How To Use Bodyweight Training And Exercises For Your Goals
Short on time to hit a gym? Need the ability to work out anywhere? Or just unsure how to start? There’s a lot of reasons to use bodyweight training for your fitness goals. Moreover, bodyweight exercises can help build muscle, lose weight, tone up, and strengthen. Basically, you can do it all with zero equipment- if you’re strategic. Learn the best way to achieve your fitness goals using only bodyweight training. Understand how to manipulate your progressions, sets, reps and workouts to your benefit.
While many people believe that there’s “only so much you can do” with bodyweight, I beg to differ. In fact, have you seen the crazy calisthenics videos? Indeed, unless you’re close to that level there’s plenty you can still do!
The biggest problem I see when people train using only their body weight is that most females stick to the three most boring exercises: planks, glute bridges & squats. Though. I have nothing against any of those exercises (I use them too), there are also a lot of other great bodyweight exercises.
In the next six minutes you’re going to learn about:
- the secret of bodyweight training
- specific set and rep schemes to use to achieve your goals
- how to chose the best bodyweight exercises
- how to progress your bodyweight training and make your workouts more challenging
The BIGGEST Part Of Bodyweight Training
In the same way that there are a lot of ways to break down training styles (and this goes for all kinds of training not just bodyweight training), there is one secret that is crucial when using your body against you:
Learn to focus on engagement, activation, and contraction and not just going through the motions.
If you don’t focus on form first and the ability to engage the muscle you should be using, you’ll fail.
That sounds harsh. However, over my ten years as a Certified Strength Coach, it’s true. Thus, can learn more about the importance of the mind-muscle connection here.
Using bodyweight exercises isn’t just about getting through the burpees as fast as you can. It’s so much more than that. Slow it down and begin by learning proper engagement and you’ll be well on your way to smashing goals.
Bodyweight Training For Beginners
If your goal is to get back into the swing of working out then you need to start with the basics. Considering this, choose practical bodyweight exercises (no jumping, no pistol squats etc) and focusing on form first, always.
Begin by using 8-12 repetitions of each exercise (you can go higher for glute work) and 2-3 sets. You can choose bodyweight exercises and make them into a circuit (one right after another). However, I prefer to have my new clients take it a bit slower and opt for 2-3 exercises grouped together to prevent fatigue and form issues.
An example beginner bodyweight workout could look like:
A1. Bodyweight Squats 3×12
A2. Bird Dog 3×8/side
A3. Plank Scapular Pro & retractions 3×8
B1. Bodyweight Romanian Deadlift 3×10
B2. Elevated Push Up 3×8
C1. Glute Bridge 2×15
Perform exercises A1/A2/A3 back to back for the prescribed repetitions. Take a 60 second rest after A3. Then, repeat those exercises for a total of three rounds before moving on to the “B” exercises.
Bodyweight Training For Fat Loss
Many people love working up a good sweat in a short amount of time and these bodyweight workouts do just that! Likewise, these workouts are more fast-paced than when you’re just starting out and *could* include some jumping.
The biggest thing to remember is that your form comes first. If you’re rushing through the workout to keep yourself breathless but getting sloppy in your squats- your workout is ineffective. Form comes first every single time.
These bodyweight workouts tend to be more interval-based (think circuit or HIIT training, EMOM’s etc).
An easy way to create your own bodyweight circuit is to choose 5-6 exercises (a blend of upper body and lower body exercises) and alternate them. Perform them back to back without rest until the end of the set.
While many advertised fat loss workouts do include jumping, it is not only not necessary but also not always a good choice. Furthermore, for moms especially you need to be strong Learn more about why I don’t recommend jumping to everyone before you begin jumping otherwise there can be issues with the knees as well as the pelvic floor.
Think about it: you may get breathless from 3 rounds of 20 burpees or jump squats but that’s nothing compared to the stress you’re placing on your knee joints if your glutes aren’t strong enough to help control the landing (check out my favorite glute exercises to help with this).
Thus, in terms of exercise selection, opt for big muscle group movements and rock them back to back with little rest. when you get comfortable in the exercises, either scale to harder variations or add in jumps if you’re ready.
What The Weight Loss Workout Could Look Like
Your repetitions can range anywhere from 8-20 depending on the exercise and what the workout looks like. Similarly, for some people, it’s easier to time the workouts (30 seconds of each exercise) rather than attach repetitions to it. Below are a few great examples of workouts:
Regardless, before you jump into any kind of “fat loss” workout, you should have a strong base of bodyweight training. In fact, begin with workouts similar to the beginner workouts to ensure your form is sound.
This is the best way to not only scale your workouts but prevent injury as well.
Bodyweight Strength Workouts
As mentioned, bodyweight training can get pretty intense and if you scale it appropriately, you can get INSANELY strong. However, to do this you need to not only be committed but use logical progressions (more on that below).
In a nutshell, bodyweight strength workouts will have a repetition range of 3-7 and the progressions of the bodyweight exercises will become much more challenging.
If you truly want to focus on strength, once your exercises get past the basics (think banded squats and moving on to learning equipment free pistol squats), your sets will consist of only one or maybe two exercises.
