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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© 2008 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

Jason Karp, PhD

Jason Karp, PhD IDEA Author/Presenter

It started with a race around the track in sixth grade in Marlboro, New Jersey. Little did Jason know how much it would define his career and life. A Brooklyn, New York native (you can take the boy out of Brooklyn, but you can't take Brooklyn out of the boy), he grew up playing baseball and soccer and running track. It was intoxicating. The passion that Jason found as a kid for the science of athletic performance (one of his earliest questions was how baseball pitchers throw curveballs) placed him on a yellow brick road that he still follows as a coach, exercise physiologist, author, speaker, and creator of the REVO2LUTION RUNNING™ certification program for coaches and fitness professionals around the world. Dr. Karp has given hundreds of international lectures and has been a featured speaker at most of the world’s top fitness conferences and coaching clinics, including Asia Fitness Convention, Indonesia Fitness & Health Expo, FILEX Fitness Convention (Australia), U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Convention, American College of Sports Medicine Conference, IDEA World Fitness Convention, SCW Fitness MANIA, National Strength & Conditioning Association Conference, and CanFitPro, among others. He has been an instructor for USA Track & Field’s level 3 coaching certification and for coaching camps at the U.S. Olympic Training Center. At age 24, Dr. Karp became one of the youngest college head coaches in the country, leading the Georgian Court University women’s cross country team to the regional championship and winning honors as NAIA Northeast Region Coach of the Year. As a high school track and field and cross country coach, he has produced state qualifiers and All-Americans. He is also the founder and coach of the elite developmental team, REVO2LUTION RUNNING ELITE. A prolific writer, Jason is the author of eight books: The Inner Runner, Run Your Fat Off, 14-Minute Metabolic Workouts, Running a Marathon For Dummies, Running for Women, 101 Winning Racing Strategies for Runners, 101 Developmental Concepts & Workouts for Cross Country Runners, and How to Survive Your PhD. He has more than 400 articles published in numerous international coaching, running, and fitness trade and consumer magazines, including Track Coach, Techniques for Track & Field and Cross Country, New Studies in Athletics, Runner’s World, Running Times, Women’s Running, Marathon & Beyond, IDEA Fitness Journal, Oxygen, PTontheNet.com, and Shape, among others. He also served as senior editor for Active Network. Dr. Karp is a USA Track & Field nationally certified coach, has been sponsored by PowerBar and Brooks, and was a member of the silver-medal winning United States masters team at the 2013 World Maccabiah Games in Israel. For his work and contributions to his industry, Jason was awarded the 2011 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year (the fitness industry’s highest award) and is a two-time recipient of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, & Nutrition Community Leadership Award (2014, 2019). Dr. Karp received his PhD in exercise physiology with a physiology minor from Indiana University in 2007, his master’s degree in kinesiology from the University of Calgary in 1997, and his bachelor’s degree in exercise and sport science with an English minor from Penn State University in 1995. He is currently pursuing his MBA at San Diego State University. His research has been published in various scientific journals, and he serves as a journal expert peer reviewer.