Bodyweight Training Programs


Intelligently designed bodyweight strength and conditioning programs can turn a beginner into an absolute machine with little to no previous workout experience.  The same programs can humble the elite who have a perception that bodyweight exercise has relevance to their situation.

I’ll come clean.  It wasn’t that long ago that I believed bodyweight exercise could have zero impact to my own training.  I’ve been designing my workouts for the last 10+ years or so, and I was completely wrong.  It’s easy to evolve to have tunnel vision with fitness.  You get used to doing things a certain way, and you discard anything that doesn’t parallel “that way”.

It’s why I support all forms of fitness and do my best to avoid being a zealot.

Bodyweight training, similar to more traditional externally loaded resistance training (barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc) is all about leveraging the principles of progression.

If you stay disciplined to practicing the progressions, you’ll make incredible gains in a short amount of time.

From my experience, the most profound improvements can be made by adjusting any one (or several at once) of the following training variables:

  • Time under tension
  • Movement complexity
  • Stable transition to unstable (example: using 1 arm or 1 leg instead of 2 arms or 2 legs)
  • Increase reps, sets, rounds
  • Decrease rest periods
  • Single plane exercises into multi-plane exercises
  • Rotation

Coaches who are designing the best programs know that leveraging continuous exercise progression is the key to getting client’s the results they want.

I say again:  smart progression and the willingness to continue to go outside of your comfort zone is what gets results.

While I feel that my own program design is solid, I do borrow ideas from programs and other coaches.  Borrow and tweak, but always give credit where credit it due.  That’s my philosophy.

So here we go.  Below are some timeless programs, and also some of the hottest bodyweight-only training programs on the market today.

The best part?  Once you have the program you’re good to go… no equipment necessary.

The Naked Warrior (Pavel Psatsouline/DragonDoor paperback)


The Naked Warrior was my first exposure to next level bodyweight strength training.  It changed the way I viewed strength forever.  After adding a healthy dose of pistols, dive-bombers and 1-arm push-up progressions to my training regimen, I had never been stronger.

Pavel Psatsouline is the godfather of modern-day kettlebell training, but he is also an accomplished military and sport performance instructor.  He can be credited for making advanced bodyweight training mainstream and also for sparking the kettlebell revolution in the Western Hemisphere.


TacFit Commando (Scott Sonnon/RMAX)


The design of my personal bodyweight workouts involve a ton of exercise variations cherry-picked from Scott Sonnon’s TacFit Commando training system.

TacFit acknowledges the need for improving ROTATIONAL performance and addresses it with a lot of really unique drills.  Rotation is rarely addressed by the fitness industry and often under-developed in a lot of people.  Building rotational power and the ability to resist rotational forces is important for athletic endeavors and the demands of everyday life.

Improving rotational power can be a game-changer for weekend warriors, particularly those who enjoy playing golf, tennis, hockey or softball.

TacFit training systems are a melting pot of many training methods, which Scott collected and organized into a comprehensive program.

The attention to detail extends beyond smart exercise progression and into tactics for recovering from exertion and joint mobility, which again, is rarely discussed in most training programs.  Doing the work at a high level is one thing, but more important is the ability to recover as quickly as possible from work bout to work bout.

TacFit addresses these lesser known concepts brilliantly.

Scott Sonnon is an accomplished martial arts athlete turned military and sports performance coach.  He specializes in training the tactical sector (firefighters, law enforcement, military special forces, etc).


C-Mass (Paul Wade/DragonDoor e-book)


C-Mass is a bodyweight program for those who are interested in building a physique using nothing but the weight of their body.  The exercise progressions in C-Mass are not for the faint of heart, but anyone who’s pursued building muscle aggressively knows that uncommon result require uncommon efforts.

I highly recommend this book for those interested in taking their training to the next level, all without touching a weight.


Pushing the Limits! (Al Kavadlo/DragonDoor e-book)


Just like Pavel Psatsouline is the godfather of kettelbells, Al Kavadlo can be pegged as the modern-day guru of bodyweight training.

Where Paul Wade’s C-Mass may be more appropriate for the advanced trainee, “Pushing the Limits” is packed full of exercise progressions to serve anyone.  Personally, I’ve beat on Al’s 1-arm push up progressions to improve my pressing strength (and as a byproduct my core stability) well beyond what I thought was possible.

Whether you’re looking for clever bodyweight exercises to add to your current iron regimen or a guide to move you passed road that “The Naked Warrior” paved, this book is for you.


Street Workout (Al Kavadlo and Danny Kavadlo/DragonDoor e-book)


“Street Workout is an incredibly comprehensive collection of calisthenics concepts, exercises and programs.”

