Seven strategies to make body weight exercises more difficult

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Today’s Question is: How to make bodyweight exercises more difficult?

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The problem with bodyweight exercises, is that eventually you stop building muscular strength and start building muscular endurance. After you can do around 30-50 reps of a given movement in a row, you’re no longer getting stronger, you’re building stamina. On this video, I go over seven tactics that you can implement to improve your strength, without having to rely on gym equipment and simply use your own body.

I’ll explain just how to implement each of these strategies:

Tempo

I like to add tempo counts to the descent of movements to increase difficulty.

5-3-0: descent-bottom-ascent

For a pushup, it would mean taking five seconds to go from the top to the floor, then holding for three seconds at the bottom of the pushup then pushing up as fast as possible.

Plyometrics

Add in some dynamic/explosive movement to the exercises, such as clap pushups, or jump squats/lunges.

Note, that if you do have any previous or current joint/ligament pain/injuries then be careful with adding high impact movements to your exercise routine.

Pauses

Very similar to tempo ovements, simply add pauses to the exercises at any point you would like. Popular places to add in pauses are at the bottom of a movement, or halfway up/down.

Unilateral

By shifting your movements to a single arm/leg you make exercises more than twice as hard, now we’ve shift all the body weight to one side and have to overcome balance issues. Examples of this are one-armed pushups, single leg squats and lunges. There is quite a big leap in strength requirements from double handed to single hand pushups, one way to scale to start with one armed pushups against a wall and work your way down in angle

Super Sets

Super sets are just two movements performed without any rest in between each working set. The idea behind supersetting two movements is to induce fatigue faster and make the movements feel more difficult. With bodyweight supersets, look at combining movements that work the same muscle back to back.

Bodyweight Superset Examples

  • Lunges & Squats
  • Plank & Ab Twists
  • Jumps & Squats
  • Wall Pushups & Floor Pushups
  • Chair Dips & Pushups

Giant Sets

Giant sets builds on the concept, by adding in more movements to target the same muscles. The ideal way to make this work is to start with the hardest movement and add in movements that get progressively easier. Since you’ll be operating at a more and more fatigued state, each exercise would be mechanically easier, but will feel a lot more difficult as the set continues

Bodyweight Giant Set Examples

  • Pistol Squats, Bodyweight Squats, Lunges, Walk up stairs
  • Floor pushups, Chair pushups, wall pushups
  • Reverse Crunches, Ab twists, planks, crunches
  • Pull ups, Chin ups, horizontal desk rows

1.5 Reps

“One and a halfs” reps, take the bottom half of the rep and complete it twice. For a squat, you start the squat like normal, the first time you start standing up, stop half way up and squat back down, then stand back up again completely. The idea is that you’re getting more stimulus at the hardest part (bottom) of the lift, which should make each rep slightly harder than the last.

21 Guns

Aka ‘sevens’ is a concept from Bodybuilding, where you split a movement up into the bottom half and top half. A set would consist of performing the bottom half of the rep seven times, followed by the top half of the rep seven times, finally, completing seven full reps to round out the set. This adds significant time under tension to help with muscle growth.

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