Bodyweight training is making a serious comeback in my own training habits.
It’s easy to forget about how effective bodyweight exercise is.
I’m guilty of it for sure. But I’ve recently returned to what I consider the foundation of all exercise, basic bodyweight training. “Basic” doesn’t mean easy. Single leg squats, single arm push ups, hybrid pulling movements, handstands and crawling variations are some of the most challenging movements in the exercise rolodex. Especially when you hold yourself to strict technique.
Workout equipment is always going to be evolving and innovating, but the idea that you can get a highly effective workout anywhere and anytime is incredibly valuable.
The rules of bodyweight training don’t differ much from more traditional forms of resistance based training. There are advantages/disadvantages and sacrifices to every form of exercise when you think about it, and bodyweight strength and conditioning is no different.
Nearly all of the major movement patterns are present: pulling, pushing, squatting, lunging along with various forms of cardiovascular conditioning such as running, hybrid movements like burpees, mountain climbers, and crawling.
I used the word “nearly” in the previous sentence because there is still no viable way to load the hip hinging pattern using just bodyweight. Deadlifts are still a no go, especially if you are staying minimalist with your definition of bodyweight training.
However, since the rise of glute thrusts and other glute activation drills, strengthening the backside without equipment seems feasible. Progression is the key here, especially since many strong individuals will find that the double leg versions of bodyweight hip bridging and bodyweight hip thrusts just don’t load the backside enough.
Progressing to a single leg version of the hip thrust is the ticket here. Go for increased reps, slow the tempo of movement down or hold the top (lockout) position for time.
Let’s not forget about the vast amount of abdominal focused training that bodyweight exercise has to offer. Plank variations, hollow body rocks, crawling, slow mountain climbers and hanging leg raises are all incredibly challenging exercise when performed with strict technique and adequate time under tension.
Progressing the intensity -and therefore the training effect of bodyweight exercises- can also provide a unique challenge.
Knowing when to increase reps, increase time under tension, increase the intensity and skill challenge of a movement pattern all come into play here.
Single arm push ups are a great example here. The transition from a traditional push up to a single arm push up is drastic when it comes to the increasing demands in stability and loading. There is also a grooving issue early on, where the body simply hasn’t been exposed to what’s required physically to complete a quality rep/set of single arm push ups.
In these situations, I will either break up the movement or add assistance in the form of a resistance band.
Breaking up the exercise into its segments typically involves working the eccentric portion of the exercise first.
So, for the single arm push up, I will focus on the lowering portion (eccentric) exclusively for a few weeks, or until I have developed the control, strength and stability to progress to adding the concentric (ascending back to the top) portion of the exercise. Eccentric training isn’t sexy and even 3-5 seconds of lowering can feel like an eternity, but it’s a gateway method to arrive at the next logical progression of an exercise.
If you have access to a resistance band, you can loop it around your chest and receive assistance during key moments of the lift. For a single arm push up, it can be challenging to push out of the bottom of the exercise, and this is where the band assistance technique works wonders. Since the band will be stretched to the maximum at the bottom of the push up, you’ll receive the most assistance where it’s needed most.
Band assistance is fantastic for working up to chin ups, pulls ups and single leg squats.
If you’re looking for a simple yet effective bodyweight training session, try this one…
10 push ups
10 hollow rocks
—> Repeat for 5 rounds, or work continuously for 10 minutes w/o rest.
10 chin ups
10 lunges (right/left)
10 yards and back crawling
10 burpees every minute on the minute for 10 rounds.
Adjust the progression of each exercise to fit your strength and skill level. Everything can be adapted to your needs.
Leave the workout feeling invigorated and empowered knowing that you can handle your bodyweight…
Cheers to bodyweight training!