In our November 2015 cover story on Liam Hemsworth, the Australian actor told us something that took us by surprise: He rarely, if ever, hits the weights.
Yeah, you read that right. The powerfully built Hunger Games star, who’s set to inherit Will Smith’s alien-slaying mantle in the upcoming Independence Day: Resurgence, says he doesn’t bench press or really even pump iron at all. Instead, Hemsworth says, he focuses on “really high-intensity bodyweight workouts like burpees and pullups and pushups and dips.”
Now, we here at Men’s Fitness are obviously huge fans of bodyweight exercises. And there are plenty of perks: You don’t need any specialized equipment, except maybe a pullup bar. Plus, they’re low-impact, meaning you can work out more frequently than those dudes using heavy weights.
But Hemsworth’s iron-free routine got us thinking: Wouldn’t that get boring? Just how creative can you get with just four basic moves?
The answer: With a few variations on each exercise and some workout structuring, the options are almost limitless. Here are more than a few ways to put a creative spin on each move.
The 100-Pushup Workout: A supreme test of upper-body strength, the 100-pushup milestone takes physical training and more than a little mental fortitude. Here’s a plan to reach (and smash through) the 100-pushup milestone.
The Pushup-Pullup Workout: If you want to forge a big, powerful upper body without any fancy equipment, you really only need these two basic exercises. Take full advantage of these moves with this multi-day pushup-pullup workout.
EMOM: Short for “Every Minute On the Minute,” EMOM is a way organize your workout so that you challenge yourself to perform each set efficiently (making sure you maintain good form, of course). Start each set at the top of every minute, and perform each set as quickly as you can. You can use whatever time you have left in that minute to rest before beginning the next set at the top of the next minute.
“Angie”: One of the six benchmark CrossFit WODs, Angie is brutal (and brilliant) in its simplicity: 100 reps each of pullups, pushups, situps, and squats. (Granted, squats and situps aren’t part of Hemsworth’s routine, but a simple “air squat,” performed without weights, is definitely one of the best bodyweight exercises you can perform.) Here’s how to approach Angie.
The 3-Minute Fit Test: Three minutes, three moves: chinups, pushups, and burpees. Do a minute of each exercise, resting 60 seconds between.
Dip Pushup: Both pushups and dips can utterly blast your triceps and chest—so why not combine them? Here’s a video showing you how to perform the body-carving dip pushup.
Feet-Elevated Pushup: By elevating your feet, you shift your bodyweight further onto your upper body, forcing your shoulders and triceps to handle a greater share of your bodyweight at a different angle.
Close-Grip Pushup: Bringing your hands closer together under your body will challenge your triceps even more than a standard pushup. The toughest version of these is arguably the diamond pushup.
One-Leg Pushup: As you’re in a pushup position, raise one leg behind you. Keep it raised as you perform each rep, then switch and perform another set with your other leg raised.
Medicine Ball Pushup: Get into a pushup position. Put your left hand on the medicine ball and your right hand on the floor. Perform a pushup as usual. At the top of the move, move your right hand on the ball and then put your left hand on the floor. Perform a pushup as usual, and then switch back. For an extra challenge, bring your feet together—it’ll challenge your core to stabilize your body.
One-Arm Pushup: This legendary move isn’t just a feat of strength—it’s a feat of skill. The trick: Spread your feet wide apart, hold your free hand against your lower back, and make sure to fire your core muscles as you perform each rep. Start by doing the pushup on an incline, so more weight is on your feet, until you can do it comfortably.
The Suspended Pushup: An ultra-challenging variation you can do on a suspension trainer like the TRX. Don’t be surprised if you’re shaking after three reps.
Hungry for more? Check out our top 15 pushup variations.
Wide-Grip Pullup: Place your hands far apart on the bar and do the pullups. It’s a seriously lat-blasting way to challenge yourself.
Sternum Chinup: Hang from the chinup bar with hands shoulder-width apart and palms facing you. When you pull yourself up, try touching your sternum to the bar.
Neutral-Grip Chinup: Use a chinup bar with parallel handles (or hook a V-grip bar over a straight chinup bar) to perform neutral-grip chinups. They’re a great variation on the standard palms-away and palms-facing-you options.
The 100-Burpee Workout: In a word: Brutal. Here’s a video of CrossFit competitor Nathan Forster laying out a quick and specific way to tackle this monster fitness feat.
The 3-Minute Burpee Challenge: You’ve got three minutes to do as many burpees as possible. See if you can beat Forster’s record.
Bar Dips: Bar dips are one of the top exercises for guys because they work so many elements of the upper body. Here’s a primer on how to do bar dips.
The Dip Workout Finisher: Wanna seriously bulk up your triceps? Try this dip workout finisher routine that’ll challenge you to perform several dip variations in a few fast sets.