination, and posture by working a million tiny stabilizer muscles. Also helps with “work capacity” by putting you under a weight for a long time.
  • The front core. These movements help your abs and obliques and help to develop a rigid, stiff, and bulletproof core.
  • Extra Glute Isolation. These movements will mainly isolate the butt (Maximus, medius, and minimus gluteals, aka, the glutes). Many women like doing extra glute work to improve the contrast between their waist and their hips. Want to learn even more about this? See an article I wrote about the female waist-to-hip ratio on Bony to Bombshell.

The body is capable of much more, like throwing, which would include rotation and whatnot. But this is more than enough for a beginner to get started with.

Level 1 exercises are the most straightforward progression to get started with. When those start to feel easy, then you can try a harder progression.

All the links below will go out to Youtube demonstrations we’ve hand-picked. The trainers are usually Mike Robertson or Eric Cressey (both are legends, which our own Marco Walker-Ng interned under), or Bret Contreras, Nick Tumminello, or Scott Herman.

The Push

How to get started with push-ups

Variations to keep things fresh

The pull:

It’s really hard to properly do the pulling movement when just using your bodyweight. If you have access to a chin-up bar, you can try using it. Otherwise, you can load up a tote bag (cotton bag) or backpack with heavy things you can find around the house like water jugs, etc.

Access to a chin-up bar?

No chin-up bar:

The squat:

The hinge:

The carry:

Like the pull, doing carries without weights is really difficult. But that doesn’t mean it’d be wise to skip them, especially since a lot of women love how carries bring a lot of freedom to their life when it comes to things like tossing your suitcase into the back of cab.They can also work wonders on slumpy posture.

For a solution around the home, do you have a large bucket you could fill with water? That could work in a pinch. A tote bag or backpack loaded up with water jugs or heavy books could work, just start with a harder variation like the waiter carry.

The front core

Doing these exercises aren’t necessary. Some women want to train their abs, some don’t. Generally, training your abs and obliques to get stronger will also make them bigger and bulkier—making your waist a bit larger. Your call.

Plank progression

Leg raise progression

And if you’ve got access to a chin-up bar, start working on some hanging leg raises! (One of the top scoring ab exercises!)

Looking for some other variations?

Glute Isolation

Maximus

Don’t go too “high” on these, otherwise you might feel some back pain.

Medius & Minimus

More advanced movements for variety

Bonus: Telling back pain to get lost

Developing a strong core will protect your spine to avoid back pain today and in the future so you can train consistently enough to get the results you want. These are from Dr Stuart McGill, a professor emeritus of spinal biomechanics at the University of Waterloo. These exercises aren’t designed to get your abs/obiques bigger or leaner—so every woman could do these.

(And should you want to, you can read more about bulletproofing your core and protecting your back.)


Summary

  • Women should find exercises and workouts that fit for them and their goals—not general workouts for men.
  • Beginners should choose exercises that meet them where they are in terms of strength, coordination, and a good bang for their buck in terms of reward/risk.
  • Women will want to do the 5 main movements:
    • the push
    • the pull
    • the hinge
    • the squat
    • the carry
  • They might want to do some front core work; it’s up to them and their goals.
  • Most women we’ve coached like doing some extra glute isolation work for a better waist-to-hip ratio for feminine aesthetics.
  • Women should think about doing some core stability training, from Dr. Stuart McGill, to either solve or prevent back pain from affecting them.
  • Don’t forget to eat enough protein and to get enough sleep!

Free: Women’s 60-day bodyweight progressive workouts

This two-phase workout program is designed for women getting started who want to build a womanly physique. The work focuses on the butt, and developiong natural curves and tone, making you look and feel more feminine. No weights needed. Enter your email below to get it.

2 thoughts on “The Best Beginner Bodyweight Exercises for Women”

  1. This is awesome! I love it. What an incredible resource!

    With learning the chin-up, Cassandra (my wife) has been loving resistance bands. She loops it over the chin-up bar and then slips her knee in.

    She uses a 65lb resistance band (the green one from Rogue). Without it, she can get 2 reps. With it, she can get 8. Best of all, the band helps the most at the bottom while keeping the top of the lift challenging, giving the lift a great strength curve.

    It’s working so well that I’ve started recommending it in Bony to Bombshell, and the feedback there is equally good.

    (Note that you need the standard resistance bands for assisting with chin-ups, whereas if you want to use them for squats and glute work, you’d generally want the mini-bands.)

    1. I love this idea. So, funny thing, is after seeing Cassandra do this on Instagram, I’ve been doing the same thing as a finisher set. (I’m a friend of Shane and his wife Cassandra.)

      So I’d do my a couple sets of heavy weighted chin-ups with 60 pounds on a dip belt, then I’d do a couple sets of AMRAP (as many reps as possible) with bodyweight. And then on my 5th set, I’d only have a few reps in me left. With the resistance band, I’m able to crank out one more set of 10–12 reps.

      So I am in total agreement, it could be a super helpful tool for women who want to get into doing chin-ups, but are mainly working out at home, and don’t have access to one of those assisted chin-up machines. A simple latex loop band for $10–15 and now you can get those reps in and build confidence with the whole movement 🙂

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