This post was made back in 2016. It is now very outdated and not up to date with the current RR. Check out the BWF Primer Routine for an up to date, free Bodyweight Fitness routine for total beginners
You may have noticed I do not have any bodyweight fitness routines on my website, and have instead suggested popular beginner programs on the internet such as this one; The Recommended Routine of Reddit’s /r/bodyweightfitness. Due to popular demand to do a tutorial running through this routine, I’m going to do just that and hope all of you reading this get as much utility from it as possible. More than anything, this will be a text based post with links to my other tutorials explaining more in depth on each exercise.
The timings alongside the headings are only even semi-accurate if you are going through the workout independently, moving swiftly between exercises and not reading this at the same time. The first time you try this while reading through this it will probably take an extra 20 or 30 minutes depending how thorough you want to be with learning.
Warm-Up (~5 Minutes)
(NOTE: This is the OLD warm-up for the Recommended Routine. I will update it soon!)
This little routine will make sure your joints are warmed up which is obviously always important for all exercise you do and passively help you build a little bit of mobility especially if you do this warm-up routine every morning, rather than just on workout days.
The video will provide visuals, the write-up will give a detailed summary of the points!
Do each of these drills 5-10 times (each side, if applicable), repeat 2 or 3 times, every time before your workout.
VID TIME: 0:06 – 0:42
Warms up your shoulders, and has an added benefit of strengthening your serratus anterior, improving scapular stability and upwards rotation of the scapula (good for overhead mobility!)
- Keep wrists, elbows, shoulders, lower back and butt on the wall.
- TRY to hold your ribs down but don’t worry too much about it. The lower back is more important.
- If too hard to do on the wall, then do on the floor.
- Additionally, if done on the floor, you can put mini plates or other weights (ankle weights? Books?) on your hands to intensify the stretch at the end range
VID TIME: 0:43 – 1:46
Fucking awesome, stretches everything in your shoulders and chest and its just great. Builds integrity in your shoulder joint in all 360 degrees range of motion, so it’s more stable all the time (which we all know is great for people seeking maximal flexibility, cos if you’ve got all the passive range in the world, you are gonna need some active range too, or your shoulder really WILL dislocate) ((Which reminds me, for anyone worried, this isn’t actually ‘dislocating’ your shoulder in the injury sense of the word. Don’t worry!)) AND it helps slowly improve overhead shoulder flexibility anyway!
- Protract as you come up, Elevate as you get overhead, retract as you come behind your back, and depress as you lower the stick to your lower back/as far as your wrist flexibility will allow you to go (which reminds me of the next point)
- If using a stick, grip the stick with your whole hand. None of this 3 or 2 finger business. This will have the added benefit of also giving you some extra wrist flexibility. (Radial deviation, I believe? Someone correct me!)
- Keep your lumbar spine (your lower back) neutral. If you are having to arch your lumbar then you are gripping too narrow on your stick, or are using too strong of a band
- Keep those reps slow! You’re not late for a date, here! Don’t jerk through the movement. If an area is tight, sit there every rep for a second or two. Go slower, not faster.
VID TIME: 1:47 – 2:33
What a lovely opportunity to practice posterior/anterior pelvic tilt which is important for literally everything. Strengthens and builds better range in scapular protraction and retraction, good for thoracic flexion and extension quite gently, and warms up the ol’ neck-a-roony.
- Cat Cow is broken into 4 main parts. Neck flexion/extension, Thoracic Flexion/Extension, Scapular Protraction/Retraction, and Anterior/Posterior Pelvic Tilt
- Do those step by step at first to ensure you are getting the most range you can, and then do them all in sync once you are comfortable
- Point your shoulders, hips, face at the spot below your belly button on the floor in Cat, and try to touch the back of your head to your booty in Cow.
Full Body Circles
VID TIME: 2:34 – 3:01
Warms up like your entire spine (scientific term right there), hamstrings and most importantly, your QLs (Quadratus Lumborum) which is super important for people who don’t do a lot of side bending, because otherwise this relatively unknown and unloved muscle will rarely if ever get stretched and warmed up.
- Keep your knees soft, don’t be afraid to bend them when you roll downwards if you don’t have very flexible hammies/calves
- Hands on back of head or overhead
Front Leg Swings
VID TIME: 3:02 – 3:37
Warms up the hip flexors (the ones that flex your hip. The ones that are tight because you sit all the time, you lazy lump) and hamstrings. Makes you look like a ninja, but not too much.
