5 Bodyweight Exercise Upgrades
There seems to be this perception that bodyweight exercises are just for beginners. That after a certain period of time, you will outgrow bodyweight exercises as your body has adapted to everything and anything that your bodyweight has to offer, leaving no option but to start adding countless kilos in weights from barbell, plates and dumbbells. In reality, that’s just not true and I am always trying to find fun ways of modifying traditional bodyweight movements in order to provide a new stimulus. Whilst I can’t take credit for the exercises on this list, here are 5 “upgraded” bodyweight movements, based on classics, that you should try!
The Pull up upgrade - The towel pull up - often considered the best in-gym replacement for rope climbs. Just grab a towel and loop it around a pull up bar and perform pull ups. Sounds simple. It’s not. This is a brutal exercise. Firstly, the instability caused by the fact you're hanging from a towel rather than a fastened bar as you can imagine is pretty challenging. What’s more, your grip strength is challenged in a way that normal pull ups don’t as your forearms are forced to work that much harder to well...hold onto the towel. If you think you’ve “conquered” regular pull ups, give these a go!
The Push up upgrade - The tiger bend push up - this is another modification of a traditional bodyweight exercise - the push up. However, it is probably better described as a bodyweight floor tricep extension. These are absolutely brutal on your triceps and more importantly, target the long head of the tricep which is not targeted to the same extent when performing bodyweight dips. If this isn’t challenging enough, a way to upgrade the movement further would be to alternate the above movement with a regular push up, for a real chest, shoulder and tricep burner. Proving once again, that you don’t need fancy equipment to get your pump on!
The Squat upgrade - The squat walk - if you’ve performed bear crawls and experienced that dull burning sensation in your shoulders, well consider this the lower body version, predominantly for your quads. Perform a bodyweight squat, then, staying as low as you can, slowly move forwards with small steps, resist the urge to go quickly or come up from the squat until you are done. The constant tension on your leg muscles throughout the movement makes them a great finisher. Ignore the slightly odd looks you might get in the gym and just focus on all those gains.
The Lunge upgrade - The shrimp squat - ok, so not technically a lunge by name, but it is a great single leg bodyweight exercise to master. If you’ve ever done a reverse lunge before, well this exercise is somewhat like that, main difference being your back leg stays bent throughout and your knee touches the ground, instead of your foot. If not completely clear, see the cover photo for this blog or have a look on Youtube. Often considered a regression from the pistol squat, however, the shrimp squat is a really great exercise in itself. Again, a real burner for your quads with the added benefit of it testing your single leg balance, strength and mobility. Win win win.
The Plank upgrade - The hollow rock - this is a gymnastics’ exercise often used to strengthen an important position (the hollow body position) used for a number of bar, floor and ring movements. An exercise that also happens to be an absolute burner on your abs. A hollow rock or dish rock involves raising your arms and legs off the ground (think the shape of a banana), engaging your core to do so and using it to rock back and forth under control, maintaining that hollow body position throughout. Maintaining control as well as ensuring you keep enough momentum to continue the movement makes this a real challenge, a blend of strength, balance and timing. There’s a reason gymnasts are known for their core strength, if it’s good enough for them, then it’s good enough for us. Try rocking for 3 sets of 20-30 seconds. Resting up to 1 minute between sets.
By Luca Samara