Exercises for Bodyweight Training
Bodyweight training has a great number of advantages. This is a way to work out that will allow you to increase your ‘strength to weight ratio’ thereby becoming more agile, more acrobatic and more powerful. You’ll be fast like a coiled spring and strong in a functional way that equates to real-world usefulness.
But there’s no such thing as a perfect training modality. And one of the biggest complaints you’ll often hear from people who use bodyweight training is that they don’t like it because it’s ‘boring’. Doing press ups can get old fast and unfortunately just isn’t quite so challenging or exciting as lifting 100K over your head.
It doesn’t turn heads in quite the same way and the progress can often feel a lot less rewarding. But that’s why it’s such a good thing that you can use bodyweight training as part of a more fun or interesting activity or even sport. Let’s take a look at some of the great ways you can incorporate bodyweight training into your routine without it feeling like a dull workout. Here are some great examples…
Rock Climbing (Bouldering)
Rock climbing is one of the most fantastic bodyweight workouts there is and it’s incredibly fun and rewarding whether you’re going to do it seriously or just as a fun hobby. Rock climbing involves using your forearms and grip strength in order to cling to the tiny cracks in the rocks and this can quickly build you Popeye-like proportions.
From there, you’ll then be using your lats and your biceps to pull yourself up the wall and scale it like Spider-Man. Better yet, you’ll also be holding yourself in position for long periods of time using your legs alone. This quickly builds a lot more quadriceps and hamstring strength so that you’ll be getting a truly full body workout.
Bouldering is a great way to get started with this. Bouldering effectively means that you’re climbing smaller rocks that present a challenge for how to get to the top. There’s no rope and you use a crash mat – so you can turn up at a climbing center and just get started!
Other Forms of Climbing
Don’t have a climbing center near you? Not sure you fancy the idea of climbing up the nearby cliffs? A great alternative is something called ‘traversing’ which is essentially sideways rock climbing. Here you never get that high up and as a result you don’t need a rope. As long as you have some kind of natural cliff or wall you can try it yourself!
Or how about climbing a tree?
Hand balancing is a lost art that is highly rewarding and challenging. Being able to go from a pike position to a handstand requires a ton of muscle power and control, as well as balance. When you pull it off though, you’ll have a party trick that’s far more impressive than lifting 100KG and that you can actually do at a party!
The Weirdest Bodyweight Exercises That Everyone Should Do
The thing that a lot of people don’t realize when they start working out is that really anything can be a workout. As long as there’s some resistance involved and you’re using your muscles to some degree, then it’s body-weight-training.
And that means that you can think outside the box when it comes to bodyweight workouts. You don’t just have to do pull ups, push-ups and squats… check out some of these utterly bizarre but also rather cool bodyweight exercises!
Calf jumps are a way to train the calves that is explosive and great for creating microtears and power in the lower portion of the legs. To perform calf jumps, you simply stand with your legs completely straight and then jump. The caveat? Your legs have to also remain straight throughout the duration of the jump. What this means is that you’re not able to engage the upper leg muscles, thereby forcing your calves to do all the work in a very plyometric manner.
The hollow rock is an incredibly weird ab exercise but one that has gradually become more and more popular. The idea is to fix your body in a concave curve with your buttocks planted on the ground and then to rock back onto the arch of your back.
You then rock back and forward without moving any of your limbs and the only way to do this is by powering the movement through your abs. It’s a great fun bodyweight training exercise that has you rocking back and forward and it’s a great way to build core strength.
This is one that you probably won’t want to do in a gym because it looks absolutely bizarre! Basically, you’re going to be lying on the ground and keeping your core tight but with a slight concave arch in the torso. Now you’re going to rock back and forward and as you do, you’re going to slightly rotate until you’ve gone a full 360 degrees. You’ll look like a fish flapping around on the beach but it’s an excellent and fun way to build the abs and transverse abdominis.
There are various variations of crawl exercises but no matter how you do them they’re excellent for building strength in the core, the pecs and the shoulders. What’s more is that they can also help you to create ‘cross lateral communication’ and thereby improve your proprioception and agility. Don’t worry too much about that, just try crawling along the ground, torso raised just above the floor, keeping your arms constantly bent and moving forward one step at a time.
This is the perfect bodyweight training exercise for people who want to train their biceps but don’t have any equipment (even a pull up bar). To perform this, lie on the ground on your side with one arm pinned under your leg and with your legs bent forward. Now grab your leg from underneath and pull your upper body into a twisting sit up position. This will train the bicep using bodyweight and there’s no need for a bar or dumbbell!
