BodyweightFrequently Asked Questions
What are the rules of bodyweight training?
Just like with traditional bodybuilding where you use free weights and machines, you’re going to have to show some persistence to get results from your bodyweight routine. But if you don’t have the right know-how, your efforts will only get you so far. Listen up as I share with you the most important rules of building your body using, well, just your body!
1. It’s all about progressive resistance.
Progressive resistance builds muscle. If you’re doing traditional bodybuilding, you’d keep adding weights to your bars, dumbbells or machines to achieve it.
With bodyweight training, however, you’re obviously not working with these weights. So how do you follow this rule in bodyweight bodybuilding? Well, you just need to be creative. Here’s a few ways you can do that:
- Change the leverage: you might start off by doing traditional push-ups and then change the leverage by, for example, elevating your feet on a bench. This will redistribute the weight of your body and shift your centre of gravity forward, forcing you to lift more. The higher the elevation, the more weight you need to push against.
- Use fewer limbs: when you’re doing a push-up, you’re using all of your limbs to lift yourself, but if you want to increase the resistance, simply remove one of your limbs from the equation. This will also change your leverage and increase the weight tenfold.
- Go for a wider/longer range of motion: when you extend your range of motion in any exercise, you add resistance. An example of this might be doing a pull-up to your chin to doing a pull-up to your chest-level.
Now that I’ve laid it out like this, I think it will be easier for you to see how much weight you have to work with when bodybuilding using your own bodyweight. If you think this is too easy, just try doing a one-handed, hand-stand push-up!
2. More reps = more muscle.
When you’re trying to build your strength, you need to aim for really high loads. This will automatically decrease your reps. But when it comes to bulking up and building muscle, however, you need to aim for higher reps, even if it means lowering your load.
I’m going to suggest that you start off by doing about 8 to 12 reps and then work your way from there. Remember, you should be hitting this number of reps while maintaining good form. If not, you need to lower the weights and reps.
3. Split up those exercises.
When you’re trying to build your muscles, your aim is to push them to their maximum limit. You need to exhaust them. The only way to do that is to split up your exercises so you’re focusing on one muscle group at a time while the other muscles rest. This is great for muscle repair.
Much like bodybuilding, you can vary your bodyweight workouts by splitting upper and lower days, even PPL would work.
4. Eat right.
By now you should know that eating right is just as important as exercising right, especially when you’re building muscle. After all, how can your body build muscle if you’re not giving it the fuel to do that?
When you’re building muscle, you’re going to increase the amount of calories you take in. These higher calories are going to be divided into higher proteins, fibre and nutrients. If you can’t get enough of these through your meals, remember there are protein shakes to help you with this.
5. Keep pushing.
Lastly and most importantly, you need to remember that bodyweight bodybuilding is hard work. Just because you’re working with nothing more than your body weight doesn’t mean this is going to be easy, or any easier than traditional bodybuilding. You need to get your butt out of your bed and put in the work if you want to earn a good looking physique.
What are the best bodyweight exercises and workouts?
Now we’re onto the fun part—the exercises and workouts that are going to get you jacked and competition ready. Remember, the sky is pretty much the limit when it comes to working against your own bodyweight. Here are some exercises to get you started.
Dips are an upper body pressing exercise, potentially the single most beneficial bodyweight exercise you can do. They’re best for triceps, but by varying your grip you can hit your chest, shoulders and back in varying amounts. You can start off by doing them just on a bench, but if you’re looking to get super jacked then you’re going to want to invest in a pair of dip bars.
Ah, the classic push-up. No bodyweight training routine is complete without it! Form is very important here if you really want to work those lats and triceps, so don’t take the easy road here. And make sure you follow that rule about progression.
Once you have mastered the traditional push-up, shake things up by elevating your feet and then move onto one arm push-ups. Aim for about 5 sets of about 25 reps for the traditional push-up, and 5 sets of 5 to 10 reps for the one-arm push-up.
What makes sit-ups better than crunches? Sit-ups hit your abdominals and stabilising muscles from your neck, chest and lower back down to your hip flexors. Crunches only target your abs. So if you’re looking for a core workout and compound exercise in one, sit-ups are the way to go.
A great “twist” to the traditional sit-up is the Russian twist, which will work your core in a more intense way, not to mention your lats. The only difference here is that, at the top of your sit up, instead of staying static, you’ll be twisting from one side to the other.
The good thing about core exercises like sit-ups is they are not only great for improving how your body looks, but they will also make your life easier. They help improve your posture and balance and prevent injuries. For traditional sit-ups, aim for 5 sets of about 25 to 100 reps.
