Home workouts, bodyweight training and building muscle? This is part 1 of 2 articles.

Read time: ~5 mins

Last week I released ……(#fitfluencer) “BIG ANNOUNCEM_” okay I’ll stop……

A coaching platform for free home workout plans, for everyone, DIY assessment with 3 workout days.

3 workout days, dependent on how much training experience you have, you could rotate these over the week to increase volume, but I’d recommend to start with a day between each (i.e M / W / Fr) in particular if you’re a newbie. If you’re signed-up, then you’ll get an email covering this soon.  

What are the Pros/Cons of bodyweight training?

(Harrison et al, 2010)

Pros:

  • No Equipment required.
  • Perform anywhere.
  • Great introduction to strength training.
  • Develop stability and control (Limit unwanted movement during movement).
  • Development of (relative) strength levels for some (i.e lacks strength to perform 1 push-up)
  • Develop muscular endurance (i.e perform multiple push-ups)

Cons:

  • Often perceived as too easy to someone advanced in strength training.
  • Often perceived as too difficult to novices.
  • Limited load (to your body weight).

Like any skill, technique is a priority and relevant to bodyweight movement too. Strive for optimal technique over banging out “meh” reps or compensating for lack of strength with poor technique to get reps.

“Difficulty” of bodyweight movements can be altered by:

(Difficulty = the load aka amount of our weight we manipulate in the movement)

  • Manipulating the moment arm or lever.
  • Plane of motion.
  • Modifications to single limb variations.
  • Range of Motion.
    • (This one is slightly different – I’ll explain why)
  • Adding external load – this one is self-explanatory.

Let’s look at the above variables for the push-up as an example.

Manipulating the moment arm or the lever.

The relative load, is the percentage of your body weight you incorporate into the movement. ( Contreras et al, 2012)

Push-up Variation Relative load
Knee 49%
Standard 64%
Feet Elevated (61cm) 74%
(Push up variations manipulating the lever length.)

Plane of motion:

  • Alternate side to side push ups, taking more of the load on one side each time.

Single limb variation

  • All things being equal, then simply transferring the relative load to one arm – these are tough!!

Range of motion

From a practical stand point, to get the most from the various muscles contributing to a movement you’ll need to go through a full range of motion to allow for them to contribute accordingly.
Research shows compelling evidence that a full range of motion versus a partial is superior for strength adaptations and muscle building in particular with the lower body movements (Schoenfeld et al, 2020).

So, if you’re not strong enough to do a standard bodyweight variation, regress the movement to reduce the relative load until you accumulate the strength to progress the movement and load.

Later this week I will cover low loads vs heavy loads, appropriate rep ranges and rest times.

References

  • Harrison, Jeffrey. (2010). Bodyweight Training: A Return to Basics. Strength & Conditioning Journal. 32. 52-55.
  • Contreras, Bret & Schoenfeld, Brad & Mike, Jonathan & Tiryaki-Sonmez, Raziye & Cronin, John & Vaino, Elsbeth. (2012). The Biomechanics of the Push-up. Strength and Conditioning Journal. 34. 41-46.
  • Schoenfeld, Brad & Grgic, Jozo. (2020). Effects of Range of Motion on Muscle Development During Resistance Training Interventions: A Systematic Review.
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