Next Level Bodyweight Training Techniques

Bodyweight Workout Amplifiers


Given the circumstances mentioned in the yesterday's VIP page, bodyweight (or calisthenics) training is, 100%, a viable method for building muscle, especially when we add the next couple of “amplifiers”.

1. Rep Tempo

This refers to the speed at which we perform each repetition.

There are 4 components to the rep tempo that each play a vital role in the lift.

Eccentric: This is the negative portion of the lift where we are lowering the weight with gravity. In the example of a push-up, this would be the portion of the movement where we are lowering our body toward the ground.
Isometric: This is considered the midpoint of the range. On the push-up, this would be the moment you reach the desired (or required) depth and the target muscle(s) are lengthened. On the bench press, this would be the portion of the lift where the bar is at your chest.
Concentric: This is the lifting portion of the exercise where we are moving the weight against resistance. Using the example of the push-up, this would be the portion of the exercise where you are pushing your both off of the ground.
Isometric: This represents the top of the range where the working muscles are fully shortened (or contracted). Here we are talking about the point of the push up where your elbows are locked at the top.

Manipulating the rep tempo, although important but not critical when training with weights, could be a game changer for bodyweight trainees.

By increasing, for example, the eccentric portion of the lift, you are essentially keeping your muscles under tension for a longer period of time. More tension = more stress (to a degree).


Take an individual who is performing push-ups using a 1:0:1:0 tempo for 8 total repetitions.

The total time spent under tension during this set would have been 16 seconds.

Now let’s take the same person and manipulate their rep tempo to 3:0:1:0 for 6 total repetitions.

The total time spent under tension during this set would have been 24 seconds.

Had this trainee managed to (eventually) get the same amount of reps (8), the total time under tension would have been 32. That’s double the tension using the same load (bodyweight).

Note: We must continue to keep total volume in mind. Increasing the rep tempo, although extremely helpful in increasing intensity, should not come at the expense of volume. The point would be to perform (as an example) 10 reps on pull-ups using a 1:0:1:0 tempo and then aiming to hit those same 10 reps using a 3:0:1:0 cadence.

Other Benefits of Slower Rep Tempos Include:

• Improved connective tissue development
• Better motor control
• Increased core strength (in certain cases)
• Increased muscle-damage (in the case of slower eccentrics)

2. Training Density

Density refers to the work you're able to do in a given amount of time. If you perform 20 sets of 10 reps in 45 minutes, your training density for that that particular workout in a 45-minute time-frame would be 200 repetitions.

In other words, training density is the amount of sets multiplied by the number of reps completed within a certain timeframe.

Increasing Training Density: Decreasing the time-frame it takes in order to complete a given workout (sets x reps).

So if a particular training session takes you 1 hour to complete, the goal should be to complete that same workout in less time (i.e. decreasing rest periods).

Let's say that cranking out 200 reps in 60 minutes was challenging. To take things to the next level, decrease your work time by 5 minutes. If you rose to the challenge and again completed 200 total repetitions, you may not have increased your total volume, but you've still increased your training density. In other words, you can do more work in less time, and are therefore progressing.

3. Variations

For this amplifier, we’ll use the example of a push-up since this seems to be the exercise most become proficient at, fastest.

At one point or another, you’ll be able to perform 50-60 push-ups in a given set. This means that you’ve become extremely proficient with the movement and thus the intensity of this workout is extremely low (for you).

The next option would be to either:

• Add weight
• Adjust tempo
• Increase training density
• Use a more challenging variation

Some example of challenging variations for bodyweight movements:

1. Chin-Ups to Single Arm Chin-Ups
2. Pull Ups to Wide Grip Pull Ups
3. Push-Ups to One Arm Push-Ups
4. Squats to Pistol Squats

Why is this a viable option?

Well…I don’t think it’s hard to see how squatting (or pushing up) your entire body using one leg (or arm) rather than two would equate to a heavier load on the target muscle.

Ready for some advanced bodyweight workouts? Stay Tuned for Tomorrow's Email!