To convert your bodyweight into muscle-building currency you need to get creative. This plan from bodyweight-training master Sean Bartram, who helps the Indianapolis Colts cheerleaders develop show-stopping gymnastic power, does just that.
“Think of your body as an empty barbell,” he says. “Changing the pace you move it with, holding awkward positions, adding instability and shaking up classic moves you’ve done all your life serve as the 20kg weight plates you load it up with.”
The result will be increased body awareness, fortified connective tissue and increased hypertrophy from press-ups and planks. You’ll get big, strong and powerful without ever stepping onto the weights room floor – or into a fight with the guy hogging the weight belt.
How it Works
Bartram’s athletes – especially cheerleaders – must be able to throw their bodyweight around with ease, but not every exercise is done at high tempo. This plan slows the pace down with pauses, increased range of motion, decreased stability and variations on classic moves to keep your muscles challenged. The result will be functional muscle you never thought you’d own.
There are three full-body workouts to spread across the week. The first four moves each day use timed reps called EMOMs (every minute on the minute) or slow tempos that force you to do high reps and keep the muscles under tension. The last two in each workout will spike your heart rate to keep you burning calories.
Bodyweight Workout 1: Range and Tempo
Shake up the pace to amplify your muscles
1. Deep Squat
Time 10min EMOM Reps 15
Hold a towel overhead with your arms straight and keep it taut. This will force you to keep your chest up and improve your form. Bend your legs to lower slowly, keeping your knees wide apart, until your hamstrings touch your calves. Then drive back up slowly. Set a timer for ten minutes. Do 15 reps at the start of each minute, and rest for the remainder of each minute. This keeps your heart rate high for more fat loss.
Sets 5 Time 60sec Reps 60sec
Think of this as a lunge with your foot elevated for an extra stability challenge. Put one foot, laces down, on a bench behind you and the other in front. Bend your front leg to lower your body, then drive back up. Keep your body upright throughout and your front knee in line with your toes.
Vary the tempo with each set of these split squats so your muscles are under load for long muscle-building spells. Below is how it breaks down. The first number is the seconds the lowering part should take, then how long you pause for, then how long you take to drive up. The fifth set is max isolation, holding the deepest position for the whole minute.
3. Squat Jump with Floor Touch
Sets 3 Reps 15
Bend your legs, keeping your knees wide apart and your heels in contact with the floor, to drop into a deep squat. Place your hands lightly on the floor and pause for two seconds, then drive up off the floor powerfully, clapping your hands together overhead. The two-second pause removes any rebounding effect to help you build greater strength in the deep squat position.
4. Bridge Kick
Time 10min EMOM Reps 10 each leg
Sit on the floor with one leg bent, one straight and your fingers pointing towards your feet. Push into the floor and squeeze your glutes to slowly raise your hips until they’re level with your stabilising knee while raising your straight leg until it’s at 90° to your torso. Slowly lower to the start. Complete all the reps on one side, then switch.
5A. Press-Up Burpee
Sets 10-1 ladder
From standing, drop down and place your hands on the floor outside your feet. Jump your feet back and do a press-up, then hop your feet back to between your hands. Jump up, clapping your hands overhead. Do ten reps of 5A, then go straight into ten each side of 5B. Then nine, eight and so on, resting as needed.
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5B. Jump Lunge
Sets 10-1 ladder
Start in a forwards lunge position with your arms out for balance. Jump off the ground by driving up with your front leg. Swap your legs over in mid-air so you land with the other leg forward. Alternate legs for each rep.