Lifting BIG weights feels awesome and there is NO denying that being a BEAST under a Barbell is critical for strength.
You just can't deny squats, deadlifts, cleans, military pressing and the bench press.
Sometimes, the barbell just doesn't fit your needs anymore.
Sometimes, your body craves the need for strength with JUST your own body.
Sometimes, you get strong under a bar but can't move athletically otherwise.
Enter Bodyweight Training for developing lean muscle mass and Brute strength.....
If you've got decades of lifting experience, you can relate to feeling banged up from the endless years of heavy lifting.
Some lifters fight the transition of using less heavy weights / free weights and more bodyweight workouts.
I embrace it!
Those who excel are those who embrace getting STRONG with Bodyweight workouts.
Ever since I released my best selling training course, Bodyweight Bodybuilding, I've been getting a lot of questions regarding bodyweight training.
Here is a GREAT question regarding bodyweight training & probably the most frequent question I get.
Check it out....
QUESTION: Zach, can someone get endless strength gains from Bodyweight Training?
ANSWER: Awesome question!
I use Bodyweight training for my own workouts & it is a large portion of how I train my athletes at The Underground Strength Gym.
Bodyweight training is a HUGE part of what we do, but, NOT the ONLY part.
We use a variety of training tools and methods to push for reaching maximum potential in overall performance as you've likely seen through our training videos.
Here Is The BIG Mistake Most People Make With Bodyweight Workouts
Most people make the mistake of using Bodyweight exercises as an after thought to their workouts by throwing in a few half hearted sets of pull ups or push ups or some weak bodyweight circuit.
That is a HUGE mistake as you can use Bodyweight Exercises for the following Benefits:
- Improve Your Speed & Explosive Power
- Add Lean Muscle Mass
- Add Functional Muscle Mass
- Improve Your Stamina & Muscular Endurance
- Improve Your Mental Toughness
- Improve Your Body Kinesthetics & Overall Athleticism
"If you think you can't get stronger using Bodyweight exercises, think again...."
Test Yourself Against The 10 Bodyweight Exercises Listed Below
If you CAN crush these exercises you are a Bodyweight BEAST.
If not, then you CAN step up your commitment to Bodyweight Training and pursue greater strength and performance through Bodyweight Workouts.
Don't hide from bodyweight training, attack it!
1) Pistols x 10 ea. leg
2) 1 Arm Push Ups x 10 ea. arm
3) 1 Arm Pull Up x 1 rep ea. arm
4) Muscle Up On Bar / Rings x 5 in a row
5) 100 Consecutive Push Ups
6) 10 Handstand Push Ups
7) Handstand Walking
8) 20' Rope Climb With OUT Leg Assistance
9) Parallel Bar Dips x 50 reps
10) 20 Pull Ups (Overhand or Underhand Grip)
The above list of bodyweight exercises are the toughest movements for bodyweight training and some of the best bodyweight exercises you can & should use when looking to improve athletic performance as well as pack on lean muscle mass.
I'd like to add an 11th exercise.....
The Front Lever.
Since writing this list of top bodyweight exercises I have come across this exercise and it is TOUGH and awesome on not just the abs but the entire body.
Here is a front lever tutorial from Little BEAST who is in our Bodyweight Bodybuilding Bonus: Bodyweight BEASTS.
Remember, strength is a skill and it must be practiced regularly, and bodyweight training gives you the power to practice anywhere, anytime and with no equipment.
So until you are able to perform the above list of 10 Bodyweight Exercises I honestly believe you are NOT strong enough in Bodyweight Training.
Can I personally perform the entire list above?
Not ALL of them, so this tells me I CAN & Need to get stronger in those Bodyweight movements and that comes through more practice in bodyweight training and also reduction of body weight and better overall body composition.
Obviously, being heavier will not make the performance of those 10 bodyweight exercises easier, but, this is NOT an excuse as I have shown you many videos of myself and my own clients performing many of these feats, even at 250 plus pounds we have athletes climbing rope, performing 10 + handstand push ups, etc..
