Does anyone have any idea of what might be taken to be the bible of bodyweight exercises? Many years ago, Bill Pearl put out a book that pretty much shows you any weight lifting exercise you might want to see, I wonder if there is such a thing as far as bodyweight exercies go.


7 Answers 7


Since you asked for the "bible of bodyweight exercises", check out Mark Lauren's You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises. The book has over 100 bodyweight exercises.


Bodyweight movement variations

Bodyweight movement variations

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  • Could you give the source? Oct 20, 2011 at 13:27
  • I have no idea. I saved it a while ago from a forum post.
    – mike
    Oct 20, 2011 at 17:41
  • @mike Would you like to add a description of the exercises or some more information about how to determine how many reps you should do and/or how often you should perform the exercises? Great images though!
    – Ivo Flipse
    Oct 22, 2011 at 7:00
  • 3
    These are the exercises duplicated from "Convict Conditioning"
    – Dave
    Nov 10, 2011 at 16:47
  • To second @Dave: Those are the exercise progressions from Convict Conditioning.
    – dclements
    Dec 7, 2011 at 8:08

Convict Conditioning by Paul Wade is the best bodyweight progression out there for starting from a normal, or even deconditioned, level and reaching a high level of conditioning. It's a lot like Starting Strength - a limited number of exercises are described, but they are described very well and are the ones you need to do. The progressions are really where this book shines; progressive resistance in bodyweight training is very different than progressive resistance in weights training and you need to understand how it is different in order to effectively employ it.

Two things to keep in mind:

  • The "prison" backstory is laid on pretty thick, and it may be completely fabricated. This doesn't affect the core content at all, just something to keep in mind. I can't read this book without rolling my eyes a lot, but there is GREAT info in there.
  • The book is very anti-weight training. This is common among Dragon Door (the publisher's) titles and is just part of their "differentiation strategy"; pay it no mind. The program can be combined with weight training just fine.

Also, you need to consider stretching. I'd make a new question for stretching since it's a separate but related area, and the books to seek out are completely different.

More advanced than what you are probably looking for right now, but here's another one that hasn't been mentioned yet: "Building The Gymnastic Body" by Charles Somner. One of the best guides to advanced gymnastic training (which is almost all bodyweight based) out there. It is a more advanced book - you need to be able to do moves such as planche pushups before it will be of much use.


Check out "Convict Conditioning" by Paul Wade. Walks you through six master exercises with 10 steps each for complete conditioning. The book goes in depth into the "why" as well as the "how" of body weight exercises and I am sold.

What I like about the book is a progressive approach to building conditioning. Starting with push-ups against the wall all the way through to incline push-ups up to one-handed push-ups. This way you can progress all the way from beginner to a master level without having to switch to weights/equipment at any stage. Paul does use props like a basketball, pull-up bar etc when needed, but no equipment and no weights.


If you've read Pavel's book, you might also be interested in books by Ross Enamait. He has a somewhat similar writing style and mentality; he also focuses a lot on conditioning (which goes hand-in-hand with bodyweight exercises). I've read two of his books, but he has at least one more, Infinite Intensity, which apparently has stuff on free weights too.

  • The Underground Guide To Warrior Fitness. He talks a bit about his exercise philosophy and stuff that you probably know about but then he starts listing all sorts of exercises for all body parts. There are also chapters on conditioning (good one!) and nutrition. Finally, he offers a few sample routines, though most focus on conditioning and/or are incomplete. I didn't count but I'm guessing there's at least 50 exercises there (not counting obvious variations).

  • Never Gymless seems to be a update of the previous book; it came out 3 years later and focuses mostly on the same stuff. Generally, it has a more "mature" writing style and less philosophy, though the content is similar. Fewer exercises are listed but they are explained better. Also, some of the exercises listed are no longer boddyweight but rely on some "low-tech" equipment. It also offers a chapter on conditioning (though there's a bit less focus this time) and nutrition. There's also a chapter on "Program Design" with a bunch of sample routines.

I'm not sure which of the books is better. I think I managed to grab more useful information from the first, but the second is better written and should probably be your first choice. Now, neither of the two is an "exercise bible", but they do provide more than enough information to train yourself without weights.

  • Thanks. I've been on Ross' site a few times. That guy is hardcore.
    – Dave
    Sep 7, 2011 at 21:36
  • @Dave Yeah.
    – VPeric
    Sep 7, 2011 at 23:04

In addition to the above information, I would recommend resistance bands. You can get those for a good price and they increase the variations you can do with body weight exercises. As a bonus, they are light enough that you can take 1 or 2 of them if you travel.


The best bodyweight book I've read is Convict Conditioning by Paul Wade, this is the book that got me into calisthenics in the first place. I can also recommend all of Al Kavadlo's books as well as the Naked Warrior by Pavel Tsatsouline. The PCC blog has some excellent tutorials.

Check out my own website Maximum Potential Calisthenics which features a number of tutorials including a beginners guide.

  • 2
    This would be a better answer if an overview of your recommended routines were given. The links to the books and to your website can be given as a follow-up for more detail, but should not "linkwall" the actual answer.
    – G__
    Oct 17, 2014 at 17:52

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