4. Flat bench lying leg raise
This one will really make you feel the burn in your core! Start by lying down on a flat bench and slowly raise both your legs until they are perpendicular to the floor.
Your body should look like an “L” at this point. Pause and lower your legs until they are aligned with your upper body. It’s important to raise and lower your legs in one controlled movement. Do 5 sets of about 25 reps.
The pull-up is a very popular bodyweight exercise that targets your lats and traps. If you can’t do a pull-up right away, you can use an assisted pull-up machine before pulling yourself up on your own.
Remember to keep your grip nice and close, and use an overhand grip to get those forearms working. Once you’ve managed a pull-up to your chin, increase the weight by doing a pull-up to your chest. 5 sets of about 10 reps will help you build some real muscle here.
There’s nothing quite as good (and brutal) for the core as planking. There are a number of ways to up the intensity once you have mastered the standard plank. You can go from a plank to an elbow plank (where you’re resting on your forearms instead of your palms) and then lift one leg off the ground to increase the difficulty even more.
Another great cardio exercise is swimming. This is probably the only full-body workout you can do without sweating! Aim to spend at least 30 minutes in the pool if you want to get the most out of it!
Do I need to use any equipment when I'm doing bodyweight training?
Of course, you won’t be using loads of equipment when you’re just using your body for working out, but it doesn’t mean you won’t be using any at all! You need a good set of tools to support your workouts, whether you’re down on the floor or suspended up in the air.
1. Dip Bars
As mentioned, dips are perhaps the most beneficial bodyweight exercise you can do. They can be done from just a bench, but if bench dips are getting a bit easy for you you’re going to want to invest in a set of dip bars. We stock a wide range of dip bars, some are standalone, some can be mounted to your power rack, and some are wall mounted. If you’re starting to find dips are getting to easy, you can add some resistance using a Dip Belt.
2. Resistance bands
Resistance bands are a super useful accessory to add to your gym bag. They can be used to both add and remove resistance – if you’re doing pullups you can thread the band over the bar and step on it to assist you. And we all know how important bicep curl are to any workout routine, so simply step on one end of the resistance band and hold the other in your hand, now you have yourself a dumbbell.
3. Pull-Up Bar
Alongside dips, pullups are one of the most beneficial upper body exercises. But you’re going to need a pullup bar to do them! We stock a wide range of pullup bars, so we’re bound to have something to meet your needs!
4. Gymnastic rings
Gymnastic rings can double as a pullup bar or dip bars. You can also adjust the height of them so you can do assisted variations of both exercises. A good set of rings should be comfortable in your hands, adjustable and easy to install.
When hanging them, make sure they’re set a little wider than your shoulders, and definitely make sure that they are installed securely.
The last thing you want to worry about during your pull-ups with these is their stability. You wouldn’t want them to suddenly come loose while you’re up in the air!
Parallette bars may look like they’re made just for gymnasts, but trust me when I say they are not! They allow you to do everything from push-ups to v-sits, so they’re definitely worth the investment. Get a pair that can support more than your current weight so you can use them for many years to come. We also stock small and tall parallettes, so you can decide which is best for you.
6. Suspension Trainer
Suspension straps are one of the more versatile pieces of bodyweight equipment: they allow you to train pretty much every single muscle in your body using only your bodyweight and a solid anchor point. As with all bodyweight equipment though, you’re going to want to make sure it’s high quality. Fortunately ATX and Spud are both reputable brands, so you can trust their product.
7. Ironmaster Super Bench
The Ironmaster Super Bench is the most versatile gym bench on the market, and allows you to build a home gym purely centred around it. For bodyweight exercises, the super bench has optional chin-up, dip, and crunch attachments.
Bodyweight training can be really effective in building your muscles as long as you do the exercises with the proper form. Follow the rules I shared in this article, feed your body right, invest in the right tools and get to work! Remember, your body is one mean machine that you can transform anyway you want. Now, drop and give me 20!
Why is ATX the best in terms of bodyweight equipment?
When you browse through our bodyweight equipment, you will see that ATX is featured heavily. This European fitness brand is a market leader when it comes to wall mounted bodyweight gym equipment, as space efficiency is a top priority for European customers.
On top of space efficiency, European customers also demand exceptional quality. All ATX bodyweight equipment is superbly designed and finished to last forever.
Some advice on wall-mounted gym equipment: it is strongly recommended that you seek advice from a professional before bolting these things to your walls. The ATX units do not come with bolts. This is because the type of bolt you require may vary according to the material of the wall you are attaching it to.
How should I start my bodyweight training?
