Bodyweight workouts are excellent for oh-so-many reasons. For starters, you can do the exercises sans equipment anytime, anywhere. A short stint of bodyweight circuit training can rev up your body’s metabolism, according to University of Notre Dame research. No matter your fitness level, bodyweight exercises are challenging. Plus, bodyweight movements can be essential for successful daily movement patterns.
“Bodyweight training can lay down the foundation and be used as a bridge to other types of strength-building programs,” says Niv Zinder, an instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp. “The primal movements (squat, lunge, bend, push, pull, twist and gait) are what we need to perform daily as moving humans, and there’s no better way to perfect all of these than with just your body weight.”
Naturally, you can only do so many reverse lunges and side planks before you’re seeking some variety. We get it.
These four experts tips help you turn up the heat on your next bodyweight workout:
Basic lunges and pushups are an excellent starting point. If you’ve got the mobility and ability to kick things up a notch, then adding some bounce into your programming could do your body good. Research out of Spain suggests bodyweight-based, high-output, plyometric exercises can lead to big fitness gains in a short amount of time. “Using explosive moments — like jump squats, switch lunges and burpees — will give you more bang for your bodyweight buck because you’re combining strength and cardio,” says Lindsey Clayton, co-founder of the Brave Body Project.
PLAY WITH TEMPO
Tempo is the factor which controls the duration of the stimulus or the time the muscle is under tension. When we perform any kind of exercise, we usually want to finish the set or number of repetitions quickly. But that’s not always best, says Zinder. “Slowing down the tempo of the exercise has a huge impact and will definitely amp up gains,” he says.
For example: Try a set of 10 pushups with a slower-than-usual lower to the ground, one-second hold at the bottom and one-second pushup back to start. “This would create a very challenging set. The time under tension makes a day-and-night difference and helps load the muscular system.”
BRACE THROUGH YOUR CORE
We hear it all the time in popular boutique fitness classes, but what does it really mean? “It’s not sucking in the stomach and pulling it back,” says Lacee Lazoff, trainer at Performix House. “Instead, try to squeeze the belly button as tight as possible (think sneezing) and breathe deep into the side of the body past the chest.” This maximizes the contraction of the core muscles and creates the tension we seek to create strength, she adds. Implement it with hollow body holds and hard-style (tight as possible) forearm planks, holding each for a maximum of 20–30 seconds.
ADD A PROGRESSION
Like weight training, bodyweight movements can be progressed and regressed. By adding a progression, you’re amping up the difficulty. “Let’s take the pushup, for example,” says Zinder. “The basic variation is a regular pushup. A progression (one of many) can be executing on a single leg or single hand. A regression can be executing on the knees or push from a high box which makes it easier.”