How to Get Stronger Doing Bodyweight Workouts

One of the best things about a bodyweight workout is it can be done just about anywhere, from home, at the gym or even when traveling. Programs using exercise equipment is best, especially for long-term gains, but the next best option is a bodyweight workout. The award-winning Jefit app, has been trying to help on that front. They have been consistently publishing bodyweight workouts for their 10 million member community since 2010.

Exercise Progression is Key for Bodyweight Workouts

You typically see strength improvements initially when using bodyweight as a resistance. The key to any bodyweight workout, however, is figuring out how to safely progress workouts over time. The body typically adapts to a new training routine within a few months depending on several factors. After this point, it’s important to add exercise progression into the mix.

This is done in one of three ways, either changing the sets, repetitions, or resistance. Generally speaking, the goal is in the 2-5 set range and 8-20 repetition range. This could change depending on individual goals. The resistance needs to be challenging enough for the person to reach and stay within those ranges. If someone is able to perform more than 12-15 repetitions, then the load is basically too light and resistance should be increased. If bodyweight is the main resistance than you have to get more creative.

For example, changing the angle of how an exercise is performed (i.e. progress from kneeling push-up to a standard push-up to an elevated push-up) will help. A second option is slow down the speed of each repetition, in order to increase the time under tension. A third option would be to add an external weight source, like a weighted vest, chains, medicine ball or a sandbag, when performing the exercise. Finally, a fourth option is to add an incline (hill) or platform (plyo box) to challenge the body even more when doing a specific exercise.

Some of the Best Bodyweight Exercises

The human body cannot differentiate between various types of resistance. It only knows that a load is being placed on the muscles. Free weights typically work best for building strength because you have the ability to increase resistance as the body adapts and gets stronger over time. It becomes more challenging to do that with a person’s bodyweight. But if you’re creative, you can in fact build strength with just your bodyweight. This may end up being difficult to do over a long-period of time though.

There are many great bodyweight exercises to choose from when putting together your bodyweight workout. Compound or multi-joint exercises are considered best. These are exercises that engage more than one muscle group to perform the movement. These types of exercises are more beneficial than isolation exercises. Multi-joint exercises are also best for building strength and muscle size. Here are some of the best exercises, in no particular order, to add to your next bodyweight workout. The majority of the exercises listed below are multi-joint exercises.

Bodyweight Exercises

  1. SQUAT (and variations like Jump Squats)
  2. LUNGE (variations)
  3. STEP-UP (variations like Side Step-Up)
  4. PULL-UP
  5. CHIN-UP
  6. PUSH-UP (and variations like T-PUSH-UPS)
  7. INVERTED ROW
  8. DIPS
  9. PLANK (variations)
  10. SINGLE-LEG GLUTE BRIDGE
  11. PISTOL SQUAT
  12. BULGARIAN SPLIT SQUAT
  13. SINGLE-LEG ROMANIAN DEADLIFT

To answer the original question, can you get stronger doing bodyweight workouts? The answer is a resounding yes! Research published in the Journal Physiology & Behavior showed that bodyweight exercises are beneficial because muscle growth “can occur independent of an external load.” Additional research in the European Journal of Applied Physiology showed gains in strength with a “no load” exercise protocol. Let us know if you have a favorite exercise that you’ve been using from home, or at the gym, that’s not listed here. Stay Stronger Together!

Jefit Bodyweight Workouts

Suggested Reading

How to Grow Stronger Without Lifting Weights, Scientific American, Clayton Mosher, 2014.

Stay Stronger Together with Jefit

Jefit, named best strength app by Men’s Health, Greatest, Forbes Health, Men’s Journal and many others, has a community responsible for 92,000,000 workouts to date! The app, which recently passed 10 million downloads, comes equipped with a customizable workout planner and training log. The app has ability to track data, offer audio coaching cues, and can share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. #staystrongertogether

Michael Wood, CSCS