The Basics of Bodyweight Bodybuilding

You think it would be impossible to build a stronger, more muscular body without a gym? Think again – bodyweight training isn’t just for martial artists. If you have the will to train and learn how to make the optimal combination of exercises and rep schemes, you can build a truly strong and unbelievably athletic body without ever needing to join a gym.

Read this article to get some highly-effective fresh-from-the-oven tips of Danny Kavadlo, the loudest advocate for bodyweight strength training, who is also a professional personal trainer who has been featured in the New York Times and Men’s Fitness and is also the author of “Everybody Needs Training: Proven Success Secrets for the Fitness Professional”; because he makes a really tight case for the unique muscle benefits of bodyweight bodybuilding.


As you can easily agree, the most crucial exercises for building overall strength and muscle with bodyweight training are pull-ups, push-ups and squats.

And according to Danny Kavadlo, these basic moves together with all their variations are more than enough to keep you growing for years, not to mention keep on building real, functional strength. As long as you keep on challenging your muscles by manipulating intensity, you’ll keep on making great gains.

Another important thing is to make sure to begin learning every movement pattern with a relatively low amount of resistance and then gradually increase it as your body adapts. Starting with an empty bar and mastering the proper technique before moving on to heavier loads will ensure risk-free progressive overload and place you on the right path to sculpting the best body possible.

Here’s how to get there!

1. Progressive Resistance

All bodybuilders must employ progressive overload in order to push their muscles to grow and strengthen. When working with added weight, i.e. using with call external resistance, it’s easy to up the progressive overload and thus the intensity of your training by simply adding more iron.

However, when working only with your body weight, you need a far more subtle approach based on skillfully increasing the resistance by manipulating other growth variables such as rep and set schemes, rest duration and increasing the difficulty of the exercises, for example replacing regular push-ups with feet-elevated push-ups, traditional squats with pistol squats and standard pull-ups with pull-ups to chest.

2. Rep Out

Unlike strength training where you’d look for 1-5 reps with around 90% of your 1RM, training for muscle mass requires keeping your sets the higher rep range (usually 8-12) and working with 60-80% of your max so that you can create optimal muscle damage and reach your peak growth potential.

If you have trouble figuring out your 80%1RM, choose exercises of which you can complete 12 reps with decent form but absolutely no more. If you feel like you have still fuel left after 12 reps, you need a harder exercise. And if you seem unable to squeeze out even 3 reps with good form, you need to try an easier alternative.

3. Use Split-Ups

Unlike regular calisthenics, bodyweight bodybuilding doesn’t work so well with full-body workouts.  Instead, you will use a split routine where you emphasize different body parts on different days, for example upper/lower body and push/pull/legs.

That being said, when setting up your split, you need to consider a few key factors such as your training experience, your ultimate goals, your availability and perhaps most importantly, your rest and recovery needs. As a general rule, novices will require less volume and intensity but greater frequency to make steady progress than more advanced lifters.

Also, you need to think about how many training days you can really commit to, with three being the minimum. Finally, as Danny Kavadlo stress out, if you trivialize the role of rest and recovery in your race to the top, you will eventually end up screwing up your muscle building efforts. Two most popular split-ups are upper/lower body and push/pull/legs.

4. First Bulk, Then Cut

Some people think that they’re able to both bulk and cut at the same time, which according to Danny Kavadlo is virtually impossible because you can’t expect to put on extra pounds of lean muscle without also adding some body fat. The sooner you accept this and start cycling your diet between bulking and cutting, you better your overall progress will be.

You don’t have to worry temporarily losing some of your detail – you can melt it away with relative ease and get truly ripped aesthetics once you’re done bulking up, and in the long run, your gains will be a lot better than they would if you struggled with bulking and cutting at the same time.

5. Keep Pushing the Limits

Discipline, dedication and smart training choices are what will ultimately make you stand out from the crowd, especially in the case of bodyweight training. First of all, don’t forget to think outside the box and get creative with the classics in order to get specific results and introduce growth-promoting variety in your routine.

For example, if you want to target your traps more directly, switch from your current push-up variant to modified handstand push-ups with keeping. To further increase the tension placed on the traps, extend the range of motion of the exercise by keeping your hands elevated on parallettes. Secondly, make sure to keep challenging your muscles on each workout and pour your 100% into every movement you perform.

Without going deeper into the details of your dieting and training routine, those are the most important general rules you need to keep in mind if you want to become the master of bodyweight bodybuilding and achieve your ideal physique as soon as possible.

Since having the right mindset and knowing what works and what doesn’t are the factors that ultimately help channel hard work into sculpted, inhumanely strong muscles, you’d benefit a lot from incorporating the professional tips above into your existing routine.

Are you ready for it? Go out there and make it count!

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