Nov 18, 2012

Bodyweight training is an essential part of any training program, especially if you want to get big and strong.

But we’re not talking about your high school gym class. Real bodyweight training involves pushing your body to the limit with gymnastic-like movements that create big-time tension and big-time gains.

The best part about bodyweight exercises are they are relatively easy on the joints and even easier to throw into any program along with barbells, dumbbells, and odd objects.

This makes for a killer training mix and elicits the greatest results possible.

Here’s a seriously short list of 10 of my all-time favorite bodyweight exercises that I implement in my own training as well as my clients’.

1. Pullups/Chinups

These are the ultimate back exercise. Pullups will hit your upper back and lats like no other. A solid set of 20 dead hang pullups is a great benchmark to aim for.

I tend to suggest performing them with a neutral grip to provide the least stress on the shoulders and elbows. Another kick-ass option is to do chinups on a set of rings; twice as hard and even more of a natural movement. Get your rings here.

2. Pushups

If I had to choose between doing a barbell or dumbbell press and pushups I would hands down, no doubt in my mind, choose the pushup. Pushups provide little risk of injury and are just as effective as their iron counterparts.

I regularly perform pushups on rings and add chains, bands, or weight vests for extra resistance. If your really bad ass you can try some one arm pushups. When you’re busting those out like Rocky you’ll be sure to turn heads.

3. Pistol Squats

Pistols are THE lower body, bodyweight exercise. These are my go-to when I can’t get into the gym and want to challenge my legs. One thing to keep in mind though is they are an advanced exercise.

Your muscles may be able to handle the load but your tendons and ligaments more than likely will not be up to the challenge. Don’t get injured. Start off with some easier regressions such as skater squats or single leg box squats before progressing to this killer move.

Once you're there, a solid goal would be 20 consecutive squats on each leg.

4. Recline or Inverted Rows

You have to incorporate some kind of rowing movement for back thickness. Grab onto a barbell, Smith machine, rope, rings, or TRX and row. To make these harder you can elevate your feet, hold the top position for a few seconds, use Fat Gripz, or add some external load. Don’t forget to switch up your elbow position from neutral to out to your sides from time to time for some different emphasis.

5. Single Leg Glute Bridges

Although pistol squats cover every muscle in your legs, you may want to add in some direct extension work (hamstrings or hip hinging) to balance things out.

Unless you’re a raw beginner I suggest hitting the glute bridges with one foot elevated on a box or a bench. From there you can add bands or chains for difficulty and even try hip thrusts for some extended range of motion.


6. Rope Climbs

Rope climbs WILL make you an animal. They fry everything from your upper back and lats to your biceps, grip, and core.

Some awesome variations include adding a weight vest or chains, climbing from an L-sit position, or hitting recline rope climbs from a squat rack.

7. Handstand Pushups

In my opinion these are the go-to exercise for boulder shoulders. Handstand pushups involve your entire body from your fingers to your toes, with the majority of the emphasis on the shoulders, triceps, upper back, and core.

You can start your journey to performing these bad boys by practicing handstand holds against a wall. Aim for a 60 second hold in the least amount of sets possible.

Once you can hit a single 60 second hold, gradually ease into headstand pushups, and finally handstand pushups with a full range of motion. A solid set of 15-20 full range handstand pushups is pretty impressive.

Not to mention you will be sporting a set of barbarian shoulders.

8. Front Lever

Adding front levers and their variations into your program will build some serious lat, grip, and core strength. The best way to perform them is on a set of rings but you can use a pullup bar if it’s all you have.

There are a bunch of variations ranging from relatively easy to extremely difficult. For more on these, check out Coach Sommer’s website.

9. Animal Crawls

Babies and children do it; so should you. Crawling is one of the most basic human movements making it very natural and rather easy to perform.

My favorites are bear crawls, alligator crawls, and seal crawls, but you can just pick one of the many variations and do some work. Crawls will build up shoulder and core stability as well as strength.

10. L-Sit

Core statics like the L-sit are fantastic for building a bulletproof midsection. They teach your body how to brace and endure that bracing for a period of time.

Look at all the midsections of Olympic gymnasts – chiseled out of stone. They perform L-sits and their harder variations every day.

Just as with the handstands, work up to a single set of 60 seconds and then progress to a harder variation. This will take time but it will be worth it.

Add some of these bodyweight exercises to your program and tell me what you think.

In Strength,
Franco Crincoli


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Franco Crincoli
I am a personal trainer, strength coach, and all around iron addict, with a philosophy deeply rooted in old school methods. My training has been influenced by strongmen, powerlifters, Olympic lifters, gymnasts, and the Golden Era bodybuilders. I believe in reaping the greatest rewards the simplest (not easiest) way possible and having fun doing it.
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