This makes it so your body is literally giving all you have to that exercise. Thus, your goal isn’t to get breathless and sweaty. It’s to build the movement, build muscle, strengthen, and tone. This is the biggest progression when it comes to bodyweight training for goals and it’s where you’ll see a lot of results. But you need to work your way up.
For example, when you begin to focus on bodyweight strength training, you should have a good base already. You should be able to perform:
- 20 bodyweight paused squats
- 10 close grip push-ups on the floor
- negative or controlled lowering from a bar
- hollow holds
- single-leg romanian deadlifts
Only when you’ve mastered the basics should you move on to true strength movements.
The Best Bodyweight Exercises For Your Goals
As I mentioned, one of the struggles with bodyweight training is that most people stick to the basics: plank, squat, push up. Great exercises but very limited. Considering this. below is a list of awesome bodyweight exercises that can apply to any goal. However, these bodyweight exercises are just an overview. There are so many options out there. Don’t limit yourself!
Furthermore, I always push clients to choose exercises that target the posterior chain than anything because that’s where your biggest perks (better posture, less pain, strength etc) will come from.
- Paused Squats
- Box Squats
- Bulgarian Split Squats
- Squat Pulses
- Crossack Squats
- Table Top Rocks
- Scapular Pro & retractions
- Plank Variations
- Curtsy lunges
- Deficit lunges
- Controlled eccentric lateral step-ups
- Close-grip push-ups
- Hip thrusts
- Single leg hip thrusts
- Frogg pumps
- Reverse plank
- Side-lying hip raises
- Dolphin push-ups
- Inverted pikes
- Sliding hamstring curls
- Copenhagen planks
Below is an example of combining multiple exercises into one movement to make your workouts a bit more challenging as well as bit faster.
How To Progress Your Bodyweight Training And Make Your Workouts More Challenging
There’s no rule that says you need to move on from a beginner style workout to an interval workout to a strength-based workout. That’s simply my preference. Thus, you can stay in a beginner style workout and still achieve your goals of weight loss or toning your muscles.
Basically, there are lots of ways to make your bodyweight workouts more challenging without adding in interval training.
- Add pauses to your exercises (learn more about paused reps)
- Add more sets
- Slow the exercise down (think taking four full seconds to lower into the bottom position of a squat)
- Make the exercise unilateral (mastered glute bridges? Do them single leg!). Here’s some wicked unilateral exercises.
- Elevate (go from a glute bridge on the floor to a hip thrust, or, elevate your feet in the glute bridge- a bigger range of motion means more of a challenge)
- Add a jump, hop or another type of plyometric
- Combine two exercises to make one
All of these are great ways to make even a beginner style workout more of a challenge. Additionally, when it comes to bodyweight strength workouts, you’ll be using a lot of strategic progressions for the exercises themselves:
- Single leg squats to a marker –> free-standing single-leg squats –> single leg squats for depth
- Push ups –> tricep push up –> staggered push ups –> elevated pushups –> one arm push ups
- Inverted rows –> eccentric chin ups –> chin ups –> pull ups
- Bodyweight good morning –> single-leg Romanian deadlift
- Bodyweight dips – ring dips
- Single leg hip thrusts with pauses
- Single leg L-sit leg raises –>Elevated Lsit
There are a lot of ways to use bodyweight training to your advantage. Not only does it allow you to train anywhere (or on park climbers!) but it also helps develop your mind-muscle connection and improve your ability to contract your muscles on demand.
If you’re looking to get fit, strong, and be able to keep up with your kiddos, check out How To Get Strong At Home – Busy Mom Edition. My 4 month, easy to follow, full-body workouts, perfect for busy moms. This strength training will program take you through basic full-body workouts and slowly builds upon the routines over a sixteen-week period to progressively boost strength. These workouts: The difference between these workouts and other at-home workout routines is that these full-body workouts are progressive. Thus, they build on one another. Every four weeks the workouts change, and the exercises are slightly more advanced than they were before. This is crucial to developing strength. The best way to see results is to have a plan. Likewise, this one is easily set out for you – no thinking required! Because being strong isn’t optional when you’re a mom. Grab your copy of the How To Get Strong AF E-Book (when you click on the button a new window will open that will take you to securely process the payment)
Need A More Structured Approach? Get Strong At Home.. In Just 16 Weeks!
If you’re looking to get fit, strong, and be able to keep up with your kiddos, check out How To Get Strong At Home – Busy Mom Edition. My 4 month, easy to follow, full-body workouts, perfect for busy moms.
This strength training will program take you through basic full-body workouts and slowly builds upon the routines over a sixteen-week period to progressively boost strength.
The difference between these workouts and other at-home workout routines is that these full-body workouts are progressive.
Thus, they build on one another. Every four weeks the workouts change, and the exercises are slightly more advanced than they were before. This is crucial to developing strength.
The best way to see results is to have a plan. Likewise, this one is easily set out for you – no thinking required!
Because being strong isn’t optional when you’re a mom. Grab your copy of the How To Get Strong AF E-Book (when you click on the button a new window will open that will take you to securely process the payment)
Don’t forget to pin how to Maximize Your Bodyweight Training!
There are SO many ways to go about bodyweight training. Likewise, there’s no one perfect system. Find a style of workout you enjoy and progress it from there. And when in doubt, ask for help or suggestions!