Bodyweight Training Outdoors is the Ultimate Workout
A word that gets thrown around a lot at the moment when it comes to bodyweight training is ‘functional’. What is ‘functional’? Well essentially, this term refers to the idea that some types of exercises provide real-world and usable strength, whereas others do not.
One of the training exercises often called functional is the deadlift because it involves squatting down to pick something heavy up off of the ground using all the muscles in the leg in unison as well as muscles in the back. We pick things up off the floor all the time in real life and every moment is compound in this sense – meaning that we use all the muscles together rather than in an isolated fashion.
An exercise that isn’t functional is the bicep curl. Or at least that’s how the story goes.
Except that’s not quite true in reality. Because in the wild, how often would you actually be required to pick up a perfectly cylindrical bar with perfect technique from standing? Never.
The only times we’d have lifted things in the wild it would have been the carcass of our prey or a boulder we intended to use. The rest of the time our muscles were used for running and climbing and fighting.
And guess what? We never used correct technique. We’d have grabbed things off the ground at an angle and landed awkwardly. And we’d always have gotten back up.
What’s more is that we’d never have done the precise same movement more than once. Every time we picked up something, we’d have been at a different angle and the item would have been differently shaped.
And this is why training outdoors with bodyweight is the perfect solution.
How to Keep Challenging Your Body
As soon as you move a press up from indoors to outdoors it becomes more difficult. Suddenly you’re training on uneven terrain and one hand will be slightly higher than the other. At the same time, you’ll be training in the cold and your lungs will be working harder to supply oxygen.
The same goes double for doing a pull up from a tree branch. Every branch is a different width, meaning you have to use different amounts of grip strength and one hand will always be higher than the other.
You can make this tougher too by lifting logs and doing other non-bodyweight exercises.
But to start with, your usual bodyweight training routine moved outdoors is more than enough. And this alone will be enough to start building up a lot more toughness and resilience in your muscles, as well as much more useable strength and power.
And once you start doing this enough, you’ll find that you quickly become much hardier and everyday tasks stat to feel a lot easier and less challenging.
Sure, it won’t feel very nice at first and you’ll get muddy and cold. But that’s the point! It’s time to stop being domesticated and to get a little wild!
Household Items You Can Use to Create Challenging Bodyweight Training
If you want to train your strength using just your bodyweight, then there are a vast range of different training you can use. One of the best parts? You don’t need any equipment to get started.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking that bodyweight training always means ‘without equipment’. Often you’ll use equipment to enhance your bodyweight routines and perhaps the most obvious example of this is a pull up bar or a dipping station. With either of these two items, you can get a much more intensive and effective workout in and thereby build muscle faster.
But it’s not just pull up bars and dipping stations you can use. In fact, one of the great things about training with bodyweight is just how versatile it is. Anything you can hang off of or lean on can become a piece of equipment to train with and it will surprise you just how much of a difference something like that can make.
Here are some pretty compelling examples…
Chairs can easily become dipping stations if you position two opposite one another. At the same time, they can also provide something for you to put your back leg on when doing lunges, or they can allow you to jump straight up onto them. Likewise, chairs can be arranged in a triangle in order to do ‘increased range of motion push ups’. These are simply push-ups, except you are dipping down further than level with your hands.
Take two cans of coke and you can create very convincing push up stands. Place one palm on each and you now have to engage your forearm strength as well as your balance and core in order to perform a push up as normal!
A towel is actually an incredibly versatile piece of bodyweight training equipment. Hanging from a doorframe, this can provide something for you to hold while performing neutral grip pull ups, which will also train your grip. Likewise, you can use it to perform tricep extensions in the same position or you can trap it in a door and lean back in order to perform leaning back rows.
A punch bag is an actual piece of training equipment that can be fantastic when combined with a usual bodyweight workout. This is an example of resistance cardio and one of the best ways to build muscle, burn fat and get your hormones pumping. What makes a punch bag so effective is that you are accelerating through the movement. This means that you’re engaging all those fast twitch fibers just as you would be when lifting heavy weights!
Instead of an ab roller, consider using a skateboard. You can then also use this to perform crawls along the ground (for pec training) as well as many other wonderful exercises that require one or two limbs to slide along the ground or move independently from the rest of your body.And this is just scratching the surface! Take a look around you and see what else can be turned into a piece of training equipment!