- Don’t compensate with your lower back. minimise the movement to just moving at the hip. No knee or back action, thank you very much.
- Legs locked straight, ankle hooked up to put a stretch on the calves and make the hamstring taut.
- Do not kick or bend your leg at any time.
Side Leg Swings
VID TIME: 3:38 – 4:11
Warms up your booty (glutes) and adductors (muscles on the inner side of your thigh). Makes you look like a Ballerina.
- Bring the leg across your body before you swing out
- When you swing out, turn out your foot so the toes point to the sky, or you will catch your femur in your hip socket, have like HALF the ROM and be in pain.
- Same as fronts. Leg straight, ankle hooked, no kicking.
Bodyline Drills: (~10 min)
Why do I have to do this part of the Routine?:
As a beginner, you need these. I’m not going to lie to you, I think they are boring, you think they are boring, it’s because they are boring. However, if you put in the work as a beginner and get to an easy 60s hold of each of them your progress in everything will be so much better, and this part of the routine will literally fly by. These drills all build a degree of proprioceptive awareness that is necessary for skills like the handstand, planche, front lever, back lever and more.
Proprioceptive awareness is just a fancy word for ‘awareness of the position of your body in space’, e.g. ‘what direction is my pelvis tilting’ ‘are my hips forward of my shoulders or behind them vertically?’. You need to master this when you are on your feet because when you are upside down or straining, if you haven’t ingrained this into your very soul, you won’t be able to do it so well.
For all of these, you are aiming for a single 60 second hold each. To progress this you can follow this template roughly:
3x10s –> 3x15s –> 3x20s –> 2x30s –> 2x45s –> 1x60s
I would rest MAX 1 minute between holds. Ideally, resting after one set of each exercise, so you have 3 minutes rest overall. Otherwise this will be too time consuming.
Try to progress every session and test you MAX hold once a week (e.g. set the ‘bodyline max testing day’ in your routine to every Monday.)
Above is a video explaining the plank. For more details, here is an article explaining the Plank if you prefer to read rather than watch: PLANK TUTORIAL
Tutorial Summary Checklist:
- Protracted Scapula
- No saggy or tenting hips
- Posteriorly Tilted Pelvis
- Shoulders stacked vertically over your hands
- Head Neutral
- Legs Straight
- Don’t let your hips sag or tent, but rather position them in a way that it would not look like you are slouching in either direction if you were standing straight up
- Head neutral, don’t kink it upwards
- Depressed scapula, actively pushing away from the floor as far as you can
- Stack the hips vertically over each other. Too far rotated in either direction and you will be VERY unstable and will be making it unnecessarily difficult and won’t help your body line proprioception as much
I have a tutorial explaining this in depth here: Arch/Hollow Tutorial
I have a video also explaining this in depth:
In Summary, the hollow is progressed with a tuck, straddle then full lay. To perform it, your lower back should be glued to the floor by tilting your pelvis ‘posteriorly’ and your upper back should come off the ground like you are doing a crunch.
In summary, the arch is performed by arching your back with your arms overhead and lifting your legs in the air by squeezing your butt muscles and pressing your hips into the ground (For guys: if your junk hurts, you are lifting your upper body too much in relation to your legs. Either don’t arch so hard or lift your legs higher.)
If you find the hollow hold too difficult to do properly, learning the dead bug is an easy and less static way of developing the same skills!
This is not only a good bodyline drill but a nice gentle shoulder extension stretch/warm-up.
- Legs Straight
- Push hips up as high as you can
- Actively depress and retract your shoulders to push the floor away from you
- Forward, Sideways or Backwards Hands. Whichever is most comfortable
Skill Work: (~10 minutes)
This part of the routine is great because on top of the listed things, (Support and Handstand) there are so many things you can learn and mess around with, that I’ve listed at the bottom of this section.
The Handstand is a very complicated movement to teach and so the bulk of the detailed information in this section will be explained in another page, in the COMPLETE HANDSTAND GUIDE (COMING SOON). However, as always the movements will be summarised here and a video will be linked to provide more info.
For this routine, you want to spend 5-10 minutes practicing your handstand progression of choice.
VID TIME: 0:30
SAME AS CHEST TO WALL.
