There’s a common misperception out there that bodyweight-exercise options are limited. Push-ups, Pull-ups, Sit-ups—and not much else. Hmmmm… Did I mention that there are 125 different exercises or variations in this chapter alone, with many more in You Are Your Own Gym?
Other people think it’s impossible to work certain muscle groups with bodyweight exercises. Wrong again. Every single muscle group, and some you probably didn’t know existed, can be worked without weights.
My bodyweight exercises use multi-joint movements, engaging many muscles at once, making them far more efficient than other types of exercises. With most fitness machines and weight-lifting exercises, you’re sitting or lying down while isolating only certain muscles. This is extremely time-consuming if you’re planning to work your whole body. There simply isn’t a good reason for it unless you enjoy spending unnecessary time at a gym and getting mediocre results.
Isolation exercises also require that you spend time separately doing aerobic workouts, because using individual muscles doesn’t create much of a demand for oxygen. However, movements that engage many large muscles and small stabilizing muscles at once require a great deal of energy. This in turn requires the heart to work much harder. The heart supports the muscles, and both should be challenged simultaneously, as they are in real-life situations.
Remember, form follows function. Functional bodyweight exercises are the best way to develop the body you want.
The Six Principles Behind This Program
The most widely used fitness programs today are fundamentally flawed and devoid of a well-thought-out structure. Honestly, just about any kind of exercise will bring some results for the first month or two. The true test comes afterward.
Mine was the first exercise program in history to combine bodyweight exercises with time-tested methods of structuring strength training. I then applied, tweaked, and enhanced the following six key principles in order to create the fastest possible changes in body composition for you.
1. CONSISTENCY AND REGULARITY
Most conventional strength-training programs split routines into body parts that are trained only once a week. This means that you perform the most effective, multi-joint movements once every seven days, if at all.
With this program, you’ll focus on only the most effective movements and perform them three times a week. This means that you’ll build more strength and burn more calories with less of your valuable time.
As you advance and your body adapts, you’ll need greater amounts of stress to spur further progress. This program starts with short and easy workouts that progressively become harder. The correct application of stress at just the right time is a science I’ve perfected, and it’ll keep you getting leaner and stronger.
In the beginning, you’ll need only two days to recover from a workout, because the stress applied was minimal. But as your body changes and adapts over time, you’ll need to increase the stress, which will require a proportionate increase in recovery time. My variation in workout intensity and volume allows for greater recovery while preventing the loss of movement proficiency.
In order to provide you with exercises that challenge you appropriately, I’ve split all 125 of this article’s exercises into five Movement Categories (Pulling, Squatting, In-line Pushing, Perpendicular Pushing, and Bending), which gradually progress from easiest to hardest. This allows you to methodically conquer even the toughest exercises.
Variety doesn’t mean using different exercises every time you work out. Variety must be applied to intensity and volume. There is three cycles with varying volume and intensity that account precisely for your changing needs for stress and recovery. Each cycle is a four-week progression.
This first cycle is designed for your ability to initially make workout-to-workout progress. You’ll see a wide variety of exercise variations in this phase of training as you conquer new exercises.
This cycle begins the week with a harder workout, uses a recovery workout at midweek, and offers an end-of-week workout that measures progress while getting you another good day of training. This cycle sets you up for weekly progress after workout-to-workout progress is no longer possible.
Three hard workouts within the same week create residual fatigue that carries over into the following week. Then you’ll have two low-volume workouts that allow for recovery without detraining. This cycle is designed for biweekly progress.
6. THERE IS NO ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL
People’s ability to recover varies depending on genetics, sleep, diet, environmental stress, and levels of advancement. These factors will determine how long each of the three cycles continues to be effective for you personally.
An experienced bodyweight athlete will not be able to maintain the workout-to-workout progress of Cycle 1 as long as a complete novice. Similarly, a more advanced bodyweight athlete will not be able to maintain the week-to-week progress of Cycle 2 as long as her less-trained counterpart. See this article for tips on finding the right time to shift from one cycle to the next. One size doesn’t fit all—I’ll help you find your fit!
Regardless of level of advancement, anyone unfamiliar with the training structure of this program should be able to make progress with each cycle for at least a month.
You Only Get Good at What You Do
Using machines makes you good at, well, using machines. Not much else.
Our training must reflect the demands of the real world to be most effective. Bodyweight exercises teach us to function naturally, as a cohesive whole, as we do in everyday life.
Don’t waste your time becoming proficient at using fitness machines. Instead, become proficient at using the one thing that you are never without: your body.