If you have heard the buzz about weight training being beneficial for the health and well-being of people of all ages, you may want to dip your toes in the water and give it a try. Many people feel uncomfortable training in commercial gyms for various reasons. The idea of training in your own home gym is appealing.
Bodyweight training equipment is ideal for trainers who are just starting out. This type of training is generally safer (provided you do it correctly), but it is highly effective. Plus, the equipment doesn’t require a lot of space or financial investment. There is a huge chance that you will be more than impressed with the results and may end up getting bitten by the weight training bug!
Which bodyweight exercises stand out from the others?
Bodyweight gym equipment is often relatively inexpensive and takes up much less space when compared to multi gyms or power racks. The list of bodyweight exercises is massive but the three most popular exercises are chin-ups, dips, abs or core work. All these exercises help you to get fit without breaking the bank. The majority of bodyweight gym equipment will focus on these areas.
Even people who are not familiar with weight training will most likely know about chin-ups. For a simple exercise that requires simple equipment, this exercise packs a lot of punch. Chin-ups work your back, shoulders and biceps. It is classified as a compound exercise because it works multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Compound exercises such as this are simply the best way to build your muscle and strength.
A wall or ceiling-mounted option is ideal for gyms that need to save on precious floor space. Wall mounting also makes the chin-up bar much more affordable than offering it in a stand-alone machine format.
While chin-ups target your back and biceps, dips focus on your chest, triceps as well as shoulders, making it a perfect compliment to chin-ups. Many an impressive upper body has been built on dips and chin-ups.
Dips also lend themselves to wall mounting. As they are positioned lower to the ground than chin-up bars, you have the option of selecting a folding version. This further adds to the space-saving appeal of a wall-mounted dip station.
Abs & Core Work
Working your abs and core using your own bodyweight is often the most effective way to perform these exercises. Machines using weight plates or weight stacks are not necessary. To work your abs, crunches on the floor are always a staple. You can’t beat hanging knee or leg raises from your chin up bar (yet another reason why they are the best investment for your gym!) to get a serious ab workout.
Hyperextensions are another piece of equipment on which you can do quality exercises where weights are required. This not only strengthens your back, but also allows you stretch it as well.
Glute Ham Developers is a machine that works the entire posterior chain and has gained popularity in recent years. This is a brutal exercise with bodyweight alone.
Is bodyweight training suitable for all levels of trainers?
Bodyweight exercises are generally suitable for all weight trainers, regardless of experience level. For adults starting out, they will generally be carrying a little extra weight and won’t have the necessary strength to complete a chin-up or dip. With the aid of a resistance band, you can perform assisted dips and chin ups or you can just work on the eccentric part of the movement until your strength progresses.
For the serious trainer who has plenty of strength, you can add weight to your dips or chin-ups with a dip belt. For exercises like hyperextensions and glute ham raises, you can use a resistance band or weight plate to add resistance.
Can you Build Muscle without Weights?
YES, 100%. Our brain does not know the difference between a barbell, a machine and your bodyweight when it comes to building muscle and strength. The only thing the brain knows is stress, AKA muscle tension.
If we progressively challenge the muscles through resistance training, meaning that we make the exercises we perform harder over time, the brain will send a signal to the muscles to grow, to adapt to the stress we are placing on them. This means that if we make a push up harder e.g., by elevating our feet, we can get the same muscle building (Hypertrophic) response. This is the same as adding 10 kg on the bench press each session.
Is Bodyweight training as effective as Weight Training?
This depends on your goals. What are you trying to achieve? If you are trying to get stronger at a specific movement, e.g., pullups, weight training will not be as effective as practising the pull-up itself! If you couldn’t do a pull-up, you would make it easier by adding a resistance band, to reduce your bodyweight.
If you are trying to build muscle, strength, and endurance, yes, bodyweight training can be just as effective as weight training. The only difference is that instead of adding weight to the bar or machine, we move our body through space in a more difficult way. For example, progressing from knee pushups to regular pushups, to archer pushups, to one arm pushups!
Is Bodyweight training enough?
Enough for what? Again, this depends on your goals. If you want to lose weight, be healthy and reduce your risk of injury with age, plus learn how to perform impressive feats of strength, YES, bodyweight training is enough! If you want to build muscle and strength, bodyweight training is enough, too!
The only difference between bodyweight training and weight training is ease of progression. It is straight-forward to add 5kg to the bar each session, but not everyone knows how to make a push up or pullup harder once you can do 10 reps. Also people do not know how to perform many effective bodyweight exercises.
With the right information, you can keep adding muscle and strength with bodyweight movements for your entire training career!
How to train Shoulders with Bodyweight?
