Getting fit isn’t always as easy as magazines and websites would have us believe.

They all seem to assume that we have infinite access to barbells, dumbbells, squat racks, benches, ropes, tyres, bands and a dozen other pieces of training equipment. 

Problem is we often don’t have any of that stuff, sometimes all we have is some space, motivation, and our own body. This is precisely where bodyweight training comes in! This article will look at what bodyweight training involves, who it works for as well the benefits it gives. And if that wasn’t enough we’ll also be giving you a full routine that you can use to get started today. So read on and discover exactly why you’ll never need to miss a workout again.

What actually is a bodyweight workout?

There seems to be some confusion when it comes to bodyweight workouts, largely due to certain internet ‘experts’ claiming that only certain things count as bodyweight workouts. Well here’s the truth, a bodyweight workout is exactly what the name implies, a workout that uses your own bodyweight as a resistance rather than a machine or free weight. That’s it. There are no secret exercises, just a basic understanding of human anatomy and physics.

Advantages and disadvantages of a bodyweight workout

The most obvious advantage of a bodyweight workout is that you won’t need any fancy gear, equipment or gym memberships. This means that you can save a tonne of money. You’ll also have loads more flexibility in regards to where and when you train. Plus if that wasn’t enough, you’ll also never have to queue for a piece of equipment, meaning no more standing around wasting your valuable workout time!

You’ll also be able train outdoors, giving you access to the fresh air and sunlight, both of which will improve your mood and give a good dose of the often neglected vitamin D.

As with anything there are some downsides. Firstly, you’ll have to be a little more inventive when it comes to exercises if you want to get a true full body workout. But to be fair this is nothing that thirty minutes of research can’t overcome! There’s also geographic location to consider. Whilst you might be able to head outdoors and enjoy beautiful weather if you live in Florida, you might struggle a bit more if you’re up in Alaska or if you live across the pond; again though this obstacle can be overcome simply by being prepared to workout indoors a few more times a year.

All in all, bodyweight workouts offer a time efficient, value for money option with enough advantages to make it worth your while. Read on to find out a bit more about exactly who bodyweight workouts are best suited to.

Who are bodyweight workouts ideally suited to?

This is where most people get it all wrong! You may be tempted to say that bodyweight workouts are only for beginners, or only for people short on time that need quick, effective workouts. Well to be honest bodyweight workouts are good for both of these groups of people, but they’re also good for pretty much everyone else too!

Check out these pictures below, would you tell either of them that bodyweight workouts are only for beginners?

And if you still don’t believe me, check out this video of Frank Medrano. I’m promising you now you won’t believe just how much you can do with your own bodyweight until you’ve seen this video!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvJHw64fxgQ

Bodyweight workouts can be as easy or as hard as you want them to be. And they can take as little or as much time as you want them too. Don’t get bogged down thinking that they’re only for certain people.

There are some limitations of course. If you’re a Powerlifter or an Olympic lifter that wants to compete then you’re obviously going to need access to a barbell. Similarly if you’re a high level bodybuilder looking to compete then you may need access to certain weights or machines to work on ‘lagging’ body parts. Overall, though, you can achieve a pretty amazing lean and ripped physique using bodyweight workouts.

Is anyone famous using bodyweight workouts?

Well let’s start with the sportsmen and women shall we? In the 2012 Olympics the US Women’s team dominated, earning them the nickname the ‘fierce five’. Let’s not forget that their training was almost completely bodyweight based!

Also, how about John Carroll Grimek, one of the greatest and most successful weightlifters and bodybuilders of the 20th century. The Mr. USA winner and 1936 Olympic Champion had one of the most varied training systems going. And frequently trained used gymnastics, handstands, acrobatics as well other forms of bodyweight exercises to compliment his routine.

Then let’s not forget that NFL athletes and Rugby players use bodyweight based exercises constantly as part of their general conditioning and ground contact preparation drills. (You didn’t think they take those slams without preparing their bodies for contact did you?)

Ok, sounds good, but what are the Health benefits?

The advantages of a good bodyweight workout are much the same as a good machine or free-weights workout. You will be stimulating your muscles to adapt and forcing changes in muscle fibres. You will be burning calories and working towards fat loss. And depending on how you organise your exercises and rest times you might also be getting a good cardio session too.

As a result of all this you’ll be strengthening your heart and lungs, which will be improving lung capacity and oxygen circulation. You’ll have more energy, feel better, and save yourself an absolute fortune in healthcare. Now that’s what I call a win!

Different styles of body weight workouts

As you’ve probably guessed, there are a variety of styles of bodyweight workout. For starters, there’s the commonly used circuit format, i.e. multiple bodyweight exercises performed back to back with little or no rest. This format gives a good balance between developing strength and fitness. Alternatively you could use a station format, i.e. sticking to one bodyweight exercise for a given number of sets and reps. This prioritises strength development.

