3 People Who Can Benefit from Bodyweight Training

Never miss a glorious update - click here!

How To Incorporate Bodyweight Training into ANY Type of Program

In the past, we’ve discussed the benefits of bodyweight training within the context of neuromuscular activation and muscular recruitment. Today, I want to talk to you about my personal experiences with such training, and how they led to a new program.

I started my training career as an athlete, mostly wrestling and football, and I was introduced to bodyweight training almost immediately. From the time I first stepped onto a wresting mat or jog out onto a football field, push-ups, crunches and jump squats were a part of my life.

Perhaps because I was exposed to them early and told I wasn’t “ready” for weights, I developed a strange sort of prejudice where, despite all of my formal education, on some level I came to believe bodyweight training was for “beginners.”

I am embarrassed by how wrong I was.

After one session, I was thoroughly humiliated by my own performance.  Later that week, I constructed four bodyweight routines and was cycling them over a week. That was about seven years ago, and bodyweight training has been a mainstay for both my clients and myself ever since.

But while I’ve always appreciated the results, on some level I felt it was a little boring.

No longer.

In the past few years, I’ve come to know a lot of the more innovative (and successful) bodyweight “specialists” like Adam Steer. I’d be an idiot if I didn’t learn what I could from the experts and put it into practice alongside my own stuff, and that’s why I’ve always partnered with Adam to help create bodyweight programs for my own clients. 

Adam has just re-released his most awesomest-est program to date, Bodyweight Burn. In this updated version, Adam’s added high-definition follow-along videos for every single workout.

bodyweightburn bodyweight training

With that in mind, and in the spirit of the release of BWB, I thought I would tell you the three most common ways I incorporate bodyweight training into your programming.


Bodyweight Training Method 1: The Athlete Returning from Off-Season

I wish it was different, but sadly most athletes (even the higher level guys) take a good part of the off-season…well, off.  They come to me about 8 weeks before they’re expected to return to camp and need to get back into shape.

The Program:
In most cases, I start them with bodyweight-only training for about a week. We focus on form and primarily use a mixture of unilateral exercises, explosive exercises, and agility drills.

 To put it into context, we’d really be doing the dynamic style of workouts from BWB.

Weeks 2 and 3 we generally do two bodyweight workouts, and one full body weighted workout.  At this point, we might get a little fancy-schmancy with the bodyweight stuff and have one of the workouts be density based.

Weeks 4, 5 and 6 we take a bit into more traditional territory, and transition into an upper body (weighted) a lower body (weighted) day, and then a single bodyweight day.  In this case, the bodyweight workout would be one of the strength circuit type workouts from BWB.

Weeks 7 and 8, the goal is complete integration: 3-4 workouts each mixing in bodyweight and load bearing exercises.

The Why:
When deconditioned athletes come in from 2-4 months of sitting around, honestly, most of them can’t perform for crap.  Not only do we often have to worry most about strength, we also have to be concerned with strength and endurance.

Moreover, because most elite level athletes will generally have a very high level of strength, even starting with their off-season weights can be dangerous, as they are lacking efficiency and can compromise joint health.

By starting them at bodyweight, we can train with pretty high reps without risk of injury, while at the same time do a good job of elevating the heart rate and cranking up their conditioning.

As they build muscular endurance and increase lactate threshold, we can slowly push them towards weighted exercises without them a) vomiting or b) screwing anything up because they forgot how to bench press and just muscle the weight up.

Bodyweight training allows me to train these athletes while we get their bodies (especially their joints) ready to handle the loads they’ll work with to get back to game-ready form.

Bodyweight Training Method 2: The General Fat Loss Client

For these clients, let’s assume they have no injuries and are just not seeing the results they want.

The Program:
In this case, we’ll generally train with weights once per week (if they’ve been consistently training) and bodyweight twice per week for about a month. 

Going forward from there, we’ll move to a weight and bodyweight hybrid.

The Why:
The goal with fat loss clients is always to lose weight and bodyfat in the fastest but safest way.  Utilizing bodyweight training initially provides a different stimulus than either weighted stuff or interval work, allowing for a larger variety of exercises and training conditions.

