Third Space Elite PT Stu Slater coaches you through the principles of body-weight training and provides the building blocks you need to build muscle and fitness in your living room.
Like any programming, before you can get into the nitty gritty you need to decide what you’re trying to achieve, you need to be realistic with yourself regarding your current capability and figure out what keeps you motivated. Once you have these you can set clear goals and programme backwards from there.
Approach body weight training plans in the same way you would approach any training plan, always start by looking at the big picture and focus on the smaller details after. It’s best to establish what effect you want the training to have on you. For simplicity lets assume you fit into one of these two camps.
I want to get fitter, leaner and healthier. – You should target ‘volume’ plans.
I want to get stronger. – You should target ‘strength’ plans.
The camp you fall into will form the purpose of your first training phase, and should
generally last anywhere up to 4 weeks.
Once your goal is established, you can structure your weeks training or daily split. This is predominantly dependent on your current capability.
Beginner – Use a 3 day split. Day 1 = upper body push. Day 2 = upper body pull. Day 3 = legs.
Intermediate – Use a 3 day full body split. Full body over 3 separate days, 1x Strength, 2x Volume.
Advanced – Use a 5 day full body split. Full body five times per week, 2x Strength, 3x Volume.
The following is a tried and tested template that virtually all trainers – at least all Third Space trainers – work by and should form the blueprint for your workouts. Each session is broken into the following categories:
- Primer – This is where we prepare or prime the joints and muscles for the upcoming movement demands by rehearsing them with a lower load. This will feature both mobility and activation exercises.
- Core Components – These will be the main exercises we want to get stronger at or become conditioned in. These should be compound (multi-joint) movements such as a push ups, squats, pull ups etc. Three to four exercises would suffice for strength phases. Volume phases would typically feature much more, but you should be wary not to overly saturate your workout, as this will lessen adaptive responses over time. Place your most demanding & calorie intense movements here.
- Overload – This is placed at the end of the main workout and features accessory exercises that target or isolate weaker muscle groups.
Example session structure for a lower body strength workout
General mobilisation e.g. McKenzie Push Up, Hip Flexor Stretch & Walkouts.
Specific mobilisation (ankles, knees & hips) e.g. Hinge to deep Squat & World’s Greatest Stretch.
Activation drills at relevant muscles groups (hamstrings, quads & glutes) e.g. Glute Bridge & CMJ.
1-2 sets, 6-8 reps of each.
Exercise 1 e.g. Single Leg Glute Bridge
Exercise 2 e.g. Split Squats
Exercise 3 e.g. Single Leg Deadlift
Exercise 4 e.g. lateral Lunges
Reps, Sets & Rest – If your goal/plan is strength oriented, stick to four exercises and focus on progressive overload. Go for smaller rep ranges e.g. 4-6 reps and 4-5 sets. Give yourself plenty of rest between sets, minimum of 1 minute. If your plan is volume, choose 6-8 exercises that you can perform with confidence and at higher tempo and consider placing these movements back to back in a circuit fashion. Volume is about conditioning. Go for higher rep ranges e.g. 10-15 and 3-4 sets. Keep the rest time to a minimum, start at 45 seconds for beginners, but as you improve take that down to 30 or 20 seconds.
Choose 2-3 exercises that isolate muscle groups relevant to the bigger movements you have just performed in your core section. e.g. if you are doing a lower body workout these could be calf raises. You can also feature core exercises here e.g. Pallof Press, Plank or Side Plank.
You now know the fundamental principles of how to programme your perfect workout, whether that’s at home or in the gym. I will leave you with a few tips to progress or regress an exercise when weights aren’t available and a ready made home workout programme should you want to skip the hard work.
To make an exercise easier, try:
Reducing the Range Of Motion (ROM) e.g. do a half Squat instead of a full Squat.
Increase your stability or support e.g. hold onto a TRX or surface.
Perform an isometric hold of that exercise e.g. rather that a full Squat and repeating for 8 reps, just drop into a Squat position and hold it there for as long as you can.
To make an exercise harder, try:
Increase the ROM.
Decrease your stability e.g. perform movement on a rug/carpet/towel rather than a solid surface. Or use a bosu ball if you have one.
Perform the movement explosively e.g. Jump Squats rather than Squats.