You’ve got squats down, you can lunge with the best of them, your push-ups are on point, and you’re a burpee pro. Bodyweight exercises are amazing at keeping you fit, but you may find that you need to level-up in order to continue to see results.
If you’ve mastered standard movements, your heart rate won’t go up as much as when you first started. Your body won’t make the adaptations it needs to get stronger. You need to make sure the intensity is high to continue making those gains. Changing things up also beats boredom and jacks up the excitement factor.
Follow these eight ways to switch up your bodyweight workout for better results — and more fun, too!
Amp Up Your Bodyweight Workout in 8 Steps
- Shorten your breaks Keep the same circuit of moves you normally do — squats, push-ups, burpees, jumping jacks — but reduce the breaks you are taking between exercises. Go straight from one right into the next. And don’t stop there, either. Decide that you’ll complete four rounds and then rest at the end. This is going to keep your heart rate up throughout your entire workout. (It counts as cardio, too, so double bonus points!)
- Up Reps Do you structure your workout by, say, doing 45 seconds of squats and resting for 30 seconds; then 45 seconds of push-ups and resting for 30 seconds? Or something similar? Instead of focusing just on time, make time and number of [quality] reps your goal. So, let’s say you know you can do 20 squats in 45 seconds. Aim to do 25 squats in 45 seconds (and so on with the other moves in your circuit).
- Get Competitive Against yourself. This forces you mentally to push harder to get the work done. You can add a little friendly competition it in two ways:
Option one: Plan out the moves and reps you’re going to do (e.g. 10 lunges, tuck jumps, mountain climbers, lateral lunges). Do as many rounds as possible in “X” amount of time. Then for your next workout, aim to do more reps or get further through the circuit than before.
Option two: Opt for a ladder or chipper workout. In this format, the moves are up to you. You might do 50 squats, 40 tricep dips, 30 bicycle crunches….and so on (chipper workout) or 10 push-ups, 20 squats, 30 jumping jacks…and so on (ladder workout). The goal here: Getting to the top of the ladder (whether that’s 50 or 100) without tapping out. Challenge accepted.
- Add Weight Adding resistance with some form of weight changes the stimulus entirely. It will call upon more muscles. And the more muscles you use, the higher your heart rate. The higher your heart rate, the more intense the exercise is — and the more calories you burn. Simple as that! As long as it makes sense for the exercise (you may want to be careful doing something like burpees with weights), you can hold one weight in both hands or a weight in each hand and complete the reps. Another go-to tool we love is the medicine/slam ball. Not only does it allow you to add weight (to, say, jumping jacks, or burpees), but it also introduces your body to a certain degree of instability or imbalance that your body/muscles must account for and adapt to.
- Make It an Incline/Decline Sometimes flat is just…boring. That’s where changing levels comes in. Let’s take the example of a push-up. Doing an inverted push-up — either with your legs elevated or in a handstand position (with feet against a wall) — can mimic lifting a weight thanks to the added challenge of gravity. You can also use two stable boxes and, placing one hand on each box, to perform an incline push-up in between the boxes, which allows you to lower your chest even more.
- Get Isometric Want to feel more of the burn? Isometric exercises involve holding your body weight in a fixed position. The result is added stress on muscles, which can, in turn, help strengthen them. Try it: At the bottom of a move (like a squat or lunge), hold for one second before coming back up. Or, add a number of small pulses at the bottom, before coming back up.
- Go Plyometric Hello, hops! Adding some explosiveness will up the intensity of the movement and help you sneak in more cardio, too. Think: jump squats, jumping lunges, or plyometric push-ups. If this is too much of a challenge, start with a plyometric blast at the end of your reps. For example, do 10 weighted squats, drop your weights and do 5-10 explosive squat jumps. Or do 10 push-ups and finish with 2-5 plyometric push-ups.
- Reduce Stability Go for one-legged or one-armed moves here. So rather than a traditional squat, do a pistol squat or Bulgarian split squat. Regular burpees can become single-leg burpees. A regular plank is now a single-arm plank. This will recruit more muscle fibers, and work your core as well. Sounds like a win to us!
So, there you have it! Bodyweight workouts need not be boring or stagnant. There are many ways to mix it up to add variety and difficulty! Your body, with little else, can be an amazing piece of equipment when used properly and creatively!