By Todd Kuslikis Breaking Muscle
The workout split has become extremely popular and the go-to plan of choice for many exercise enthusiasts. It makes sense to divide your body into parts because this is how many gyms are laid out. The chest equipment is in one spot and leg exercise equipment are in another.
Certainly there is a time and place for split workout plans, such as working your chest/tris on Monday, back/bis on Tues, legs on Wed, and so on. But from a functional perspective, it makes more sense to exercise your body as a unit. Think about it this way. When you isolate your body into parts, you miss out on developing whole body strength or strengthening your body as a unit.
Today, I’m going to teach you five of my favorite advanced bodyweight exercises to help you build whole body strength. These exercises will recruit your arms, shoulders, chest/back, core, and leg all at once. These are challenging exercises, so if you are a beginner, I recommend not starting off with them.
1. Wall Walks
Wall walks are an incredible exercise for developing strength throughout your body and even targeting the muscles in your spine. You’ll develop great mobility and whole body strength when you perform this movement. The further you go down, the harder it will be.
How to do it:
- Start facing away from the wall, with your feet about two feet away from it.
- Begin to arch backward and place your hands on the wall.
- Walk down the wall while arching deeper and deeper into the exercise.
- If you can get your hands on the floor, great. If not, don’t worry – you have something to work toward.
- Use your legs and core to come back to starting position.
It’s important to warm up before doing this exercise. If you go too far, too soon, you can injure your back, hips or shoulders. Do some mobility work beforehand such as cat stretches and spinal twists.
Go slowly. This is exercise develops great strength and you want to control the movement as you come down.
2. Spider Crawl Exercise
This is a unique whole body exercise and is especially great for developing mobility in your shoulders. It may look a little funny, but who cares? Besides, that’s one of the benefits to bodyweight exercises – you can do them privately in your own home.
How to do it:
- Get down on the ground in a push up position.
- Lower yourself all the way to the ground so your torso is about two or three inches from the ground. Your goal during the entire duration of the exercise will be to keep your torso as low as you can without touching the ground.
- Begin to crawl forward by rotating your hips and reaching forward. You will look like a spider as you crawl.
If you can’t keep your body low the entire time, that’s okay. Start off higher. Keep your body one or two feet from the ground and work on getting lower over time.
While you perform this exercise, notice how much mobility you get in your hips and shoulders. If you are stiff, the exercise will be harder to perform. As your mobility improves you’ll be able to perform this exercise much easier.
3. Full Bridge Exercise
This exercise is popular in the wrestling community and develops incredible strength in the spinal erector muscles in your back. However, I must place a huge warning on this exercise: if you have neck injuries it can cause them to get worse. You must warm up fully and have a relatively strong neck to begin with before you perform this exercise.
How to do it:
- Get down on the ground with your back on the floor.
- Bring your heels up close to your butt and then roll up onto your head.
- Arch up as high as you can and hold it for a length of time. The longer you hold it, the harder it will be.
Again, make sure to warm up your neck before beginning this exercise. If you notice any pain in your neck while performing this exercise, stop immediately.
This exercise will also engage your hamstrings, so consciously tightening them and giving a good squeeze will help engage them even more during the exercise.
If you are a beginner, you can start off with the normal bridge where you are not resting on your head. You rest on your upper back.
4. Bridge Push Up
This exercise is similar to the full bridge, but it also engages your arms and shoulders. If you have poor mobility in your shoulders it will give you a run for your money.
How to do it:
- As with the full bridge, you’ll start off with your back on the ground.
- Place your heels up into your butt.
- Then place your hands by your head and lift up off the ground. Get as high as you possibly can.
- Lower yourself down until your head touches the floor then press back up.
- Do as many reps as you can, then lower yourself completely to the ground.
This exercise can cause a lot of strain on your wrists. Make sure you perform mobility work on your wrists before doing the exercise.
Try to keep your pelvis as high as you can while performing this movement. It will engage the back more effectively and make the exercise more challenging.
5. X Push Up
This is one of my favorite exercises because it is challenging and strengthens your arms, shoulders, chest, back, core, legs, and even calves.
How to do it:
- Start off in a normal push up position.
- Spread your legs out wide so they are 1.5 times your shoulder width (or wider).
- Do the same with your hands but make sure they are also elevated superior to your head.
- While keeping your back straight, lower down to the ground.
- Press back up and repeat as many times as you can.
Keep your back straight the entire time. As you get tired you’ll want to either slump your pelvis down or stick it in the air. Resist both of these urges and tighten your core.
Bring your hands and feet out wider to make the exercise more challenging and bring them in closer to your midline to make the exercise easier.
Whole Body Is Functional
Whole body exercises allow you to strengthen your body as a unit. This type of strength translates into functional strength that can be used in our everyday lives: picking up groceries, playing with children, and enjoying sports.
Very few tasks in our daily lives call for isolating muscles so why do we workout that way? Try these whole body exercises and you’ll notice more strength translating into your everyday life.