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Trainer Tip Tuesday : 8 Ways to Level Up Your Bodyweight Training

July 7th, 2020 by Ally Hopson

Last week we talked all about the benefits of training with just your body! There is so much to love about bodyweight training and we hope those tips left you feeling strong and confident with your own training. Now let’s talk about what to do when your bodyweight training feels too easy or not enough! With bodyweight training comes tons of variability and sometimes the smallest tweaks can make a huge difference! 


  1. Get more reps in! – Sounds self-explanatory but definitely worth including! Increasing your overall training volume is an effective way to make your bodyweight exercises feel harder and to increase your muscular endurance. This can look different depending on what you are training. If you’ve been getting 10 – 15 reps in per set of an exercise, try bumping the rep range up to 15 – 25. Or maybe you are performing three sets of an exercise and on the third set you “burn out” or do as many reps as possible until failure. Be mindful of your form when adding more reps! When form starts to break down, that set is done and it’s time for rest. 


  1. Slow it down! – Faster isn’t always better. A common misconception when it comes to training is that faster reps or more reps is the only way to increase the difficulty of your training. Varying your tempo can actual make your workout feel much more challenging. Slow reps mean more time under tension and the more time your body spends under tension the more core stability is required, the more balance you can develop and the harder your muscles have to work. You also have more time to think about where you should be engaged! Are you squeezing your core on your push-ups and are you loading your glutes on squats properly? There are also tons of ways to play around with the tempo. You can slow the whole exercise down or slow one part of the exercise down.  Instead of flying through 50 reps of squats, try 10 squats with a tempo count of 3-seconds down and 3 seconds up. Feel the difference in your quads? The same can be done with a number of movements like push-ups, lunges, glute bridges, and marches. 


  1. Make it explosive! – Think fast reps with intention! Adding plyometrics to your bodyweight training not only builds muscular endurance, but it can also increase your cardiovascular endurance. Plyometrics are “exercises in which muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time, with the goal of increasing power (speed-strength)”. Squats can become jump squats, lunges can become speed skaters, or maybe you incorporate burpees into your programming rather than just planks. More power means more strength, so don’t be afraid to get explosive!


  1. Get isometric! – Isometrics are a great way to elevate your bodyweight training. Isometric exercises involve pausing or holding your body in a fixed position for a set amount of time. This added stress on the muscles can help strengthen them and can improve your balance and core stability. Try holding at the bottom of your squat, pausing at the bottom of your push-up for a few seconds, or holding the top of your glute bridge for 30 seconds rather than going for set reps. We promise, you’ll feel that burn! 


  1. Add a pulse! – “Subtle but deadly!” A pulse is a small rhythmic movement performed at the most engaged or contracted part of the movement. Similar to adding a pause or hold, adding a pulse to an exercise can elevate the intensity of your training big time! For example, pull yourself down into the bottom of your squat or lunge and move your body up and down about an inch or two while still holding tension. Adding a pulse at the bottom of a squat or a lunge will add more tension and stress to your quads and glutes, making the exercise much harder. It’s a small adjustment with big gains! 


  1. Adjust the work/rest ratio! – Shortening your rest intervals is a simple and effective way to make your bodyweight workouts feel harder. With less rest time, your muscles spend more time under tension and your heart rate stays higher for longer. This means you are building muscular endurance and cardiovascular endurance at the same time. There are tons of ways to play with the work/rest ratio. We do this a lot a Grit and Gratitude by mixing up the formats of our workouts. Start off with 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off and see how things feel. Feeling pretty good? Now bump the rest down to 15 to 20 seconds. Things still feeling pretty good? Switch it up to 45 seconds of work with 20 seconds of rest. Want to make things really spicy? Work tabatas into your training. Pick three exercises and perform them back to back for 20 seconds each with no rest. This will definitely get that heart pumping and muscles burning! 


  1. Work unilaterally! – Tired of squats and reverse lunges? Well working in unilateral variations can make training more challenging and more fun! When you shift your bodyweight or the bulk of the work onto a single leg or side of your body, you challenge your balance and coordination more than bilateral exercises like squats. While it won’t work for all bodyweight exercises, there are tons of unilateral exercises you can do, like step-ups, lateral lunges, single leg squat-to-box, staggered stance, and one-arm planks! 


  1. Combine exercises for more variation! – Do a combo! Combos are fun, challenging and add tons of variation to your workouts. If you feel like you’ve been doing the same exercises or circuits over and over, throw some of your favorites together. The trick is to make it flow seamlessly from one exercise to the next. With so many bodyweight exercises to choose from, the combinations are endless. Some fun ones we like are inchworms with an added push-up or plank variation at the bottom, squat to curtsey lunge, step-up to reverse lunge, and lunges to marches. Get creative and make it fun! 


There are so many ways to make your bodyweight training more challenging, these are just some tips we have found extremely effective and fun! You can absolutely see progress in your bodyweight training when you manipulate the rep ranges, increase the intensity of your reps, adjust your tempo, and get creative. It’s safe, efficient and offers tons of variety, allowing you to change things up based on how you feel! Give some of these tips a try this week and let us know how it goes! See you next week!  


Posted in the category Training.