Bodyweight Strength Foundation (BWSF) Routine: Info Hub
Quick Find Menu/Table of Contents:
Welcome to the BWSF Routine’s Info Hub! This page is the sort of ‘Home Page’ for the BWSF routine.
This will be covered below, but If you are new to exercise, I’d recommend checking out the BWF Primer routine first, as it will be a more appropriate starting point and will set you up well to do this routine later down the road.
Bodyweight Strength Foundations Routine:
The standard template for this program is a Full Body 3x per week program, meaning you will do the below workout 3 times per week, and this workout exercises all the main muscle groups in your body.
|Exercise Tutorial||Progression List Links||Sets/Reps Range||Rest Time|
|Pike Push-ups||Pike Push-up Progression List||3×5-8||2.5 min|
|Pull-ups||Pull-up Progression List||3×5-8||2.5min|
|Push-ups||Push-up Progression||3×8-12||2 min|
|Bridges OR Hinges||Posterior Chain Progression||3×8-15||90s|
|Deadbugs||Core A Progression||2×10-20||60s|
|Birddog||Core B Progression||2×10-20||60s|
How to Progress
If you are coming here having not yet completed the BWF Primer routine, and have no idea how to read the above program or what to do with it, I strongly recommend you go through all of the BWF Primer‘s readings to get acquainted with basic exercise theory and notation.
If the idea of reading all that at once sounds particularly daunting, then perhaps simply complete the BWF Primer as written to get a paced introduction to exercise!
The above buttons will take you to flowchart lists of all the progressions for all the exercises in the BWSF routine. When you reach the top of the stated rep range for an exercise in the program, you move forward to the next progression at the low end of the rep range. Wherever you see a branching path (i.e. from 1 to 2a or 2b), that is an opportunity to choose which progression you would like to do. This can be based on what equipment you have, personal preference, specific goals, etc.
FOR EXAMPLE: Here is a snippet of the Squat progression list
As written in the program, squats are done for 8 to 15 reps. So lets say you just finished a workout including 3×15 reps of Bulgarian Split Squats with good form. Now you get to choose! Do you progress to 3×8 reps of Step-downs, Deficit Bulgarian Split Squats, Shrimp Squats or Box Pistols? Your choice! All are worthwhile decisions depending on your goals and equipment available, or else they wouldn’t be in the program, so do not worry about choosing a ‘bad’ exercise. The worst thing that will happen is you pick an exercise where another would be better suited to your goals, and you can ask about that .
This program is not intended to go on forever. It has specific completion criteria intended for future routines I will develop over time. You can consider yourself having ‘graduated’ this program, and thus able to move on to a more advanced program when you can achieve:
- 3×8 Elevated Pike Push-ups
- 3×8 Top-Paused Pull-ups or Chin-ups
- 3×12 22X0 Tempo Floor Push-ups
- 3×12 22X0 Tempo Horizontal Rows
- 3×10 Single Leg Extended Hamstring Bridges
- 3×10 Level 3 Shrimp Squats (or Stepdowns to standard depth)
Having said that, the program can easily be run for longer than that if you wish, or you can simply maintain your strength level once you have achieved the completion criteria.
The reason why progressions for each exercise exist beyond those in the completion criteria are because most people have an asymmetrical level of strength and will find some exercises easier than others, therefore they may hit the completion criteria on one exercise long before the others, and will need something to continue to progress through if they do not want to simply maintain their strength on that exercise until the others catch up.
Who is this program for?
This program is for any individual (male, female, non-binary, cis, trans, anyone!) who wants to develop a foundational level of strength that can be achieved using bodyweight training, and to build muscle.
This program is appropriate to do whether you are maintaining your weight, trying to gain weight, or trying to lose weight.
This program is either for:
- Individuals who have graduated from this routine’s predecessor, the BWF Primer Routine,
- Individuals who are not completely new to exercising, but may be new to bodyweight exercise, specifically. (This means you may have done a gym program or exercised somehow before, so will be familiar with how exercise programs are structured and written and have some degree of experience actually exercising etc.)