So if you've been thinking you're strong enough with bodyweight exercises and the only exercises you've been doing with your own bodyweight training are push ups, pull ups and dips.....well, it looks like you have your work cut out for you.
This is an opportunity for you to set a goal, plan your course of action and get after it like a MadMan (or Woman!).
It's time to get busy because we ALL need to become stronger.
You CAN maximize your physical potential by making bodyweight training an integral part of your workouts, not just some half hearted after thought.
Respect Bodyweight Training and the results will come.
Let's DO this!
Live The Code,
TOP Resources for Those Who Want to Become Bodyweight BEASTS
Convict Conditioning Workout - Perhaps The Most Powerful Book I Have Ever Gotten My Hands On For PURE Bodyweight Training & Calisthenics.
Bodyweight Bodybuilding Training Course - Develop Explosive Athleticism, Pack On Lean Muscle Mass, Increase Your Mental Toughness & Raw Strength
Dustin Sanchez says
That’s awesome Zach! I’ve been working the handstand pushups, that dude on your video makes them look so freaking easy, but I can only crank out one or two at a time. And then I tried jumping from my knees to the feet today, I think you called these get ups, but that was a complete fail, going to keep working at it though. A lot of my clients are always asking for more ab work, maybe you could include some bodyweight ab work soon…plz.
Danny Wright says
That’s a good top ten…I have most of them licked but on the dips I fail at around 40.
The muscle ups, I’ve never tried on rings and I know they are easier that way, but off a bar I can do them but need to improve.
Consecutive Push ups I can hit about 75 before I fail.
And the rope climbing…one of my fav’s. Check out my 30 foot rope climb at my blog here http://tinyurl.com/n6ruvl
Other top 10 type bodyweight exercises, maybe bridging and reverse push ups as a few examples.
Simon Ferrar says
What are “pistols” ~ single leg squats?
What are “muscle ups” on bar or rings
I’ve been waiting for this all bodyweight to come out for ages!
Thanks Zach man!
Do you have a substitute for dips? I don’t have any dip bars at home nor is parks around.
#2 How far should one be going for handstand walking? Do you have tips on stability and strength and all for that?
Thanks a lot, man.
Take it easy,
Are those the leg pistols you were talking about?
And p.s. I can NOT do muscle ups on bars! Please give me a tip before it makes me go nuts. I try so hard, but its just not happenning.
Michael - Bodyweight Exercises says
Zach, I just did a post on body weight training using football and gymnastics as the two sports that require the greatest amount of strength in sports.
see here: http://www.thefatlossauthority.com/fat_loss_tips/incredible-muscle-gains-without-weights/
I popped by a gymnastics training center not too long ago and it was ridiculous to see them train. Killer situps and rope climbs just like Danny Wright above were just one of the many body weight exercises they completed that day. I talked to one of the guys after wards and asked him if does any classic weight training on the side? He shot me a funny look and told me he hasn’t picked up a dumbbell in 3 years. Amazing!
Girlwithnoname (Jackie) says
YUMMY!! I do bodyweight all the time.. but I can’t do the number of reps listed on ANY of those (although if I had a rope I bet I could climb it). Something to shoot for.
thanks Zach. awesome post, as usual.
Danny Wright says
Stephan re: your post #5
Quote: “And p.s. I can NOT do muscle ups on bars! Please give me a tip before it makes me go nuts. I try so hard, but its just not happenning.” End of Quote.
If you have access to rings it is easier but otherwise the trick is to put your hands past the bar with your wrists leaning on the bar itself, taking the weight.
Then, as you come up over you slide your hands onto the bar.
But, hey! How do you get up there in the first place?
Try giving yourself a little leg up, cheat a little. By doing a tiny jump off the ground-or a big jump if you need lots of help you will get the momentum to lift yourself up past the bar. As you get stronger and develop the groove you will need less and less of a jump start.
Hope that helps-
Danny from http://www.DumpTheGymFitness.com
Kaiser Serajuddin says
Yeah Simon – single leggers without assistance – great for man strength –
Who needs a gym? Not us! (unless it’s USG)
Vic Magary - GymJunkies says
Awesome list, Zach! I’m a big fan of the muscle up, rope climb, and pistols myself.
