Bodyweight Strength at Home

I don’t know about you, but whenever I can’t make it to the gym, I end up doing……… absolutely nothing. The thought of doing burpees in my living room by myself is miserable when I am so used to working out in a group environment.

 
In order to get myself excited for home training I want more benefit that just a sweat: getting some extra skill practice, mobility work and strength training done is far more appealing.

 
Here are a few of my favourite USEFUL bodyweight exercises (sorry, of course, burpees are useful too… maybe… possibly… ). I’m going to get stuck into each exercise here, explaining the full variation + a regression, but at the end of the blog I’ll put a workout for you as well!

 

Shoulders

Handstand Push Up or Bear Push Up

 If you already have a solid push up then you need more to continue building strength. You can take your pressing strength to the next level with handstand push ups! Without loads of weights at home, there’s no better way to press so much weight overhead! You’re literally pressing your bodyweight! For me that's like, 85kg! Ok... fine… 86kg… ok FINE! 87.5kg! 

 
Of course, you will need to be confident with kicking up to a handstand against a wall and make sure there’s pillows/cushions/something soft underneath where your head will go. If you’re not confident with a handstand, another higher load push up variation is the Bear Push Up.

 
How to do them:

youtubeid=pHgvpw6hpgY

 
Handstand Push Ups:

•         Set up with a clear section of wall / a closed & locked door and pillows or cushions where you head will land

•         Before you start, make sure you confidently know how to kick up into a handstand with your hands shoulder width apart (if you are not confident then I would stick with the bear push up (below), which is just as challenging)

•         Kick up onto the wall with straight elbows, and elevate as much as you can (push up and away from the floor, think: “shoulders to ears”) 

•         Lower yourself down with control until your head touches your cushions

•         Don’t lose tension here! Keep your core tight and your arms engaged

•         Push back up to straight arms

•         If you can’t get all the way down to 1 pillow, add more! Make the stack high enough, reducing your range of motion, until you can do around 5 reps with control. Then, over time, just reduce the height (increasing your range of motion) as you get stronger!


If you cannot find a height that allows you to do 5 good controlled reps then stick with the bear push up! It will give you the strength you need.

 
Bear Push Ups:

•         Again, make sure you have your pillow / cushion where your head is going to go!

•         Start in a Downward Dog position, with your chest pushed through towards your legs

•         Elevate as much as you can (push up and away from the floor, think: “shoulders to ears”)

•         Bend your arms, keeping your elbows tucked in as much as possible and lower your head forwards, in front of your hands as if you’re making a triangle with your two hands and your head

•         Then press back up, while trying to maintain the elevation in your shoulders – don’t let your chest drop making it just into a crappy normal push up!

•         If you find you can’t press back up without losing the shoulder position, just focus on slow negatives

 
For both variations think of them as a core exercise too, you should be bracing hard to create enough tension in your body to make you feel stronger! It should feel harder and easier at the same time.

 

Hamstrings

Hamstring sliders

I give this drill to every strength athlete that is having hamstring and back issues. Even though you won’t be shifting as much weight as you do with a deadlift, I challenge you to find an exercise that hits your hamstrings harder when you do them right!

 
They’re so easy to do at home and it really helps to teach you how to awareness of your hips, help you avoid overextending your lower back and it utilises one of the big functions of your hamstring: bending your knees.

 
How to do it:

youtubeid=ze3MhiREF98

 
Full Variation:

•         Find a slide-y surface, such as wood or tiles, and something to slide with, such as a pillow, a cloth, a magazine, or furniture sliders

•         Lie yourself down with your legs straight and arms by your sides

•         Press you heels into the ground so that your lift your bum up off the floor – press into the floor your arms too for extra support

•         Pull your heels up towards your bum by using your hamstrings

•         The crucial part of the exercise is: DON’T BEND YOUR HIPS! They need to stay “open” throughout for you to get the most benefit. Video yourself from the side to check if you’re doing it right (if you are, it won’t take many reps for you to feel a burn!).
 

If you struggle then it is definitely something you want to work on and master, I generally say that anyone should be able to do 3 sets of 15 reps easily without any issues, it helps avoid a ton of issues.
 