Chest To Wall Static:
VID TIME: 4:13
- Arms Locked out
- Stacked Hands/Shoulders
- Shrug Shoulders to your Ears
- Push Chest towards the wall to open shoulders
- Flatten your ribs down by contracting your abs
- Squeeze your butt and tilt your pelvis posteriorly
- Lock legs, squeeze them together, and point your toes
VID TIME: 1:48
To help you learn how to balance forward, or correct from an underbalance (falling back)
- ‘Planche’ the shoulders
- Keep your back tight and rigid (do not pike, or the toe pull will not happen)
- DO NOT KICK
VID TIME: 3:17
To help you learn how to balance backwards, or correct from an overbalance (falling forwards)
- Pike at the hips
- Push with the fingers
VID TIME: 4:47
To help you learn how to bring the toe pull and hell pull techniques together,
- Assume the position by entering a wall plank, then walking your hands in without moving your feet up, so you pike slightly, then extend one leg above you.
- Toe Pull to bring the other foot off the wall, then bring your legs together and bring your other leg back to the wall.
- Heel Pull if you ever feel like you are overbalancing.
VID TIME: (COMING SOON)
- Kick up and find your balance point.
- Use Toe Pulls and Heel Pulls to balance.
- The only difference between here and scissor kicks is learning to kick up properly (the topic of the next video, coming soon)
The support hold is explained in detail in my Dip Tutorial
- Straight arms with elbow pits forward
- Shoulders Depressed
- ‘Big Chest’
- Slightly Hollow
- Straight legs, pointed toes.
Can be done on any surface explained in the tutorial if you are at home, or if you have access, Parallel bars and then Gymnastic Rings.
If you want, you can also add other skill work in at this point. Here are some examples of things you can train:
Strength Work (~40 Minutes)
The following section of the routine is showing gifs with brief points about form for each progression in each exercise. Bear in mind these are all the progressions of a certain section in order of easiest to hardest.
You are not expected to do all of them in a row. You are meant to do the hardest one you can do atleast 3 sets of 5 reps of only, in each section.
Every workout you will want to try increasing each exercise by one rep per set every workout. e.g. 3×5 on monday, so 3×6 on wednesday. If you are struggling, increase by one rep per exercise if you can, e.g. 5,5,5 –> 6,5,5.
You should rest 90 seconds inbetween sets.
The exercises are paired because it gives you enough rest between exercises without wasting time. e.g. Pullups, rest 90 seconds, pullups, rest 90 seconds, pullups. VS 1 set of pullups, then 90 sec rest, then 1 set of dips, then 90 second rest, then 1 set of pull-ups, then 90 second rest, then 1 set of dips, and so on. The former gives 90 seconds rest between sets and the latter gives 3 minutes between rest (which is much better, as it gives the muscles enough time to replenish their ATP stores, which are the things in your body that let you do stuff.). This allows for less loss of strength between sets, so higher training volume. For clarity. Rest 90 seconds between EACH SET. Do not do this: Pullups, Dips, Rest 90 seconds, Pullups, Dips.
I have a tutorial covering the basic pull-up in depth (here). For brevity and to avoid repeating myself a lot, you can read about it there and I will just provide the progressions that are listed in the routine here with GIFs[expand title=”Click here for the Pull-up Progression”]
- Hold the top position with your chin clearly over the bar for at least one ‘mississippi second’ at the beginning of each rep. Do not start descending as soon as you jump up.
- Maintain body-line rigidity. Squeeze legs together and straight, point toes, keep hollow.
- Keep a steady tempo
- A good goal for the Descent can be anywhere between 5-10 seconds but try to keep it consistent between sets
- Refer to the tutorial for detailed tips
- Maintain Bodyline rigidity.
- Lock out every bottom, collar bones to the bar every top. Do not excessively crane your neck just to get your ‘chin over the bar’
- Ensure you hang actively (pull your scapula down) during the movement, whether or not you revert to a passive hang in between reps.
- Do your best to reduce momentum.
- Same as Pull-ups.
- Do not let your legs break parallel with the floor.
I think this is a weird progression to put into this sequence of vertical pulling exercise because I view it more as a horizontal pulling exercise and recommend being able to do Tuck FL rows by the time you try this but you may be able to do it before.
- Essentially an inverted pull-up.
- Pull until your hips are over the bar then globally extend (shoot your legs out and arch slightly) and pull a little more
I have a tutorial covering the Dip and how to progress it in depth (here). For brevity and to avoid repeating myself a lot, you can read about it there and I will just provide the progressions that are listed in the routine here with GIFs[expand title=”Click here for the Dip Progression”]
- Keep rings close to your body.
