No matter what equipment you have available or even no equipment at all, you can still build muscle, burn fat and sculpt the physique you have always wanted. Not being able to get to the gym is never an excuse not to get a workout in. You can always use your own body. Utilizing just your bodyweight for a workout can sometimes be even more demanding than if you had all the equipment in the world.
The reason why is because many bodyweight exercises can be hard. If you take the time to master certain bodyweight movements, you will unlock some new muscle and strength.
Just look at gymnasts, and guys who swing around on monkey bars and climb mountains. They may not be super huge, since this would not be good for them in their chosen sport, but they are shredded to the bone and have the strength capacity to go along with it.
The key to designing a great bodyweight workout is to utilize all of the major 3 movements such as pushing, pulling, and squatting. We are not talking about a basic pushup or squat here. We are going to take it a bit further. Behold the big 3 bodyweight exercises:
- Tactical Pull-up
- Pistol Squat
- 1-arm push-up
Tactical (hallow position) Pullup
The best upper-body pulling exercise is the pullup hands down. For some people, it takes a boatload of strength to do just a few full ranges of motion pullups. It hits almost every muscle in the upper-body and even demands your core to work hard. The 1-arm pushup is the true test of upper-body pushing strength and is the perfect complement to the pullup.
Now, let’s take the pullup a little further and do the tactical pullup. What’s the difference? First, you need to master what is called the hallow position. This is position is a posture from gymnastics designed to maximize your strength;
· Tensed and shortened abs
· Tensed glutes
· Flared shoulder blades
· A slightly concave body shape.
The cool thing about the hallow position is that it also will carry over to the two other bodyweight moves in this article (1-arm pushup and pistol squat). So, get a hold of a solid hallow position before you do any of the 3 demanding bodyweight movements.
Once you have this nice hallow position, you simply keep that position as you perform a pullup. To get the most bang for the buck on this exercise, keep your vision straight ahead and neck neutral. Start at a dead-hang position (arms totally straight at the bottom portion of the rep), and then pullup until your neck is even with the bar, pause and then lower with control.
While grip strength and back strength are key for a good tactical pullup, it starts with the hallow position.
Quality is key here so, you don’t need a ton of reps in one set. I like sets of 1-5 reps. A total rep count of 15-25 should be plenty of good pulling work.
The hollow posture sets up a lat synergy with the anterior muscles pecs, serrates, abs, and obliques. This type of position is used in many athletic feats such as punching in fighting sports and wrestlers. It is a powerful position.
Traditional bodybuilding type pullups have their place in training. They help improve muscle hypertrophy but are secondary in strength building. If you want to get stronger, master the hallow position and switch to the tactical pullup.
Let’s admit that the pistol squat is not only great lower-body exercise but also very impressive and cool to watch. There is a great amount of both mobility and stability that is needed in order to perform this movement. Compared to the standard squat, pistol squats are more taxing on your nervous system, lower-body muscles, and your core. Plus, they require an extreme amount of hip and ankle mobility.
You will also need a fair amount of balance and strength throughout the movement. This type of squat should not be taken lightly. You need to make sure that you are strong and mobile enough to do it before you proceed. Below is a quick guide to getting started with pistol squats:
- Make sure you can perform 20 clean squats going pass parallel to the ground
- Then, practice the bottom position of the pistol squat by grabbing onto a pole, squat rack, or anything sturdy. With one leg straight in front of you and off the ground, keep the other foot and heal on the ground. Use the pole to help you get down into the bottom position of the pistol squat. Focus on a few sets of 10-20 second holds with good posture.
- Then, use the pole to practice the eccentric (lowering phase). Repeat this for a few sets of 5-10 reps.
- Then, use the pole once more to practice full range of motion reps.
- Lastly before you do a pistol squat, practice by performing a 1-leg bench squat with various heights. Basically you will be squatting up and down like a pistol squat with limited range of motion.
- After a few solid sets of 5 reps on each leg, now give the full pistol squat a go.
Once you can complete a full range of motion pistol squat, try the following 4-week program done 2-3 days per week.
Week one: 10 sets of 1 rep each side
Week two: 5 sets of 2 reps each side
Week three: 4 sets of 3 reps per side
Week four: 5, 3, 2, 5, 3, and 2 reps for each side
We all love the bench press and would be happy if our bench was a little bit bigger. I get it, having a big bench press is impressive and fun. It is a great test of upper-body strength no doubt, but have you ever tried a 1-arm pushup? This exercise
Before you jump on the ground and start to bang out a bunch of 1-arm pushups (good luck with that), I suggest starting with an incline of some sorts. This will allow you to understand the extremely tense plank position and scapular stability that you will need in order to complete a 1-arm push-up on the ground.
Use a bench, step, table, or wall, so that your push-up is done on an incline to make it much easier. Get into a pushup position with one hand on the surface and spread your feel far enough apart so you can keep your spine and pelvis neutral. Tense your entire body (like the hallow position and plank position), and hold your free hand tight against your lower back. Lower your body slowly until your chest nearly touches then explodes up to the starting position. That is one rep.
Repeat the rep on the other side. I choose to alternate arms so that each side can recover. If you are just starting out it is not wise to go for multiple reps in a row. Again, quality not quantity. Work up to 10 reps on each side, alternating sides in sets of 1. Do this 2-3 times a week for 2-4 weeks and then try and go for 5 reps all in one shot on each side. If you can do that, it’s time to hit the ground and start the rep scheme all over again.
Are you up to the test?
These three bodyweight exercises will test many major attributes of your physical fitness and physique. They provide an array of benefits for physique athletes, powerlifters, and general fitness buffs. A big squat, deadlift and bench press are all marvelous but using your own body can be an even bigger test of absolute strength.