And because you can transition seamlessly from exercises to exercise and from a “muscle exercise” (push up) to a “conditioning exercise” (mountain climbers), it isn’t hard to see how this can lead to some breathtaking circuits and pretty rapid fat loss.

One of my favorite things in this instance is the immediate increase in exercise selection.  Off the top of my head, I can think of maybe 6 different variations of the lunge, most of which are more suitable to training without weights.  Not only does this make my job easier as a coach, but also keeps the training fresh and the client motivated.

All of those factors weigh heavily into the results equation.  In cases such as these, I can usually run them through something very similar to the Bodyweight Burn without having to change much.

Bodyweight Training Method 3: The Weight Lifter Who’s Stopped Making Gains

This is the situation I see the most often: The fairly strong guy who wants to get bigger and hasn’t grown in 6 months.  Of course, we address diet and all other factors, but I like to get BW training in right away.

The Program:
With this guy, screw integration.  He’s been doing the same stuff for 2 years, and needs some time off from the repetitive nature of his training.  With such a client, I do FOUR straight weeks of bodyweight only training before transitioning back into heavy lifting.

The Why:
Simply put, chances are this guy isn’t as in touch with his body as he thinks he is.  If he really is doing “everything right” in terms of both training and nutrition, we have to assume there is a disconnect somewhere.

In my experience, growth stagnation stems from stagnant training. That is, he needs to change things up as drastically as possible, and of course, bodyweight training fits the bill.

However, it’s effective for other reasons as well. 

One of the things I notice about clients of this nature is how “locked up” they are; that is, they’re a bit stiff in their movement patterns. I don’t need to get into a lengthy description of pattern overload, but it’s enough to say that training in singular planes isn’t great for your nervous system over the long haul.

Enter bodyweight training for strength.  Here, we can get our guy moving in all sorts of different directions, as well as make tiny variations that we don’t have the option to do with traditional training.  Even something as small as offsetting one hand during push-ups will give the client a different training stimulus than that to which he’s accustomed.

More importantly, and for my clients who want to gain muscle this is really the main thing: There are just very important neurological adaptations that occur when you switch from training with weights to training with bodyweight.

That is, by replacing open chain kinetic exercises (like the bench press) with closed chain kinetic exercises (like push ups) our trainee is going to stimulate his nervous system in a completely new way. This in and of itself is likely to push the client towards new growth.

In addition, he’ll be deconditioned from loaded training, and when he goes back to that (after the initially re-learning) he is likely to experience a good amount of supercompensation in response to what is now “new” stimulus.

Not only do we get him growing… We do it twice as fast.

To make this most effective, the bodyweight workouts will be a mixture of density based training and strength circuits—that way, our lifter stays strong and increases his work capacity, in addition to all of the other benefits.

So there you have it.

Three ways I incorporate BW training into my programs for various types of clients; methods that get better every time I try them out. Simply, the more I learn from masters like Coach Steer, the better results I get.

I want you to reap the benefits of bodyweight training – the improved neurological efficiency, the greater muscle recruitment, the heightened stability and athleticism – but you need a plan. To attain maximum benefit from bodyweight training, it needs to be incorporated in a specific, periodized way. 

==> Grab the Bodyweight Burn for just $19 today. <==

What your thoughts on my methods of inclusion? 

About the Author

John Romaniello is a level 70 orc wizard who spends his days lifting heavy shit and his nights fighting crime. When not doing that, he serves as the Chief Bro King of the Roman Empire and Executive Editor here on RFS. You can read his articles here, and rants on Facebook.

Comments for This Entry

  • Javier Elenes

    Hi Roman, awesome content.. if I can ask, what's your take on the popular, "Insanity" program for weight loss and what can I buy from your extensive product line to replace it, because I'm damn sure you've got something better!

