3 Tips For Building Strength With Body Weight Exercises

Written By: Todd Kuslikis
April 22, 2014

This is a guest post by Forest Vance, author, Body Weight Strong 2.0.

Today, I have three tips for you on how to build strength with body weight exercise.

Now, these tips are probably a little different than what you’ve been used to hearing about body weight training. If you’re training for fat loss and conditioning, you may be doing high reps, burning yourself out, etc.

This is fine.  There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach.  But if you want to gain REAL strength, it won’t work.  You have to change your plan of attack.  And that’s what we’ll cover in today’s article.

3 Tips for Building REAL Strength With Body Weight Exercises

1 – Do advanced exercise progressions

You need to be doing more advanced exercise progressions that are going to challenge you at a lower rep range if you want to gain strength with body weight exercise.

As an example, if you can easily do 25 push ups in a row, you’re not going to be able to use those to actually get stronger.  It just won’t work, the exercise is too easy for you.

A simple progression that you can do to make it harder is called a “shifting” or “lever” push up. For this one you will be accepting more weight onto one of your arms and using the other arm as a balance. Obviously if you have 75% of the weight on one arm and just 25% of your weight on the other, it makes it a lot harder.

Now instead of doing 25 push ups, maybe you can only do 10 or 12 on each arm.  Now we’re working towards gaining some strength!

Once you can do a good amount of those, you can work up to the next progression which is a one arm push up. Now maybe you can only do 5-8 on each arm of those. That’s the range you want to be in to really overload your body and work toward your strength goals.

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2 – Work in a lower rep range

Like I just mentioned, if you’re looking to gain actual strength, you should be working in a lower rep range.  Maybe around 5-8 reps or lower, depending on what you’re doing.

Not only will working in that lower rep range get you stronger, you’ll get the added benefit of neuromuscular adaptation (the efficiency of the brain to control the muscles) keeping your reps low – which is KEY if you’re looking to do some of the advanced strength movements like one arm push ups, pistol squats, advanced pull up variations, etc.

3 – Consistency over intensity

The number three tip is consistency over intensity.

I would want to do my exercises more frequently and less intensely if I’m trying to gain strength.

For example, I might want to practice my one arm push ups several times during the day but I’m doing a low volume – just a few reps at a time.

Again here our focus is on practicing frequently, working that neuromuscular adaptation mentioned above and getting better at those advanced exercise variations, quicker.

Hopefully these tips are helpful for you in your quest for building strength with body weight exercise.  Would love to hear how you do.

And don’t forget, we cover more tips, progressions, and advanced body weight moves like pistol squats, handstand push ups, and more in my full Body Weight Strong 2.0 program.

Thanks so much, train hard, and talk soon –

– Forest Vance

author, Body Weight Strong 2.0

Show/Hide Comments (6 comments)
  1. Roger Middleton

    I liked that you had mentioned that when it comes to body weight training that it can be important to go for consistency over intensity to help hit those goals easily. My wife has been wanting me to go on a training program for awhile and I haven’t been too sure about it, but I’ll just have to focus on consistency. I’ll start looking around this week for a possible trainer to help me hit my goals that I want to hit.

  2. Danny Nenno

    I performed the ICRT workout yesterday in this Nevada heat of 104 degrees. I was sweating big time, and the heart was a pumping. 11:45 to get through routine. Thanks for making Body Weight exercises fun and a challenge.


    • Todd Kuslikis

      You are a machine Danny!! Keep rocking it!

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    Hey Todd, you REALLY need to check out Convict Conditioning by Paul “Coach” Wade (if you haven’t yet done so). It will probably blow your mind!

  5. Jessica

    Love it

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