bodyweight rules

20 Things All Bodyweight Beginners Should Know

If you are a bodyweight beginner, this article will show you strategies you can use to get the most out of your workouts.

Lack of basic knowledge about bodyweight training can lead to many mistakes and injuries down the road.

Even if you are not a beginner, this article has many take-home points that will give you better results from your workouts.

If you have ever doubted the ability of bodyweight exercises to build muscles and burn fat. Read on and see how you can get maximum results from pure bodyweight training.

Let’s dive right in….

#1. You will suck the first time

Bodyweight Beginners stay focusedNobody is at their best the first time they do something.

Think of the first time you rode a bike (you might even have scars to remind you). As time went by you got better and better, then one day you did it by yourself.

It’s the same for bodyweight training. Don’t expect to do a perfect pull up or push up the first time.

If your form is distorted, work towards improving it. If you can’t do a pushup – start with knee pushups. If you can’t do a pull-up – use assistance bands. If you can’t do a complete squat – start with box squats.

With time you will gain more strength and get better at these exercises. Giving up just because you can’t do a push up shouldn’t be an excuse. Start doing what you can then progress.


#2. Don’t do any workout challenge

Most workout challenges do more harm than good. 

Avoid challenges that focus on one muscle group since they cause muscle imbalances and poor posture.

Here are good workout challenges you can do.


#3. Bodyweight training builds muscle

Bodyweight Beginners build-muscle

My bodyweight training results

There is this notion that bodyweight exercises are a stepping stone to lifting. Folks believe that you once can do 10 pushups… it’s time to switch to lifting in order build muscles.

Don’t buy into such advice. You CAN build big muscles and the physique you want purely through bodyweight exercises. Just incorporate different movements into your routine you will build muscles.

If your goal is hypertrophy (muscle growth): bodyweight exercises do that for you. You just need to use these 20 tips and you’ll get the body you want.

For ladies who just want a curvy look, you can totally get that through bodyweight and not worry about being muscular. It’s not as easy for women to get muscular without training really hard or using drugs.

Note that your results will largely depend on your effort and diet.



#4. Do maximum reps

Bodyweight Beginners maximum repsThere is a lot of confusion surrounding this topic. And you’ll get a different answer depending on whom you ask.

Realize that I’m not talking about high reps. High reps are usually associated with endurance.

Max reps are the highest number of reps you can do for a particular exercise.

Some “experts” may recommend a certain number of reps for each exercise. But that approach doesn’t make sense because it doesn’t consider your level of fitness. A workout that recommends 10 pushups won’t work for you if you can already do 20. 

The best approach is to do maximum reps. If you can do more than 15 of an exercise, advance to a more challenging variation or a different exercise.



#5. Consistency is king

Bodyweight Beginners ConsistencyExercise and diet consistency is a big challenge for many. But if you want to lose weight, be fit or build muscle…’s something you’ll have to learn.

By the way, training consistency for a month then taking a 3-week break doesn’t count as consistency. Also, it doesn’t bring results.

I know most people don’t have the disciple to train regularly but you have to work towards it. Your target should be training at least 3 times a week (more on this later).

Some of the things that helped me get discipline are:

Training in the morning- there is a great advantage about morning workouts besides consistency. Like being energetic through the day and being conscious of what you eat.

Training in the afternoon or evening can a challenge because sometimes you’ll be tired, or busy, or something will come up. You can wake up an hour early for your workout.

Short term goals: setting short-term goals also helps a lot. Set exercise goals – for example, you could set to do 5 pull-ups in 3 weeks. Once you achieve that goal, you’ll be motivated to do more.

That’s what worked for me. You could try it or find something to keep you consistent and motivated.


#6. Patience is truly a virtue

Bodyweight Beginners patience virtue

A cliché, but Rome wasn’t built in one day. And neither are the great physiques.

Ask anyone with a physique you admire and they’ll tell you it takes time to transform your body.

It takes time to get fit and build muscles but it’s much easier to lose muscle (another reason to be consistent).

Training regularly and eating healthy for a month won’t get you ripped – especially if you have been sedentary most of your life. And the earlier you realize this, the better. Or else you’ll give up.

Also, you don’t want to be jumping from one routine to another. Give a routine time before you decide whether it’s working or not. Changing routines every 2 weeks is a recipe for failure. It takes time to gain strength and build muscles.

I don’t have the answer for you on how long it will take to start seeing results. Because it depends on your diet, routine, how hard you work, consistency and your level of fitness. But when you do everything right you should start seeing strength improvements in 2 weeks.


#7. Proper nutrition over everything

bodyweight training for beginners bad dietNutrition should be a top priority.

It doesn’t matter how hard or consistently you train if you are on a bad diet – you won’t lose weight.

It’s actually possible to lose weight without training, when on a good diet. But it’s not advisable because it leads to loss of fat and muscle.

If your goal is to lose weight, eat fewer calories than you burn. You should also eat enough healthy proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

Eating healthy and the right amount of calories will guarantee faster results.


#8. You don’t have to add weights

bodyweight training for beginnersno weightsAdding weights to bodyweight exercises is a common thing – but not necessary.

You can build extraordinary strength through bodyweight exercises alone. Mostly when someone can do 10 reps of pull-ups, they add weights.

Instead, switch to harder exercises. Once you have perfected a pull-up, work towards a muscle up or one arm pull up. Find a harder variation for every exercise.

If classic push-ups are too easy, advance to diamond pushups, declined pushups and then progress to one-arm pushups

For squats – advance to close-stance squats, supported one-leg squat, and then progress to the pistol squat.

By doing this you will master calisthenics. After all, do you want to be the guy who can do 10 weighted pull-ups or the guy who can do a muscle up?


