Bodyweight training is a type of exercise in which the only resistance used is the weight of the person performing it. Bodyweight exercises are done in six movement patterns: bending, squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling, and core.
As there is no external load to work with, this style of training focuses on motor control and muscle endurance. By focusing on these two characteristics, you can help your clients make improvements in movement efficiency and preserve muscle strength and mass.
Create a list of available equipment for each of your clients. This could include a pull-up bar, bench, and resistance bands. Having access to just one of the items above will expand your arsenal of exercises. Next, you need to assess the capabilities of your client. An assessment will give you a starting point of initial exercises that your client is capable of performing. Learn more about the assessment process in this blog.
Full body training sessions may consist of 10 exercises, with pre-determined sets and repetitions or a designated time domain of work. Start with a number of repetitions you know the client can complete, as determined by the assessment.
During every session, have the client track how many repetitions they can complete. Asking the client to track their results creates personal responsibility and gives you insight on how to progress each session.
Full Body Training Example
A1) Hip Thrusts @2010, 12-15 Reps x 3 Sets; Rest 40 Seconds
A2) Push-Up @3010, 6-9 Reps x 3 Sets; Rest 40 Seconds
A3) Air Squat @20X1, 12-15 Reps x 3 Sets; Rest 40 Seconds
A4) Towel Row @3010, 6-9 Reps x 3 Sets; Rest 40 Seconds
A5) Bear Crawl, 20 Steps x 3 Sets; Rest 90 Seconds
B1) Hamstring Walkouts @2010, 12-15 Reps x 3 Sets; Rest 40 Seconds
B2) Pike Push-Up @3010, 6-9 Reps x 3 Sets; Rest 40 Seconds
B3) Split Squat @2010, 12-15 Reps/Leg x 3 Sets; Rest 40 Seconds
B4) Strict Pull-Up @2010, 6-9 Reps x 3 Sets; Rest 40 Seconds
B5) Side Plank, 30 Seconds/Side x 3 Sets; Rest 90 Seconds
Progressing week to week does not have to be complicated. Simple changes to the program can create stimulus and adaptation. Here are four progression variations you can implement to advance training from week to week.
Increase volume example:
Week 1: 3 sets
Week 2: 4 sets
Week 3: 5 sets
Decrease rest example:
Week 1: rest 40 sec between exercises
Week 2: rest 30 sec between exercises
Week 3: rest 20 sec between exercises
Manipulate time under tension example:
Week 1: @20X0
Week 2: @30X0
Week 3: @40X0
Weekly Training Schedule
Most clients will benefit from alternating bodyweight training and aerobic training. On the first day of training, prescribe full-body training in the six-movement patterns. On an opposing day, prescribe sustainable aerobic training such as walking or riding a bike.
Weekly Split Variation 1:
Monday: Full body resistance training
Wednesday: Full body resistance training
Friday: Full body resistance training
Weekly Split Variation 2:
Monday: Full body resistance training
Tuesday: Full body resistance training (variation in exercises)
Wednesday: Ride Bike
Thursday: Full body resistance training (same exercises as Monday)
Friday: Full body resistance training (same exercises as Tuesday)
Create two or three more of these routines with the same template, change the exercises, and rotate through the training sessions weekly. This will create variations that can be implemented for multiple weeks as a training cycle.
The key to avoiding plateaus is to keep bodyweight training within your client’s capabilities and to progress them gradually over time. With knowledge of a few fundamental program design principles, you can create long-term results with bodyweight-only training. We’re sharing those principles in our guide, Bodyweight-Only Program Design.