how to create your own bodyweight workout program
Reading this, it means that you want to make a significant change. Whether it is to lose weight or sculpt your body, the intention is clear.
What is even more evident though, is that out of the dozens of ways of getting started (pick up your shoes and simply run) you decided to rely on structure instead. And this will pay huge dividends on the long run.
What follows ahead is a step-by-step guide on how to create the perfect bodyweight workout program.
But let’s get this out of the way before we move forward…
Structure is your friend, and perfection is not. If this is the 10th article you’ve been reading today, then perhaps the pattern is evident. Settle down, and start working. This is not rocket science.
If every routine so far was disappointment and exercise in frustration, worry not. Past experiences can offer little clue to wisdom. Familiarizing yourself with the right principles can make all the difference.
I’ve done it, seen others doing it, and am certain that you can do it as well.
But do what exactly?
Be clear about what your goals are
Yes, this does sound like the cliché of clichés. Can we move on now?
The thing is, and it amazes me that few people get this right, to know what you are after before you start sweating.
Many people I’ve coached had vague ideas on what they wanted to accomplish.
- “Wanna look better”
- “Change my body”
- “Become fit”
And I want to do well in life. But that’s not specific enough, now is it?
The thing is, you’d want to start with a clear vision in mind and write down what you are after.
No seriously, I’m waiting, take your time. What you end up writing down will guide you as you scroll further.
And then you have to be honest. Understand where you stand currently. It’s not detrimental to success, but it is to how you are going to structure your program.
Have trouble walking up the stairs? Then perhaps going after a well-defined six-pack is not a clever goal to set for month one.
Understand your current position, and your determination. I’m not saying that you will have to workout for hours to an end, but are you determined enough to fill at least 4 days per week with some form of exercise? To build continuity, to up the ante?
Just know where you stand.
The Key building blocks of your program
Ok now, let’s dive in.
And do some push-ups… Or maybe latter, I got carried away.
Let me elaborate on what are some of the most important building blocks in bodyweight programs, and describe them as we go.
Since you won’t be using equipment, something will have to substitute the resistance. So here is how complex bodyweight moves fit in.
Complex movements require more force to be used in order to fight the resistance. Take push-ups for example. You’d think that you are working your chest muscles only, but you’d be wrong.
Biceps, triceps, shoulders, laterals, thighs, the core… everything is working together to supply force.
It’s a rather powerful shock for the body, recruiting as much muscle fiber as possible.
Now push-ups might look simple for some, but there are variations (equally and even far more complex) that require more force to be used.
If you are set on bodyweight exercises, including these in your workout is a must.
Few benefits of complex movements:
- More muscle burn
- Heart rate running wild
- Few large muscle groups working at once
- More calories are being burned
- Improvement in agility, coordination, balance, flexibility, and control over your body
What is even more important is that complex movements target your muscles from various angles. It translates into faster and more symmetric growth (which is why athletes and gymnasts will always look more balanced than bodybuilders).
Many long and repetitive activities are known to trigger a catabolic effect in your body.
So you need your workouts to be short and engaging; varied rather than boring. To begin and end with moves in a staccato sequence, rather than one prolonged and repetitive sequence with low intensity.
And this is where smart cardio fits in.
Most of the workouts in our platform incorporate what we want to call cardio sequencing - which basically means placing complex cardio moves in between complex resistance moves.
So here is how it may look like:
- If we go with an ab centric workout session, a resistance move might be the mason twist.
- Then you can follow up with a plank run (a complex cardio centered move).
- Continue with some form of crunches afterwards. You can vary the name and intensity of the moves accordingly throughout the session, but the principle stays the same.
- Try to fit in cardio moves for at least one third of the number of more resistance oriented moves.
- Smart cardio also extends to the nature of the cardio moves. Instead of repetitive jogging in place, it’s better to utilize more complex movements. So for example you can do a squat and jump up the moment you complete each squat.
And this can be done for as long as one minute.
Having read thus far, you already understand why diversity is so important.
But let’s touch upon another reason as well…
Your program needs to be fun and engaging. Otherwise the odds against success might prove overwhelming.
When I coached, whenever I included a garden variety of moves into a workout session, quite predictably people feel in love right away.
Ensuring that you have diversity into the equation is the difference between a workout program that lasts, and one that ends after a week or two.
Length of the program and each workout session
Many people routinely overestimate what they can accomplish within a week, but underestimate what they can accomplish within a month or two.
So let’s plan upfront.