#9. You can also time your sets

time exerciseYou can set a time frame which you’ll do as many reps as you can. This is a great idea especially if you are training for intensity and endurance.

Set the stopwatch for maybe 30 seconds then do as many sit-ups as you can in that period.

But this is not a good idea for someone training for hypertrophy.


#10. Pull exercises are a must

pull up bodyweight beginnerOne of the best compound exercises is a pull-up. But it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Folks will do pushup variations but not a single pull up….

They are not as simple as pushups but you have to do them. Start with one or assisted pull up and work your way to more reps.

You can start with the pull-up variation you find easiest. Most people find wide grip pull ups easier to execute.

And there is no two way about this. So if you don’t have a bar buy one. In fact you there isn’t any other bodyweight exercise that works your upper back and lats like pull-ups.

Bonus: Guys if you want the coveted V look, pull-ups will get you there faster than any other exercise.


#11. The truth about circuits

circuitsCircuits are when you do one exercise after another without rest and repeat several times.

Circuits are good for endurance, burning fat and improving your cardiovascular health.

They are not the best option for someone who wants to build muscles or increase strength. You can use circuits as warm up (if they are not intense).

But if you have to choose between circuits and steady cardio, go for circuits.



#12. Physique isn’t the only method to measure progress

bodyweight training for beginners strength progressWe always want to see tangible results. But that’s not always the case with training.

Strength gains are also a way of tracking your progress. Being able to do more reps of an exercise is an indicator that you have gained strength. Doing harder exercises also indicates more strength.

As you gain more strength you will also start seeing changes in the body.


#13. Keep advancing

handstandIncrease the number of reps and do harder exercises. Doing the same exercise or number of reps won’t cut it.

Avoid getting comfortable with an exercise; the idea is to get out of the comfort zone.

If you can do a max 15 reps of an exercise, switch things up and start doing a harder variation of that exercise.

But don’t jump to complex exercises if you are not ready – it can lead to injury. Progress slowly as you gain strength.


#14. Work towards a full range of motion

bodyweight training for beginners range of motionAfter you have mastered proper form, work on increasing the range of motion.

You’ll gain more strength by doing a full range of motion in every exercise. In fact, if you do full ROM you won’t be able to do as many reps as you do.

Some of the things that may interfere with ROM are:

Intensity – how fast you do an exercise. So execute every movement slowly.

Mobility and flexibility – do stretching exercises.


#15. Soreness shouldn’t be a big deal

bodyweight training for beginners muscle sorenessMany folks love soreness because they consider it an indicator of a good workout….And if they are not sore, they are either doing something wrong or not training hard enough.

But that’s not always the case. It’s possible to have a fulfilling workout and not get sore.

Bodyweight beginners will obviously be sore but as you build muscle and get fit, the soreness will reduce. And you’ll only get sore when you do new exercises or increase intensity.

Soreness isn’t the goal, focus on doing everything right and let body dictate what it feels….don’t overtrain for the sake of being sore.

Read this article for more information about muscle soreness.


#16. Don’t do just what you like

bodyweight training for beginners comfort zoneThe advice – do the exercises you enjoy  – can be misleading.
Whether your goal is to lose weight or build muscles. You have to train all the body muscles.

Now let’s say you enjoy doing upper body exercises and you hate training legs. What results will you get? Chicken legs maybe?

To increase strength you don’t just train the already strong muscles, you focus on the weak muscles. So make sure your routine addresses all body muscles.

This is true for ladies too. I know you give glutes and lower body more attention. But you have to set a day for training upper body.


#17. Warm-up should be a ritual

bodyweight training for beginners jump ropeWarm up and strength training are like peanut butter and jelly. It should be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of bodyweight training.

Don’t start your workout with 10 straight pushups. You have to set the body ready for the workout before you start. And only warm-up can do that.

Doing strength training without warm-up will increase injury risk.

A ten minute warm-up will get your blood pumping. You can use a jump rope or do simple circuits.


#18 You need a routine and goals

bodyweight training for beginners write a routineYou just can’t train aimlessly. You should plan your workouts.

Having a routine will largely contribute to consistency and better results.

It doesn’t have to be a 3 months routine – you can have weekly or monthly routines. Just have something to guide you.

As for goals, they should to be realistic and match your effort.


#19. Training frequency

train everydayThe number of times you train will depend on your goals.

But whatever your goals are, train at least 3 times a week. When training for strength and muscle growth, you have to give the muscles time to recover and grow.

Train for a maximum of 5 days a week. In case you are busy, do strength training for 3 days and 5-15 minute circuits or skill exercises on rest days.

Every session should be at least 45 minutes. With rests of 2-3 minutes between sets.


#20. Start training today

do or do notDon’t we all love the convenience of bodyweight training?

It doesn’t matter whether you are a regular traveler, too busy or broke, you will still be able to stay fit.

You just have to make sure your diet is on point and you’ll start seeing results…..

Now that you know everything you need to know about starting bodyweight, it’s time to get started. Start where you are and work your way to more strength and muscle.


Final Word

There you have it – 20 things that will give you better results. Now it is time to start training. 

Here are 7 bodyweight exercises to help you build strength and muscle mass fast.

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  1. molly

    April 13, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    A lot of great advice and number 10 hit home for me. Can’t do a pull up but I’m still working on it.

    • Brian Syuki

      April 13, 2015 at 7:32 pm

      Thanks, keep on training and you’ll get there.

  2. MattAU

    April 14, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    Wow! quite a long list, still trying to process everything and I have a number of things I should start doing. thanks for writing this

    • Brian Syuki

      April 14, 2015 at 1:53 pm

      Glad you liked it, yeah there is a lot that goes into bodyweight training.

  3. Nikhil Narkhede

    April 14, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    Hi Brian,
    Doing reps consistently is really very important.