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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

Dr. Jason Karp is a nationally-recognized running and fitness coach and owner of Run-Fit. As one of America’s foremost running experts and the 2011 IDEA National Personal Trainer of the Year, he has been profiled and interviewed in a number of publications. A rare combination of education and experience, he holds three degrees in exercise science, including a Ph.D. in exercise physiology from Indiana University and a master’s degree from the world-famous Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Calgary. No other running coach or personal trainer has the combination of credentials, education, and experience. A prolific writer who is more widely published than anyone in the fitness or coaching industries, he has more than 200 articles published in numerous international running, coaching, and fitness magazines and scientific journals, is the author of five books, including Running for Women and Running a Marathon For Dummies (of the internationally-known For Dummies brand), and is a frequent speaker at international fitness and coaching conferences. A former high school and college cross country and track coach, Jason is a nationally-certified running coach through USA Track & Field, has taught USA Track & Field’s highest level coaching certification, has led elite coaching camps at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, and is sponsored by PowerBar and Brooks. He has been a runner since sixth grade and was a member of the silver-medal winning U.S. Masters Team at the 2013 World Maccabiah Games in Israel.