Search for bodyweight workout routines on google and you’ll find thousands of them. But don’t be too quick to follow them.
Problem with most routines online is they are not personalized. The program might be very good, but it doesn’t fit you strength level and goals.
You’ll find that most folks use routines which are either too easy or too advanced for them. While you can get results from a routine which is not personalized, a personalized one will give you better results.
You’ll get maximum results from a routine which, puts into account – your strength level, goals, any previous injuries and any other limitations you may have.
Anyone can scribble a routine but today you will learn how to design a perfect workout routine. Here’s what it takes to build a routine for maximum gains.
Tips for a good bodyweight workout routine
Works all muscle groups
Your routine has to account for all muscle groups. This will give you a full symmetrical look.
Make sure your routine trains these muscles: Chest muscles, back muscles, leg muscles, ab muscles, shoulder muscles, arm muscles, glute muscles, and neck and trapezius muscles.
By the end of the week, your routine should cover all above muscles.
Luckily, most bodyweight exercises train multiple muscle groups at once, so you won’t have to do many exercises.
Note that, ignoring some muscles will lead to bad posture and muscle imbalances.
Good routines are progressive
One of the most important rules of bodyweight training is progression.
Gradually increase the difficulty of the exercises. By either doing different exercise variations or moving up to harder exercises.
This helps maximize the results you get. Once you can do 10-15 reps on an exercise, progress to a more challenging one. Additionally, make changes on your routine after every 3- 4 weeks.
Repeating the same exercises leads to slow gains or plateaus.
I have to warn you though – avoid advancing to hard exercises too fast, this may lead to injury.
Building muscle and strength takes consistency and hard work. The number of times you train in a week matters a lot.
A good routine has at least 3 training days per week. But that might not be enough for someone who wants to build muscle optimally. Aim for 4-6 workouts per week.
What to consider when designing your own routine
For most trainees and even some trainers, accurate strength-analysis is a big challenge. Most folks tend to overestimate their strength, unfortunately, this sabotages their results.
You have to be completely honest with yourself when assessing your strength. Know what you can do and what you can’t.
Start with exercises within your strength level. Hard exercises will make it easy for you to quit and increase risk of injury.
I’m assuming, your goals are, to:
Lose weight/ fat
Build muscle and strength
Improve athletic performance
Or all the above.
A person training for fat loss or to build muscle should use the same approach. While someone training for athletic performance should take a slightly different approach. For example, high intensity exercises and explosive movements are ideal for improving athletic performance.
In this article, I focus on a routine for fat loss and building muscle.
Length of your workouts
There is a lot info online on how long workouts should last. You’ve probably read somewhere that your workout shouldn’t last longer than _ minutes. That’s BS!
There are so many factors that determine the length of a workout.
How long the warm up is
Number of reps and sets
Rest between sets
The amount of time you have for exercise will help determine the number of exercises to add in the routine. Make sure you have enough time to train all the muscles groups. Aim for at least 45 minutes per workout.
Decide whether you will use a split routine or a full body routine.
Split training is where you train two or three muscle groups per workout, rather than training full body in one workout.
There are various ways you can split your workouts. Here’s the split combination I used in the 3-day bodyweight beginner workout.
Day 1: Chest and Triceps
Day 2: Rest
Day 3: Back and Biceps
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: Legs and Shoulder
Day 6 & 7: Rest
As you can see, this routine doesn’t have an ab training day. So do 2 or 3 ab exercises after every workout.
Avoid doing exercises for big muscle groups in the same workout, training back and legs together can be challenging. Also, don’t train the same muscles back to back – skip a day or two before you train the same muscle again.
Full body routine
This is where you train all the muscles in one workout session.
This approach doesn’t work well for most people since the workouts last long and it’s physically demanding.
Unless your routine is easy and doesn’t have many exercises – do split training.
Circuit training is a when you do resistance training without taking breaks in between sets. This type of training helps build muscle and increase endurance. It is ideal for someone who wants to improve athletic performance. And, also a time saver.
I won’t focus on circuit training today, but here are a few helpful resources.
First learn proper form
Proper form is one of the biggest challenges folks face in bodyweight training.
Mostly, trainees sacrifice form to do more reps or harder exercises. This is not safe and doesn’t bring the best results.
Only do exercises which you can control the movement and do full range of motion.
Before you start a routine, learn how to perform all exercises in it, properly.
One of the most important reasons why you should perform exercises properly is to avoid injury. Also, proper form assures maximum gains.
No matter how tempted you may be to do more reps or harder exercises, remember, proper form is more important.
The workout routine
By now, you already have a rough idea of what it takes to design a routine. Now, let’s look into how a workout session should look like from beginning to end.
The first thing in any workout routine is the warm up. It helps activate the muscles being used in the workout.
Warming up also helps prevent injury by pumping blood into the muscles, joints, ligaments and tendons.
Warm up should last for 5-15 minutes. It’s preferable you always do a full body warm up.
As I mentioned earlier, a good routine is one which trains all muscles. So keep that in mind when choosing the exercises.
It’s entirely up to you to decide the exercises to do. But there are exercises which should be included in every bodyweight workout routine.
Push ups – Probably the most common bodyweight exercise. They will help strengthen the arms, chest and shoulders.
Pull ups/ inverted rows – if you are a beginner start with inverted rows then progress to pull ups. These exercises basically work the entire upper body muscles and focus on the back muscles.
Squats – It’s common to see people neglect leg muscles. Squats work the entire lower body.
Back bridge/ glute bridge – these exercises are great for strengthening the back and reducing lower back pain.
Don’t limit your workout to these exercises only. They are just irreplaceable ones. The other bodyweight exercises have alternatives.
Here are exercises for each muscle group
As for the chest, push ups are enough….also, arm and back exercises will build the chest muscles as well.
Order of exercises
Once you have decided the bodyweight exercises to use in your routine, it’s time to come up with the order you will arrange them.
How you arrange the exercises affects your results……..Here are few guidelines that will help you arrange them optimally.
- Bigger muscles groups should come before smaller muscles – That is: legs before shoulders, back before triceps or biceps and chest before abs.
- Unilateral exercises should come before bilateral exercises – One-arm or one-leg exercises should be done before two-leg or two-arm exercises.
- Harder exercises should come before easier ones – start your routine with the hardest exercises then finish with the easiest.
Rest between sets
Most people take very long rests! While the rest periods may vary depending on your goals and the exercises you are doing, try to keep them as short as possible.
For simple exercises like ab exercises take 30-60 seconds rests. For more challenging exercises like pull ups and leg exercises take 1-2 minutes rests.
Number of reps
There’s usually a lot of confusion on the number of reps you should do in bodyweight training. But it’s not complicated at all.
Just do as many reps as you can while maintain proper form. Only reserve 1 or 2 reps for exercises with injury risk like the handstand push up.
Once you can do 10-15 reps of an exercise, move up to a more challenging exercise or a different variation.
At the end of each workout you should do a 5-10 minute stretching routine.
When you exercise muscle contract, stretching after the workout helps restore them to the original length.
Here are 2 stretching guides you will love!
It doesn’t take much to design a personalized bodyweight workout routine. You only need to assess yourself correctly and choose the right exercises.
Having a routine is not the most important thing, sticking to it IS! You may have the perfect workout routine but if you don’t follow it, it’ll be useless!
Now it’s time for you to design your own routine, stick to it, keep progressing and attain your goals.
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