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Bodyweight exercises remain unknown to many people, because most of these exercises are seen to be limited to either push ups, crunches, or pull ups. The reality is, however, that this is not true. Yup young padawan, bodyweight exercises are definitely more than just these!
What are bodyweight exercises?
Well, as you may have guessed, “bodyweight” implies resistance movements using your own body weight. These are exercises you can practice pretty much whenever and wherever you want, because most of them do not require any specific equipment. You can create a routine from these polyarticular movements.
Are there benefits?
- A proper bodyweight routine will give you a harmonious shape, because these kind of exercises often engage many muscles at once.
- This kind of training will greatly increase your athletic abilities, something I personally define as a mix between strength and endurance. You will also boost your recovering speed.
- You will become more flexible! Because these movements are not assisted, you will end up working your flexibility in order to properly execute them.
- You will improve your posture, and you could even gain a couple of inches! This happened to me- My back used to be slightly bent, but thanks to these exercises it straightened out and I gained roughly 5 centimeters.
- You will feel good about yourself. This style of training helps make you more aware of your body, you will soon start to feel more “connected”. 🙂
- You will become stronger, harder, more confident…(but non-bodyweight routines have the same effect for sure!)
What are the drawbacks, if any?
Well, there are a few, at least in my opinion. If you train regularly and seriously, your strength will develop quickly- your own body weight will soon become the limiting factor, especially if you want to gain some volume. Why?
After a certain time of practice; most of these bodyweight exercises will be more endurance efforts rather than resistance efforts. This is the case when you perform 30 to 50 push ups or 40 to 50 pull ups. And trust me, these number can be easily attained.
During resistance training, glycogen stores are often not fully depleted. In order to sustain this kind of effort, T2 Fibers (white fibers) are used; we call them “fast twitching fibers” because they contract easily.
For low-intensity resistance training, T1 Fibers (red fibers) are used, also known as “slow twitching fibers”. Slow twitching fibers have a poor hypertrophic potential.
Through practice, you’ll become stronger, more athletic, leaner… but maybe not as big as if you followed a proper routine at a gym. For many people (including myself), the solution is simply to add extra weight while performing these exercises, or go to the gym if you want to increase your gains. Weights or a weighted vest could be interesting assets if you want to sustain your progression.
Of course, you won’t really gain anything if you are not eating enough – no matter which kind of routing you are following. The first year, you *might* gain some muscle (the newbie gains), but in general muscles do not grow following a hypocaloric diet (you can read more in my article about gaining lean mass) .
Women, men – any differences?
Nope! Well, a bit… bodyweight exercises often solicit the abdominals, and more particularly the perineum. By increasing the pressure in this area, you might push down the inner organs. Against this pression, the perineum can become looser. Women who decide to train with bodyweight exercises should pay a great deal of attention to the following:
- “Lock” your perineum while you are doing these exercises. By doing so, the applied strength will be moved upwards, which will decrease the pressure.
- Do not inflate your belly while doing the exercises: instead, your belly should be “sucked” in.
- Do not block your breath; gently exhale through your mouth during the effort and inhale during the second part of the movement.
- Do not bring your shoulder close to your pelvis, even if you are helped by your arms.
- Avoid the standard push up, which not only shortens the “rectus abdominis”, but also pushes out your belly rather than pushing it in.
Ideally, make sure to be in a stretching position, which will allow your diaphragm to move upwards (inside the thoracic cavity) and your perineum to be free from added pressure.
For all the exercises I will present, there are no contraindications. Quite the opposite in fact! Bodyweight exercises are a great way for women to start a strength training routine, especially if they hate the gym 🙂
How long before I see results?
If you are a beginner, results come fast. In fact, after a couple of weeks you will feel a difference, and you will be transformed during the first few months! Bodyweight exercise are really efficient, especially if you follow the Athlete’s Diet.
Discover our selection of 20 bodyweight exercises – everything you need to setup an adequate routine and muscle your entire body!
1- Push ups – beginner.
This exercise is paramount in getting to know your body. The first push up will trigger your strength. Even if the first ones are the hardest, you will be unstoppable 🙂
I always advise to directly start with the full movement rather than having your knees on the floor, which makes it easier to psychologically limit yourself.
For this exercise, make sure to have proper form: your glutes should not be higher than your shoulders, your back should be straight, and your palms should be placed just under your shoulders. Form is crucial, especially because you will perform many variations of this movement.
2- Hand walking – beginner.
Here, you will attempt to move your body using your hands. Even if you need to find your balance before your strength, you won’t have any issue in order to perform this exercise!
3- Glute Ham Raise – beginner.
This is a great exercise to muscle your hamstrings, your gluteus maximus and your triceps brachii.
4- Side plank – beginner.
This is one of the rare exercises that really work your obliques. Try to stay still for a couple of minutes. This exercise might be easy for people that already have well developed obliques:
5- L Sit – beginner/ intermediary.
This is a great exercise to develop your strength, especially in the arms. The key here is to control the main movement, using your abs:
6- Rings – intermediary.
Great movement to strengthen your abs and get shoulders of steel. You will develop your strength in no time!
7- Ring dips – intermediary
Hell of a movement to get super triceps. This variation “dips” variation (read more about this exercise here) requires great balance and a flawless control of your strength
8- Inverted shrugs – intermediary
Hang yourself and try to go up, only using your traps:
9- Pull ups/ Chin ups – intermediary.
This is THE movement for a warrior physique and a super back. By only using your arms (and your back) you will try to get your chin over the bar:
10 – Rope pull up – intermediary.
This exercise will help you quickly develop your strength, especially in your triceps and back!
11- Assisted squats – intermediary.
This variation is easier than the “pistol squat”; and a great exercise for your quads:
12- Skater squat – intermediary.
This exercise is a good way to prepare yourself for pistol squats. Your leg has to go back, and will be used as a lever:
13- “Single Leg Hip Thrust – intermediary.
Looking for kick-ass glutes? Look no more. You could add some weights if you want to increase the difficulty of the exercise:
14 – Hanging leg raises – intermediary.
Fantastic exercise for abs of steel. This exercise not only requires a good amount of strength in your arms, but also a good mastering of your body.
15- Dive Bomber push ups – intermediary.
My favorite bodyweight exercise. This is a dynamic movement that uses your entire body. For this exercise you have to dive forward, bringing your chest close to the floor, then go up and back.
Even if this movement is quite difficult at first, once you start to master it, you’ll develop your strength quite quickly.
16- Pistol squats – advanced.
This is a super movement to develop huge quads. Try to go down, and back up, only using the strength of your legs. Balance and awesome legs anyone?
17- Front lever – advanced.
One of the best to activate and develop both your back and your abdominals!
Make sure to have your body parallel to the floor:
18- Rope – advanced.
Nothing better to get a rock-hard body. The goal here is simply to climb a rope, using your hands:
19- Muscle up – advanced.
A muscle up is advanced variation of the pull up, because you will need an extra movement in order to get over the bar.
20 -Handstand pushup, or vertical push-ups – advanced.
Shoulders, abs, triceps, balance…nothing is left out during this great exercise!
Well, there you have it: you have everything you need here. It’s up to you now to set up your own bodyweight routine. If some exercises are too easy, feel free to add extra weight.
Looking for some help to set up your routine? Feel free to contact us or leave us a comment!
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