I get a lot of questions from people asking me about their bodyweight workouts. There is one common thing I’ve noticed: poor exercise selection.
So, lets improve this problem by approaching it step by step:
Step Number One: Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail
Lets start with a hypothetical context. Suppose your workout looks something like this:
- Pushups, 20 reps
- Hindu Pushups, 20 reps
- Feet Elevated Pushups, 20 reps
- Chinups, 10 reps
- Bodyweight Squats, 20 reps
- Lunges, 10 reps each leg
- Wide Grip Pushups 20 reps
- Chair Dips 10 reps
I kind of just made that up now. I would never perform such an imbalanced workout, but unfortunately this is the kind of stuff I see coming in through my inbox.
Now don’t feel embarrassed if your workout does look something like this. This is a typical newbie mistake, which I’ve made as well. In fact, you’re probably doing more than most people, so you’re on the right track.At least you’re working out.
However, what this looks like is someone walking into their home gym and just doing whatever comes to their mind. Of course, what comes to there mind is what they like doing.
And then all of a sudden they remember they should do pullups and squats, so they throw them in there.
So here’s the first rule: plan ahead. Choose your exercises before you workout, not during your workout.
Step Number Two: Use the Basics to Keep everything Balanced
The basics are pushups, pullups, and bodyweight squats. How many of each can you do without stopping? within a minute? within 30 seconds? Use any test you want, but make sure you know exactly what your strengths and weaknesses are.
Most people are superstars with pushups, but suck at pullups. Naturally, you need to do more pullups. Now, the question is, if you’re getting strong with pushups, should you place your pushup workouts in maintenance phase – i.e. don’t try any new challenging exercises unless you get your pullup numbers up?
That depends on how bad your pullups are. For example, if you can do 20 pushups but can’t do a single pullup, then yeah – you’d better work on those pullups for a couple of months before you start experimenting with hindu pushups and other variations.
However, if you can do 20 pushups easily, and want to get your pullups up to 20, then it’s kind of pointless to keep doing 20 pushups just to maintain your strength while you work on your pullups.
Your bodyweight squats will almost always be stronger than your pushups, which will always be stronger than your pullups. Just the way our body works.
Step Number Three: Research new Variations
Now that you’ve made sure that you have some basic strength, you’re ready to really start experimenting with new exercises. My free manual has variations and even provides you with some basic intense starter workouts.
However, if these exercises are too easy for you, then it’s time to research. There are lots of great free resources out there, including YouTube. Check out CraigBallantyne’s YouTube Channel.
Other great bodyweight training YouTube Channels Include:
- Arnel’s Bodyweight Workouts
- Bodyweight Culture
In addition to these free resources, you should check out the following eBooks for some really great unique exercises:
- Animal Kingdom Workouts
- Bodyweight Exercise Revolution
- Workout Without Weights
Step Number Four: Use Variations to Target Weaknesses
Everyone has weaknesses. Or maybe you don’t have a weakness, but just have a challenge that you’d like to accomplish. A common challenge is to perform 50 burpees as fast as possible.
You may use the new variations you’ve learned to make your burpees faster. Maybe there’s something you can do to improve the squat portion of the burpee
Or, maybe you can do something about the transition between your squat jump and the pushups. Ask yourself these questions. Tape yourself attempting the challenge and be your own coach.
Point out areas you can improve upon, and go out and seek the answer. If you need specific help, then just shoot me an email at email@example.com
Step Number Five: Create a Favorites List
Ok, now here’s something very interesting I’ve been doing recently. I have a handful of exercises that are my favorites. I have one online personal training client (first time I’m mentioning him on this blog). He sent me a list of exercises that he said he felt like if he did not perform these exercises, his workouts would not be complete.
We all have these favorite exercises that we love so much and just want to do every day and all the time. That’s great! I think these exercises should not be neglected – especially if they keep you motivated.
For me, these movements seem to be ballistic in nature such as burpees, kettlebell snatches, and double unders (jump roping). You may like isometric movements, or yogic postures. It’s completely up to you.
I don’t agree with the notion that if you are too good at a movement you should get rid of it. I think you can keep your strengths while working on your weaknesses at the same time.
By the way, if you’re interested in my online personal training services, just shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Step Number Six: Keep the End in Mind
The “END” is that one true goal you really want to go after. For me it’s all about maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Let me close this post with this little thought:
One time, I was carrying some groceries up the stairs. I turned around to notice what a difficult time my grandmother was having walking up the steps.
My grandfather, though just as old as my grandmother, did not have any trouble walking up the steps. In fact, he walks faster than I do. Here you have two contrasting pictures of health.
Both of them take medications. But my grandfather takes only 3-5 medications, while my grandmother takes at least 13. And yet, she doesn’t listen to anyone when we tell her she needs to change her activity and eating habits. She’s set in her ways.
So even though I’m only 22 (turning 23 in about two weeks), I want be more like my grandfather than my grandmother. By the way, I found out a few years ago that my grandfather does workout, but just not at a high intensity. He does these basic mobility drills. Not sure where he learned them, but it keeps him in shape without breaking out a sweat.
Maybe I should ask him what he does.
If you’re ready to incorporate bodyweight training as part of your fitness plan, then you should check out Bodyweight Exercise Revolution. Coach’s Adam Steer and Ryan Murdock show you how to use unique bodyweight movements to lose fat, build muscle, increase strength, improve athletic fitness, and enhance longevity.
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