No Weights = No Workout? Not So Fast!!!
While you may prefer working out in a fully loaded gym, there is no reason you can’t get in a killer workout at home – even if you have zero equipment other than yourself.
Many people prefer the gym, or a large selection of equipment because it makes designing workouts a little bit easier. But when you’re trying to improve body composition, progressive overload is key to seeing results week after week without hitting a plateau, not fancy equipment. Many people simply don’t know how to program bodyweight workouts effectively and get bored doing the same routine week after week.
In this article I will cover some ways you can change up your standard bodyweight-only exercises to not only diversify your at-home options but also to challenge you to look at bodyweight training in a new light.
The key with most of these methods is changing up the amount of time you are spending under tension and in what portion of the movement. Since we don’t have weight to work with, we need a different way to challenge ourselves and spending more time contracting your muscle is a fantastic way to achieve this.
The Mind Muscle Connection
First things first, when training using only your body to create a stimulus, it’s more important than ever to have a strong mind to muscle connection and to not just go through the motions. It’s easy enough to flail around for 30 minutes, actually focusing on the muscle you are working on and using proper form and technique takes skill. Using these techniques is a great way to improve areas that may need extra attention and focus. Paying attention to the quality of the movement becomes extremely important when you’re spending more time in the contracted portion of a movement. I’ve included video demonstrations for the examples I’m going to be sharing so you can see what they look like in action.
Spending more time in the lengthening phase of the movement is an excellent way to change up a seemingly easy bodyweight movement. A standard bodyweight squat may not present too much of a challenge but add in a 5 second eccentric to each rep and your set of 10 just got significantly more difficult. What’s important when you’re doing eccentric movements is that you’re contracting your muscles and staying tight.
Lengthening the eccentric phase is my absolute favorite way to make bodyweight classics like pushups and squats more challenging.
In my video demonstration, I am showing a pushup with a three second count down to the floor
Isometric exercises involve remaining in the contracted point of a movement for a specific period of time. You’re recruiting muscle and exerting tension without actually lengthening or shortening the muscle. This is a great method to intensify any exercise since you can choose different points of a movement to add a hold to. Isometric holds are a wonderful option for movements where you can regularly perform 20+ repetitions with ease. If you want to know what pain feels like, try doing a 10-30 second isometric hold at the bottom of a split squat position followed by 10 regular tempo reps. Your legs will feel like jello in the best way possible.
By performing an extra half rep, you’re overloading the mid-range of a movement which maximizes muscle tension (which leads to better results). You can add a half – or even quarter – rep to almost any portion of a movement. This is yet another excellent way to increase time under tension and use that as a means of creating change since adding weight isn’t an option. A 1.5 rep Bulgarian split squat is one of my client’s least favourite exercises because none of them can believe how much more challenging that seemingly simple half rep makes the exercise. Pushups, squats and lunges are all awesome choices to add an extra half rep to.
Combining Time Under Tension Methods
If you’re a workout buff and are looking to really crank the intensity dial then you can consider pairing a couple of these time under tension options together. Here are some examples:
– Bodyweight Squat – 1.5 reps with a 3-sec isometric hold at the bottom of the half rep
– Pushup – 3-sec eccentric + 3-sec isometric hold
– Split Squat – 15-sec isometric hold + 10 regular reps
– Lunge – 3-sec eccentric + 1.5 reps
The possibilities are truly endless and using these techniques gives you a ton of options to take your bodyweight workout to the next level.