    June 15, 2015 at 10:34 pm

  • Integrate Bodyweight training At Home For Effective Fat-loss

    [...] is lifting weights. If you are looking for an effective workout that you can do at home then give bodyweight circuit training a go. This type of training has been known to be a successful method to lose weight and in addition [...]

    June 16, 2013 at 2:00 pm

  • Peggie

    Hey - one workout left in the FPFL. GREAT workouts. I can only imagine the results I would have had if I would have eaten better. Taking a break and doing a KB six week plan. Then I will come back to FPFL and do the program as designed. I am excited to see what the results will be. Thanks for all your great info!

    May 19, 2011 at 9:46 am

  • John Romaniello

    For rapid fat loss, I'd go with XFLD over CYWT =)

    May 17, 2011 at 10:41 am

  • Charles Mclaughlin

    I tried Clash of the Titans workout which used a various amounts of body weight exercises mixed with weight training exercises. Its was extremely challenging and worked right away as far as fat loss for a week. My body adapted to the program and I stopped making fat loss gains. I liked the program design John. It was unique and I was really looking to see what the next workout had in store for me. Also which diet plan is best for losing fat while maintaining muscle mass? Xtreme Diet or Cheat Yourself Thin.

    May 16, 2011 at 8:01 am

  • John Romaniello

    1 finger? Those push ups would be pretty intense!

    May 12, 2011 at 1:13 pm

  • John Romaniello

    Hope your trip was awesome! Congrats on being able to go away and keep your physique--it's often nearly impossible.

    May 12, 2011 at 1:13 pm

  • John Romaniello

    Alas, I can't give it for free, but email me and I'll hook you up with a discount link (extra few bucks off) =)

    May 12, 2011 at 12:09 pm

  • John Romaniello

    Happy to help, Colin. I appreciate you picking up the program!

    May 12, 2011 at 12:07 pm

  • John Romaniello

    You can do FPFL back to back twice, then deload for a bit and go back to it. Thanks for preaching down in NZ!

    May 12, 2011 at 12:06 pm

  • John Romaniello

    You can pick it up by clicking any of the links in the blog post above! Thanks for the continued support, for real!

    May 12, 2011 at 12:04 pm

  • John Romaniello

    My pleasure, Bev =) Thanks for the comment!

    May 12, 2011 at 12:04 pm

  • John Romaniello

    You're not wrong, man! I worked for my uncles landscaping company, and it was some of the hardest work I've ever done. Raking is about 9 million times harder than it looks.

    May 12, 2011 at 12:03 pm

  • John Romaniello

    Now THAT, I can relate to =)

    May 12, 2011 at 11:58 am

  • TJ Carrell

    Body weight training is a great break from lifting and helps keep one in shape. I use this when I am on vacation, out of town, and do not have access to a gym and do not want to cart 100 lbs of weights across three states. Another good exercise method, as well as being extremely productive, is to do heavy yard work, like digging ditches, raking, pushing wheel barrows full of dirt up hill, cutting limbs, mowing grass on hills... this all works to keep the metabolism up and is accomplishing something at the same time. If you think this is easy, just TRY digging, raking and hauling gravel for 4 or 5 hours and see how easy it is! This is excellent exercise for the back and shoulder muscles!

    May 12, 2011 at 8:20 am

  • Dave

    Roman, I love your stuff and I'll be starting the last week of Final Phase Fat Loss and I'm completely happy with my results. I have been trying to purchase the Bodyweight edition and the link doesn't seem to work. How can I get this program?

    May 12, 2011 at 7:53 am

  • Nick

    Hey John in my last week of the FPFL programme, have been doing the 3 day per week programme. Absolutely blasted me never been so fatigued and seeing great results the wife loves it!!! Was keen to know what you recommend following it do you take deloading period or turn around straight back into it? Still have a few pounds to go. Have acquired the body weight and the suspension programme as I have a TRX and really like the challnge it sets. Really enjoying using your programme and reading your advice . I am recommending t over here in New Zealand maybe we can get some world domination for ya. Cheers Nick

