How To Get A Gymnast Body: Look Lean Using Only Bodyweight Exercises

“I wonder how you can get a gymnast’s body?” I remember asking myself that almost every 4 years when the Olympics came on. The body these Olympians carried was different than the typical bodybuilder look you found in magazines.

I was only a kid when I first saw the 1984 Summer games. The Olympics that year happened in Los Angeles and living in the city hosting the games was very exciting. Every night it was awesome seeing a group of athletes, the elite, giving their best effort to win gold. However, as a kid the two groups of athletes I wanted to look like were gymnasts and swimmers.

Why A Gymnast’s Body Is Appealing

When you look at a gymnast one thing that always stands out is how natural their physiques look. The physiques these athletes have achieved, both male and female, is one that is lean, muscular, very defined and have low body fat.

Another factor that sets this body apart is that it is very different from what you see in bodybuilders and gym rats. Gymnasts are not bulky, but rather follow more natural proportions that look attractive. These athletes have muscular definition without looking huge and unnatural. Their bodies are not a far departure from what you see in a model or Hollywood actor or actress. The body type these athletes have can look good in fashionable clothes and in workout gear.

How To Get A Gymnast’s Body

Although you can get a gymnast’s body using any type of strength training such as weights or kettlebells and resistance bands, here we will follow a bodyweight approach, after all gymnasts only use bodyweight exercises, similar to what you see in Jason Ferruggia’s Bodyweight Bodybuilding, to get in shape for competition.

The advantage of using a bodyweight program is that you can do these types of exercises practically anywhere and with little to no cost. If you are at home you can simply put an inexpensive pull up bar and use this for exercises like pull ups and leg raises or you can simply use the horizontal bar of a fence. The rest of the equipment you will need is only your body. Your body literally becomes your gym equipment.

A Bodyweight Routine To Get Lean

In order to get in shape and get that gymnast type body is much easier than you think. For best results I recommend doing strength training type exercises and cardio exercises. Rather than working out 7 days a week, 3 to 5 days a week schedule will work well.

A 4 Days A Week Routine

Day One- Upper Body Emphasis

  • Push Ups (chest and triceps exercise)
  • Pull Ups (back and biceps exercise)- use a palms outward and shoulder width apart grip
  • Close Grip Push Ups (Triangle Push Ups targets the triceps)
  • Chin Ups (targets the biceps)- use a palms inward and shoulder width apart grip
  • Handstand Push Ups (targets the shoulders)- this exercise can be performed against a wall or someone holding you by your ankles. You will be upside down. Proceed to lower your body slowly and press your weight back up. If this is too intimidating or difficult you can place your feet on the seat of a chair and place your upper body at a steep decline as if going down and headfirst. Lower your upper body slowly and press your weight back up.
  • Dips

* Note: You should do from 3 to 4 sets per exercise and 10 to 12 repetitions per set. Rest one minute between sets.

Cardio: do short burst interval training. Do a 30 seconds fast sprint followed by one-minute rest. Repeat this sequence for 10 to 15 minutes and finish with a 15-minute jog.

Day 2- Lower Body and Abs/ Core Emphasis

  • Squats
  • Jump Squats
  • Lunges
  • Standing Calf Raises
  • Planks
  • Hanging Leg Raises or Lying leg raises

Note: You should do 3 to 4 sets per exercise and 10 to 12 repetitions per set. Rest one minute between sets.

Cardio: Do a 15 to 20 minute walk or jog.

Day 3- Rest/ Cardio optional

Day 4- Repeat day 1

Day 5- Repeat day 2

Day 6 &7: Rest

A 3-Day Sequence

Week One
Day One- Upper Body
Day Two- Rest
Day Three- Lower Body
Day Four- Rest/ Do an activity like walking
Day Five- Upper Body
Day Six and 7- Rest

Week 2

The following week switch your upper body days for lower body exercises and your lower body day (day 3) for upper body exercises. Switch back the following week.

Week 3
Switch back to week one.

  • Follow this pattern for a 3-day per week schedule.

Cardio: do burst training interval style cardio on upper body days and walking or jogging on lower body days.

Developing a body that is lean and attractive can be done easily with a structured program. Bodyweight routines, like Jason Ferruggia’s Bodyweight Bodybuilding, are one way that is easy and can be done by anyone anywhere. By combining cardio along with a strength training approach you will see your body look leaner and more defined without looking bulky.

Learning how to get a gymnast’s body is not impossible. Much like a swimmer’s body it is easier to accomplish than the huge bodybuilder look- but then again, not many want to see that.

