This is the best bodyweight workout to do if you've only got 15 minutes, according to a trainer

Ready to tone your muscles and build strength?

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Searching the web for a bodyweight workout? There's a common misconception that sweat sessions that don't use machines or weights aren't as effective, but that's not true.

Whether it's a full body workout, a bodyweight leg workout, or a combination of the best bodyweight upper body exercises, there are a whole heap of simple yet effective workouts you can do using only your own muscles.

As Anna Victoria, certified trainer (NASM) and creator of the Fit Body App, explains, they can be just as effective as running, weight training, and reformer Pilates for burning calories, strengthening your muscles, and increasing your overall cardiovascular fitness.

Why? Because as this 2018 study published in Exp Gerontol found, bodyweight sweat sessions increase muscle strength, lower inflammatory markers, improve metabolic health, and boost overall physical performance in a similar way. 

Keen to try one yourself? Here, the pro shares her go-to bodyweight session, a high-intensity interval training circuit designed to get your heart rate up, your blood pumping, and your endorphins flowing. Don't miss our guides to the best bodyweight exercises to supplement your session, while you're here.

What is a bodyweight workout? 

In its simplest sense, a workout where you only use your body - no equipment. "It's a workout using no outside resistance, just the weight and resistance of your body," explains the trainer.

Do note here: you can still use a platform, step, or resistance bands in a bodyweight workout, but items like dumbbells or barbells would make it more strength-training based.

There are many different types of bodyweight workouts you can do - from core exercises, to yoga poses, to Barre exercises, to HIIT, like the workout below.

Not sure if HIIT is for you? Know that it won't be for everyone, and the key to hitting your workout goals is finding a workout that works for you. (Plus, if you'd prefer lower impact, do opt for the variations - you're still getting in a great sweat session).

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Bodyweight workout: Try this sweat session tonight to tone and build muscle

Prefer a session that works your upper body only? Check out our guide to the best bodyweight exercises for upper body and give them a go.

Length: 15 minutes

Rounds: Do each move for 60 seconds, and each of the two circuits two times in total.

Equipment: None needed.

Circuit one

1. Squats 

2. Single leg glute bridge 

3. Lunges

4. Squat Jumps

Alternation: Squat tippy-toe raises.

Rest for 30 seconds then repeat this circuit once more. 

Circuit two

1. Push-Ups

Alternation: Knee or incline.

2. Commandos

Alternation: Incline or regular.

3. Mountain Climbers

4. Burpees

Alternation: High plank stands.

Rest for 30 seconds then repeat this circuit once more. 

Liked this bodyweight workout? Try this bodyweight full body workout from trainer Kayla Itsines next time. It's a similar length - only 14 minutes long - and doesn't require any equipment, either.

Pros of a bodyweight workout

So, why a bodyweight workout? First things first - it's totally free and you can do it anywhere. From your living room, on the beach on holiday, in the park - the world really is your oyster.

Plus, with HIIT-specific bodyweight workouts, you get quite a lot of bang for your buck, meaning you can get your heart rate up and your body working in a short space of time.

"Bodyweight workouts are hard," explains Victoria. "Most might think they’d be easier than weighted workouts, but since you have to get a bit creative with bodyweight workouts, that typically means challenging your body in non-traditional ways, oftentimes under tension, isometric holds, or adding a plyometric component," she shares.

Cons of a bodyweight workout

While you can get a good sweat session purely using your body weight, the trainer maintains that it’s difficult to apply progressive overload over a long period of time, which is what you need to improve, rather than maintain, your fitness.

You'd need to do a weighted workout - like this lower body workout with dumbbells or glute workout - to achieve that, and gradually increase how much you're lifting week-on-week.

Keen to try the Fit Body App yourself? Use the code MCFITBODY to try the first month for just £0.75.

Ally Head
Senior Health, Sustainability and Relationships Editor

Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and is a stickler for a strong stat, too, seeing over nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.