For those of you who don’t know me, I love body weight and dumbbell exercises. I also love figuring out ways to crush workouts with little to no equipment and/or time.
So, in the summer of 2017 I decided to stop going to the gym, and workout exclusively on my patio.
In that time, I completed over 40 high intensity bodyweight workouts.
And guess what happened after a summer of working out with just bodyweight exercises…
In short, bodyweight exercises are amazing. But for some folks, a regular routine of pushups, pullups, and squats may simply be too easy.
How do you make bodyweight exercises harder?
How do you develop the strength of a gymnast, while sculpting the body of Greek God, simply from bodyweight exercises?
In this article I am going to show you various ways to ratchet up the difficulty of bodyweight exercises.
So, sit back. Relax. And, enjoy the show.
What happens when life gets crazy, and why bodyweight exercises are the answer…
When life gets crazy, guess what happens…
Yes. Excuses in all shapes, sizes, and flavors.
“I couldn’t workout today because I got out of work late, and I was tired.”
“I didn’t workout because I was stuck at home, and don’t have any gym equipment.”
“I can’t workout at home. I live in a tiny apartment. It’s TOO small.”
I hate workout excuses. They drive me crazy.
Frankly, you don’t need 60-90 minutes at the gym to workout. You can crush a high intensity bodyweight exercise right from your living room in less than 15 minutes per day.
So, to help rid the world of these vile things called “workout excuses”, I decided to not go to the gym for the past 60 days, and work out on my apartment patio, using mostly bodyweight exercises.
Even with my minimal equipment, and a small workout space, I’ve easily been able to come up with 40 HARD high intensity bodyweight workouts.
Here’s what I learned…
Pro’s of body weight exercises:
My joints feel healthy and amazing. I am almost pain free across the board vs two months ago when my body hurt everywhere.
•Increased core strength→
Performing lots of hanging leg raise variations, ab wheel roll outs, weighted planks, and human flag progressions have made a noticeable difference in my core strength.
I feel much more able to control my body, and my breathing, under tension.
•Time efficient →
My gym is about 20-25 minutes each way. I’ve saved many hours not having to fight traffic to the gym each day. Essentially, by not driving to the gym, body weight exercises allowed me to “create more time” each day.
The big take-a-away:
• Body weight exercises are a very time efficient way to lose fat and lean out.
• Because of how joint friendly they are, I recommend using body weight exercises if you are coming back from an injury, or your body just feels dinged up from life in general.
Now, I hope someone is thinking,
“Bodyweight exercises sure are great, but how the heck do I make them harder?”
See below ⇓
1. Perform high repetitions-
Performing sets of 15-50 repetitions is a great way to use body weight exercises to improve muscular endurance, stamina, and to build mental toughness. Always pay attention to proper form. Once the form breaks that set is over.
2. Increase time under tension-
Increasing the time it takes to perform a single repetition greatly challenges strength . When a muscle contracts against resistance it becomes stronger.
Taking 15 seconds to perform a single pullup is a much different sensation than performing 15 pullups (see video below).
3. Add weight-
Adding weight is great for building strength. Using a weight vest is a convenient way to make exercises like pushups, squats, pullups, and lunges much harder.
4. Change the leverage-
Archimedes joked that he could tip the world with a long enough lever. He was talking about leverage.
No different here.
Body weight training is just applied physics to the body.
The basic principles of leverage:
• The longer the lever, the easier it is to move an object.
• The shorter the lever, the more effort required to move that same object.
Leverage applied to body weight exercises:
• The more elevated your feet, the harder the exercise becomes (L-sit pull-ups, handstand pushups, and body rows with your feet on a box)
• The more elevated your hands, the easier the exercise becomes (wall pushups and standing ring rows)
5. Re-distribute your weight-
Another technique to make BW exercises harder is to simply re-distribute the weight of our body.
Removing a hand or foot places nearly 100% of the demand on the other limb. Think one handed pull-ups, single arm pushups, and single leg squats (pistols).
However, if single limb movements seem daunting don’t worry. Instead of going for broke and removing an entire limb simply shift more of the weight to the other side of the body. Instead of a 100/ 0% approach we are aiming for more like 70/30 or 80/20% weight distribution.
Examples of this are staggered hand pushups, using assistance to help us move through single leg squats, or using assistance to help us progress towards single arm pull-ups.
Through simple weight distribution we can make body weight exercises extremely challenging.
6. Combine two or more elements-
Who says you can’t combine multiple elements to further increase the difficulty of body weight exercises?
Well, only haters I guess.
To make body weight exercises harder still, we can combine multiple elements. For example, changing the leverage + increasing time under tension. Ouch.
With the ability to combine multiple elements we have almost endless ways to make body weight exercises harder.
7. Be explosive-
Generating power and explosiveness is referred to as plyometric training.
Most, but not all, plyometric exercises are body weight focused. Think jumping.
For power development keep the repetitions between 1-4 and allow maximal recovery between sets.
Examples of this are the long jump, jump squats, clapping pushups, and hand release pull-ups.
A word of caution:
Before you start aggressively using plyometric exercises you need to build a base of strength.
Bodyweight exercises are great for building superhuman strength, leaning out and dropping a pant size or two, and keeping your body feeling amazing.
High intensity bodyweight conditioning is time efficient, effective at power stripping body fat, and can be performed anywhere on Earth.
If you’re not already crushing bodyweight workouts, you’re missing out, and I encourage you to start.
Below are two great options for adding high intensity bodyweight exercises into your routine…
Pick up a FREE copy of the high intensity home workout guide, and get started crushing highly effective bodyweight workouts today.