Muscle Growth

Advanced Bodyweight Training

By Sal Di Stefano on Nov 21, 2018 2:57:00 AM
7 Minutes Reading Time


One of the biggest criticisms of “equipment free” training is that the results you get aren’t as good as the results you can get from training in a gym with equipment. I will be honest, this criticism, although not accurate, has some merit.  It definitely requires more planning and creativity to get an effective fat burning and muscle building workout when you don’t have machines or even free weights.

The people who typically throw this objection out the most are advanced trainees.  At first glance it makes sense.

The majority of people who work out without equipment tend to be beginners.  In fact, it's common for someone to start with an at home or equipment free workout to eventually “progress” to a gym workout with equipment.  When I was a personal trainer I was guilty of telling people that eventually they would need to use equipment, if they wanted their physiques to progress beyond beginner or intermediate.  Then I met Zach.

Zach was a personal trainer who had come to me wanting to use my personal training facility to train his clients.  Before any trainer was brought on board I would do an interview and, if I liked them, I had them start on a probation period of 30 days.  During this period, I would observe how trainers worked with clients to see if they would be a good fit for my business.

Zach had some seriously muscular and advanced male and female clients.  Although the high fitness level of his clients was out of the ordinary (most personal training clients are average people) I was mostly intrigued by HOW he trained his clients.  He almost NEVER used any weights or equipment whatsoever. At first, I was perplexed as to why he would want to use my facility at all, but it all made sense when I sat him down after his initial probation period.  “I like to have a central location to train people and I do like having equipment handy, if I need it.” “Fine” I thought. Then I asked him about his training methodology and practices. “Why don’t you ever use any equipment with your clients?”  He responded, “I was a competitive gymnast for years and I understand the value of closed chain movements for function and for muscular development. It works great for myself and for my clients.” Zach went on to train in my gym for a few years and I learned a lot from watching how he trained advanced clients without any gym equipment at all.  I now fully understand that a person can build an advanced physique without barbells, dumbbells or machines.

Most of the exercises you will see performed in gyms are called OPEN chain movements.  These are movements in which the hand or foot is free to move in space. Lift a dumbbell overhead and you are doing an open chain movement.

In contrast a closed chain movement is where your hand or foot is fixed in space and cannot move.  Instead of your hand or foot moving when you exercise its your BODY that moves. Most advanced exercises that don’t require any equipment at all are closed chain.

Closed chain movements are arguably more functional than open chain movements.  It takes great skill to be able to move your body with control and stability, more so than it does to move a weight away from your body.  Although it’s not common to see people who can overhead press their body weight, it’s far less common to find people who can do a handstand pushup.  Advanced bodyweight movements simply require more skill and strength. The skill required to maintain balance and to move your whole body for reps also has tremendous carry over to the real world.

No doubt free weights are the best way to build maximum muscle.  The biggest men and women on the planet almost entirely use weights to train their bodies.  That being said, if your goal is sculpted and balanced muscle, advanced bodyweight training may actually be superior.  Take a look at high level gymnasts. They have some of the most muscular and balanced physiques on the planet. The amount of balance and control it takes to perform advanced bodyweight movements engages support muscles and stabilizers like crazy.  Over time your whole body develops in ways that reflect your ability to control and lift your own body.

When I go online to look up equipment free workouts I find that they all cater to beginners.  When I look up advanced routines I find routines that are so advanced that you would have to be a competitive gymnast just to go through them.  What is missing is an advanced, muscle building and fat burning workout that MOST people with workout experience can use and benefit from. Since there is a need, I decided to make one here for you.  Below is an advanced workout that can be done with minimal equipment. The following workout is appropriate for those of you with at least one year of consistent workout experience. If your routine is stale and your body has plateaued give this work out a try, it will get things progressing again.  

Workout 1

  • Pistol Squats 3 sets to fatigue
  • One arm push-ups 3 sets to fatigue
  • Pull ups 3 sets to fatigue
  • Supported Hand Stand Push Ups (also show variation) 3 sets to fatigue
  • Extended Plank 3 sets to fatigue 

Workout 2

  • One Leg Toe Touch 3 sets to fatigue
  • Close Grip Push-ups 3 sets to fatigue
  • Chin Ups 3 sets to fatigue
  • Supported Hand Stand Tension Hold 3 sets for 10-15 seconds
  • Hollow Body Rockers 3 sets to fatigue 

Workout 3

  • Explosive Jump Lunges 3 sets for 8 reps each side
  • Explosive Clapping Push Ups 3 sets for 8-12 reps
  • Tension Prone Cobra 3 sets for 20 seconds
  • Lying Leg Raises 3 sets to fatigue
  • Side Plank 3 sets for 30 seconds

-Do the above workouts every day 6 days a week.  Example: Workout 1 on Monday, Workout 2 on Tuesday and Workout 3 on Wednesday and then repeat.  Take one day a week off.

-To fatigue” means you do as many reps as you can with PERFECT form.  Stop the set as soon as your form breaks down.

-Explosive movements should be done with as much force as possible.  Your goal is to launch yourself as high as you can into the air.

-Tension movements require maximal effort on your part.  Squeeze as hard as you can through the full range of motion.

There it is.  A basic but VERY effective workout that trains your entire body.  Follow it for at least 4 weeks for best results.

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Sal Di Stefano

Sal is one of the hosts of the Mind Pump Podcast. At the age of 18 his passion for the art and science of resistance training was so consuming that he decided to make it a profession and become a personal trainer. By 19 he was managing health clubs and by 22 he owned his own gym. After 17 years as a personal trainer he has dedicated himself to bringing science and TRUTH to the fitness industry.

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