The Intelligent & Relentless Pursuit of Muscle™

The Importance of Bodyweight Training
A Different Kind of Balance


In my last article, I wrote about being balanced in all your lifts. Now, I'd like to take a step back and conquer a bigger topic — the need for balance between bodyweight movements and weighted movements.

In this definition of balance, I'm referring to a 1:1 ratio between the major movements. This means that if you do the bench press, you should also do push-ups. If you do seated rows, you should also do inverted rows. A lot of us know this, but do you do it? And if you do, is it with equal effort?

Push up

Bless her 'lil tanned tummy, she's trying her best.

It seems that lately, people have been arguing over which type of training is better or more effective, weight training or using just bodyweight. But there shouldn't actually be an argument over which one you should do. Eliminate that thinking right now and do them both, period! They both offer unique benefits, so stop limiting yourself to just one style.


But I Thought I Outgrew Those?

The truth is, most of us started out with bodyweight training when we were younger. As we improved, we naturally evolved to weight training for more of a challenge. At the time, weight training offered you a greater stimulus, and therefore a greater payoff.

Also, weight training gave you something to progress towards... lifting more weight. After all, you can only do so many push-ups before you get bored.

Push-ups

Remember, too many push-ups get boring real fast.

Well, we do still need bodyweight exercises. Not just as a warm-up, but as a progressive-resistance training tool. That means that we need to move from quickly banging out a few reps, to having a specific goal and working hard to accomplish it, just like your lifting.

I think that's the main problem with traditional, old-style bodyweight training. You had nothing to progress towards. Once you could do X number of reps, you just kept repeating that every workout.


Rules To Live By

Rule #1:

You should include a bodyweight exercise and a lifting exercise for every major pattern you train. Horizontal, vertical, push, pull...the whole deal. The major bodyweight exercises include the push-up, inverted row, pull-up, handstand push-up, squat, split squat (Bulgarian squat) or lunge, and calf raise.

Bodyweight squat

If "The Beast" still does bodyweight squats, you can too, tough guy.

Rule #2:

"Bodyweight" doesn't mean that you can't add additional weight for resistance. You can, and probably should, once you reach your desired rep range. Weighted vests and dip belts come in handy for this.

Rule #3:

The real key is to actually have a progressive goal for your bodyweight training. You wouldn't lift weights without trying to get better, so why would you train with your bodyweight any differently?


Progression Examples

Push-up Guys Gals
Goal 1: Standard Push-up 30 Reps 15 Reps
Goal 2: Feet elevated 30 Reps 15 Reps
Goal 3: Extended range of motion (ROM) 30 Reps 15 Reps
Goal 4: Feet elevated with extended ROM 30 Reps 15 Reps
Goal 5: Standard push-up with external weight 30 Reps 15 Reps
Goal 6: Repeat Goals 2-5 with external weight    

Push-up

Inverted Row
Goal 1: Incline (Head higher than feet)  10 Reps
Goal 2: Horizontal (Head level with feet) 10 Reps
Goal 3: Horizontal with rotating handles 10 Reps
Goal 4: Add external weight 10 Reps

Pull-up
Goal 1: Assisted (Lift less than bodyweight)  10 Reps
Goal 2: Pull-up with bodyweight 10 Reps
Goal 3: Pull-up with external weight 10 Reps
Goal 4: Add reps without external weight 20 Reps
Goal 5: Add reps with external weight 15 Reps
Goal 6: Progress with weight and/or reps  

Pull-up

Handstand Push-up
Goal 1: Learn technique, perform one rep
Goal 2: Add reps
Goal 3: Extended ROM
Goal 4: Add reps with extended ROM

Squat
Goal 1: Bodyweight squat 40 Reps
Goal 2: Dumbbell squat  40 Reps
Goal 3: Goblet squat  40 Reps
Goal 4: Add reps to bodyweight squat  50 Reps
Goal 5: One-leg squat 6 Reps
Goal 6: One-leg squat with added weight  

Goblet squat

Goblet squat, near bottom position.

Split Squat
Goal 1: Split squat 20 Reps per leg
Goal 2: Bulgarian squat  20 Reps per leg
Goal 3: Add reps to split squat  40 Reps per leg
Goal 4: Add reps to Bulgarian squat     40 Reps per leg
Goal 5: Lunge 20 Reps per leg
Goal 6: Add reps to lunge  40 Reps per leg
Goal 7: Add external weight to each movement  

Calf Raise
Goal 1: Calf raise with two legs  20 Reps
Goal 2: Calf raise with one leg 20 Reps
Goal 3: Calf raise with two legs, series*  36 Reps
Goal 4: Add reps to calf raise with one leg 30 Reps
Goal 5: Add reps to calf raise with two legs 40 Reps

*Calf raise series is 12 reps with toes turned in, 12 reps with toes turned out, followed by 12 reps with toes forward.

Calf raise with two legs.

Calf raise with two legs.


Summary

You now have seven bodyweight progressions to balance your already productive weight-training program. Just remember to keep your training balanced. Train both weighted and non-weighted basic patterns. Have goals for each, and keep them progressive. More reps, harder variations, added weight. Whatever it takes. It can't get any easier, or better, than that.


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