When you need to get a fast workout in and don’t have time to make it to the gym, you might consider doing just a bodyweight session. Many people are under the impression that bodyweight exercises are only for beginners. After all, how could you possibly build more strength using your bodyweight alone?
Turns out, you can still make great progress using bodyweight based exercises only – at least from time to time. While a bodyweight workout will never replace a traditional heavy lifting gym session, you can certainly make it work.
Here are a few tips for using bodyweight as a resistance and still seeing great progress.
First, realize that reps matter. When trying to build the intensity of your session so that you still supply the sufficient progressive overload to see progress, increasing your reps can help.
While traditionally you might only perform 6-12 reps of a given weight lifting move, don’t be afraid to take your bodyweight exercises to the 20-50 rep range. Your mission here is maximum muscle fatigue, so do as many reps as it takes to get there.
You might even do away with a target rep goal entirely and instead, focus on doing as many reps as you can in a given time frame (such as a minute). Then next workout, try and beat that number.
Just as you’d use pre-fatigue to increase the intensity of a standard weight lifting workout, you can use a similar idea here as well. For example, if it’s your chest you’re looking to target, you might consider performing a set of tricep dips off a bench to fatigue your triceps. Then after that, move into push-ups.
By doing the dips before the push-ups, you’ll take the triceps out of the equation, forcing your chest to work harder. When you have no weight to add, this is a great way to keep the overload intact.
Also don’t forget that there are many different bodyweight exercises you can perform. You aren’t only limited to bodyweight squats, lunges, step-ups, and push-ups
Try single arm push-ups for instance, or take it a step further and try a plyometric push-up to work on your explosive power.
Single leg pistol squats are another terrific lower body exercise that even some of the strongest people are unable to complete with ease.
Pull-ups and all the pull-up variations are yet another fantastic bodyweight exercise that will help build a powerful back while giving you that great shape you desire.
Get creative and see what you can come up with.
As you are doing each rep of your bodyweight strength training session, make sure that you are also focusing on the muscle squeeze. Getting that mind-muscle connection is key to seeing optimal results and there’s no better time to do it than with bodyweight exercises.
Often when you start loading the plate weight, it gets harder to focus on just that individual muscle fiber squeezing as it contracts as you are using everything you’ve got to hoist the weight up there.
When you strip off the weights now and perform bodyweight exercises only, there’s no excuse for not feeling that muscle fiber every step of the way.
The harder you squeeze the muscle during each rep you perform, the greater the contraction – and the results you see will be.
Finally, now is a great time to focus on your cardiovascular fitness level. Use these exercises to get into great cardio shape by stacking them back to back in circuit training fashion.
When you move directly from one exercise to the next, you’ll also accumulate residual muscle fatigue, making each bodyweight exercise you do feel harder and harder. This is also a terrific way to overload the muscles, taxing your system enough to spark progression.
So don’t discount the benefit of bodyweight exercises any longer. Sure, they aren’t going to provide the strength gains like your heavy squats, leg press, or deadlifts will, but can have a place in a proper workout program just the same.