With bodyweight training, we don’t aim to isolate certain body parts! Every push up, pullup, row, push up, dip etc. will work the shoulders to some extent! For example, a row and pullup will target the rear delts, as well as the traps, lats and entire posterior chain. A dip will target your front and side delts, along with your chest and triceps!
To mimic the classic Overhead Press (OHP), we can do shoulder pushups, AKA Pike Pushups, and Handstand Pushups. To do this, we just get into a horizontal push up position, and lean forward to place more weight on your hands, until we are fully vertical using a wall for balance. You can even work your shoulders statically with freestanding handstands, but keep in mind, these exercises will train all the muscles in your body – something typical machines and barbell movements cannot!
Are Bodyweight exercises Strength Training?
Yes. Any form of exercise where we fight against gravity is strength training. For example, a push up is pushing our body away from the floor. The better we get at pushups, the stronger we become at pushups. This is the same as getting stronger at bench press by doing more bench press.
Going for a run and barbell squatting are also two types of strength training, even though running doesn’t require weights! Many people would be surprised that you could build a very impressive set of wheels from sprinting alone. Any type of training where we use our muscles to work hard against resistance, that is strength training.
In more detail, we have open-chain strength training movements, where our torso (body) is fixed and we use our limbs (arms or legs) to move a weight against gravity (e.g., barbell bench press, leg press machine). There is also closed-chain resistance training, where our limbs are fixed and we move our torso through space, against gravity (e.g., push up, barbell or bodyweight squat).
Almost all bodyweight exercises are closed-chain strength training movements. Closed chain movements are a major advantage of bodyweight exercises for overall strength and muscle development, as they target multiple muscles at once (compound movements). This is compared to a machine or open-chain movement, which may only target, or ‘isolate’ one muscle group at a time.
In summary, you can gain full-body strength and muscle mass using bodyweight exercises, providing you progressively increase the resistance over time.
How to start Bodyweight training?
To start bodyweight training, beginners should focus on learning the 5 basic compound (multi-joint) bodyweight movements: Push ups, Pullups, Dips, Rows and Squats. The number of sets and reps you will aim to perform depends on your goals. As a general rule, sticking with a standard muscle and strength building program of 3 x 8-12 (3 sets, 8-12 reps) is a great place to start.
This set and rep scheme allows for adequate volume to stimulate the muscles. It also reduces the risk of injury by not going too heavy or doing too much volume to start with.
You can perform these 5 exercises in a full-body session, performed 3 times a week, or split the pushing and pulling and leg movements into different days (Push Pull Legs), or split the Upper and Lower Body exercises into separate days (Upper Lower). There is no right or wrong way, just do what you enjoy and what fits into your schedule!
If you’re not sure which program to start with, try the following full body program, 3 times per week, with one day off between workouts (e.g., Mon, Wed, Fri):
1. Pushups: 3×8-12, 2-3 min rest in between sets.
2. Bodyweight Rows: 3×8-12, 2-3 min between sets.
3. Bodyweight Squats: 3×8-12, 2-3 min rest between sets.
If you can’t do any of these 5 exercises to start with (for example, if you cannot perform one bodyweight row, or one squat), there are many ways to make the exercises easier. You can perform an easier variation to get into the 8-12 rep range! For example:
Pushups: Wall Pushups – Knee Pushups – Regular floor Pushups – Decline Pushups (feet elevated on a bench) – One arm Pushups.
Pullup: Resistance band assisted/Machine Pullups – Hanging from a pullup bar – Isometric/Static Holds – Bodyweight Rows – Pullups.
Squats: Box Squats – Lower Height Box Squats – Full range squats – Single Leg Squats.
If you can do 3×12 reps of the knee pushup, in the next session, aim for 3×8 of the regular, legs straight pushup.
If you can only do 8 reps, or fewer, of the knee pushup, aim to get to 12 knee pushup reps over time for 3 sets. Or choose an easier variation e.g. wall pushups, before you progress to regular pushups.
These exercises can be performed in a gym using available equipment e.g., pull up bar, gymnastics rings or dip bars. If you are not a fan of the gym it can also be done at home, with no equipment. This is a major advantage of bodyweight training!
Exercises like pushups and squats can be done without any equipment. You can do dips and rows using a couple sturdy chairs you have at home and do pullups with a doorway pullup bar, or even the I-Beams in your garage. Better still there are loads of places you can do this training outdoors. Half the fun is finding places or objects that you can train on!
There’s many more exercises and variations we can add in, e.g., lunges, hanging ab raises etc, but in the beginning, focus on the basics. Don’t forget about having fun and enjoying the process of learning how to use your body in a new way. No need to over complicate things!