Typically the circuit format will be used in group classes and boot camps, so if you’re looking to get involved in group exercise then this is what you’d likely be doing. This style of bodyweight workout is particularly good for motivation and camaraderie.

More advanced bodyweight workouts include gymnastics and gymnastic variants. These usually put together multiple movements or multiple positions with varying degrees of difficulty. This kind of bodyweight training puts an even greater emphasis on muscular strength, alongside an increased emphasis on technique. If you’re going to try out this kind of training its best to start as part of a club with good coaches and plenty of safety gear!

For the more adventurous of you, there’s also ‘animal flow’ workouts. These are bodyweight training sessions based on primal movements in multiple different planes. In essence, you’ll be moving like an animal to develop strength, fitness and mobility! Check out the link below for more details:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLYZ-3beDeI

So where do I start?

Since there’s so much to choose from it can be pretty difficult to know where to start. Luckily I’ve provided a trio of sample workouts at three different levels of ability. They’re both arranged in the circuit format mentioned above, so you’ll be getting a good mixture of strength and fitness development.  Plus every workout only has 5 moves so they’re easy enough to follow. If you’re not sure which programme to start on I’d recommend starting on the beginner routine and moving up after six weeks if you want to. As a ward of warning, it’s not uncommon for people with a good history of strength training to find some of the movements hard. Don’t think that just because these are bodyweight routines you won’t feel the burn!

Beginner’s 6 week bodyweight routine

30 seconds per exercise, with 15 seconds rest between exercises

You will do 3 rounds (off all 5 exercises) with 2 minutes rest between those rounds

Try to perform more repetitions in 30 seconds every single week

 

Monday                         

Squats

Press-ups (can be on knees if needed to begin with)

Low bar rows (can use an indoor table or chair)

Plank

Russian Twists

 

 

Wednesday                  

Lunges

Shoulder press-up

Tricep dips

Glute/Ham Thrusts

Mountain Climbers

 

Friday                            

Single leg deadlift (unilateral stability)

Bear Crawl

Squats

Burpees

Side Plank (Left & Right Sides)

 

Intermediate Bodyweight routine

*Only move up to this routine when you comfortably complete the beginner workouts. For me this means being able to perform at least 15 reps of every exercise with good form within the 30 seconds.

30 seconds per exercise, with 15 seconds rest between exercises

You will do 3 rounds (off all 5 exercises) with 2 minutes rest between those rounds

    

Monday                         

Jumping Squats

Staggered press-ups

Pull-ups (If you can’t find a high bar then try ‘one arm Low-bar pull ups’)

*Hint: You can use a table or chairs for this one

Plank with one arm and one leg off the ground

Russian Twists whilst fluttering legs

 

 

Wednesday                  

Reverse Lunges

Judo Press-ups (also known as Dive Bombers and Hindu Press Ups)

Tricep dips

Single leg Glute/ham Thrusts

Mountain Climbers

 

Friday                             

Single leg deadlift (unilateral stability)

Reverse Bear Crawl

Squat hold (at 90 degree position or just below)

Burpees

Side Plank with top leg raised (Left & Right Sides)

 

Advanced Bodyweight Routine

*These workouts are so tough there should be a health warning attached! Don’t even think about attempting them unless you’ve completed a few weeks of the intermediate routine and it’s starting to feel easy!

30 seconds per exercise, with 15 seconds rest between exercises

You will do 3 rounds (off all 5 exercises) with 2 minutes rest between those rounds

This IS going to hurt, just don’t say I didn’t warn you!

 

Monday                         

Tuck Jumps

Clapping Press-ups

One arm ‘negative’ pull-ups (holding as long as possible on way down)

Inchworms

Russian Twists whilst fluttering legs

 

 

Wednesday                  

Multi-directional Lunges (Forward, side, reverse on right then same on left)

Handstand press-ups (Can use a wall for balance)

Tricep dips

Single leg Glute/ham Thrusts

Squat Thrusts

 

Friday                             

Single leg deadlift (unilateral stability)

Reverse Bear Crawl

Single leg squats (also known as pistol squats)

Burpees with tuck jump

Side Plank with top leg raised (Left & Right Sides)

 

Let’s wrap this up

If you’ve stuck around ‘til the end then now you know a good deal more about bodyweight exercises. You know who uses them, why they use them and the advantages of following a bodyweight training routine. Now all that’s left is for you to choose one of the three routines I’ve provided and get to work. Go get fitter and stronger using bodyweight training. And no more excuses, remember that with bodyweight training, you are your next workout!

Good Luck.

And don’t forget to let us know how you get on. If you’ve got any tips or advice on bodyweight exercise help out by posting them in the comments section!