The Ultimate Guide To Bodyweight Training – Part I

Bodyweight training is an effective, simple, and easy way to get strong, get fit, and lose body fat- all at the same time.  It is all too common for the average person to struggle with simple movements such as a squat, push-up, sit-up, pull ups, jumping, and sprinting.
If more people were efficient in these movements there would be fewer injuries, increased health and fitness, decrease in body fat, and an overall stronger person.

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Look at gymnasts:  they have INCREDIBLE muscular size, strength, and endurance and the majority of their training is done using their own bodyweight!  No equipment?  No problem!

Where to Get Started

The great thing about bodyweight training is that it can be done anywhere, anytime, and requires little to no equipment! For starters, you need to address your current fitness and strength levels:

  • Can you perform a proper push-up, sit-up, squat, and chin-up?
  • Can you do these without pain or sucking wind?
  • Is your body composition where it needs to be?
  • Are you in the best shape of your life?
  • Is your training fun, exciting, and fresh?

If you answered NO to any of these, bodyweight training may just be the tool you’ve been looking for.  Let’s look at how often to incorporate this training into your current training and how it can benefit you!

Importance of Bodyweight Training 

Bodyweight training is HIGHLY underrated.  It makes me cringe when a young athlete comes to me wanting to get stronger and faster but cannot even perform a single pull-up; or can’t perform 50-100 bodyweight squats without stopping; or perform 10 parallel bar dips.. You get my drift?

Even after you get the basic body weight exercises down, you can certainly work in variations!  Here is a few body weight Dip Variations using just a power rack and  few olympic bars (hopefully your gym has these already!)

If you are quite strong in the weight room and you cannot perform multiple repetitions of a bodyweight exercise without stopping, there is something wrong. A solid foundation needs to be built upon in order for the athlete or trainee to perform optimally. For example, Mark McLaughlin wrote in his “GPP for Freshmen” Article at :

“…Kids this age are void of a lot of the basic principles to begin lifting (lack of GPP, relative strength) and should not begin a serious weight training regime until certain strengths are in place.”

So the question is how to get them prepared. Jim Wendler was posed a similar question several months ago. Jim’s answer was very basic. Before anyone should begin lifting, they should be able to perform the following body weight exercises. Push-ups (50); sit ups (100); parallel dips (25); strict pull ups (10).” (1)

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Jim Wendler Practicing What He Preaches

I would also add to that list 50 body weight squats (minimum) and front/side planks for 60 seconds.  I would be willing to bet at least 1/3 of the average gym goers cannot do these.

I would also be willing to bet that most young athletes in the 13-16 year old range cannot perform at this level either. As for the athletes that have came into Synergy Athletics, I can think of 3 that could perform the requirements above (one being the 275 lb bencher – who is now up to 275 x 3).

Benefits of Bodyweight Training

OK, so now the challenge is putting it all together:  exercise selection and the reasoning for why we are using bodyweight exercises.

Benefits of body weight training exercises:

  • Increased relative strength, GPP (general physical preparedness), and endurance.
  • Increased cardiovascular health.
  • Increased capillary density.
  • Decreased body fat.
  • Increased posture and muscle tonus.
  • Decreased risk of injury to shoulders, knees, and lower back.
  • Increased mobility flexibility through full range of motion training.
  • Improve recovery and decrease muscle soreness
  • Body weight training is FUN and DIFFERENT. It may add some variety to your training and keep it from becoming monotonous and boring!

Implementing body weight training  and exercise can be simple and easy. Because of the nature of bodyweight training and the minimal eccentric damage put upon the muscular system and little stress on the CNS, you can perform them 3-5 times per week and still make progress.

Regardless if you are implementing a weight training program now, or looking for a new program, doing these body weight exercises can be easy.

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About John Cortese 4 Articles


That guy to the left on the gymnastic rings– that’s me, John Cortese. Do you typically see exercises like this  being done in your gym on a regular basis? Probably not, but I’ll get to that later.

Some interesting facts you might like to know about me:

    • I’m a certified Youth Fitness Specialist through the IYCA (International Youth Conditioning Association), one of the PREMIER organizations built upon maximizing youth athletic development and fitness for a fun and healthier lifestyle from ages 6-18.
    • I’ve worked with athletes and clients of all types and ages, ranging from 12-55, in sports ranging from football, track and field, volleyball, soccer, baseball, basketball- basically any sport that would require more SPEED, STRENGTH, AND EXPLOSIVE POWER to excel among your peers; and with all types of hardcore strength and fitness enthusiasts ranging from doctors to electricians, pilots to CEO’s, and financial advisors to name a few!
    • I was a former football/track and field athlete (I played wide receiver and ran the sprints/relays in high school at Vintage High in Napa, CA and also at Santa Rosa JC in Santa Rosa, CA- one of the top JC football programs in the country), so you can trust that I’ve been there in regards to training for maximal strength, speed, and power! I have Personal Bests of 49.8 seconds over 400 meters, 22.5 seconds over 200 meters, 4.47 seconds 40 yard dash, as well as a 9′ 7″ standing long jump and 33″ vertical jump– not bad for a 5′ 10″ 185 pounder right?
  • I’m currently a Senior undergraduate student at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, CA. I will receive my BS in Kinesiology in June, 2010 (pretty soon!)*

Now, enough about ME. Let’s talk about what I mentioned above in the first few lines.

How common is it to see exercises being done that are either a) HARD, b) HEAVY, c) elicit some sort of RESULTS, or d) just plain out GRUELING ?!
Answer: Not very often! And I’ll tell you why very briefly:

Most people hate getting out of their comfort zones. It can be scary to try something you’ve never ever done before. Add that to lack of know-how and proper knowledge on HOW to train PROPERLY for maximal RESULTS, and you get a recipe that gets most people spinning their wheels -OR- as I like to call it, going nowhere fast, in their quest to get faster, add some muscle, get shredded, etc, etc etc.

So, then, you might be wondering “Well John, I totally agree with you– What is the solution?!”
I feel your pain, believe me. It’s not your fault. We are constantly being bombarded with misinformation about exercise and nutrition that it makes me want to scream, pull my hair out, vomit.. you get the idea. So, I made this website to diminish all the misconceptions, lies, and myths that you’ve been told for years and years.
More than likely you’ve been lied to– hey, they may not have known right from wrong. But you’ll come to find out very quickly that I’m here to help YOU.

I post on a regular basis, including audio interviews, videos, links to other great resources, recommendations. I give you the FACTS and I don’t like to steer you in the wrong direction.

It is my purpose to help you achieve all of your goals with methods that are actually proven in the REAL WORLD to WORK,  free of gimmicks, fluff, and bull shit.

If you like this style of training and communication, then you and I are on the same page my friend.

Here’s to maximizing your Performance,

Your Friend/Coach,
John Cortese YFS

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