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How to Maximise Your Bodyweight Workouts

How to Maximise Your Bodyweight Workouts

Bodyweight workouts don’t get the credit they deserve. Many gym-goers don’t realise that by strength training with just your bodyweight, you can benefit from bigger lifts, increased coordination and a greater sense of mental toughness. The trick is to continuously challenge your muscles by:

  • Increasing reps
  • Decreasing your rest periods
  • Performing more difficult variations
  • Increasing your time under tension

If you’re new to bodyweight strength training, there are some key movements to help you get started. These key moves will work your body from top to bottom and they can be performed in different variations so that your muscles are continuously challenged. 

Five Key Bodyweight Moves for Beginners

Move 1. Plank

Begin in a forearm plank position (week 1) with elbows bent and directly beneath your shoulders. Your forearms should be flat on the floor. Contract your midsection to maintain a straight torso and hold for time, remaining conscious not to allow your low-back to sag toward the floor or your hips to move toward the ceiling. 

You can then move into an up-down plank (week 2), starting in a high plank push-up position with arms straight and hands directly under your shoulders. Take it in turns to bend each elbow to lower onto your forearm before returning to the start position. 

As you advance you can move to an up-down plank to push-up, which adds a push up after each up-down plank. 

Move 2. Reverse Lunge

Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Step backwards into a reverse lunge (week 1) and then repeat with the opposite leg. 

Next you can start in a reverse lunge position and then jump up explosively to switch legs mid air. This is called a split squat jump. Keep your landings soft and sink down into a deep lunge.

Once you have this mastered, you can add a 180-degree turn as you jump, fully engaging your lower body and your core. This helps build strength, speed, and increases aerobic fitness and will tone your legs and glutes and boost weight loss.

Move 3. March

A bodyweight march is a staple of any bodyweight routine and it involves you simultaneously driving your knee and opposite arm up so that both are bent at 90 degrees. 

High knees is the stem-on move from a bodyweight march and it simply speeds the move up and pushes you to get your knees as high as possible.

High knee skips can be even more explosive and will have you hopping on one leg while bringing the opposite leg up.  

Move 4. Lateral Lunge

With one foot, take a big step to the side into a lateral lunge. Mobilising and stabilising the body in this way works the quadriceps, the hamstrings, the gluteals, the calves, the transverse abdominis, the multifidus, the obliques, and the erector spinae. It’s a good one!

A variation of the lateral lunge is a curtsy lunge, which will hit those muscles in a different way. If you want to take a curtsy lunge a step further you can add a hold at the end, challenging your core and stability even more.

Move 5. Knee grab

Perform a sit up and bend your knees toward your chest as you do. Grab your knees with your arms at the top of the movement. Slowly lower down and repeat. 

V-Ups are an extension of knee grabs that requires you to lift the weight of both your arms and legs by using your abdominal muscles. You can advance this further by picking up the pace of your V-Ups. 

Advancing your bodyweight routine

As any qualified personal trainer will tell you, there are endless bodyweight variations to learn. Start learning them today

To scale up your bodyweight routine, you simply need to try a new variation, do more circuits, push yourself a little harder, get better, be faster and grow stronger. Keep track of your routine - what you did and how long it took you. Make note of which exercises wore you out and how many reps you did. Then, make sure you do more next time! 

Remember too that you build muscle when you’re resting, not when you’re working out. With this in mind, don’t do a strength training bodyweight workout that focuses on the same muscle group two days in a row. Workouts you can do in rotation include:

Leg day 

Two rounds of:

  • 50 bodyweight squats
  • 25 bodyweight reverse lunges (each side)
  • 50 bodyweight squats (wide stance)
  • 25 bodyweight lateral lunges (each side)
  • 25 jumping jacks
  • 25 glute bridges 

If you still have gas in the tank and have more sweat to break, add a third round. If you need to add in breaks, do so. 

Push day

4 rounds of:

  • 8 push-Ups
  • 20-second plank
  • 8 bodyweight skull crushers 
  • 4 diamond push-ups
  • 8 bodyweight skull crushers
  • 20-second bear crawl static hold
  • 8 push-ups

There is no time limit, so take breaks if you need them. Aim to complete a full round before resting.

Core strength

5 rounds of:

  • 20 V-Ups
  • 15 Tuck Crunches
  • 20 Second Hollow Hold
  • 20 Second Arch Hold

In between rounds you might like to throw in 20 burpees for an extra boost.

Pull day

Four rounds of:

  • 20 reverse snow angels
  • 20 wall slides
  • 15 single-leg bodyweight RDLs (per side)
  • 20 supermans
  • 15 inchworms
  • 10 wall walks

Rest as little as possible between each rep, set, and round, and ensure that each rep is performed as slowly and deliberately as possible. 

Strength and mobility

Three rounds of:

  • 5 world’s greatest stretch (per side)
  • 10 inchworms with pushup
  • 15 beast holds with toe tap (per side)
  • 10 crab reaches (per side)
  • 30-second deep squat
  • 30-second tricep pushup hold (at 90-degrees)

Break your sets into as many chunks as you need to to complete your time with good form.

Cardio endurance

Four rounds of:

  • 15 jumping lunges (per side)
  • 5 clapping pushups 
  • 20 squat jumps
  • 20 plank jacks
  • 20 squat jumps
  • 15 jumping lunges
  • 5 clapping push-ups

Rest for up to two minutes between rounds, decreasing the rest time as you get stronger. 

Benefits of bodyweight training

Bodyweight training is extremely convenient, allowing you to perform effective workouts from the comfort of your home. With bodyweight training there is no hiding behind equipment and being just you and your body it’s easier to see your imbalances and weaknesses. 

Strip your workouts down to just bodyweight and you’ll quickly see how much physical and mental focus you have. If your goal is to build muscle, focus on the explosive movements and accumulating high numbers of reps. Always maintain good form and rest accordingly. 

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