Body-Weight Training Program

by Jason Karp, PhD on Apr 03, 2008

body weight training Remember when you were in high school and your physical education (PE) teachers made you do push-ups, chin-ups and sit-ups? What about those long-forgotten Presidential Physical Fitness Tests, which required you to run different distances for time? Whatever happened to those “old-fashioned” exercises?

While free weights and machines can certainly make your clients stronger, they often target muscles rather than movement. In addition, many free-weight and machine exercises, such as lat pull-downs and biceps curls, are open-chain exercises, which use only one joint as the resistance is moved away from or toward the body using freely movable limbs.

In contrast, most body-weight training exercises are closed-chain exercises, which use multiple joints as the resistance is moved away from or toward an anchored body part. Closed-chain exercises, which are more functional, result in greater motor unit activation and synchronization and better strength performance compared with open-chain exercises (Augustsson et al. 1998; Brindle et al. 2002).

By performing body-weight training exercises, your clients will not only look better; they will also learn how to train three-dimensional movement, acquire a greater kinesthetic awareness and become empowered as they perform tasks with their bodies. Moreover, body-weight exercises make your clients’ workouts portable, an added benefit for people who travel a lot or for those who have trouble motivating themselves to go to the gym.

9-Week Body-Weight Training Program


Training is the same for the first 2 weeks of each 3-week cycle, with the third week used for recovery and adaptation. Have your clients do these workouts 2-3 times per week. As clients progress, initially increase volume (# of reps with body weight), then decrease volume and increase intensity (by adding additional weight) and recovery period.

Weeks 1 and 2

  • chin-ups: 2 x 10 reps with body weight (or weight-assisted machine), with 1-minute rest
  • squats: 2 x 10 reps, with 1-minute rest
  • push-ups: 2 x 8–10 reps, with 1-minute rest

Choose two exercises each workout from traditional crunches, V-sits, stability ball crunches, reverse crunches, twist crunches and medicine ball crunches: 2 x 20 reps for each, with 1-minute rest.

Week 3 (Recovery)

Same as above, using 66% of # of reps from weeks 1 and 2 for each exercise.

Weeks 4 and 5

  • chin-ups: 2 x 15 reps with body weight (or weight-assisted machine), with 1-minute rest
  • squats: 2 x 15 reps, with 1-minute rest
  • push-ups: 2 x 12–15 reps, with 1-minute rest

Choose two exercises each workout from traditional crunches, V-sits, stability ball crunches, reverse crunches, twist crunches and medicine ball crunches: 2 x 30 reps for each, with 1-minute rest.

Week 6 (Recovery)

Same as above, using 66% of # of reps from weeks 4 and 5 for each exercise.

Weeks 7 and 8

  • chin-ups: 2 x 10 reps with 105%–110% of body weight (or of weight lifted using weight-assisted machine), with 90-second rest
  • squats: 2 x 10 reps with 105%–110% of body weight, with 90-second rest
  • push-ups: 2 x 10 reps with 105%–110% of body weight, with 90-second rest

Choose two exercises each workout from traditional crunches, V-sits, stability ball crunches, reverse crunches, twist crunches and medicine ball crunches: 2 x 20 reps with 105%–110% of body weight for each, with 90-second rest.

Week 9 (Recovery)

Same as above, using 66% of # of reps from weeks 7 and 8 for each exercise.

For guidelines on proper body position and efficient, safe execution, refer to the complete article in the February issue of IDEA Fitness Journal IDEA Article Archive.

References
Augustsson, J., et al. 1998. Weight training of the thigh muscles using closed vs. open kinetic chain exercises: A comparison of performance enhancement. Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, 27 (1), 3–8.

Brindle, T.J., et al. 2002. Electromyographic comparison of standard and modified closed-chain isometric knee extension exercises. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 16 (1), 129–34.

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About the Author

Jason Karp, PhD

Jason Karp, PhD IDEA Author/Presenter

A professional running coach, freelance writer, fitness consultant and PhD candidate in exercise physiology at Indiana University. He coaches runners of all levels through RunCoachJason.com.

8 Comments

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  • Richard Geres

    The workout seems great, but the repetition range doesn't make sense to me. 10 reps of chin-ups is way too hard for most clients (unless you use a lot of assistance) while 10 reps of bodyweight squats seems way too easy to cause any overload. Also, increasing chin-ups from 10-15 reps in a few weeks seems far-fetched. In my opinion, the programme would be more beneficial if the repetition range was adjusted as a percentage of a maximum rep set in each exercise. eg. Week 1: squat 100% of rep max Week 2: squat 110% of rep max etc
    Commented Aug 02, 2012
  • Jack Parker

    This looks absolutely perfect. All these tinny details are made with lot of background knowledge. I like it a lot. This was a useful post and I think it is rather easy to see from the other comments as well that this post is well written and useful.
    Commented Jan 02, 2012
  • sun ni

    According the usual standards, body mass index (BMI) = body weight (kg) /the squared of height’ (in meters), its normal weigh is between 18.5 to 25, 25--29 is overweight, 30 and above is obese. According the reported of British "Sunday Telegraph" on the 15th, the French scientists do a intelligence tests about a period of 5 years for 2200 between 32 years and 62 years. The results showed, the one whose body mass index below 20 will remember 56% vocabulary, but the one whose body mass index above 30 will remember 44% words. Scientists also found that people who gained weight during the study ability reduced faster. In the end of the 5-year test results showed that weight gain can only recall the 37.5% vocabulary, but the one whose body weight remained normal the memory is without any change.. The leader of this study, Maxim • Cournaud (France Toulouse University Hospital), thought the hormones by fat secrete have some devastating effects for the cerebellum, and make the brain function decline. In addition, obesity also make the make the blood vessel wall thicken, hardening of blood vessels   The research results of French scientists have been published in the latest Magazine of United States, called "Neurology".
    Commented May 16, 2010
  • Aman Burma

    This is an excellent stuff about strength training.Strength training is a vital part of a balanced exercise routine that includes aerobic activity and flexibility exercises.Regular aerobic exercise, such as running or using a stationary bike, makes your muscles use oxygen more efficiently and strengthens your heart and lungs. When you strength train with weights, you're using your muscles to work against the extra pounds (this concept is called resistance). This strengthens and increases the amount of muscle mass in your body by making your muscles work harder than they're used to.
    Commented Nov 11, 2009

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