You can start building strength using the negative portion of the movement:
 

Negative Sliders:

•         Start in a finished glute bridge position (heels towards bum, hips up, lower back not over extended)

•         Slowly start to extend your legs to the floor while keeping your hips open, resisting the urge to drop the entire time
 

Hamstring sliders won’t build a ton of muscle, but they make sure your legs are working correctly for everything that you do. Don’t be surprised if Deadlifts suddenly feel a lot easier when you get good at these!


 

Back and Bi’s

Table rows

Pulling and retraction exercises are too good to miss out of at home, so many benefits for strength, posture and shoulder health! Unless you have a pull up bar at home, you sometimes must get a little bit creative to get your pulling work in.


The Table Row is a great exercise that also offers grip options - great for keeping variety in your strength work, your elbows will thank you! Even if you have a pull up bar at home, I’d recommend giving these a go!

 

How to do it:

youtubeid=dRUW7BVUmik

 
•         First, please, please, weigh your table down if it’s a fairly small one. Use books/a heavy backpack/anything heavy you have to stop it moving/sliding as you pull. Also make sure your table is sturdy and will generally hold your weight!

•         Lie underneath the table and grab the outside edges

•         Engage your core like a hollow body position, make your body as long as possible and pull yourself up so that your chest touches (or gets close) to the tabletop. (Do your first rep slowly to make sure you don’t smash your face into oblivion)

•         Tempo is a good friend here. I like a good fast explosive pull up then slow back down to the start position.
 
•         Also try mixing up your grips! See what positions you can place your hands in and still pull!
 

If you struggle, bend your knees and place your feet on the floor properly to decrease the amount of weight you have to pull up. This is also nice as a drop set if you can do the full variation!

 

Quads and balance

Counter-Balance Airborne Lunges / Weighted Lunges

I really like this variation for training the legs if there is no equipment handy.
 

It has a lot of extra benefits like foot strength and developing your balance. It’s more preferable than a pistol squat because you can maintain a neutral spine much easier, and overall there aren’t many mobility requirements so anyone can do it!
 

How to do it:

youtubeid=eMI4EX-Tx1E

Airborne Lunge:

•         Hold a filled bag / rucksack / some sort of weight out in front of you to help you to counterbalance. This weight will help you to fire your core enable you to to slow the movement down.

•         Bend your back leg and move it slightly behind you

•         Slowly bend the front leg, lowering yourself down until the back-leg knee only touches the floor

•         If you find your knee just falls to the floor unceremoniously, try putting a block/some books/ some cushions on the floor to decrease the range of motion

•         If you can go down, but struggle to stand up, you could do a slow negative and then stand up in a normal lunge

 

Weighted Lunge:

If Airborne Lunges are verging on impossible, try weighted lunges!

•         Move your backpack / weight close to your body

•         Start with your feet together
 
•         Step on foot back and lunge down so you knee taps the floor

•         Step back forwards and repeat on the other side

 

Triceps

Russian Dip / Chair Dips

The Russian Dip is an awesome exercise to build your muscle up transition, but also something I regularly use just for the insane tricep pump and the shoulder extension benefits. If you’ve never tried these before, your triceps are in for a treat!!
 

How to do it:

youtubeid=bpBJPUYLBok


Russian Dips:

•         Set up a couple of chairs side by side, chair backs on the outside, with enough space for you to fit between them

•         Set up with your hands at the front side of the chair seat and your legs straight out in front of you
 
•         Lower down until you’re at the bottom of a normal dip

•         Slowly lean back, transferring your weight to the heels of your hands and then onto your forearms – try to lower down and not just drop

•         After you’ve gone all the way down and back, use as little momentum as possible to transfer your weight forwards again, so you lift off your forearms and back onto your hands. You should end up in the bottom of a dip position
 
•         Press up out of the dip as normal, and repeat!
 

The slower the better and if you find the full transition part too hard, just work on normal chair dips:


Chair Dips:

•         Set up the same as the Russian dip, with the chairs facing each other and your hands on the front side
 
•         Keep your feet in front of you - the closer your feet are to you, the easier it’ll be

•         Lower down as much as you can, getting your shoulders close to your hands

•         Press back up until your elbows lock out
 

By being slightly between two chairs the shoulder position feels a bit nicer than having both hands behind you on a chair or a ledge.

