What Are The Best Bodyweight Exercises?

Naturally different people will have different answers but it is hard to beat push ups, pull ups and sprint repeats for complete body conditioning. If everyone focused there time on mastering and progressing these bodyweight exercises the world would be a much fitter place!

Push Ups / Pull Ups – The ability to push and pull your body off the ground is an excellent measure of relative strength (how strong you are for your size.) Furthermore achieving good performance in either exercise is enhanced by losing excess body fat and getting leaner which is a common goal shared by many.

Sprint Repeats – Sprinting is one of the most powerful and natural movement patterns which synergistically builds strength in the foot, lower leg, upper leg and hips whilst also providing a great cardiovascular workout. As a complete exercise for improving your strength, fitness and physique few things can compete.


Pull Ups


The pull up is an excellent exercise for your back, arms and mid-section. You against gravity!

  •  Grab hold of an overhead bar or suspension trainer
  • Arms should be approximately shoulder width apart
  • Your feet should be suspended off the ground.
  • Hold your body straight
  • Or allow your knees to bend if you don’t have the space underneath
  • Keep your shoulders down
  • Tense your glutes and abs then pull yourself up as far past the bar or handles as possible
  • Imagine trying to touch your chest to the bar 
  • Pause then lower yourself down under control until your arms are fully extended

Push Ups


A great exercise for strengthening the chest, shoulders and triceps. Like the pull ups this move should also engage your glutes and core muscles throughout.

  • Place your hands directly underneath your shoulders, fingers pointing forwards
  • Squeeze your glutes and brace your midsection
  • Descend until you are almost touching the floor
  • Pause, then push back to the start position
  • Keep your elbows tucked in close to the body during the movement
  • Make sure your whole body moves as one single straight line
  • Don’t let your hips drop/rise quicker than your shoulders or vice versa
  • To add difficulty wear a weighted vest or use resistance bands

Sprints


In my experience the most common complaint of being unfit occurs after people have rushed for a train, dashed up a flight of stairs or been left gasping by a game of social sport. The ability to sprint short distances, quickly recover and go again will ensure these complaints never bother you again!

  • Measure or eyeball an approximate 50m running track
  • Sprint to the finish, rest and repeat
  • Repeat for a total of 3+ sprints trying to minimise the drop-off in sprint time
  • To progress try sprinting for further, repeat for more rounds or reduce rest

Be aware this is a full body, explosive activity and as such may not be suitable for everyone. If it has been a long time since you last sprinted you will want to make sure you have a basic level of strength and mobility in your lower body before easing your way back into this type of activity slowly and carefully

Timed Sets v Counting Reps

Personally I like timing sets. Measuring exercises by time-under-load as opposed to the traditional approach of counting repetitions has a number of advantages. First of all you are less inclined to stop an exercise when you reach a predetermined number of reps. Secondly you are less likely to rush repetitions in the quest for higher scores. It is much easier to score higher rep totals by rapidly, bouncing through exercises using little muscular effort and a lot of momentum but this is not a productive use of your time and heightens the risk of injury.

However, the important thing is progress. Whether you monitor this progress by timing sets or counting reps is of secondary importance. Either measure can be gamed so choose one which works for you. Progress is the key, not how you measure the progress.

What Is The Best Way To Consume Fewer Calories?

There is no definitive answer to this question. People can, have and will successfully lose weight using a hundred different strategies as long as they satisfy the basic rules of energy balance. That said, here are three recommended strategies which don't rely on simply eating smaller portions of unhealthy food.

Drinking more water - Displaces calorie-heavy drinks like fruits juices, soft drinks, energy drinks, milkshakes and alcohol.

Eating more vegetables and fruits - These foods are high in nutrition and low in calories. Eating more of them leaves less room on the plate for energy dense starchy/fatty foods.

Restoring balance between fed/fasted states - Less frequent eating makes it harder to overeat.

Needless to say whatever habits you pursue consistency will play a vital role.

What Is Real Food?

Our supermarkets have become so dominated by highly processed food products (many of which claim health benefits) it can be hard to distinguish the good stuff from the bad stuff. Here is a simple mantra to help you make better food purchasing decisions.

Real food is food which was recently alive.

Vegetables, fruits, tubers, nuts, beans, whole grains, seeds, eggs, meat, fish. This is all real food which was recently alive. You can picture these items living, growing and breathing in nature!

Muffins, crisps, chocolates, sweets, pancakes, pizzas, pasta. This is all processed food which was never alive. You cannot picture these items living, growing and breathing in nature! 

What Is The Exercise Pyramid?

Resistance training, interval training, sprinting and other forms of high intensity exercise are great for improving muscular strength, cardiovascular fitness and body shape but fail to counteract the negative health impacts of an otherwise sedentary lifestyle. Short bursts of high intensity exercise should always be built upon a broad foundation of easy, energising movement.

Performance Exercise – Low frequency, high intensity exercise such as resistance circuits and interval training which help improve muscular strength, cardio fitness and body shape.

Energising Movement – High frequency, low intensity exercise such as walking, stretching and playing which help keep the body fresh, energised and healthy.

Does Water Affect Your Weight?

Absolutely. The human body is approximately 60% water so small swings in fluid balance will have a noticeable impact on scale weight irrespective of fat/muscle gains and losses. Some common scenarios where fluid balance can disrupt your weight measurements are listed below:

Carbohydrates - For every 1g of carbs stored in your body you will store a further 3-4g of water. This is one reason why low carb diets appear so effective in the early stages. A reduction in carb stores leads to a reduction in water and rapid weight loss... but it is primarily water.

Salt - High levels of sodium above your normal baseline will lead to increased water retention. This explains why going on a salty high carb binge after a period of dieting might lead to a disheartening overnight weight gain but again its primarily water

Hormones - Natural shifts and cycles in hormone levels can cause the body to retain more or less water. Particularly applicable to women. Again the scale weight rises and falls but it’s only water.

It's important to remember fat weight, lean weight and water weight are completely indistinguishable once you set on scale. Don't be alarmed by day-to-day fluctuations which are more than likely due to a shift in water and fluid balance. Instead focus on long-term trends.

How Should I Progress My Workouts?

Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement. Whilst originally applied to business it is also particularly apt in the world of fitness. As an adopter of the Kaizen mind-set you understand impressive results come from many small improvements accumulated over time.

Each time you repeat a workout see if you can make a small improvement in one of the following areas;


  1. Displaying greater control throughout an exercise
  2. Performing more repetitions of an exercise
  3. Taking shorter rest periods between sets
  4. Adding extra resistance to the exercise (weigted vest, bands, free weights)
  5. Choosing a harder exercise

The psychological power of setting these small targets is amazing and they hold the key to achieving impressive levels of strength and fitness. Naturally it is very tempting to jump straight to number 4 and 5 and simply go heavier and harder. I suggest you practice patience and seek your small wins in control, reps and rest periods before graduating onto harder exercises. Amongst other things this allows your connective tissues, which adapt at a slower rate than your muscles, to catch up with the exercise demands.

In the long-run you are better served by aiming to improve your strength slowly. Whilst this goes against the grain of modern quick-fix culture, putting an emphasis on slow progression, a moderate workout schedule and excellent recovery is ultimately a more-effective long term solution. Remember the tortoise and the hare?

What is the formula for a successful body transformation?

Outlined below is a graphical overview of the formula which underpins my approach to getting in great shape. Like any synergistic system it is the interaction of all these elements which combine to produce the best results - a classic case of the sum being greater than the individual parts.

You can dive deep down the rabbit-hole on any one these topics but it’s not necessary. Obsessing over the minutiae is rarely important if you are consistently applying the fundamentals.