Body Weight Exercises

Body Weight Exercises

Body Weight Exercises & Body Weight Workouts

I love to train with my own body weight. Body weight workouts and body weight exercises are great on their own or mixed in with others. There are just so many ways to progress exercises without even worrying about external weights. I understand that not everyone feels that way. Many people love lifting weights, whether free weights or on machines and I totally get it! But as someone who coaches people day in and day out, I also think every lifter or exerciser can borrow one important idea from body weight training. Especially, that you can and should modify exercises in more ways than just adding or subtracting weight from the bar. Below we will go through 4 ways to make those modifications.

1. Tempo

By simply slowing your movement speed, you can make virtually any exercise harder. Bodybuilders have been saying for a long time that time under tension matters as much as if not more than the amount of resistance moved, and going slower makes your muscles work harder and forces them to grow.

This technique works great for calisthenics basics like squats and push-ups, but it’s especially helpful in the case of exercises like pull-ups and toes-to-bar leg raises, where it’s very common for people to use momentum to complete their reps. In fact, most people aren’t even aware of how much they’re relying on momentum until they attempt to perform these exercises slowly.

Decreasing the speed of your movements is extremely effective in weight training, as well. This doesn’t mean you have to go super-slow—that’s something else entirely. What I’m talking about is simply being in full control of every centimeter of every rep, without the use of the slightest bit of momentum. Depending on the exercise, this may take anywhere from 3-5 seconds per rep.

Give it a shot, but be prepared to use less weight than you’re used to lifting!

2. Range Of Motion

Pull-ups are a great example for adjusting range of motion for body weight exercises. By just lowering down from the top position, you are able to build strength and begin to get a feel for the movement pattern, without having to concern about the concentric phase. This is one example of using a limited range of motion to regress an exercise, but there are many ways to apply this principle.

Another example would be when working with a client who’s unable to go all the way down on a squat. In this instance I might have the client start out with a half squat. Over time we will work toward increasing their mobility until they can perform a full range of motion with their hamstrings touching their calves in the bottom position.

Conversely, this concept can be used to add difficulty to an exercise by increasing the range of motion instead. For example, try doing a pull-down where you bring the bar all the way to your collar bones, as opposed to stopping at your chin.

Increase your range of motion, and you’ll almost always increase the difficulty of your exercise along the way.

3. Leverage And Body Length

Everyone knows that a push-up on your knees is less difficult than one performed on your toes but why is this so? Leverage. The longer you make your body, the farther your arms wind up from your fulcrum point, creating more torque for your muscles to resist. It’s simple Physics.

The dumbbell lateral raise is another example of this principle applied to a classic weight training exercise. Once again, the straighter and farther away you move your arms from your body, the harder the exercise becomes.

4. Technical Progression

What’s the next step after you can do a pistol squat? How about simply doing a better pistol squat? Nobody’s first rep of anything is their best, and just because you’ve managed to do a few reps of a new exercise, doesn’t mean you are necessarily ready to try something more difficult or heavier.

Simply working on improving your technique can be a form of progression. This is true for advanced moves, but it applies when lifting weights as well. If you focus on performing every rep you do with rock solid technique, you will not need to lift nearly as much weight in order to tax your muscles to the same degree. Plus, you will reinforce good movement mechanics across the board.

Heavier does not necessarily equal better! But if you focus on better, you can definitely make heavier feel easier and cleaner and that’s solid progress.

No matter your preferred modality, you can use these universal principles to adapt and modify any body weight exercise in your routine. In that regard, calisthenics and weight training actually have a great deal in common.

As for me, I’ve got some weight to lift…my own!

Please let me know if you have questions about body weight exercises, body weight workouts, or just plain anything fitness related check us out at