I’d consider this an equally comprehensive resource as TacFit, with unique bodyweight variations, tips and pearls for building to the next level.

Al and Danny are world-class calisthenic coaches that share a ton of tips and techniques in this book. You’ll be busy for some time with this one.

No matter…

…what methods you’re currently leveraging for workouts, it is important to know that you always have options.

Bodyweight strength and conditioning is a tool in your training tool bag.  Use it when needed, inject some difficult bodyweight exercises into your workouts, use them as a baseline for improvement.

Where can you progress?  What should you regress and tweak to make the next jump?

Establishing an awareness of training options will keep your workouts fresh while avoiding that common cluelessness that many people have when the training space isn’t big enough, time is limited or equipment isn’t what they are accustomed to.

Bodyweight training is adaptive training, but it is also human performance enhancement training in its rawest form.

Bodyweight training strategies are an ace up your sleeve, always.  Play it whenever you need to, and be confident that the workout is going to be HIGHLY EFFECTIVE.





How to Build Bodyweight Strength: 1-Arm Push Ups and Pistols

Quick Tips

Almost 8 years ago now, I stumbled onto Pavel Psatsouline’s bodyweight strength based book, “The Naked Warrior”.

The Naked Warrior

It was the Summer between my freshman and Sophomore year of college, and I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in strength and conditioning.

I became fascinated with bodyweight training.  One quick Google search led me to Pavel’s book, and I think I read it cover to cover in two days time.

The sad part, I didn’t act on any of his strategies.  It took me a couple of years to finally pick the book back up and re-absorb his methods.  I regret that big time.

Now that I think about it, reading through Pavel’s book was the first time that I was introduced to kettlebells.  They are featured throughout the book as effective loading progressions to make the exercises more difficult.  I didn’t actively pursue kettlebell training for another two years.


Hindsight is always 20/20, right?

The Naked Warrior, provides a much needed look at how to develop raw strength through two simple (but not easy) movements:

  • 1-Arm Push Up
  • Pistol

I can remember reading reviews on the “The Naked Warrior, where customers were angry because the entire Naked Warrior book is based off of only two exercises.  I felt the opposite.  I thought it was extremely refreshing to read a book that was so focused.  One upper body movement and one lower body movement.  Both have tremendous carry-over into the real world and athletics.

Here is a great snapshot of Pavel executing the mother of all upper body pressing exercises, the 1-Arm Push Up…

1-Arm Push Up

1-Arm Push Up

Here is a still shot of the what I believe is one of the greatest lower body movements known to man…

The Naked Warrior Pistol

The Pistol (aka: Single Leg Unsupported Squat)

Both movements require a large muscular contraction, body tension and zen-like focus for completion with great technique.

Pavel’s teachings provide an extremely valuable lesson on methods to build high level strength.

The road to executing these two movements require large amounts of body tension and muscular contraction.  It’s simple and brilliant.

Here I am executing 1-arm pushups and pistols…

Training with 1 leg or arm at a time is a great way to uncover imbalance in strength, stability and mobility.  You might be able to notice, but my left arm is the weaker of the two.

I used to think that drills like the 1-Arm Push Ups and Pistols should be reserved for like circus performers and stuntmen.  Or, maybe they were just something you show off to your friends after a few beers.  But that’s because I didn’t fully understand their value.

Now I understand their value and incorporate these movements into my own training regularly while advocating their use in the training programs of others. Pistols and 1-Arm Push Ups building tremendous strength while teaching the trainee methods that can be used squeeze more out of their training.

Progression is the key here, as it is always the key to success in building a body that is strong, lean and able to move freely.

Not many people can drop down and perform a full bodyweight single limb movement on a whim.  There’s usually a fair amount of ramping up that needs to take place prior.  I understand this completely.  Both of these moves provide amazing bang for you buck, but they are advanced movements.  ADVANCED.

How do you move yourself into the advanced category?  Keep training, that’s how.  Keep working at it daily, weekly, monthly, yearly.

In a future post, I will give you a road map to executing your first 1-Arm Push Up or Pistol.  It’s a lot more simple than you might think.  Successful completion of both requires dedication and consistency.  You just have to keep working at it.

—>  No mention of fitness?  Not even once?

Strong is the New Skinny

You probably noticed that this post never mentioned fitness until right now.  In my opinion, fitness is nothing without the presence of strength.  Strong is the new skinny.  Spend time working hard building up your strength and your body shape will follow suit.

Cheers to harnessing your body to build crazy strength…