Outlined in this article are the key ways you can progress from the beginner stages of each exercise to the full on body weight baster stages of each exercise.
This progression is designed so that once you master each of the body weight alterations whether it be pushups pullups or sit ups you move on to the next one. So if you stuck at x amount of pushups do not move on to the next pushup variation until you can do at least 3 sets of 10 reps.
It is also recommended that you don’t just do the variations on each particular stage. In your workouts you should mix in the variations on the stage you are aiming to surpass while mixing in variations of the other exercises as well. It is important to expose your body to varying levels of intensity as you go.
Everyone’s body weight and body type is different. The progression of exercises outlined below is designed for anyone to follow.
However if you are overweight, or don’t have the strength to do some of the exercise later on in the progression at first, I would recommend you begin with the very first exercises in the progression. Ultimately if you are already in good shape and you are fully capable of starting with some of the exercises later on the progression of exercises, by all means start there. You should also know that you can check out this guide if you are interested in working out for a shorter amount of time than you might be used to.
Bodyweight workout progression for mass
As mentioned earlier the first 2 stages of the progression are geared towards those who might be a bit out of shape or are not strong enough for the exercises further down the road.
1st stage of progression
Wall pushups- This exercise is fairly straight forward. Simply stand an arms width away from a wall, lean in to place your hands on the wall and proceed to fall forward and push yourself away again from the wall.
Dead hang- In this exercise, simply grab onto a pull up bar and hold on for as long as you can. This exercises is designed to increase your grip strength and your arms strength in preparation for the next stage.
Squats with support- Simply place a kitchen chair or bench in front of you. Sit onto the char or bench as if you were squatting. Once you are seated stand up in the same fashion
2nd stage of progression
Three quarter pushups- Three quarter pushups are simply regular pushups but on your knees. While kneeling lean forward and push yourself up with your knees as support and your feet crossed behind you
Assisted pullups- place a bench underneath the pull up bar. Stand on the bench and grab the pullup bar. When you do the pull up, pull yourself off the bench, pull your body up and then down again so that you are standing again on the bench
Assisted squats- Place a chair in front of you. Place your hands on top of the chair and slowly drop your body to the lowest point of the squatting position using your arms as support.
3rd stage of progression
Pushup- At this point we will be doing good old fashioned pushups. Simply place your hands on the floor directly below your shoulders while your arms are extended. Keep your body linear and stiff. Lower your body by bending your arms down to 90 degree angles to the floor while you keep your body flat.
Pullups-These are just your standard pullups. Jump up if you can and grab the bar. At whatever arm width is comfortable, simply pull up your body until your chin is above the body
Squats- Without any assistance put your feet into the proper squat stance. Sit back as if you are sitting back into a chair. Once your hamstrings go parallel with the ground, stand back up.
4rth stage of progression
Elbows tucked pushups- Just as it sounds these are regular pushups except you must tuck your elbows to the sides. This exercise is a bit trickier since you are working your triceps a bit more than with regular pushups
Chin-ups- Chinups are a minor but impactful variation of pullups. With chin-ups your palms should be grabbing the bar facing your body. This exercise engages your biceps a little bit more than before
Deep squats- With deep squats you simply squat like you normally would. This time however bring your hamstrings as far down as you possibly can go. Don’t stop at parallel.
Cobra pushups- With diamond pushups you must stick your hands out and touch your thumbs and index fingers together out in front of you as if you are making a diamond/ tear drop shape. Do your pushups with your hands in this position.
Pullups (with pauses)- In order to prevent your body fromm using momentum to get your chin above the bar you can try to pause 3 seconds at the hanging position and at the top position. If you feel like challenging yourself even more you can consider pausing midway in between the hanging position and at the top position.
Bulgarian split squat- First off you will need a chair or a bench. Place your back foot on the chair or bench and place your front foot directly in front of your body. From this position proceed to lunge down until your front leg is parallel to the ground but keep your back leg secure on the bench or chair.
Decline pushups- When doing decline pushups, place your feet on a chair or bench and hands just on the floor. From this position you can simply do regular pushups but keep your feet secure on the bench and your body rigid. For more of a challenge you can find an object taller then a bench
Wide grip and closed grip pullups- You may alternate sets of wide grip and closed grip pullups according to how much you want to how much you want to challenge yourself.
Shrimp squats- lower your body on one leg while keeping the other leg in a kneeling position. Wait until the knee and the toe of the other leg kiss the floor before you rise back up.
SIDE NOTE- at this point on, if you want to focus more on building muscle mass, you may use a weighted vest for the pushups and pullups. Yes, because you are using a weighted vest you wont technically be doing soley bodyweight exercises anymore. However, adding a little bit of extra resistance can make a huge difference in terms of strength and muscle building.
Clap pushups- As you come down on the pushup, explode up and clap your hands together before coming back down to your original position. At this stage if you are planning on using a weighted vest I would recommend using it on some of the pushup variations previously mentioned.
Various pullup variations-
Archer pullups- Once you reach the top of the pullup, shift your body from side to side as you fully extend each arm at a time as your body shifts.
Rope pullups- Pull ups while using a rope
L pull ups- Pull ups with your legs perpendicular to your body and parallel to the floor. Your body is essentially shaped like an L during the pullups.
Grip change pullups- changing the width of your grip from narrow to wide inbetween pullups
Clap pull-ups- pulling your body up with all the momentum you can create and clap your hands together at the tip before grabbing the bar again
These exercise can be performed with the weighted vest as well but I recommend you try the weighted vest on a few of the previous variations before using on these variations
Pistol squats- Squat with one leg extended straight out and parallel to the ground while balancing on the other leg. Squat down until the leg you are using to squat is parallel to the ground
One arm pushups- This one is just as it sounds. With one arm on the ground and the other behind your back, lower your body down on the single hand and then push back up once you reach the 90 degree angle with your elbow
Muscle ups- pull yourself up like you would with a regular pullup and once your reach the peak, with all your momentum throw your body above the bar and press up like a push up over the bar
One arm pullups- One arm pullups are of the hardest body weight exercises. Use one arm to do your pull ups. Its as simple as that- not easy however
Pistol squats (on balance trainer or with weighted vest)- Do pistol squats as normally would except while standing on a balance trainer half ball or by using a weighted vest. You could even do both if you are really prepared