How to train Biceps with Bodyweight?
Biceps can be blasted with bodyweight training. There is a good reason why Olympic gymnasts have such massive biceps! Remember, the brain does not know the difference between a dumbbell, a machine, and your bodyweight – all that is knows is whether it’s working hard or not!
Most bodyweight exercises are compound movements. Any back exercise we do, namely pullups and rows, will work our biceps too! For example, for someone who weighs 70kg, a single pullup or chin-up can stimulate the biceps just as much as a 10kg or even 20kg dumbbell curl!
If you want to mimic a barbell or dumbbell or machine curl using bodyweight training, gymnastics rings are an excellent tool. Instead of curling the bar, we would just curl up our body instead using the rings, with your feet on the floor. You can also perform bodyweight bicep curls on a straight bar or barbell. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube on how to perform bodyweight bicep curls and make them easier or harder depending on your current level of strength.
Can you do Bodyweight training everyday?
This depends on how intensely you are training. Bodyweight training is no different to weight training in that you need adequate recovery to build muscle and strength. For example, if you did a big chest workout at the gym, you wouldn’t do a chest workout the next day.
Instead, you might train your back or legs the next day or take a day off and train every two days. The same can be said for bodyweight training. If you do an intense workout, say 5×5 one arm push ups, you will likely need to take a few days of rest in between chest workouts before you have fully recovered and adapted to that training stimulus.
For beginners, you can train more often, as the exercises will be much less neurologically (physically and mentally) taxing. It is much harder for the body to recover from 5×5 one arm push ups or pullups than it is to recover from a 5×5 of wall push ups and bodyweight squats. It simply because one arm push ups are much harder to perform.
If you are just doing a little bit every day, for example a few pushups and pullups and squats throughout the day, you can do this every day! Same as how we walk around every day, doing a little bit here and there is fine and doesn’t need extra recovery.
As you get more advanced, you will need more recovery. So, remember, the harder your workouts, the more recovery you’ll need to grow.
What age can Kids start Bodyweight training?
Any age – basic bodyweight training is very safe! Firstly, it’s a myth that weight training stunts your growth. However, training with weights can be risky for beginners, of all ages, if they don’t know what they are doing. For example, trying to load up the barbell up with weights without proper guidance can lead to injury, due to incorrect technique or even dropping the bar. It would be the same as if we tried to drive a car for the first time on a busy highway – if you make a rookie mistake, it can have big consequences.
With bodyweight training, however, we are using our own bodyweight to make the exercise more difficult. If we fail a push up or squat, we simply fall over and can stand back up. There is no risk of dropping a heavy weight on yourself or even getting trapped in a machine at the gym. In this way, it’s much safer for children and beginners as the risk of injury is much lower.
Basic bodyweight training is also fantastic for building the muscles that stabilise your joints, for example, your Rotator Cuff muscles, Core, and Glute Medius. This is due to the closed-chain, compound nature of bodyweight exercises. They use multiple muscle groups at once e.g. pushups, pullups, squats VS bench press, lat pulldown and leg extensions.
This is very useful for injury prevention and sports performance for young children and adults. This is because all our muscles will be strong enough to work together and support each other, through a full range of movement.
More About Bodyweight
Don’t let misconceptions about bodyweight training fool you: even if you don’t use barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells, or weight plates, you can still get impressive, long-term results.
It bears repeating: your body is your gym. If you have no fitness centre membership or home gym, you can rely on your own body weight for serious muscle and strength gains.
Who says you can’t grow muscle on a bodyweight training program? Tell that to members of the marine corps, who get jacked by doing pull-ups, push-ups, chin-ups, and crunches. Their lifestyle is demanding, to say the least – you can’t be a member of the marines if you can’t keep up with the rigours of training!
In terms of bodyweight training for hypertrophy, doing six to 15 repetitions of around 65 to 85 percent of your one-rep max will help you reap impressive benefits. You should also focus on other intangibles such as establishing a caloric surplus and getting enough sleep if you want to increase muscle mass.
On the other hand, bodyweight training can also help ramp up your strength levels. Doing five or fewer reps per set of push-ups, pistol squats, and front lever progressions can help you in this regard.
Like I said, the marines use bodyweight exercises to their advantage: they’re some of the strongest blokes you’ll ever meet! Bodybuilding legends like Arnold also did bodyweight movements such as push-ups, dips, chin-ups, pull-ups, and hanging leg raises. Nobody can dispute the fact their strength levels were off the charts.
If you’ve never tried bodyweight training, I urge you to give it a shot. Not only will you enjoy the variety, but you’ll also develop a more muscular and stronger physique.