I love bodyweight training, and I don’t think it gets the respect it deserves for building muscle, aiding in fat loss, or just allowing you to build a strong, lean, and healthy body.
“You can only do so many push-ups and bodyweight squats.”
I’ve heard that statement along with many others about training solely with your bodyweight. All too often people poo-poo the awesome results they can achieve doing nothing but bodyweight exercises. Even worse, if people can’t get to the gym, they end up doing nothing at all because they don’t think they can lose fat or build muscle with bodyweight exercises. Or, they’re simply unaware of the vast array of bodyweight exercises they can perform – there’s a lot more than plain ole push-ups and squats.
As of late, many of my training sessions have consisted entirely of bodyweight exercises. I like to train outside whenever possible, and I also like giving my spine a break from heavy loading that occurs with squats, deadlifts, and overhead pressing. Bodyweight workouts allow me to accomplish those objectives, and more.
Here’s a total body, bodyweight workout from this past weekend.
My Recent Bodyweight Only Workout
1) “Box” Jumps – 3×3 (I used a table)
2a) Sprint ~50 yards, twice
2c) Inverted Rows
Looks simple, right? Well, I haven’t ran sprints in about a year, so it was a humbling training session. Not to mention, it was over 100 degrees with high humidity. If you asked how long I rested between sets, my answer would be “a heck of a long time” because of the heat and humidity. But, it was a fun workout! I got outside, enjoyed some fresh air and sunshine, and performed a total body workout.
Bodyweight Training Ideas
Get a little creative with your bodyweight training. I mean, you can only do traditional push-ups and bodyweight squats for so long before they become excruciatingly boring and ineffective.
For example, don’t just do traditional push-ups, change them up a bit.
Here are the two variations I did in this weekend’s bodyweight training session:
And those are just two out of dozens of push-up variations, but they were more challenging than conventional push-ups.
I also did two inverted row variations – regular rows and 1.5 rep inverted rows:
To perform the 1.5 rep inverted rows, pull yourself all the way up, lower yourself half way down, pull yourself back up again, and then lower completely. That’s one rep.
What about your lower body?
I started the training session with some “box” jumps, using a local table:
You’ll want to start at a height you know you can handle, and increase it over time.
You can also do single leg box jumps:
One of my all time favorite lower body, bodyweight only exercises is hill sprints. However, there isn’t a good hill nearby, so I opted for flat ground sprints instead. You have to be much more cautious with flat ground sprints, so if you’ve never sprinted before, or you simply want to minimize your risk of injury, stick to hill sprints.
(PS – Did you see the great typo at the end? Whoops! 0_o)
All of the exercises mentioned, and demonstrated, above are just the tip of the iceberg in the world of bodyweight training.
How to Progress with Bodyweight Exercises
If you want to get results with bodyweight exercises, it’s imperative that you do this one thing – progress.
I just told you “the secret”! If you want results, you must progress! What a unique and novel idea!
Okay, sarcasm aside, you must find ways to progress your bodyweight exercises, and some people get lost with how to improve their performance beyond simply performing more reps.
How to Improve Your Performance with Bodyweight Exercises:
1) Perform more reps. This one is common sense, but you can only go so far. Once you’re doing 20+ push-ups, for example, you need to progress in a different way. Exclusively training with high reps isn’t terribly effective for building a stronger, leaner, healthier body.
2) Do a more difficult variation. So you can do traditional push-ups in sets of 20. Awesome. Try doing close grip diamond push-ups, feet elevated push-ups, spiderman push-ups, elevated one arm push-ups, or some other variation that’s more challenging. You can also apply this to rows, chin-ups, pistols, and other bodyweight exercises.
3) Try 1.5 reps. I demonstrated this variation with the inverted rows, and you can use it with most other bodyweight exercises as well. With push-ups, for example, lower yourself all the way down, press up half way, lower all the way back down again, and then press back to the starting position. That’s a single rep.
You can also do this skater squats, pistols, glute bridges, and pull-ups, just to name a few.
4) Change up the tempo. Instead of busting out push-ups, or any other bodyweight exercises, at a quick tempo, slow down the negative portion of each rep and add a pause in the contracted position. Using push-ups as an example, take three seconds to lower yourself all the way down, and then pause for at least one second in the bottom position before pressing back up.
Quick Push-up Challenge
This quick challenge will show you the effectiveness of changing up the tempo of your reps.
First, perform as many traditional push-ups as you can at your normal speed. Once you’re finished, rest about three minutes or so.
Perform another set of push-ups, except this time, take three solid seconds to lower yourself down, and hold the bottom position for two seconds before pressing back up. Do as many as possible. You won’t get near as many as you did with the first set.
Now you’ve experienced how you can make traditional bodyweight exercises more difficult by just changing the tempo. You can do the same thing with all of bodyweight exercises, too. (For example these glute, shoulder, and leg exercises).
From there, you can combine the techniques – perform a more difficult variation and adjust the tempo. The possibilities are truly endless.
Want two awesome bodyweight-only workout programs – Get Strong! and Total Beautiful Badassification – you can do anytime, and anywhere, that include demonstration videos?