Taking Your Bodyweight Training Further


Sets and Reps

One of the most common questions about training, bodyweight or otherwise, is how many sets and reps should I do? The answer actually isn’t all that important. There is no magic number. Yes, in a certain range you may be working more on strength, and in a higher range muscle growth, and still higher it just becomes endurance. I’m not saying that is not true, although it isn’t black and white. What I’m saying is that as long as you’re following progressive principles you’ll make progress.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you can do 3 sets of 20 regular pushups. In your next session you try to beat that. That means you either do more than 20 reps per set, or add another set or two. You can also time yourself and do the same 3 sets of 20 in a lesser amount of time. The first two methods increase your volume which means progression. The last example is an increase in density which means progression. As long as you’re doing more you’re progressing best vertical climber.

But if you try a one arm pushup you may only be able to do one rep. That’s fine. If you’ve never done that before you’ve just hit a PR as it’s an increase in intensity. Maybe in your next workout you can do a couple reps. Again we’ve increased the volume. As long as you’re progressing in some manner you are getting stronger.

I will set arbitrary numbers that you may want to hit before going to the next move in the progression, but like I said, these are arbitrary. You may be able to progress before you hit that number and that’s fine. I don’t care if you like to do singles or sets of 20. As long as you progress in some form, and eventually work towards the harder moves you will become ridiculously strong. Most people over-complicate this issue.

Keep good track of what you’re doing and build from there. Now let’s move onto the exercises themselves.

Pushing Exercises

Pushing exercises are done with the upper body and the arms moving away from the torso. In the case of bodyweight exercises you are pushing your body up away from the ground. With weights you would be pushing the object away from your torso. It is a primary movement of the human body.

Pushing exercises are commonly divided into two different planes, of horizontal and vertical movement. But the truth is there is many other angles as well, like a diagonal between the two. With cables you can also push out directly from your body to the sides. And with dips you can work in the vertical plane but the opposite of handstand pushups. Regardless of what plane you’re pushing in you’re still using the same muscles for the most part, those being the triceps, shoulder or deltoid muscles and the chest. Different pushing exercises will hit these muscles differently and may emphasize one or more muscles over others.

There is also a difference between straight arm support positions, and even moving in a straight arm position, and all these bent arm exercises. The straight arm positions are typically more advanced and are done in hand balancing and advanced gymnastic feats.

Pulling Exercises

The upper body is comprised of two main motions, pushing and pulling. Now that we’ve covered in depth the pushing exercises, it’s time to go the other route. These exercises work the antagonistic muscles of those, most notably the biceps and the latissimus dorsi. The lats, as they’re commonly referred to, are some of the biggest and strongest muscles of the body.

Once again we’ll be starting out with horizontal pulling motions and working towards vertical pulling motions where you handle more and more of your weight.

It’s important to note that, especially with people that cannot yet do pullups, they tend to neglect this main motion of the body focusing on pushing, ab, and squat exercises instead. While the pushing exercises can help indirectly with building the strength you need to start with these movements, you’re better off if you include them from the beginning.

I personally love to work the pushing and pulling exercises back and forth going from one push to one pull set for set.


The pullup is just like the chinnup except that the grip changes. Become of how the muscle wraps around the forearm this makes the pullup harder. Some people say it’s about 20-30% harder. Of course if you’re use to one position over the other you may not find that, but once you get use to both you’ll find that’s the case.

Hang from the bar with an overhand grip, that is the palms of the hands facing away from you. Start the pull by packing in the shoulders. Bend the arms and pull your chin over the bar. Lower under control.

Work up to 4 sets of 15 reps.


Bridging movements are not commonly seen, even among many people who do bodyweight workouts. Yet, they should be. The bridge, in it’s few forms is one of the best exercises for back flexibility along with strength.

There are two main forms of bridges the wrestler’s version and the gymnast or hand bridge. Both are great and should be trained. Starting out, people will usually have more success with the wrestler’s bridge as it requires less flexibility, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work towards the gymnast bridge as well.

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