Think you’ve mastered the basics of bodyweight exercise? Tired of squats being too easy, pushups trivial, crunches zero effort? While there are plenty of exceedingly difficult bodyweight movements to pick up out there, maybe you just want to take your current favorites and add a bit more challenge to them—if so, these five tips should help you improve the difficulty of all your favorite bodyweight exercises:
Variations. Most bodyweight exercises have a slew of variations meant to make the movement more difficult—a slight change of angle can turn a simple movement supremely difficult, especially if it starts targeting muscles you’ve not yet developed. Research all the different versions of your favorite exercises, and see what challenges you the most, if a challenge is what you’re looking for. And when you start getting to the hardest variations, they can start looking pretty impressive–people pay attention, when you can do handstand pushups.
One arm/leg. The simplest way to make many bodyweight exercises more difficult: use less of your body to do it. One-armed pushups, one-legged body weight squats, these are substantially more difficult movements; not only are you moving essentially twice the weight, you’re activating your stabilizing muscles a lot more, in most cases. This is a win/win if you’re looking to push your bodyweight exercises to the next level.
Less rest. Studies have shown that many people in the gym rest too much between exercises—so stop sitting around after your pushups, and hurry up and start on your squats. This is a good reason to make sure you have a good, all-round spread of movements in your regimen, too; it’s easy to go from leg work to chest work quickly, less easy to go from chest work to more chest work. Set up a regimen where you can do rapid circuits, working each part of your body.
More repetitions. More reps isn’t always the most effective way to challenge yourself with bodyweight exercises, but it’s always an option to consider. 100 pushups too easy? Try 200, or 500, or 1000. There’s something to be said for reaching the point where you can repeat a given bodyweight exercise indefinitely. Of course, once you reach that point with all your major movements, you’re really only left with one choice.
Adding weight. Yes, yes, that sort of defeats the purpose of ‘bodyweight exercises’, but eventually your body isn’t offering enough of a challenge. Once you can indefinitely stick out from a pole like a flag, you need to think about ways to challenge yourself further. Tossing a weighted vest on for your next circuit can make a big difference in the challenge presented, without changing any of the mechanics involved—so don’t worry, you won’t have to start pumping iron unless you want to.