The 21-Day Bodyweight Fitness Plan

Tim DiFrancesco
by Tim DiFrancesco
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The 21-Day Bodyweight Fitness Plan

The most challenging but important part about getting fit is committing to and starting a plan. You’re not alone if this has posed a challenge for you.

As humans, we are programmed to conserve energy and avoid excessive fatigue. This protective, built-in governor is there to be sure we don’t overdo things physically so that we can withstand the rigors of evolution. The whole evolution thing seems to have gone fairly well, and now we don’t have to worry about conserving energy for withstanding an attack by wild animals or hunting down our dinner to survive. Today, we need ways to override this conservative message and continue to strengthen our bodies.

The key is to create a fitness habit that becomes like a muscle—the more you work it and maintain it, the stronger it gets. This 21-Day Bodyweight Fitness Plan is exactly that—it is your spark that will ignite a fitness habit. No equipment is needed, and there’s no guess work about what you should do on a given day. Just follow the plan outlined below for each day of the week for 21 consecutive days, and enjoy the progress as you discover the edge you’ve been looking for and your fitness habit grows.

Here’s how it works:

  • Each day of the week has a specific exercise designated to it with specific sets/reps.
  • Over the course of 21 days, you’ll gradually progress the volume of work and the complexity of the seven different exercises.
  • Each exercise progression series has a “support move” attached to it to be executed while resting in between sets.
  • It’s important to view the prescribed set and rep counts as a recommendation instead of a requirement. Everyone’s starting point is a bit different, so if you notice that the set or rep counts are too easy or too challenging, simply scale accordingly and document your adjustments.
  • If specific exercises in this plan flare up any current or prior areas of pain/discomfort, there are modifications or substitutions mentioned within the exercise instruction points below.
  • This is important: If life gets in the way and for whatever reason you are unable to get your work in on a certain day, don’t sweat it! Instead of dwelling on it, let it go and be ready to start your new Day 1 by picking up with tomorrow’s workout.
  • After you complete the 21 consecutive days, you will have kick-started an unstoppable fitness habit. To continue to grow your new fitness habit, one option is to start from the beginning of the plan with increased sets/reps. Another option is to use this momentum to tackle a new challenge, plan or program that excites you.

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Benefits: This push-up progression series is a great way to develop upper body strength while also activating your core and hips.

How to modify: If completing push-ups with perfect form is too tough from the floor, take the time to get it right. Here’s how:

  1. Try these exercises with your hands on the end of a couch or on a bench to work on strengthening the movement.
  2. In the event that you aggravate or notice developing shoulder pain during push-ups, try adjusting the width of your hands/elbows. If your hands get too wide and elbows start to flare way out, this may be placing excessive stress on your shoulders. Hands should be just outside of shoulder width and elbows should be pointing slightly behind you instead of to the side.
  3. Another option to take stress off of the shoulders during these exercises is to execute them against the wall.

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How to:

  1. Start at the top of the push-up and keep your chest away from the floor while you squeeze your glutes
  2. Slowly lower yourself to the floor (3 seconds on the way down)
  3. Return back to the top and repeat 4 more times
  4. Complete 2 more sets.

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How to:

  1. From the top of the push-up position, take a step with your opposite arm/leg
  2. The leg on the side that you are moving toward and the arm on the other side move
  3. Execute a push-up and repeat
  4. The rep count indicates the total number of push-ups, so 6 reps is 3 push-ups one way and 3 back the other way.
  5. Complete 2 more sets.

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How to:

  1. Lower down toward the floor from the top of the push-up position
  2. As you begin the push-up descent, draw one knee towards your elbow
  3. Maintain perfect push-up form as you bring your knee to your elbow
  4. Return back to the top and repeat on the other side; that’s 1 rep. Repeat 7 more times.
  5. Complete 2 more sets.

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Complete this support move between each set of push-ups.

How to:

  1. Sit on a firm surface with hands on the back of your head
  2. Assume a flat-back posture (avoid slouching or excessive arching of the back)
  3. Tilt one elbow toward the floor as far as you can while holding good posture
  4. You should feel the stretch along the opposite ribcage
  5. Repeat on the opposite side; that’s 1 rep. Complete 9 more times.

This exercise will help to bring you into a healthy posture and stretch out the upper body musculature worked during the push-up series.

About the Author

Tim DiFrancesco
Tim DiFrancesco

Tim DiFrancesco, PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS spent six seasons as the Head Strength & Conditioning Coach with the Los Angeles Lakers and is the founder of TD Athletes Edge. He is nationally renowned for his evidence-based and scientific approach to fitness, training, nutrition and recovery for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. For training and nutrition advice, follow us on:

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