From a ‘knowledge and understanding’ level, this program works on the assumption that you understand how to read a standard exercise program and understand basic training principles like progressive overload. If this is also not the case, do not worry. If you do not, then please have a look at the BWF Primer Routine! It is for people totally new to exercise, and starts with a structured 14 day introduction period where you will be gently and gradually introduced to all the practical and theoretical learning you need to make your way into exercise in an easier, more accessible fashion! It’s a very gentle introduction to exercise, starting you with only one exercise on day 1, building you up to 6 exercises (2 upper body, 2 lower body, and 2 core exercises) by day 14, which you carry on with on your own as the full program 3x per week after that! This, again, is what the BWF Primer Routine was built for, and by the end of the 14 days you’ll have everything you need to start this program.
This program requires that you are able to do 3×8 push-ups on the floor with good form, as well as 3×8 horizontal bodyweight rows with good form. If you cannot do that, the BWF Primer Routine in its complete form at the end of the build-up period is a very similar program to this, without the higher level exercises that require that pre-requisite level of strength. Importantly, it will also build you up to being able to do 3×8 pushups/horizontal rows, so when you finish there, you can jump right into this routine! The two programs are designed to fit together seamlessly in that fashion.
To summarise visually, here is a little flowchart I made to help people decide which is appropriate for them:
If you’ve read all this and found that you are appropriate for the BWSF Routine, Welcome and read on ahead!
What equipment do I need in order to do the routine?
DISCLAIMER: If you look at the following list, and see that you 1. do not have these things, 2. dont want to spend money on them 3. don’t think you would be able to set them up in your living space: To 1+2 it is ultimately only one or two pieces of essential equipment that can be acquired for relatively little money that you will use for years on years. Small initial investment for equipment that will last the rest of your life if well treated! To 3, even in slightly difficult to work living spaces (e.g. small rented apartments with flimsy walls), many people have found ways to make them work. It might take a bit of creative problem solving, but you can do it with a little bit of elbow grease on your brain!
You will need:
1. A place to do the Bodyweight Row.
- If you are coming from having graduated the BWF Primer Routine then you should already have this one sorted! Awesome. For those that haven’t come from there, this could be:
- A barbell in a rack/smith machine in the gym
- Gymnastics rings hanging on a pullup bar, tree branch, load bearing beam, scaffolding, etc.
- A telescopic doorway pull-up bar that can be set at the appropriate height
- A broomstick across two chairs
- A sturdy dining table
- The ‘Bedsheet Trick’ in a door (This can also be done with Gymnastics Rings if you have rings and some door anchors)
2. A place to hang from
- This is for exercises such as the Pull-up. This could be:
- A pull-up bar of any kind
- Gymnastics rings anchored from a sufficiently high level that you can hang underneath it (at least with bent legs)
- A tree branch
- A load bearing beam (starting to sound familiar?)
3. A place to do Dips.
- This could be
- A set of parallel bars/high parallettes
- A kitchen counter
- Two sturdy chairs of the same height (optionally with a towel layed over the tops of the chairs for comfort)
4. A long resistance band
5. An ab wheel
All optional equipment will provide you options for certain exercises if you want them, but the routine is obviously perfectly fine without any of it.
However, the equipment that is not labelled as optional is 100% required and there is no possible substitute for it. Believe me when I say I’ve spent a long time trying to work around it. I’m very sorry to say this, as I know many people who are attracted to bodyweight exercise do so because they want to work out with minimal equipment. However, you cannot work your back without something to pull yourself towards, so something to hang off of, and something to row off of is simply not negotiable, as simply ‘not training your back’ is out of the question as well.
So if you’ve made it this far, you both meet the strength pre-requisites (which I repeat, is 3×8 good form floor push-ups, and 3×8 good form horizontal rows) and you have all the equipment required to get started. So without further ado, lets look at the routine!
Warm-Ups and Cool-downs:
This is an area that is very individualised. The content of your warm-up will depend upon your individual requirements based on past joint issues, areas that require specific mobility, prehab or conditioning work to properly complete certain exercises, and other factors. This portion of the warmup, if it exists for you, will be done at the very beginning of the session
As a standard warmup protocol to ensure your muscles and joints are all warmed up for your exercises, you can do a set of a moderately easy progression for each exercise before you do your working sets for that exercise. e.g. 1 set of low incline pushups before your 3 set of full push-ups, 1 set of incline rows before your 3 sets of horizontal rows, etc.