    May 12, 2011 at 12:08 am

  • Colin Meaden

    I travel alot, so I not always have access to a gym. Sometimes I get free access to sme of the best gyms around, and sometimes I get nothing and just to be rotten I get a wek of rain. Body weight training has been a blind for me as I could not really find a good workout untill today that is. Thanks John

    May 11, 2011 at 10:31 pm

  • Debbies21

    I love bodyweight exercises for two reasons the first everyone says you can do it anywhere, inside outside, at home or vacation. But the real reason is I workout at home and even though I have a variety of adjustable weights I'm always afraid that I'm either not lifting heavy enough or I'm lifting heavier than I can control and get hurt. But maybe that's just a girl talking

    May 11, 2011 at 8:33 pm

  • KettleGeek

    I am with Stephen- totally more in line with Body weight exercises. Can the more organic style FPFL'ers get a free shot at this? Maybe just a week's worth? ;)

    May 11, 2011 at 2:37 pm

  • Rick

    I like body weight workouts because I can take them everywhere I go :)

    May 11, 2011 at 12:05 pm

  • Bev

    thanks for your professional help and your "shoot from the hip" attitude.

    May 11, 2011 at 10:45 am

  • Trevor Rackley

    Great post as always. I use a mixture of BW & Weights in alot of my programmes with clients. The results are much better this way and also keeps the client motivated

    May 11, 2011 at 8:10 am

  • Bogdan

    Thank you for this post! Bw exercises really do stimulate and of course motivate me to do better, regarding my form in weight training.

    May 11, 2011 at 3:17 am

  • Sumeet

    Thanks Roman - ur info helps me in Tangential thinking - keep up the good work!! Cheers!!

    May 11, 2011 at 12:19 am

  • Ty

    I'm a big fan of integration. Bodyweight exercise and iron not only complement each other well, but bodyweight movements with added weight is awesome, and allows you to progress to both more weight on the bar and cooler bodyweight progressions, like using only one arm/leg/hand/finger.

    May 11, 2011 at 12:11 am

  • Kylie

    I came to FPFL through Ryan & Adam and got the BW program as a bonus from them, and swap it in fairly often just for fun. I just took it away on holiday with me and despite eating and drinking what I wanted have not lost any strength or gained any fat. Woohoo!

    May 10, 2011 at 10:07 pm

  • Stephen

    So, I'm more a fan of bodyweight than weight lifting. Can I "trade in" my old FPFL for the bodyweight edition?

    May 10, 2011 at 7:56 pm

  • Rod

    Boom! Roman you killed it. You hit all the nails right on the head. The other thing about this style training is that they are so easily transitional for both sexes and are the 'ish' for not only one on one but also for partner and group training.... These type programs are able to remove the word plateau from folks vocabulary. Man tag teamed w/ proper(and sufficient) FUELING as opposed to just FEEDING, we can return to looking and feeling like a million bucks....while we go out and get it... Thanks Oh... and of course the 'duhhh' hookup with Adam and Ryan, kewl move... Keep it up bro.

    May 10, 2011 at 7:37 pm

  • rocky

    Totally agree! Bodyweight training is legit. I usually do BW exercises as burnouts at the end of my workouts. Dave Ruel uses a lot of body weight stuff in his programs. Usually super sets from a open chain kinetic exercises to a closed chain kinetic exercise. Awesome blog bro.

    May 10, 2011 at 6:45 pm

  • John Romaniello

    I use a package over the course of about 2 days. I keep mine in the fridge also. Easiest thing to do is just buy a bag of flax seeds and grind them as you need them.

    May 10, 2011 at 4:58 pm

  • Phillip Schlueter

    Roman, first let me say I enjoy your content! I like the fact that you speak like the rest of us guys!! Very refreshing. Regarding your salad dressing, ie: ground flax, I was told that once ground the flax goes rancid very quickly and therefore is not very good for you. Do you use the package up right away or all at once? I mostly grind mine up as I need it in a coffee grinder and keep the seeds in a sealed glass jar. Also was told to refrigerate the stuff.