I glad to see the ‘re-birth’ of bodyweight exercises. The rope climb is probably the most challenging.
lol…I thought this was designed as a single workout and not a guide. Thanks Z for the Bodyweight University and hope to see more products like this in the future.
Jim Sweeney says
in the 70’s I served in the Navy in Vietnam on an
ammunition ship,where we supplied ammo and other
supplies to ships at sea.I was a Boatswains Mate and
I was stationed at the “lizard line” (a rope that
steadied the load as it was being passed to another
ship).I got many”job well done” from the Capt because
of my strength steadying the line.
after discharge,I joined a local gym ,owned by a
Chiropractor (they make good personal trainers).
after about 2 years training with the Dr,I had a job
that allowed me less time at the gym-so I started
doing “dips” on a steel railing they had in their
garage.I weighed about 240 lbs at the time.At the
gym I did a lot of incline presses-among other
so,as a result,30 years later-at 58 y/o…….
I still have a 56 ” chest……at 6’2″
and I am still strong…….
push ups won’t hurt ,either……..
All natural is the way to go………
Rafi Bar-Lev says
I’m a huge proponent of body weight exercises as they give you the ability to measure your true strength to mass ratio. Great post.
Jamie Sulc says
Great list Z! I guess I need to step up my bodyweight training!
Jon Le Tocq says
What do you guys think about isometrics?
I’ve found the use of 3-4 sets of 3-5 sec holds at three angles through a movement 2-3 times per week to be effective in developing those exercise where at first you have no hope of even getting one rep.
This is pull ups for some, single arm push ups, handstand push ups – the usual suspects! Give it a go if you’re struggling to get that first rep. After 4 weeks you’ll be there if not sooner.
Wrote an article here on the pros and cons if anyone wants to know more… http://worldstoughestworkouts.com/isometric-strength-training-for-anywhere/
Killer post as usual bro!
Bodyweight is an essential and often overlooked strength tool.
I’m making them a PRIORITY in my program.
Each week I got a different “Hardcore Hundred” workout I’ll be cranking full blast.
I like the Big Three – Rope Climbs, Muscle Ups, and Pistols.
Pistols are my weakness and I’ll be working on those big time.
I want to build up to cranking 30 each side no problem!
Keep it up Z!
Joe Shu says
I only have one question. Who were the maniacs busting their you know whats in the woods. That black and white footage was sweet. Like you I love the old school approach. Even better is getting a chance to watch those trail blazers in action. Best part was the coach leading the way. When I’m coaching, whether its a football team, a crossfit class, or group x at the y I work hard to lead by example. Thanks for all the great info Z. Its definitely savage worthy.
Ha… I can see some blast from the past footage from east European Olympic weight lifters training. Am I right?
I think I recognise my “country men” 😉
Good post man! your list nearly freaked me out. I am sooo disappointed and sad to say that probably half of them are beyond me at the moment.
You get me going now! Promise!!! 🙂
Thank you for your updates.
Matt Schifferle says
Wow that is quite the challenge! I once thought that one could only get so strong with body weight training but over the past 2 years I keep discovering more hard core ways to use body weight in training and the bar keeps getting raised higher and higher. I guess that’s why they always say, the more you know the more you grow. Our own potential is only limited by our ignorance.
First of all, this is awesome info!
Second, When you say “1 handed pullups” do you mean pullups literally with no assistance whatsoever from the opposite arm? Simply grab the bar with one arm (let the other arm hang) and perform a pullup?
Yes, guys, the one arm pull up is unassisted, BUT, in Convict Conditioning, Coach Paul Wade teaches you progressions for the unassisted one arm pull up.
We have a wrestler who can do it!! I gave him the book as a gift http://ConvictConditioningWorkout.com
awesome stuff! i suggest adding the “dragon flag” to that top ten challenges! i bet it’s worth it’s place there!
I am a huge fan of the spiderman pushup or the mountain climber with pushup. Just to be clear as I may be calling them the wrong things: a spiderman pushup is doing a normal pushup but while your nose is on the ground you bring one knee to your elbow and then do the same on the other side.