- Forget about one week programs, or three week programs.
- The smallest measurement should be one month. And this is the case if you are dedicated enough. Otherwise, you should get more comfortable with the idea of progressing gradually (say 2-3 months).
- Progression here is very important, and it can be the difference between faster results or hitting plateaus and injuries rather early.
- Give yourself less work the first week, and take that experience in mind when planning for the second.
- Unless you have more insights in exercise in general, and know the limits of your body more intimately, you should be revisiting your workout plan weekly.
- As for the workout sessions, try pinning them between 25-45 minutes each. Though of course, the first week can be an exception depending on how out of shape you are.
- Remember not to put too much stock in length as an important component of quality work. Much can be achieved with less, so forget about what anyone else is telling you.
Grouping moves into workouts
Here is the deal…
Remember the piece of paper I told you to write your goals on? Here is where it actually comes useful.
- If you are more after weight loss then you can combine more moves in each session. More cardio ones in between as well. The length of each workout should pass the 30 minute mark at least.
- But if you are more after toning your muscles, you’d want to group exercises in similar sessions each. So for example push-ups, spider push-ups and dips might fall into one session, while squats, reverse plank, and backward lunges in another.
- Also, at the beginning of each workout start with light cardio moves, then complex cardio moves, continuing with stretching ones. After this cycle, the main part of the workout begins and it includes few sequences that might repeat.
- At the end, tie everything up with a shiny ribbon by completing another short round of stretches.
You can sign up for a free 7 day trial, if you haven't already, and take a look how each calendar and workout is being structured (the trial is free, and there is no credit card information needed).
The calendar on the other hand needs to favor consistency. Therefore reserve some days for more resistance based workouts, and others for more cardio based ones.
Ideally, you’d like to workout 6 days in the week - and give yourself one day of rest. Keeping these cycles fixed will ensure not only consistency, but adequate and much needed muscle recuperation as well.
Staying consistent here provides for the necessary backbone - the proper framework on which you build later.
You can also take one day out of those 6, and turn it into a flexibility/balance workout. Think yoga and stretching. And maybe low impact moves.
This will prevent injury, improve range of motion, and promote flexibility, balance, control over your body and strength (if you include more advanced moves here).
Nutrition and rest
These two are equally important as exercise.
Here is a detailed plan on how to set-up your diet program, but for now just vow not to bring any more junk food into your home.
Staying away from bad habits is easier when you bulletproof your surroundings first. I mean, why unite a knot when you can cut it with your sword?
As for rest, don’t forget to pay the sandman.
7-8 hours each night, no ways around that.
Also, as mentioned above, reserve one day in the week for rest as well. You can do some light and unstructured physical activity but nothing that will wear you down. Your body needs to recuperate, so forget about manufactured emergency and the constant self-created stress that you have to do something.
And I cannot stress this enough: It might not seem very sexy, but sexy never happens all at once.
Here, thinking small is a virtue. Otherwise you’ll fall in the same symptomatic curve - few days of pain, after which you eventually give up, or injure yourself, or simply refuse to continue, using some lame excuse produced by a self-defense mechanism that’s had it about enough.
And remember, stress is your enemy. Not only it increases cortisol levels, but it makes sure that your workout program sucks. So much so that the same defense mechanism we just mentioned will fire up and stop you from ever working out again.
But let’s include some tangible advice as well…
- Workout with your shoes on, for this will provide joint stability and reduce the risk of injuries.
- Also, and this is a Jedi trick mind you, put your workout shoes on every single day around the time you usually sweat. Eager for a workout or not, simply sit there with your gear ready. Nine out of ten this will propel you into a workout session regardless of whether you hesitated or planned to skip one.
- As for the long run, you’d want your workouts to be surrounded with at least somewhat of a comfort cushion. Otherwise defense mechanisms will eventually fire up.
- So, though not detrimental at the beginning, you’d want to have a regular and steady routine. This might mean some alone time in the home whenever you decide to workout; or simply a place that is easy to set-up (nobody wants to rearrange the whole living room for a pair of push-ups every single day).
I hope this gave you a clear idea on what to expect from your bodyweight workout program, and how to go about and structure one for yourself.
For more detailed plans, schedules, and a garden variety of sequences and routines, just try the free 7 day trial. It’s easy, no credit card info is needed, and you can even login with your social media profiles if you are lazy as I am and don’t want to type down your e-mail address.
Here is to a successful program, and a fit body in the making!
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