4 bodyweight exercises to improve strength


  • The 1 Arm Push Up, 1 Arm Chin Up, Pistol Squat and the Middle Split Hold are exercises that will build full body strength with minimal equipment
  • The exercises mentioned requires full mobility, stability, and strength to execute with technical proficiency
  • Due to central and peripheral nervous system fatigue, do not attempt the mentioned routine more than three times a week and ensure 72 hours of full recovery before the next session

2020 is a year that will challenge the very fundamental routines in both work and life. With the whole lockdown due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, it is imperative that we as humans adapt to the ever changing sets of rules and evolve with it or pay the price.

If anything, this is the perfect time to get started, to explore things you never did because the reason of “no time” is clearly not an excuse anymore and for gym junkies, you clearly do not have a choice.

Without further ado, I am going to list an exercise for each muscle group that will not only challenge you to your limits but work every single muscle fiber in your body. This is the time to not only put your strength to the test to see where you are functionally, but also to try out new exercises out of your routine.

1 Arm Push Up:

The 1 Arm Push Up requires stability in the shoulders to maintain control upon descend and ascend. It also requires control in the torso and hips to maintain perfect alignment. The force needed to execute this movement is equivalent to almost 75% of your bodyweight in one hand. For pushing, nothing screams brute strength as much as the ability to do multiple clean 1 Arm Push Ups.


Regressions for the 1 Arm Push Up is first done by assisting with another hand as lightly as possible. An easier version is to execute the movement at a higher platform.

1 Arm Chin Ups:

Being able to do a proper pull up is a must regardless whether you are a male or female if you are into the strength game. Being able to do 1 Arm Chin Ups clearly demonstrates the incredible pulling strength one must posses.


Regressions for the 1 Arm Chin Up can be executed by using a supporting hand, like in the archer pull up, but with minimal assistance. An easier version is to do it seated on the floor utilizing the gymnastic rings as a huge portion of your body weight is now supported on the floor with your legs.

Pistol Squat:

While the Pistol Squat doesn’t require the amount of brute strength like the 1 Arm Push Up or 1 Arm Pull Up, it represents the perfect blend of lower extremity mobility, stability and decent strength to control the descend and ascend of the pistol squat.


Bench Pistol Squat

Regressions for the pistol squat can be done by sitting on an elevated platform like a bench. To make it easier, increase the height, to make it harder, decrease the height.

Middle Split Hold :

This exercise is chosen as the difficulty level is a combination of the 3 exercises above. That should speak volumes on how challenging it is to execute this movement correctly. It requires the lower traps to depress hard into the bars, intense effort from posterior deltoids and triceps to push the body away from the hands, more than decent enough mobility to split the legs apart and incredible hip flexors and glutes strength to pry the legs out into position in mid-air.


Regressions for the Middle Split Holds are the L-Sit (keep legs straight) and Tuck Sit (tuck knees to chest) which are executed by lowering the legs down and not pushing the body forward but rather keeping the torso close to the hands. If the L-Sit cannot be executed, the Tuck Sit can be done together with the compression holds.

The Program

You can perform this routine two to three times a week and not more than three for a duration of three weeks before moving on to a variation of the program. Due to the amount of fatigue it causes to the central and peripheral nervous systems, it is not recommended to do this routine for more than three times a week.

For progression, utilize the single progression method and increase 1 rep for A1, A2 and A3 with each week and add 2s to B1 for the isometric holds.

Pick a variation which corresponds to a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of 8 on each exercise

For a strength day, a sample routine can look like this:

A1 1 Arm Push Ups *                    5 x 3 **(3211), Rest 60s

A2 1 Arm Chin Ups*                      5 x 3 **(2112), Rest 60s

A3 Pistol Squats *                          5 x 3 **(3211), Rest 120s

B1 Middle Split Holds                   5 x 10s Isometric Contraction, Rest 90s


*Perform A1, rest 60s than A2, rest 60s than A3 before a full 120s of rest and repeat till all 5 sets are completed

**3211 means tempo of

3: 3 seconds on the eccentric or lengthening of the muscle

2: 2 seconds on the pause at the fully stretched position

1: 1 second on the concentric or shortening of the muscle

1: 1 second on the pause at the fully shortened position

Just training these 4 items together in a single day will cause central nervous system fatigue and peripheral nervous system fatigue such that the body will require the entire 72 hours to return back to normal.

Give these exercises a shot as an assessment to see where you stand. You will be surprised at how much strength and mobility you require to accomplish them.

Now you have got yourself a full body strength program without gym equipment required.

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