How To Build Your Own Bodyweight Workout

Group exercise leader Gitanjali Borkar starts an incline pushup. Photography and gifs by Angie Hilsman

With cold weather, holiday meals, and nonstop traveling threatening your summer bod, it might be time to rethink your workout routine. Bodyweight training uses only the weight of your body—no machines, weights, or tools—to tone and strengthen. “It’s something anyone can do with a little bit of time and a little bit of space,” says local group exercise leader Gitanjali Borkar.

Although having led group exercise for 12 years, Borkar only recently got into bodyweight training and began hosting her own free bodyweight training classes. “It’s kind of my rebellion against these excessive, trendy workouts,” she says. “If there’s a ledge or a textbook or steps, use them.”

Here are her tips for building your own bodyweight workout.


Each workout is going to include a two- to five-minute warmup, cardio, lower body, upper body, core, and a three- to five-minute cool down. Complete a 30-minute workout at least three times a week, recommends Borkar.

1. Warmup: The goal of a warmup is to get your blood moving. Try including shoulder rolls, head rolls, torso twists, wrist turns, runner’s lunges, quad stretches, arm stretches, and jumping jacks or a slow shuffle.

Torso twists.

2. Workout: For each focus, try pairing two movements together (see below for examples). Do each repetition either 30 times or for 30 seconds. Repeat the combo two more times for a total of three sets, then move onto the next pairing. Limit breaks to no more than 30 seconds.

a. Cardio: 30 seconds of jumping jacks; 30 seconds of high knees. 3 sets.

Cardio sample.

b. Lower Body: 30 seconds of squats; 30 seconds of alternating lunges. 3 sets.

Lower body sample.

c. Upper Body: 30 seconds of incline pushups; 30 seconds of tricep dips. 3 sets. Note Borkar’s posture in these exercises: “Shoulders back, spine long, chin up. Clean lines; nothing that’s twisty.”

Upper body sample.

d. Core: 30 seconds of Russian twists; 30 seconds of bicycles. 3 sets.

Core sample.

3. Cool Down: Start with slow shuffling to bring down the heart rate, then repeat the warmup exercises more slowly, putting an emphasis on slow, drawn-out breaths. Don’t neglect stretching; it prevents injury.

Open up the side body with an overhead stretch.

Get started making your own, or try Borkar’s sample workout below.

Sample Bodyweight Training Moves

Gitanjali Borkar has led group exercise in DC since 2012. Get more of her fitness tips on her website