Pullups, dips, chin-ups and pushups are performed using only your body’s weight for resistance. Also known as calisthenics, these exercises are effective for muscle building, calorie burning and improving muscular endurance. Understanding how to do these exercises helps you create the best bodyweight exercises to meet your fitness goals.
Types of Bodyweight Workouts
If you perform bodyweight exercises slowly, pausing between upward and downward movements and using muscular effort on the way up and down, you will enhance muscle building. If you perform reps quickly and for longer periods of time, you’ll raise your heart rate to create calorie-burning benefits. Performing bodyweight exercises at roughly 50 percent of your maximum intensity -- moving from exercise to exercise every 10 to 12 repetitions -- helps improve muscular endurance. If you are adding pullups, dips, chinups and pushups to a full-body workout routine, alternate between upper- and lower-body exercises to prevent muscle fatigue.
To perform pullups, grasp an overhead bar with your palms facing away from you and your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Bend your elbows and pull your body up until your chin reaches the bar. This exercise emphasizes upper-body muscles, particularly your triceps, latissimus dorsi and the back of your shoulders.
Dips performed with your hands even with your waist or slightly in front of your waist emphasize your biceps, deltoids and pectoral muscles. Perform these using a dip bar or stand between two heavy chairs. Grasp one side of the dip bar in each hand and hold yourself up on straight arms. Bend your elbows and lower your body toward the floor. Straighten your arms and repeat. To shift the emphasis to your lats, triceps and anterior shoulder muscles, place your hands slightly behind your hips, or perform bench dips. For bench dips, place your hands behind you on a bench or chair seat with your feet extended on the floor or another bench in front of you. Lower and raise yourself by bending and straightening your elbows.
For many people, chin-ups are easier to perform than pullups, because they use your larger deltoids, biceps and pecs. To perform chin-ups, grasp an overhead bar with your hands shoulder-width apart and your palms facing you. Bend your elbows and lift your body up until your chin reaches the bar. Raise your knees to your chest at the top of the chin-up to add a core-building variation of this exercise.
Pushups work your upper body, emphasizing different muscles depending on where you place your hands. Beginners can start pushups from a kneeling position. When you have sufficient strength, do pushups from the full plank position -- with your legs straight and your toes on the floor. Start on your hands and toes with your arms straight. Bend your elbows and lower yourself toward the floor until just before your chest touches. Keep your torso straight and avoid sending your buttocks upward for maximum arm, chest and back benefit. To target your chest, keep your arms shoulder-width apart or wider. To target your triceps, bring your hands closer together under your chest.
- American Council on Exercise: Chin-ups
- Stronglifts.com; How to Do Pull-Ups and Chin-Ups With Proper Technique; Mehdi Hadim; October 2007
- “The New York Times”; An Enduring Measure of Fitness: The Simple Push-Up; Tara Parker-Pope; March 2008
- Stronglifts.com; How to Perform Dips With Proper Technique; Mehdi Hadim; October 2007
- Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.