Progressing with Bodyweight Training - Part 2: Finding Harder Progressions

Last time we talked about how to make progress by increasing reps of a particular exercise.  The trick here is that once we get to about 12 reps we move from training strength to training endurance.  So if we want to keep getting stronger, we want to stay somewhere in the 5-12 rep range.

So at this point we need to find a way to modify the exercise to make it harder, without adding weight.  Here are two great ways to do that.

1. Change the angle of incline.

As an example, take a look at this push up progression.  If push ups have become too easy for you, try putting your feet up on a chair.  This exercise is called a decline push up.  What we’ve done is taken some of the weight off the feet and placed it on the hands.  So now instead of your hands taking say 50% of your bodyweight, they might be taking 60%.  So we’ve increased the load on our arms without adding weight.  Genius!  You can apply this method to almost any bodyweight exercise.

A decline push up.  Do this if push ups are too easy.

A decline push up.  Do this if push ups are too easy.

This works in reverse too.  If push ups are too difficult for you, elevate your hands to take some of the load off.

An incline push up.  Do this if push ups are too hard.

An incline push up.  Do this if push ups are too hard.

2. Move from two-arm to one-arm exercises.

This is a great method if you are a bit more advanced.  If push ups are too easy, shift your weight more to one hand.  The more you do this, the harder it gets, until eventually you can do a one-arm push up.

A side-shifted push up.  Another push up variation.

A side-shifted push up.  Another push up variation.

Or, use a towel or a shirt for a challenging pull up variation.

A towel-assisted chin up.  You can't see it, but my right hand has a regular chin up grip on the bar.

A towel-assisted chin up.  You can't see it, but my right hand has a regular chin up grip on the bar.

You can do this with leg training as well.  Instead of a squat, start working on your pistol squat or shrimp squat.

A basic shrimp squat progression.  Be sure to go all the way down, bringing the back knee to the floor.

A basic shrimp squat progression.  Be sure to go all the way down, bringing the back knee to the floor.

These are just a few ways you can increase the difficulty of your workouts.  It takes a tiny bit of creativity, but it’s easy once you get the hang of it!  Playing around with different progressions is super fun!

Stay tuned.  Next time we’ll talk about how to continue making progress when you hit a plateau.

AM