There’s no doubt that you can build a lot of strength with weight training. However, there’s also a lot that you can do with just your bodyweight. The answer to making it as effective as possible is simple: Progressively push yourself with tougher and tougher challenges. Now, here’s five ways to do that.
This is about as straight-forward as it gets: Do more and rest less. If you go into week one of a new workout or program and can perform 15 repetitions of an exercise in 30 seconds, then go into it the next week with the intent of completing a few more. The following week you could try cutting your rest period from 60 seconds to 30, or from 30 to 15.
Exercise variations serve two primary functions: They open up options if a movement creates pain and they can help you tap into muscle fibers. For example, a traditional push-up will build strength in the chest, shoulders, and triceps. However, the diamond push-up may place a bit more emphasis on the triceps. When trying to get stronger, these variations can fill in “holes” or areas of weakness.
Time under tension, or TUT, is one of the most popular methods for building muscle and strength. The concept is simple: When you slow down the tempo of your exercise, the harder your muscles are working. As a result, they recover stronger. There are several variations of TUT, but the Spartan Coaching crew uses 2:1:1 or 4:1:1. What that means is that if you’re doing a squat, you’d lower down into the squat (the eccentric) for 2 or 4 seconds, pause for 1 second at the bottom (isometric), and return to the top in 1 second (the concentric). Feel free to experiment with anything and everything in between.
Muscles don’t just need to be strong, they need to be powerful too. This is where plyometric training comes into play. Instead of just doing the basic push-up, the level up can be a plyo push-up, or a clap push-up. Instead of a squat, the level up can be a jump squat. There are countless variations and progressions to bodyweight movements that require zero resistance or weights.
And not only do plyos get you stronger, they can make you faster too. According to research published in the Journal of Sports Sciences, researchers reviewed 21 studies with over 500 participants and found that “jump training” helps with sprinting speed and running economy.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning compared the results of a six-repetition bench press with six-repetition banded push-ups over five weeks. In the end, the strength gains were similar. Does that mean that a bench press is useless? No, but there’s certainly a lot that you can accomplish with just your bodyweight and added resistance from bands.