Bodyweight Basics

Let’s talk about bodyweight exercises for a minute. As a coach I’ve noticed that many Cross Training enthusiasts I meet have a hard time with bodyweight moves. Most will happily post up under a loaded barbell for back squats or push presses but ask them to rip off some Pistol squats or Handstand Pushups and they cringe and I don’t blame them. These moves are hard; requiring not just strength but dexterity, balance, and skill mastery. Unfortunately too many people are avoiding mastering these foundational movements because they require extra time to learn or just aren’t as glamorous as the barbell moves they see on TV and the results show during competitions and workouts.

I’ve always told my athletes not to avoid skills or moves they struggle with but to “embrace the suck.” The only way you’re going to get comfortable with something is to spend time working on it regularly until you understand first the components or technique involved and second become comfortable being outside your comfort zone. In the case of bodyweight movements like pistols, air-squats, pushups, pullups, dips, L-sits, handstand pushups, box jumps, and rope climbs; all these moves form the foundation for other exercises and even lifts. All build the basic strength and coordination needed to move and control a loaded Barbell, medicine, ball, kettlebell, dumbbell, and even a sledgehammer. The point is simple; if you cannot learn patience for the process and take the time to master bodyweight movements how can you seriously expect to excel once you add weight and heavy iron equipment to it?

If you don’t think bodyweight exercises aren’t  important just ask an Olympic Gymnast what forms the foundations of their workout routines and gets them so ripped and shredded. In fact I’d be willing to argue that gymnasts are pound for pound some of the strongest athletes in the world. Below is a list of a few basic exercises used by gymnasts and CrossFit champions to build strength and hone technique . Add them to your workouts to shore up weaknesses and imbalance issues. If you’re a regular at a CrossFit box you’re probably already familiar with most of them and the benefit they add to your lifts as well.

Pushups, Ring or Deficit Pushups, Diamond Pushups, T-Pushups, Alternating Pushups, Dips, Ring Dips, Bench Dips, Pullups, Chinups, Body or Supine Rows, L-sit, Hanging Leg Raise, Tot-to-bar, Knees-to-elbow, Air Squats, Pistols, Lunges, Split Squats, T-balance, Hip bridges, Side Lunge, Handstand Pushups, Walkups, Back Extensions, Reverse Hypers, Supermans, Mountain Climbers, Spider-Mans, Steam-Engines, and the list goes on. I would add Muscle-ups too this list but in my experience too many people obsess about this one without first taking the time to become proficient at both Pullups and dips. Proficient means being able to do 20 at a time without stopping and maintaining god from and range of motion.

Remember, learning this stuff is a process and there are no easy ways around it or shortcuts and any trainer promising you one is lying and hurting you in the long run. If you want to be good at this you have to practice it again and again.

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