I used to to think that you needed weights to build an impressive body. It’s not that bodyweight workouts are ineffective; rather, I was too aware of their perceived limitations. Or maybe it’s that I pictured all bodyweight training occurring as a home workout. And my home gym experiences were always disappointing.
But then I started having clients who had limited equipment. That forced me to learn how to manipulate bodyweight workouts and design training programs that were more challenging. The more workouts I created, the more I realized that bodyweight training could do some incredible things for just about anyone.
I’ve met a lot of fit people in my life. And if there’s one common thread among all the incredibly talented, muscular, and lean people I’ve met, it’s that there’s no one way to build your body. And in the case of BJ Gaddour, there’s proof that you don’t need an ounce of equipment to do build an incredible body.
A recent study showed that a 10-minute workout had the same post-workout metabolic boost as a 30-minute workout
That’s why I had Gaddour, author of Your Body is a Barbell, share some of his tricks of the trade to building the perfect bodyweight workout. Learn, apply, and then give it a try. You might be surprised by it’s difficulty and effectiveness. -AB
The World’s Most Efficient Bodyweight Plan
While most people can find 30 to 60 minutes to train a couple times per week, there will be days where things get so busy you’ll only have 10 minutes to spare. Well, 10 minutes is way better than nothing.
In fact, a recent study showed that a 10-minute workout had the same post-workout metabolic boost as a 30-minute workout, though the 30-minute workout burned more total calories during the session due to the higher exercise volume. The key with a shorter workout is intensity. You really have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone with such a low total exercise volume and take little to no rest between exercises. This is the exact mentality that makes so many of my bodyweight programs incredibly effective.
Get ready for a quick and effective home workout that you can crank out in just 8 minutes.
Building the Perfect Bodyweight Workout
The Plan: Alternate between 50 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest for each exercise in the following circuit using the bodyweight 8 exercises that collectively work your whole body from head to toe:
Exercise 1: Hip Thrust Variation
Exercise 2: Pushup Variation
Exercise 3: Deep Squat Variation (watch 35 ways to squat on 2 legs at the link)
Exercise 4: Row Variation
Exercise 5: Hip-Hinge Variation
Exercise 6: Handstand Pushup Variation
Exercise 7: Single-Leg Squat Variation (see the top 37 single-leg squat variations)
Exercise 8: Pullup Variation
Making it Work: Perform as many quality reps as you can with perfect form and technique within each 50-second work period. If it’s an isometric exercise, simply hold the position for as long as you can.
If you need to rest or pause at any point during a given work period, please do so. Your goal is to eventually be able to continuously work for the full 50 seconds without stopping.
- For all unilateral exercises, be sure to switch sides at the halfway mark so you perform 25 seconds of work on each side.
- You should be able to perform at least 10 total reps (5 per side for a unilateral movement) within each 50-second work period. If you’re consistently getting fewer than 10 total reps, make the exercise easier by using one of the microregressions within each exercise level.
- If you’re consistently getting more than 10 total reps, make the exercise harder by using one of microprogressions within each exercise level. You can also feel free to mix and match between other variations of a given exercise level, if you’d like.
- If you’re using plyometric exercises like Squat Jumps, Vertical Jumps, Plyo Pushups, or Plyo Rows, pause for 4 to 5 seconds in the top or bottom position (depending on the move) between explosive reps to emphasize quality over quantity. You can also alternate between 10 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest three times to fill the full minute.
- You can make this workout easier by using a 45–15 or 40–20 interval timeline instead. Make it harder by making it a complex where you perform 60 seconds of work for each move with no rest between moves.
- The great thing about bodyweight training is that it requires little to no equipment so you can do it anytime, anywhere. The exceptions to the rule are with rows and pull-ups which require something sturdy and stable to hold onto.
- Rows and Pull-ups work your pulling muscles and the entire backside of your body and are key to both maintaining structural balance in your body and achieving optimal posture. In other words, you can’t skip these moves if you want to maximize results and minimize injuries. Too much pushing and not enough pulling will make you look more like Quasimodo and less like an athlete.
What if you have absolutely no equipment?
If there’s a will, there’s a way. In fact, here are 9 ways to master pulling exercises without added equipment.
Adam Bornstein is a New York Times bestselling author and the author of You Can’t Screw This Up. He is the founder of Born Fitness, and the co-founder of Arnold’s Pump Club (with Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Pen Name Consulting. An award-winning writer and editor, Bornstein was previously the Chief Nutrition Officer for Ladder, the Fitness and Nutrition editor for Men’s Health, Editorial Director at LIVESTRONG.com, and a columnist for SHAPE, Men’s Fitness, and Muscle & Fitness. He’s also a nutrition and fitness advisor for LeBron James, Cindy Crawford, Lindsey Vonn, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. According to The Huffington Post, Bornstein is “one of the most inspiring sources in all of health and fitness.” His work has been featured in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, Fast Company, ESPN, and GQ, and he’s appeared on Good Morning America, The Today Show, and E! News.