I used to be very skeptical of bodyweight programs and questioned whether they truly could benefit me, someone who’s been lifting weights and building up strength in the gym for seemingly aeons now. What can I say, I’m a total gym bro at heart. I get my iron needs by lifting it.
However, I knew I had to adapt my fitness to be viable anywhere if I was going to travel. Regular access to the gym would be unreliable, so I came to lean on travel-friendly bodyweight workouts, provided by personal trainer and my friend JC Deen. I told him I’d have access to minimal equipment, at least my suspension trainers (which are a must, by the way), and that I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of time working out.
A Bodyweight Program I Can Get Behind
The result was a 4-day per week program that I just blasted through and repeated for six or seven days per week as I needed, or felt like doing.
Upper Body Day 1:
- 1a. Floor Push-ups 5 sets of 8-12
- 1b. TRX Inverted rows 5 sets of 12-20
- 1c. BW squats (for speed and explosiveness) 5 sets of 20
- 2a. TRX bicep curls 3 sets of 8-12
- 2b. TRX tricep extensions 3 sets of 8-12
Upper body Day 2:
- 1a. Chin-ups/pull-ups as many as possible on first set and 3 sets of 5
- 1b. TRX chest press 4 sets of 8-12
- 1c. Single-leg glute bridges 4 sets of 12-15 (each side)
- 2a. TRX face-pulls 3 sets of 12-15
- 2b. TRX clock pulls 3 sets of 5-8 (each side)
- 2c. TRX swimmer pull 3 sets of 8-12
Lower Body Day 1:
- 1a. Single leg elevated squat (like a pistol squat) 4 sets of 5-8 per side
- 1b. Single leg hip thrust 4 sets of 12-15 per side
- 1c. TRX Face pulls 4 sets of 10-12
- 2a. TRX atomic push-ups (ab focus) 3 sets of 8-12
- 2b. Plank 3 sets for 60 seconds
Lower Body Day 2:
- 1a. TRX lunge 4 sets of 10-12 per side
- 1b. TRX hamstring pull-in 4 sets of 12-15
- 1c. Push-ups 4 sets of 8-12
- 2a. Reverse hyper (on bench) 3 sets of 8-10
- 2b. Bicycle crunches 3 sets of 30 seconds
BW = Bodyweight | TRX = the suspension-like trainer for cool movements | a,b,c or a,b = a triset or superset (doing them all back-to-back for one full set total)
Rest was minimal between each exercise and set. The goal here was to keep intensity high to make up for the lack of “weight.” Bodyweight exercises typically aren’t too demanding, and I’m used to lifting heavier, so I was able to afford working out more days per week. In a week, it’d look something like this:
- Monday: Upper body day 1
- Tuesday: Lower body day 1
- Wednesday: Upper body day 2
- Thursday: Lower body day 2
- Friday: Upper body day 1
- Saturday: Lower body day 1
- Sunday: Off
The following week I’d start with Upper body day 2 and keep alternating from there. These workouts are short, but it’s not about the duration; it’s how hard you make the workout. When done every day and combined with walking or other light activity, you get a huge kick in the pants. If you want to follow this workout, you might want to consider doing just the four workouts each week.
The ultimate goal was to get stronger over time. I actually followed this for months while I was in Japan, in combination with one or two days a week in the gym. The result?
I got stronger. I can bang out 25 push-ups no problem, but more importantly, following a bodyweight program after a long time of lifting weights made workouts fun again. It was less about “Okay, how much can I lift this time?” and more like “Okay, what can I use to feasibly do a pull-up? A door? A tree branch? Do all the pull-ups on ALL THE THINGS!”
With this program, you have the flexibility of being able to do it almost anywhere. Ideally, you would be able to go to a park and find a playground, or at least a pull-up bar and a bench.