- Keep body in a straight line (do not break at the hips)
Squatting:[expand title=”Click here to see the Squat Progression”]
- Use your hands for as much balance or assistance as you need but over time, slowly reduce the amount of force you put on the supported object until you are doing it all on your own.
- Keep your back straight, hips back and chest big
- Shoulder width feet
- Keep core and lower back tight (minimise ‘butt wink’)
- Track knees along middle toes (do not let them collapse inwards)
- Keep your chest big (thoracically extend) and dont let it collapse in so you slouch (good for learning how to keep tight for when you add weight so you don’t kill yourself)
Step up/Deep Step Up
- Minimise the amount you use your back leg to push off or use a hip thrust for extra momentum
I have a tutorial covering the L-sit in depth (here). For brevity and to avoid repeating myself a lot, you can read about it there and I will just provide the progressions that are listed in the routine here with GIFs[expand title=”Click here to see the L-sit Progressions”]
- Legs straight, chest big, butt off the ground. That’s all.
- Hands past the midway of your thigh, or atleast past your butt.
- Compress, do not lean back.
- Legs straight toes pointed, enjoy the leg cramp
- Legs bent at 45 to 90 degrees, not tucked straight to chest.
- Push hips forward through the gap made between your arms
- Legs straight, hips through, toes pointed, chest big.
I have a tutorial covering the Push-up in depth (here). For brevity and to avoid repeating myself a lot, you can read about it there and I will just provide the progressions that are listed in the routine here with GIFs[expand title=”Click here to see the Push-up progression”]
- Go on as high or as low of an object to make it as easy or hard as you need it do be, but don’t go needlessly high. It should still be hard.
- Refer to the form points in the tutorial
- Be aware that you may not be able to get your chest to the floor. Do not arch to get your chest to the floor. Just go chin to floor or do them on push-up bars to get deeper.
- Even though its not ‘RTO’, turn the rings out at the top of every rep, just don’t maintain the turnout through the movement.
- Maintain the turnout throughout the whole movement.
RTO PPPU and PPPU:
- Lean forward, protract the shoulders, maintain a hollow. Rings should come down by your hips, or closer to your hips than your chest.
(Excuse the lack of RTU PPPU Gif. I could not do one with very good form as I have never trained them)[/expand]
I briefly explain how to do the first two progressions of rows at home with a Table if you do not have access to a bar or rings in my Pull-up Tutorial (here).[expand title=”Click here to see the Row Progression”]
Incline Rows/Bent Leg Rows:
- Come up more onto your feet/come to an incline if you are using rings
- Bend your legs if you are using a bar or a table
- Or do both. E.g. if you are using a bar rig for rings which you cannot lean so far back on without it tipping, so you incline a bit, but then also bend your legs.
Ground Rows/Straight Body Rows
- Stay flat close to the ground if using rings with a straight body
- Straighten your legs if you are using a bar or table, keep a straight body.
- Pull the rings or table to your chest
Once those get easy, or if you don’t want to do Wide Rows, you can do them at a decline as well, so that your body is straight at the top of the row rather than the bottom:
- Same thing as above but pulling wider.
- Prerequisite: Elbows to Knees Leg raises –> Tuck Front Lever Raises
- Stay parallel to the ground. Record yourself if necessary.
Tuck FL Icecream Makers:
- Chin over the bar at the top every rep
- Lock out at the bottom
- Keep your back parallel to the ground
Tuck FL Rows:
Adv Tuck FL Rows:[/expand]
Was that confusing? Don’t worry! Especially as a beginner that was probably a massive information overload and you’d only really be expected to absorb like 10% of that the first time you read it, but it’s intended to be not only a tutorial but a kind of ‘reference book’ in the next few months of your training so you never have any questions that go unanswered in reference to the routine.
If you did not quite understand how to form a routine out of this jumble of stuf, here is a brief summary:
- Do EVERYTHING in the warm-up, bodyline drills and skill work.
- Pick the hardest progression of each exercise you can do atleast 3 sets of 5 reps of with good form.
- Within each pair, do alternate sets of either exercise. e.g. Exercise A, Rest 90s, Exercise B, Rest 90s, Exercise A, Rest 90s, Exercise B, Rest 90s
- If you are struggling, give yourself double rest time (3min) in between Pairs. e.g. 3 min rest after you have finished pull-ups and dips, but before you start squats and L-sits.
Good luck! If you have any questions, contact me via the ‘Contact page’ or Comment!
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