For warm-up exercises related to specific joint areas that you want to work on (i.e. wrist mobility, shoulder prehab, etc.), it will be worth your time to do your own research and find some things that work for you rather than me giving something very general that might be helpful for a small proportion of people but a total waste of time for others. One area that you can search is in my mobility/prehab exercise library that comes with membership to the site, but its far from necessary if you are trying to avoid spending money. There’s free information all over the internet if you have the time and desire to look!
This program is best performed 3x per week, as written above. I repeat, It is recommended that you do this program 3x per week as originally written. Having said that, I know that for some people, due to scheduling reasons like not having much time per day to do it, or perhaps having a lot of time on a couple days, but no time on the rest, it is important to have options for how to get the same amount of work in for different schedules.
As a result I’ve made templates for 3x 4x and 6x per week training. They’re all volume matched to the main program so you won’t be training any more or less than if you did the standard 3x a week. The same weekly volume of work will simply be spread out or concentrated into the number of days you have chosen. This is not optimal, which is why 3x per week is recommended, but it is a completely reasonable option if it is needed based on your schedule.
The spreadsheet also contains a handy little log that you can use if you like. Below is an example of the 3x per week
Modifying the Program
By nature of this being a cookie cutter routine, I have tried to make it as applicable for everyone that fits the pre-requisite/inclusion criteria. I have also spend considerable time developing this program, and it exists in its current form for a reason, so if at all possible, please do the routine as it is written.
Having said that, I can already foresee the below eventualities for certain individuals. As such, I’ve provided some brief guidance on how best to modify the program if you absolutely have to.
Increasing Core Work Volume:
If you find that you want more core work in the routine, it’s perfectly fine to add another set of each exercise from the core exercises progression list to your training, regardless of the frequency template used. (e.g. if doing full body, doing 3 sets per exercise instead of 2. If doing 4x push pull, doing 4 sets per exercise instead of 3.)
You may also add other core exercises that you personally like if you have the time, energy and inclination.
Adding Dips into the Routine:
In other popular bodyweight training programs that use the ‘horizontal/vertical pushing and pulling’ heuristic to justify their exercise selection, dips are commonly cited (incorrectly, in my opinion) as a ‘vertical push’, and so you often see pushups and dips paired together. However, in reality, even though your body is moving up and down, vertically, Dips are far less of a vertical pushing movement and more similar to a decline bench press than anything actually vertical. Additionally, many people despite good form can experience pain around the costal cartilage around the sternum from doing them, and as such I’ve opted to leave them out of this routine, as it is intended to be applicable to the broadest spectrum of people and as such I’ve chosen the best risk:reward ratio option. This does not mean I believe dips are a bad exercise. If for whatever reason you absolutely love dips and have equipment to dip on, dips can be substituted in instead of push-ups once you have progressed past 3×10 horizontal push-ups with good form. This means you will have Dips + Pike Push-ups as your two ‘pushing’ exercises. I would not recommend swapping pike pushups out for dips, personally.
Can I do Paired Sets?
I personally prefer straight sets, so paired sets are not my standard recommendation if you have enough time to do the program as written.
I have always felt that paired sets sap ones ability to stay focused on a single exercise and the process of:
- film set
- watch video of set during rest, identifying form cues to adjust in next set
- perform next set, implementing those cues in mind
is invaluable to anyone, as no one’s technique is ever consistently perfect in the long term, especially with progressive overload. Paired sets do not facilitate that process quite as well.
Having said that, paired sets can be a good method of shortening sessions if you don’t have an abundance of time to train, as it allows you to do the same volume of training with more or less the same duration of rest.
For clarity, here is how straight sets work:
Pushups, rest 2 minutes, Push-ups, rest 2 minutes, Push-ups, rest 2 minutes. Done!
The way paired sets work is as follows:
Pushups, Rest 1 minute, Rows, Rest 1 minute, Push-ups, Rest 1 minute, Rows, Rest 1 minute, etc. until 3 sets of both exercises are complete
The outcome is that you still get 2 minutes of rest between sets of push-ups, but the whole program is condensed slightly, because while the initially exercised muscles are resting, you are exercising the opposite muscles.
The pairs for this routine are:
- Pike Push-ups and Pull-ups
- Push-ups and Rows
- Squats and Hinges or Bridges
- Deadbugs and Birddogs.
whatever the rest time is for each exercise, cut it in half when pairing to get the same rest time between sets of the same exercise.
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