Again, you can use both movements as an awesome drop set! I like to burn out on the Russian Dips then just hit a ton of regular Dips afterwards until I start making weird noises and my arms are about 2 more reps from falling off.


 

Core & Rotational Joint Movement

Bear to Crab

Never underestimate the power of animal movements done slowly. I have seen these simple movements take lifters with cranky shoulders or constantly tight necks to finally have relief.
 

Relaxed rotational joint movements are so good for your body. The added benefit of the toe taps starts to bring an element of contralateral strength. The slower you go, the more challenging these become for your core!
 

How to do it:

 youtubeid=iUp38nxmtVc

•         Start in Bear: go onto all fours, then lift your knees so they’re just off the floor

•         Optional: Tap opposite hands to opposite feet one after the other

•         Rotate round so that you’re in Crab: on all fours, but your front is facing up. 

•         You can rotate either by lifting your hand and threading your foot over or under your body until you’re facing the ceiling and you can place you hand back on the floor

•         Or, relax out of bear onto your knees, rotate yourself around using your hands so you’re sitting on your bum, then lift into Crab

•         Optional: Tap opposite hands to opposite feet, one after the other

•         Rotate back to Bear, either without letting your bum touch the floor, or using the floor for assistance. Make sure you alternate the ways you rotate to get variety in!
 

You don’t need a lot of space to do this, and don’t worry too much about how you rotate between the movements, just make sure to rotate around on both sides. If you find this quite challenging, just do it any way you can and you might find it suddenly clicks! In a lot of cases people struggle more with the coordination than the strength, so stick with it and you’ll get there!
 

 

Workout Ideas


So now we have our movements here are a few ideas of how you can make them into workouts.

 
Strength Building Framework

If you just want a workout for general strength/fitness/coolness, you can skip this section and go straight to the examples below, but, if you want to be a bit more methodical with your progress for each exercise here’s how!
 

Before you start any “workout”, warm up and do a testing set of each exercise to see how many reps you can do and at what level. Then, for your workouts, stick to around 80% capacity, e.g. if you can do 10 Handstand Push Ups with good form, do sets of 8 in your workout; if you can do 5, then use 4 in your warm up, etc.
 

If you can do more than 10 comfortably of any of the exercises, make them harder! Either by adding a slow tempo, adding more weight, or reducing the help of your feet/arms.
 

Tempo is also great if you’re stuck at a certain amount of reps! Instead of getting frustrated that you can’t get past 5, do 3 or 4 but with a 3-5 second negative and an explosive positive. The eccentric strength you build will let you break through any roadblock after a few sessions!

 

Example Workout 1: The Classic

Use a regression which will allow you to get all the reps of all the movements.

Rest 1-2 minutes between sets.

5x 5 Handstand Push Up / Bear Push Up
5x 8 Hamstring sliders / Negatives
5x 8 Table rows
5x 8 Airborne Lunges / Weighted Lunges each side
5x 5 Russian Dips / Dips
5x 5 Bear to Crab Switches

 
If you find you fatigue very quickly, you can drop down to 3 sets of each exercise and build up over time!

 

Example Workout 2: The Circuit

If you have the space to have everything set up for all 6 exercises, you can make a circuit of the exercises:
 

5 rounds:
5x Handstand Push Up / Bear Push Up
10x Hamstring sliders / Negatives
10x Table Rows
20x Alternating Airborne Lunges / Weighted Lunges
5x Russian Dips / Dips
6x Alternating Bear to Crab

 
Or, instead of giving yourself a certain number of rounds, try setting a clock for 15 minutes and see how many rounds you can finish!

 

Whatever you do, make sure to log what it is and each time you come back to the workout, add a rep, increase the weight/difficulty or decrease your rest to challenge yourself further.
 

Another great thing to work on from home is your flexibility and stability, if you want a program that shows you how to assess your full body pick up The Simplistic Mobility Method here today!

READY TO GET STARTED?

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