Another 30 Days Without Weights

Keeping your strength.

Gymnastics. Photo by Wee Minxy.
In my first article on bodyweight training titled 30 days without weights, I spoke about the many benefits of using bodyweight training during a training phase. After the article was published I started to get questions from many athletes regarding this type of training. Most of the questions were asked about keeping your strength. Many athletes feared that by not lifting weights they would get smaller and weaker, in their current sport. My response to certain athletes varied. In the end I told all of them that if they did difficult bodyweight exercises, with intensity, they would still maintain or even improve their strength levels. Here's how.

The key is to do bodyweight exercises that are difficult.

Don't just do a bunch of pushups and situps to failure. Doing this will get you weaker. You have to try things that you can't or almost can't do. Instead of trying to do a bunch of pushups try to do a one arm pushup or pushups with your feet elevated. Or you can try to do a handstand pushup. Below are some examples of how to keep your upper body strong using difficult bodyweight movements.

Upper Body Movements Without Weights
Beginner Intermediate Advanced
Pushups Pushups ( Feet elevated) Handstand Pushups
Pullups (assistance) Pullups (No Help) Pullups (One Arm)
Dips (assistance) Dips (No Help) Gironda Dips
Pushups Hindu Pushups Dive Bomber Pushups
Chinups (assistance) Chinups (No help) One arm Chins
Pushups with Clap Pushups (Double Clap) Pushups (Triple Clap)
Lower Body Movements Without Weights
Beginner Intermediate Advanced
B/W Squats (parallel) B/W Squats ATG Squat Jumps (get depth)
Lunges Pistols One Legged Squat
Lunges Split Squat Jumps Side Split Squat Jumps
Hip Ext One Leg Hip Ext Glute Ham Raise

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Have you ever seen a guy who can do a one arm pullup or pushup that is weak? I haven't. I used a lot of these movements with my athletes and once they went back to lifting weights they were stronger. I had a kid who was benching 215 for one rep. When wrestling started he got burnt out from lifting and bored. I had him start doing smaller workouts focusing on bodyweight movements. He went from doing pushups to handstand pushups, and chinups to one arm chinups. Eventually after the season he got back to lifting and on his first day back in the weight room he hit 225 for his new max. He also was at a lighter body weight than he was at the start of the season. I have also had great results and carry over from these movements. My bench and squat both went up after my last bodyweight phase.

If you ever look at gymnasts, most of them can go into a powerlifting meet and win their weight class in the bench press. I had a training partner in college who was a former gymnast and the first time he attempted a bench press he hit over 225 while he was in high school. Most of gymnasts' strength comes from years and years of bodyweight and event training. Legendary Strength Coach Louie Simmons once said :

Think about this. How much could you bench press the first time you tried? 200? 300 perhaps? Now how did you achieve that level of strength without ever having benched before? You did it through simplified training such as pushups and pull-ups.

Louie Simmons is correct. His powerlifters use bodyweight movements to help recovery, and increase GPP.


I'm not downing regular strength training. I think different strength routines are great, and they work. I just think that sometimes athletes and regular gym rats need a break from their regular weight training routine and try a new method. Bodyweight training can help you get stronger. In my next article I will touch on how bodyweight training can build muscle mass.
Matt Potak

Matt Potak is a wrestling and football coach at the high school level. He is also a personal fitness trainer in the St Augustine, Florida area. He can be reached at m_potak AT yahoo DOT com.

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