A mountain climber pushup is you do a pushup and when you come back up, you bring your right foot to your right hand and back and then left foot to left hand and back. Repeat this until dead! I sweat more on this one that a lot of other stuff I do.
Frank DiMeo says
Great list to check our progress by!
Got more work to do, glad I’m still young enough (at 61) to go after it 🙂
David C says
Awesome video and exercises, where did the vintage training footage come from?
Keep the awesomeness coming!!!
Been pushing real hard on the BWBB and have made significant gains. I am really enjoying the program. I will be working hard to complete the ten. I will be working the six in convict conditioning soon, as I am almost finished with phase 2. This is where I feel I excel, not putting down the barbell just postponing it until 5×5. Your thoughts on this? Thanks for helping me become a beast at 43, not there yet (BUT WORKINGRMING HARD JUST THE SAME). Much respect!
I think that your list is good, but I also think that you are missing a couple of things. One is 100 hindu pushups and another is 150 hindu squats. This of course is just my opinion. I use ’em and I find them wicked. I cant do the numbers I just posted though. I can do 52 hindu pushups and 78 of the squats.
ryan wood says
Hi when you say hspu do you mean to or forehead or do mean to nose or full range on pushup handles.
ryan wood says
By the way i stopped doing standing db press 3week ago and do hspu to forehead most days can do ten reps now and my db press went up four reps and i aint trained it for four week.hspu seem good upper body exercise.im 100kg
Great post! I have definitely added a handful of bodyweight movements into my daily program! Nothin like crushin a bodyweight workout at your own house! No excuses
JOEY FRAD says
keep in mind people, handstand pushups are elevated, if you just touch the top of your head it is SIGNIFICANTLY easier and is called a headstand. the exercises zach listed are awesome, make sure to do some STRAIGHT ARM work though so you can eventually move to even HARDER exercises like planch.
Fitness Wayne | Strength Training, Weight Loss and Paleo Diet says
That is a pretty intense list. I can’t do muscle ups or one armed pull ups yet but can do the rest of them.
Coach BiGD says
With my athletes I work a contrast of barbell and an explosive equivalent. Barbell floor press with full range plyo pushup or squat and box jump. That is a Louie Simmons tactic I picked up on one of his videos about alternates to olympic lifting. As an olympic lifting coach I am open minded to other techniques to develop explosive speed and force.
All of my youth athletes do body weight exercises. I like the list above and will work in with more advanced athletes. Including myself.
Vincent Campo says
Thanks to your influence on body weight training
I have new challenges. Even at 42 and old dog can
Learn new tricks.
Frank DiMeo says
Great post, Z!
Bodyweight training definitely can “stand alone”, and produce great results.
Zach, you’re right on about that front lever. I delivered home fitness equipment for 11 years back in VT and it was always beating up my back. Deads and kb work were just barely keeping me upright after a day of carring heavy equipment up narrow stairways with little dogs yapping at my heels.
I started doing levers as a challenge from a buddy and felt an massive improvement in my back and core within a couple of weeks!
Its certainly a move I wish I did back when I was younger.
Thanks as always!
Me from India and since 16 have been dong the pushups and squats, was a runner too. Now 37, still put in the Hindu Pushups and Hindu Squats, feels awesome.
Mate bodyweight exercises if not done half assed and with the right intensity and volume can be beastly! I’ve always appreciated body weight training but more so now that I have incorporated gymnastics strength training into my weekly routine. I do 2 days S&C and 2 days gymnastics strength in a class format. With the 2 days S&C I have now made alterations to compliment my gymnastics training by adding body weight movements as my secondary movement instead of a usual lift. So my S&C sessions will consist of a power/explosive movement, followed by a squat or dead lift, followed by a bodyweight movement, ring/parallel bar dips, pull ups, walk walks, hinge rows, pistols, pike push-ups (working towards a HSPU) and so on.. add some eccentric movements in that and damn!!
And it’s a breath of fresh air from constantly lifting heavy weights, which still have the part in terms of the core lifts, but has taken a toll on the body after so many years of doing it as you have also mentioned