Beginning Bodyweight Training

Strength Fundamentals

To lay a strong foundation, beginning bodyweight training must focus on building strength and mobility in the hips, thighs, waist, and shoulder girdle.  These days, many or most beginners start with postural imbalances and mobility deficits in both the shoulder and hip girdles that render them incapable of performing the basic full range multi-joint exercises safely. 

Beginning Bodyweight Training Routine

Before doing a program consisting of squats, hip hinges, and vertical and horizontal upper body pushing and pulling, it is best to master the following:

1.  Deep squats

2.  Wall squats

3.  Hip & hamstring bridge

4.  Table bridge

5.   Side plank

6.  Plank

7.  Downward dog

8.  Vertical passive hang

9. Vertical active hang

10. Horizontal passive hang

11. Horizontal active hang

Beginning Bodyweight Training For Thighs and Hips

Novice bodyweight training for the thighs and hips involves mastering the deep squat, the wall squat, and the hip/hamstring bridges.  I demonstrate these skills in this video: 

For beginning bodyweight training, do these exercises three times weekly on non-consecutive days (e.g. Monday, Wednesday, Friday). Use the following progression method for these exercises:

1.  Deep squat:  Squat as deeply as possible with the form explained in the video.  Hold that depth for 15-30 seconds.  Gradually increase the depth and the hold time in 5-10 second increments until you can hold a full deep squat (as demonstrated) for 2 minutes.

2.  Wall squat:  Start with the 135º hold (above parallel) or the 90º/90º hold, depending on your fitness level.  Hold that wall squat for 15-30 seconds.  Each session increase the hold time by 5-10 seconds until you can hold that level for 2 minutes.  Then, if you started at 135º, progress to the 90º/90º hold and repeat the progression method until you can achieve a 2 minute hold.  Then you can progress to the deepest position.  Gradually build that bottom position hold to 30 seconds, followed by a 90º/90º hold for 30-60 seconds, then 30 seconds in the 135º hold.

3.  Hip & hamstring bridges:  Follow the instructions in the video.

Beginning Bodyweight Training For Torso Muscles

Novice bodyweight training for the waist and torso muscle involves mastering the table bridge, side plank, front plank, downward dog, passive and active vertical hangs, and passive and active horizontal hangs.  I demonstrate how to perform these in the following video.


Perform these exercises three times weekly on non-consecutive days. Use the following progression method:

1. Start with a 15 second hold using the easiest variation shown in the video.

2.  Add 5-10 seconds to each hold in each training session. 

3. When you can hold the position for 60 seconds without losing the proper shape, you have mastered that level.  You can then proceed to a more difficult progression for the hangs. 

When you have mastered 60 second hold times for all of these exercises, you have enough basic strength, mobility and mastery of the shoulder girdle to begin training with the basic, entry-level multi-joint movements like push-ups, pull-ups, and rows.  You should continue practicing these bodyweight training exercises as part of your warm ups or in advanced forms (for example, progressing from planks to plank leans).

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