Progress your bodyweight training

You’re in the middle of a bodyweight workout and realize it’s way too easy. Or maybe you find a fun workout to try but it requires equipment you don’t have. How do you update the workout for your needs?

As a personal trainer (and online fitness junkie), I find a lot of my workouts online. For the last few years, I’ve consistently worked out at home, making online workouts perfect. YouTube, Pinterest, and my favorite blogs fueled my workout routine.

While there are tons of options to get your sweat on, to maximize your results, it’s imperative that you are able to take a workout to YOUR level. Trying out a workout that’s much too advanced or beginner for you is not an effective use of your time. This holds true even if you don’t have any equipment to use.

You're in the middle of a bodyweight workout and realize it's way too easy. Or maybe you find a fun workout to try but it requires equipment you don't have. Here's how to progress your bodyweight training.

Progressing (or modifying) bodyweight training

As mentioned last month, the way to modify or progress a workout is to change up the training variables.

Now, the most common way to progress a workout is to switch up load–aka, grab some heavier weights or add weight to a bodyweight movement–but that is not the only way to get a similar result.

When you don’t have additional weight or equipment, we want to manipulate three things:

Speed of contraction

Aka, how fast you move.  Think about when you’re doing push ups. If you go super fast or super slow, it becomes a heck of a lot harder. Moving really slow or really fast puts different challenges on your body, so it’s important to do both.

  • Complete plyo push ups instead of standard ones
  • Add a set of speed or extra slow push ups to your standard ones

woman push up

Exercise selection

Basically, pick a more advanced version of the exercise. Some ways to advance exercises?

  • Make it unstable (push up on BOSU ball)
  • Elevate it (push up with your feet on a step/chair)
  • Increase your range of motion (complete a push up where you drop your chest alllllll the way to the ground)

Side plank

Energy demand

Read: how hard your body has to work to move oxygen through your body and complete the movement. Increasing energy demand can look like moving more explosively, forcing the muscles to recruit more power, or dropping your rest periods, forcing your body to recover more quickly.

  • The easiest way to do this is to lengthen work periods and shorten your rest. By doing this, your body has less time to recover the energy it needs to complete the movement, making it more challenging.
  • You can also increase the energy demand by moving explosively. Really focus on jumping higher, exploding up from the bottom when completing a squat, or reaching as high as you can. We all know how to do a squat jump when we are just putting in the motions vs. pushing as hard as we possibly can go.


Manipulating these three things will progress your bodyweight training. This allows you to take on any workout you find, whether that’s on Pinterest or in a workout class.

If you’re struggling to update a particular workout to fit your goals, let me know in the comments below. And if you want to workout with me for a week, for free, sign up for my free challenge below 🙂 Can’t wait to work with you!

Do you use bodyweight workouts?

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