Bodyweight workouts? You may already be thinking, how tough could that be ... and can they really build any muscle?
Set aside your skepticism, gym rats, because the answer is absolutely. The secret isnt so much in doing calisthenics-type exercises like the ones you probably did in junior high, but rather in making such moves as difficult as possible to brutally challenge your strength and stamina.
Add the following tips and tricks to your regular gym routine. You dont need nice new dumbbells and the latest in Hammer Strength machines because you can stay fit with nothing more than your own bodyweight and just a few pieces of basic equipment.
SEE ALSO: The Ultimate Bodyweight Workout for Bodybuilders >>
Just because you have a travel pass for every gym chain in the world or a complete home setup doesnt mean there wont be times and circumstances when doing bodyweight training makes sense. In fact, youre probably already familiar with many of the basics including pull-ups, dips, hanging leg raises and crunches. Thats because bodyweight moves offer a number of advantages.
Improve Core and Stabilizer
This may not sound as sexy as building bigger bis, but if youve been neglecting core work, you could be holding back your ultimate potential on demanding exercises that require your midsection to be strong, such as the squat, deadlift or even the bentover row.
Adjust Your Ability Level
Although some of the moves may seem oriented to beginners, you can increase the intensity by modifying the technique, speed and rest periods. Push-ups too easy? Tack on a set with your feet elevated at the end of a set of heavy chest presses. Now were talking pec pump!
No Need for Special Equipment
Many exercises require nothing more than a comfortable pair of sneakers. This makes the moves ideal to do on the road when you dont have access to a gym or simply dont have time to go. In fact, you can do a complete headto- toe workout with just bodyweight moves. If you have access to a chair, chinning bar, parallel bars or a couple of soup cans or gallon jugs (which weigh about 14 pounds when filled with sand), you can easily increase the number of exercises.
While standard bodyweight moves are effective for improving muscle strength and endurance, we wont try to convince you to ditch your freeweight workout — bodyweight-only training does have limitations. To minimize the common problem of staleness, try changing some aspect of your exercise program to switch things up and keep your muscles growing.
Seven Degrees of Difficulty
If your goal is to get bigger and stronger, doing 15 reps or more with only your bodyweight wont be enough. Heres how to boost the intensity of a move:
1. Slow Down the Rep Speed
If youre accustomed to taking 2—3 seconds to raise yourself or a weight and another 2—3 seconds to lower it, youll find it much harder to take a full 10 seconds on the lift and another five seconds on the lowering phase.
2. Reduce Your Rest Periods Between Sets
Muscles recover when theyre not working, so cutting down your between-sets rest periods makes the exercise harder because you wont be fully recovered when beginning your next set.
3. Eliminate Your Rest Periods By Doing Supersets
Take away rest intervals altogether when doing two or more exercises to dramatically boost the intensity of your workout. Rest only after you perform both (or more) exercises.
4. Squeeze at the Tops of the Movement
Feel the muscle contract, and consciously tighten it at the point of peak contraction for a second or two instead of quickly reversing direction.
5. Add Partial Reps at the End of Your Set
Work through a portion of the range of motion to intensify the burn.
6. Enlist a Training Partner
Use your partners bodyweight as resistance, such as when doing rows or squats.
7. Invest in Special Equipment
For example, buy a weighted vest to incrementally increase the resistance up to 50 pounds or more in all your bodyweight movements. You can also use specialized equipment such as the TRX Suspension Trainer, a device that allows you to perform more than 300 exercises using just your bodyweight. Ultimately, using your bodyweight as resistance offers several distinct advantages over traditional resistance training, and you can easily do it in place of the gym when time or conditions warrant. You could also add bodyweight exercises to your current gym routine, using techniques such as supersets or slow reps to boost intensity. The bottom line is that bodyweight training works — and it should be part of every bodybuilders training arsenal.
Bodyweight Move Switch-Up
Works: Chest, triceps
Do it: As the second half of a superset with another chest pressing move.
Tip: Once youre in position — toes on an elevated surface such as a bench and hands on the floor — dont sag in the middle. Keep your hands just outside shoulder width with your thumbs even with your lower pecs.
Work Harder: Use a weighted vest; elevate your feet higher.
Variations: Wide-grip push-up; close-grip push-up; one-arm push-up; fingertip push-up.
Works: Triceps, chest
Do it: Early in your workout if you add resistance via a plate-holding belt; otherwise, early or later in your triceps workout, your call.
Tip: You can also do this by placing two benches side by side, with your feet on one and your hands on the other. Make sure the two benches are the correct distance apart so your heels are just hanging on one and your glutes are just off the edge of the other.
Work Harder: Elevate your feet higher; use a weighted vest.
Variations: This move can be done at home with a stable chair.
Works: Delts, triceps
Do it: After heavy shoulder presses or at the end of your delt workout.
Tip: Maintain a vertical body position with your feet against a wall for support. Have a partner help you get into the correct position before trying alone.
Work Harder: Use a weighted vest.