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Bodyweight Training for Weightlifters: 10 Exercises to Master

By Mike Dewar - | March 18, 2020, 12:16 p.m. (ET)

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Weightlifters, like most athletes, need to have a fundamental level of fitness, often expressed as General Physical Preparedness (GPP). Encapsulated within GPP training is the ability to have a fundamental level of fitness: strength, muscle mass, coordination, flexibility, mobility, and movement quality. Athletes with higher levels of GPP often have smoother transitions into more competitive and intense training cycles, allowing for more well-rounded muscular development, enhanced movement, and increased injury resilience.


Bodyweight training are amazing movements for Olympic weightlifters, offering (and strength and fitness athletes) quality increases in train volume, mobility, and overcoming imbalances and weaknesses. Mastering these fundamental bodyweight training exercises, and adding them into your current training routine can lead to increases in muscular development, movement quality, and GPP.


This upper body mass building exercise is an excellent way to increase pressing and lock out strength. Added triceps mass will only help lifters and athletes in lockout and pressing movements.

Strict Handstand Push Up

This challenging shoulder exercise mimics the same patterning of a jerk/press from a front rack. Increase scapular control and trap strength are also seen when done correctly. Additional this movement can strengthen mobile wrists and improve shoulder stability.

Tiger Push Up

Although some coaches and athletes refrain from bench pressing movements, these push up variations are a great way to maintain balance and build muscle for various pressing movements. The addition of horizontal push exercises (as opposed to vertical pushing exercises like overhead presses, hand stand push ups, etc) creates a well-rounded athlete. I really like the tiger push up since it allows scapular training as well.

Although some coaches and athletes refrain from bench pressing movements, these push up variations are a great way to maintain balance and build muscle for various pressing movements. The addition of horizontal push exercises (as opposed to vertical pushing exercises like overhead presses, hand stand push ups, etc) creates a well-rounded athlete.

Pull Up (and the many variations)

The lats play a critical role in pulling movements. Strong lats are needed for Olympic weightlifting, squatting, pulling, and pressing. The additional scpaular pull ups, straight arm pull ups (levers), and other variations will help to diversify your pulling strength.

Inverted Row

Inverted rowing helps improve grip strength, lower back and hip stability, asymmetries. Similar to Pendlay Rows, this strict rowing movement can also improve general back strength and health.

Pistol Squat

Ankle, knee, and hip mobility are needed throughout weightlifting movements. The ability to train and restore full range of motion per leg (unilateral training) can help strengthen individual legs and correct any asymmetries that otherwise would be neglected from solely doing squats.

Cossack Squat

The Cossack squat provides us with a multi-planar means to improving ankle, knee, and hip health, at the same time. Additionally, this exercise allows lifters to restore full range of motion, improve connective tissue health, and enhanced end range control, all of which are extremely beneficial for increased neuromuscular awareness and joint mobility/stability.


A gymnastic staple, the challenging core exercise challenges the isometric strength of the core, hip flexor, legs, and back.

Hanging Leg Raise

Targeted core training while hanging to develop muscle and increase midline stability. Abdominal strength and endurance is needed for nearly all movements, including; squats, deadlifts, sprinting, and deep breathing.

Chinese Plank

Why do these instead of regular planks you may ask? The additional range of motion and control needed to perform both plank variations is unparalleled. With the torso fully extended and not supported by the upper body the athlete is challenged to stabilize the core, minimize lumbar extension, and maintain a contracted back.

Final Words

Mastering these fundamental bodyweight exercises will allow coaches and athletes add training volume and increase GPP throughout the year to enhance to overall performance. When determining best practices, be sure to discuss with the athlete to make sure there are no special considerations (injuries, limitations, concerns) to get the best results.

Additional take from Darren Shane, Yoga & Fitness Instructor at YYoga:

“Bodyweight Training and the many exercises that can be performed with virtually no equipment and no space limitations make it a staple for all fitness and health goers. The beauty of bodyweight training is it can be very easily progressed and regressed to a users fitness level, examples including:

– Air Squats vs. Jump Split Squats
– Knee Push-ups vs 1 Arm Push-ups
– Bent Knee Bench Dips vs Suspended Dips

The list of exercises and variations to each movement can be geared towards ones fitness goals and activities they are involved in. Adding additional external training tools with your own bodyweight can create new exercises and challenges to move past plateaus and to further develop strength, balance and movement based skills. These training tools include Weighted Vests, Ankle Weights, Suspension Trainers and others equipment that are low cost compared to large Functional Trainers and Yearly Gym memberships.

Out for a run? Why not add in a few squats, lunges, pushups, dips, bench step-ups as a method of cross training and adding additional strength movements to a pure cardiovascular run or walk. When i’m out for a long or quick run I look for Bus stops and do a short circuit of approximately 10 – 20 repetitions of pushups, squats, dips and step-ups as a way to break up my cardio workout and challenge the full body.

Bodyweight training is for everyone and can be a great way to stay in shape when traveling, for home workouts and for those who don’t feel comfortable exercising in a gym.”

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

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