The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Equipment to Strength Train Anywhere

Written by
Michael Harper, MEd
Posted in
Fit Tips

Friday, May 30, 2014

Body weight and resistance band exercises can help create a traveling gym to allow you to fit in a workout anywhere. To provide long term benefit, regardless of equipment availability, it is important that exercises continue to challenge the body progressively.

In a traditional weight room, it is fairly easy to adjust the resistance. However, when performing body weight and resistance band exercises, it may not be as simple as grabbing a heavier dumbbell. As a result, many resort to simply increasing the number of repetitions or sets when there are many other ways to progress exercises.

Progressing body weight exercises is often only limited by one’s own imagination, as long as the progressions are safe and challenge the body. A number of common variations that can be utilized with body weight exercises include:

  • Changing lever arm length – such as going from a modified push-up on the knees to a full push-up. During a modified push-up, 53.56% of body weight is supported in the up position and 61.80% is supported in the down position (Cogley, et al., 2005). Changing to a full push-up, requires 69.16% of bodyweight to be supported in the up position and 75.04% to be supported in the down position. Another example might include placing the arms overhead during an abdominal crunch to make the torso longer.
  • Changing angle of exercise or elevating a limb – such as performing a push-up with feet elevated on a box. Performing push-ups with feet on a 6″ box compared to feet on the ground has been shown to increase force applied against the ground during a push-up by 10% (Ebben, et al., 2011). Performing an abdominal crunch on a decline compared to flat on the ground would also be an example.
  • Changing Range of Motion – such as progressing from a half push-up to a full push-up or from a half squat to a full squat, doing a step-up on a taller step, or performing a full sit-up versus an abdominal crunch.
  • Changing rest times – decreasing rest time does not allow the body as much recovery and has been shown to cause higher levels of perceived exertion during exercise. However, this may decrease number of repetitions that can be done as a result of the shorter rest (Senna, et al., 2011).

Cogley, R.M., Archambault, T.A., Fibeger, J.F., Koverman, M.M., Youdas, J.W., Hollman, J.H.; Comparison of Muscle Activation Using various Hand Positions During the Push-up Exercise. J Strength Cond Res 19: 628-633, 2005.

Ebben, WP, Wurm, B, VanderZanden, TL, Spadavecchia, ML, Durocher, JJ, Bickham, CT, and Petushek, EJ. Kinetic analysis of several variations of push-ups. J Strength Cond Res 25(10): 2891–2894, 2011

Senna, G, Willardson, JM, de Salles, BF, Scudese, E, Carneiro, F, Palma, A, and Simão, R. The effect of rest interval length on multi and single-joint exercise performance and perceived exertion. J Strength Cond Res 25(11): 3157–3162, 2011