    May 10, 2011 at 4:55 pm

  • Robert

    Awesome article really appreciate all the tips and real life experiences. plus I love the idea of a mix between body weight exercises and strength training. I definitely will be checking out your articles more often.

    May 10, 2011 at 4:50 pm

  • John Romaniello

    Hey Freddie, thanks so much for the kind words, man. I agree that if you add in some BW stuff, you'll be able to break your plateau.

    May 10, 2011 at 4:43 pm

  • anna

    I absolutely love your website and the methids you promote.body weight training is no less superior and I always incorporate circuits a few times a week. I need your expert advice though. I have suffered from an ED for 2 years and put on the weight I lost now I am in recovery. I am struggling so much to get back to a healthy weight. I train 5 times a week running weight body workouts and pilates. Any suggestions would help I am so miserable but love training.

    May 10, 2011 at 4:24 pm

  • Skyler Meine

    Leave no stone unturned.

    May 10, 2011 at 4:12 pm

  • Adam

    Romanz, love the amount of content you are putting out. Great to see how committed you are to your goals this year. FPPL BW...who saw that coming?

    May 10, 2011 at 2:52 pm

  • Pete Stevens

    Great article, Roman -- preparing to undertake a BW regimen straight away. Thanks for all the hard work and posts, which are of great benefit to many. PVS

    May 10, 2011 at 2:44 pm

  • Jimmy Lamour

    I took a break from the weights about 4 months and thought I was fairly strong. I returned to resistance training by starting with a 8 week block of BW resistance. I was floored with how difficult the BW routine was. Now, I always incorporate some form of BW training to help my body work the small stabilizer muscles that are not activated during some heavy weight training exercises. BW is a great tool.

    May 10, 2011 at 2:29 pm

  • Irma

    I love bodyweight exercises! They can literally be done equipment needed. I especially like these when I am traveling. I don't have to pack extra stuff!

    May 10, 2011 at 2:27 pm

  • RJ

    Great article--always good to remember that we have our "bodyweight" with us everywhere. That limits about 95% of not-training excuses!

    May 10, 2011 at 2:07 pm

  • Roan

    Nice insight on BW training. I have to admit I saw it only as a tool to 'a higher level of training' with weights. But when you take an already big guy and put him on a straight 4 weeks of body weight training, does that mean their personal records on deadlift and squating decline? I want to get really strong and mixing things up never seems to be a bad idea! I am secretly hoping for an article of you with a few great BW movements you can use while training with weights to get stronger. Usually with BW I can perform much more reps, making me believe I am not really training for strength or mass.

    May 10, 2011 at 1:57 pm

  • Tom

    John, how do you feel about throwing in some BW circuits on off days from weight training for fat loss? Or would you ditch a weight training day and substitute a BW day? Interesting take on the guy looking to add size, refreshing from the usual "add more weight and drink raw milk, douche."

    May 10, 2011 at 12:59 pm

  • Tony Roe

    And here I thought BW exercises were just intended to make me hate you. :P Nice insight from each respective angle, though. I can definitely identify with how beneficial BW stuff is in the second and third scenarios. Plus, I always wondered if any pro athletes really spent their off season being "off" - makes me respect their ability to turn it around in time for the next season!

    May 10, 2011 at 10:48 am

  • John Romaniello

    truth. Combining them is one of the best things you can do. Adam and I have an article forthcoming on this!

    May 10, 2011 at 9:53 am

  • freddie

    you are my scource of how-to-improove-allready-good-styff. I'm doing a fatloss phase now (6weeks out, 4 to go) and doing my morning walks, my strength around lunch and if i'm up for it another in the evening. Adding bodyweight stuff inbetween like pushups (and variations), bw squat (and variations) pluss more to get smaller "cardio" sessions troughout the day. I'm kinda plateaued atm (for 1 week allrdy) so i'm kinda desperate. Thnx for the post!

    May 10, 2011 at 9:45 am

  • Dean

    Thanks Roman. BW exercises along with weights is the ultimate combo. And they're SO MANY, you never get bored.

    May 10, 2011 at 9:13 am

Leave a Comment