Bodyweight exercises have always been one of my favorite methods for training.
I have found no better all over upper body pump than when I superset pushing and pulling bodyweight movements together.
If you pair them together in the right manner while keeping the reps high and the rest low you can also get quite the “cardio-effect” - a tremendous sweat while you build your aerobic base.
I have also found that they are a great way to “de-load” and give your joints a rest from the stress of heavy weightlifting while still building strength and gaining muscle.
So let’s see what we have here.
Coordination? Check. Core strength? Check. Incredible pump, cardio, building strength, muscular endurance…the list of benefits to bodyweight training goes on and on.
There are many ways to incorporate these movements into your workout from warm ups to burnouts, but if you really want to reap all of the benefits listed above, my favorite set up is a monster high volume push/pull superset.
I’m not just talking about a couple of sets of pull ups and pushups for 10 reps, you need to get creative so that your body gets challenged and taken outside of its comfort zone.
With that in mind I wanted to put together a challenge for you, my loyal Muscle & Strength readers, that would blow away all other bodyweight workouts you have done and challenge even the strongest and most fit amongst you.
Today, I present to you the aptly titled “Ultimate Bodyweight Challenge”.
The Ultimate Bodyweight Challenge
The quick way to describe this workout is it contains 4 exercises performed back to back and alternating between pulling and pushing. You perform 10 rounds as quickly as possible. But like most things, the devil is in the details, and it is the rep scheme that earns this challenge its name.
The first 2 exercises in the circuit are chin ups and dips, and the third and fourth movements are bodyweight slant rows and pushups. You begin the circuit doing 20 reps of the first two exercises, but only 2 reps of each of the next two.
Your keen workout eye may look at this and immediately sense something is amiss. After all, the first 2 movements are without a doubt the more difficult of the circuit, and the last 2 exercises are the “easier” of the bunch. If that is the case, why does the programming call for less of the easier ones and more of the more difficult ones? Here’s why.
If you begin this circuit with 20 chin ups and 20 dips, it would be very difficult to continue to crank out 2- reps of each one of those for all 10 rounds. For that reason, you will lower the reps by 2 for the first 2 exercises with each successive round.
As fatigue sets in you will be required to do less and less chin ups and dips every round, making the goal number of reps a little more realistic. But here is the catch - the reps for the other 2 movements (slant rows and pushups), the “easier” of the four, will increase by 2 every round. Here is what the entire challenge looks like:
Because of the way this rep scheme incorporates two ladders - both descending and ascending - every round is difficult and presents a new challenge. Personally, I think the middle rounds are the toughest, as you are fatigued from those early high rep sets of dips and chin ups and now have to hit high numbers of all four exercises.
Try to minimize the amount of rest you take and make an effort to maintain good form rather than just ripping out the movements.
Chin Ups: Although I have this listed as the traditional underhand variety, feel free to switch grips each set. Alternate between close, wide, side to side, etc., or stick with underhand the entire time if you really want to blast the biceps.
Make sure to get your chin over the bar and minimize swinging/kipping. Go down low, but not to a dead hang or complete unpacked position, by keeping your lats engaged.
Dips: Lean forward slightly but avoid going down past parallel to avoid damaging your shoulders. Lock out at the top and squeeze your triceps.
Bodyweight Slant Rows: Set a bar into a power rack at roughly 3-4’ off the ground. Get under the bar and grab it with an overhand grip. Your body should be at roughly a 30-45% angle with only your feet in contact with the floor.
Keep your body perfectly straight as you perform a row by pulling your chest to the bar (it should touch your chest in the same place as if you were performing a bench press).
Push Ups: Keep your abs engaged to maintain a rigid line with your body. Do not let your hips sag nor hold them too high in the air. Touch your chest to the ground and lock out at the top of each rep.
Here are a few adaptations to fit this challenge to your ability:
If you are beginner, use a band or partner for assistance on the chin ups. You may also substitute bench dips for regular parallel dips. The higher you set the bar for slant rows, the greater the angle between you and the floor, the easier they will be.
If you are an advanced athlete, make sure to keep your form super strict. The bodyweight slant rows should be done with your back almost parallel to the floor. If you really want to make this workout challenging add 20 minutes of bodyweight walking lunges after the 10th round.
Just be sure to rename it The Ultimate (Full Body) Bodyweight Challenge.