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Comments

  1. I think a gymnast body is perfect. And I think they only do mostly body weights and not too much heavy weights.
    I love the lifting weights but I always makes sure all the assistant exercises are moving my body thru space like ..chin ups, pull ups, dips, lunges etc
    At moment I give myself monthly challenges this month every night regardless of what I have done during the day I finish with 100 push ups and 100 squats and it just gives the best feeling.
    Raymond

    • Sam Munoz says:

      Raymond,
      Yeah, gymnasts workouts are focused on bodyweight exercises and bodyweight workouts. I have always followed this as a guideline in my workouts, incorporating bodyweight movements even when I am doing a mostly weight training workout day.

      -Sam

  2. Gymnasts do indeed have great bodies, a great example that we don’t have to be obsessed with a life in the weight room. I like the look of the routine too. Nice post.

    Michael

    • Sam Munoz says:

      Michael,
      Thanks and glad you liked the routine I outlined. Getting fit and having a great body can definitely be done with bodyweight and not only with weights.

      -Sam

  3. Sam,

    I’m a big fan of the gymnast look. As you mentioned, they look ripped, but also proportionate. Lately, I’ve been placing more and more emphasis on body weight training. I just got the Shapeshifter body weight program, so I’ll be checking this out as well.

    Alykhan – Fitness Breakout

    • Sam Munoz says:

      Hey Alykhan,
      Glad you got the Shapeshifter program. I have seen some of the videos and there’s a follow up sequence in their Youtube channel with some exercises. It looks interesting effective and fun. I am sure the results will definitely show soon.

      -Sam

  4. There’s a gymnast that regularly comes to the gym that I go to. He always brings his rings and sets them up at the squat rack. It’s incredible to watch some of the things this guy can do and he looks half my size.

    It just shows you how powerful bodyweight training can be.

    • Sam Munoz says:

      Srdjan,
      Gymnasts have strength that is downright incredible. Holding your body up on rings or parallel bars requires so much strength. Bodyweight training is definitely a great way to achieve a great body and unfortunately it is an approach that is often ignored.

      -Sam

  5. The gymnast body is definitely one that any health and fitness enthusiast can appreciate. I think it’s perfect in the way that there is just enough muscle for function and appreciation, but lean enough to actually see what muscle you have built.

    • Sam Munoz says:

      Ahmed,
      It definitely is awesome how gymnasts have lean muscle without compromising performance, function and athleticism.

      -Sam

  6. The gymnast look is definitely a good one. I bought some rings a few months ago and love how challenging they make my bodyweight workout.

    • Sam Munoz says:

      Dave,
      I envy you, having rings will definitely help you do gymnast type workouts. Using these will help you do some new things only few people get a chance to in fitness.

  7. Gymnast have some of the best (looking and functioning) bodies for sure! I like the workout you put together. Four days a week seems like the sweet spot for my training as well.

    • Sam Munoz says:

      Kevin,
      Yeah gymnasts definitely have functional type bodies without a doubt. Four days a week works well for me. I am able to get all the body covered.
      -Sam

  8. Hi Sam

    Looking like a gymnast was a goal I had for many years but sadly never quite got it right. I think it it the muscle density that sets them apart from other physiques coupled with the incredible strength and functionality. Like the workout plan you outlined but I would also add in some suspension training use something like the TRX, I have found this can really take bodyweight training to a new level and offer a lot more variety of movement.

    Cheers

    Howard

    • Sam Munoz says:

      Howard,
      TRX looks cool and definitely something I am looking in to. For anyone who is unable to get rings, TRX makes for a good option. Muscle density is definitely part of the equation in achieving this look, but even without it I know that if anyone does exercises that mimic a gymanst, they will be very pleased with the results.
      -Sam

  9. Hey Sam!

    Wow, what a really great post!
    Awesome info, complete with a really advance workout routine!

    I think if anybody wants to know how to get in shape, they don’t even need to bother buying any program, they just head on over to your Blog!

    High Level stuff man,

    Thanks for the good work,

    Mark

    • Sam Munoz says:

      Mark,
      Thanks for the compliment!
      I am looking forward to putting out more info not only on my blog but also a complete program some time in the future.

      -Sam

  10. I am starting to be a believer in bodyweight circuits. Mostly I’m a “compound exercises structured into supersets and tri-sets” type. Planning on mixing in bodyweight circuits 1 day a week.

    Many thanks.

    • Sam Munoz says:

      Scott,
      Bodyweight circuits are really worth trying. Adding these to a workout often in place of weights is effective in overcoming a plateau and keep a workout exciting.

      -Sam

  11. Hi Sam, great workout routine. I definitely like the more proportioned, natural look versus the bodybuilder type of look.

    I would add training freestyle with the TRX too which mimics some gymnast moves.

    Anna D.

    • Sam Munoz says:

      Anna,
      I agree with you and having a natural look is more appealing.
      TRX is something I am eyeballing and want to start using. Instead of using gymnastics rings, TRX is much like using the equipment of a gymnast.

      -Sam