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Bodyweight Training: Four Effective Exercises

by Kedric Kwan on December 14, 2013
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I love lifting heavy weights. Who doesn’t want to be strong, look b ad-ass and chisel a physique that even Greek gods would envy?

However, if you do not have a gym or prefer working out outdoors, bodyweight exercises are God’s gift to you in your quest of looking awesome. While lifting heavy is awesome, everyone can benefit from bodyweight training. Not to mention, by programming them into both mine and my client’s programs, I’ve reaped great results.

So here are four beginner bodyweight movements I think everyone can master. They will help you pack on size without a gym. I’ve also included progressions and regressions to help make the exercises easier or tougher based on your current level of fitness.

The Bodyweight Exercises

Handstand Push Up (HSPU)

This is the move that will impress the people around you. Pressing your bodyweight while upside down is not an easy task. So accomplishing this feat will definitely send some “WOWS” your way.

The handstand push up can also be a safer alternative to the standard military press. By tucking your shoulders in during the HSPU, you can help reduce stress on your shoulder joints.

The HSPU is also a great exercise to help you build you shoulders. This will help you look awesome with or without your shirt.

A problem I hear is that the handstand push up is not easy for beginners to perform. Because of that, below are regressions for the beginners and progressions for those that mastered the basic handstand push up.

Regression: Eccentric only hand stand push ups

Our muscles are roughly 40% stronger on the eccentric portion compared to the concentric. That’s the reason why during a bicep curl your ability to lift a weight stops while you are still able to “cheat curl” the weight up then lower it slowly.

You can take advantage of this to help you master the HSPU. All you need to do is to kick your feet up against the wall and then lower yourself slowly. Do not press yourself up but bring your feet back to the ground instead. Repeat the movement by kicking your feet up against the wall and lowering yourself slowly.

Progression: Increasing range of motion

An increase range of motion will put your muscle under longer periods of tension and can make an exercise significantly harder.

For those that mastered the handstand push up, you can simply increase the range of motion to make it tougher. Start by holding the handles of a dumbbell and progressing to higher objects such as mats and blocks.

The higher your hands are in relation to the ground, the harder this exercise will be. So start with a small increase of range of motion before attempting high increments.

Pull Ups

The pull up is a fantastic another awesome beginner bodyweight exercises and upper body developer. It helps get that V-Taper look so that you don’t look like a plank. The best part is that it also works the biceps, combined an awesome back with big guns, I’m pretty sure the girls will be drooling over you.

A good example of those that reap the benefit from the pull up are those that trains exclusively with bars. They are jacked as hell and have arms so impressive people would not believe if they said that no a single curl was done.

The Pull up is definitely not an easy task to conquer as well. But if you are a beginner you do not have to worry, I got your back (pun not intended) and for those who are advanced, it’s time to take things to another level.

Regression: Band Assisted Pull Ups

Using a band will help you make the pulling movement much easier. It will provide some assistance to help you pull yourself up to the bar. However the key here is to lower yourself very slowly once you reach the top. Be sure to brace your core and control the lowering portion.

You can purchase bands of different tension to help you with the pull up. When it comes to picking a band you should pick a band that allows you to perform 5-7 reps.

Keep practicing the movement as often as possible and before you know it, you will be banging out regular pull ups and showing off some muscle at the park.

Progression: One Arm Pull Up

I won’t dive too much into the specifics here because we have great guide on how to perform this exercise and you can read it HERE.

DSC09369One- Legged Pistol Squat

The one legged pistol squat is an all around bad-ass builder. It’s hard not to be impressed by someone who can squat down and get back up with just one leg.

Not only does this movement allow you to have bragging rights, it is also a test of strength, flexibility and balance. If you lack any of these qualities components this feat would be almost out of sight.

Performing the pistol is a great alternative to work your legs when traditional bodyweight squat gets too easy. Your working leg will work harder because your entire bodyweight needs to be supported by just one leg! This allows greater loading on the muscle and can help make your legs stronger with just your bodyweight.

Regression: Elevated Pistol

The pistol is hard to perform for the absolute beginner. One way to teach the movement is to use a box or an elevated surface. All you need to do is to perform the squat to a high box and then stand back up.

As you gradually improve, you can slowly decrease the height of the box till you are finally able to reach a rock bottom pistol squat.

Progression: Weighted Pistol Squats

Adding weights definitely increases the difficulty. This would require much more core balance and strength to execute which can lead to new muscular gains.

Simply start holding dumbbell, kettlebells or some form of weights in your hand and perform the movement. But be warned that after this, even walking up the stairs can be agonizing.

Planks

Everyone want to rock a six pack to flaunt it during the summer. In attempt to do so, beginners often perform variety of crunches and sit ups. In the end, their abdominal area not only look the same but they probably jacked up their backs as well.

Well the simple solution to getting that cheese grater abs is to simply dial in our nutrition. This post is not about nutrition, so I’ll save it for another time.

However, that doesn’t mean we do not need to train our core just because it doesn’t play that much of a role in helping us get that six pack. If we neglect our core, it might possibly hinder us from moving some heavy weights and being an all around bad-ass.

The reason why I chose the plank is because the function of the core is to simply protect the spine from any form of injuries.

And this is exactly what the plank does.

The plank is an anti-flexion movement that strengthens the core by preventing it from going into excessive flexion which might cause injury especially when loaded with heavy weights. It also teaches full body tension that can be carried over to other movements such as the hand stand push up and the pull up.

Regression: Planks with knees bent

Bending the knee is a good progression for people who are absolutely beginners or those that are just coming back from injury.

It takes some load of making the movement easier for those are unable to perform the plank properly.

Progression: RKC plank

This variation increases the activation of your rectus abdomins, internal obliques and external obliques and is a whole lot tougher.

To read up more on the benefits you can check out a post I wrote about it HERE.

Wrapping Up

If you still think bodyweight training can’t make you a beast, you probably never heard of Hershel Walker who attributes most of his physique development to bodyweight work.

If you do not have access to a gym but still would like to look awesome, mastering these 4 beginner bodyweight exercises will help you build an awesome physique. If you would like to read more on the benefits of bodyweight training and to have an idea what a simple holiday bodyweight workout is like check it out HERE.

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Kedric Kwan
Kedric loves to lift heavy stuff. His missions is to help others get strong, look awesome and kick ass in life. He is also on a never ending quest of knowledge to make himself a better coach. His life motto is: Strengthh, Passion and Legacy. Huge comic book geek and bacon fan.

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