Bodyweight Exercise Fat Loss

Bodyweight Training For Bodybuilders & Athletes?

As luck would have it, this Winter I had the good fortune of meeting a fantastic and extremely knowledgeable trainer from NYC, John Romaniello, author of Final Phase Fat Loss. We were both in Tampa at Joel Marion’s Transformation Domination event. Through a series of enriching conversations, each of us picked up a whole slew of new ideas to apply with our clients. Since then we’ve been able to keep the discussion going and the exchange flowing. Roman has graciously agreed to share some of his ideas on bodyweight training with you.


Starting my training career as an athlete, I was introduced to bodyweight training almost immediately; from the time I first stepped onto a wresting mat or jog out onto a football field, push-ups, crunches and jump squats were a part of my life. Perhaps because I was exposed to them early and told I wasn’t “ready” for weights, I developed a strange sort of prejudice where, despite all of my formal education, on some level I came to consider bodyweight training a “beginners” modality.   In retrospect, I am embarrassed by how wrong I was.

When I injured both an elbow and knee in an accident, after therapy I decided that a good way to “break back in” to training would be with bodyweight stuff.  Once I was ready, I’d hit the weights.

After one session, I was thoroughly humiliated by my own performance.  Later that week, I constructed 4 bodyweight routines and was cycling them over a week.That was about seven years ago.  Since that time, I’ve made bodyweight training pretty much a mainstay for both my clients and myself.  While I certainly don’t think I’ll ever lose my meathead love of the iron, I now appreciate BW training and have worked to maximize it with my clients.

And while I’ve always appreciated the results, on some level I felt it was a little boring.  No longer.

In the past year, I’ve come to know a lot of the more innovative (and successful) bodyweight “specialists” like Craig Ballantyne, Doctor Kareem, and of course Coach Steer.   I’m shameless in my thievery from guys like this; partially because it saves me the trouble of having to be creative, but moreso because I’d be in idiot if I didn’t learn what I could from the experts and put it into practice alongside my own stuff.

In my facility in New York, I train a lot of different types of clients, ranging from post-pregnancy moms hoping to become MILFs all the way to professional athletes, and while of course no two programs are alike, one thing that is consistent with most of my clients is that I integrate a nice mixture of bodyweight stuff and external loading.

So that’ the “what.”  The “how,” of course, is going to be a bit dependent on the “who” and the “why.”

Here is a quick break down of the top 3 ways I integrate bodyweight stuff into training for specific types of clients.

Method 1

WHO: Athlete Returning from Off-Season

I wish it was different, but sadly most athletes (even the higher level guys) take a good part of the off-season… well, off.  They come to be about 8 weeks before they’re expected to return to camp and need to get back into shape.

HOW: In most cases, I start them with bodyweight-only training for about a week. We focus on form and primarily use a mixture of unilateral exercises, explosive exercises, and agility drills. Weeks 2 and 3 we generally two do bodyweight workout, and one full body weighted workout.  Weeks 4, 5 and 6 we take a bit, transition into an upper body (weighted) a lower body (weighted) day, and then a bodyweight day.  For weeks 7 and 8, the goal is complete integration: 3-4 workouts each mixing in bodyweight and load bearing exercises.

WHY: When deconditioned athletes come in from 2-4 months of sitting around, honestly, most of them can’t perform for crap.  Not only do we often have to worry most about strength, we also have to be concerned with strength endurance.

Moreover, because most elite level athletes are generally going to have a very high level of strength, even starting with their off-season weights can be dangerous, as they are lacking efficiency and can compromise joint health

By starting them at bodyweight, we can train with pretty high reps without risk of injury, while at the same time getting heart rate elevated.

As they build muscular endurance and increase lactate threshold, we can slowly push them towards weighted exercises without them a) vomiting or b) screwing anything up because they forgot how to bench press and just muscle the weight up.

Bodyweight training allows me to create a training effect with these athletes while we get their bodies (especially joints) ready to handle the loads they’ll need to work with in order to get back to game-ready form.

Method 2

Bodyweight training is a secret fat loss weapon


WHO: General Fat Loss Client

For these clients, let’s assume they have no injuries and are just not seeing the results they want.

HOW: In this case, we’ll generally train with weights once per week (if they’ve been consistently training) and bodyweight twice per week for about a month. Going forward from there, we’ll move to a weight and bodyweight hybrid.

WHY: The goal with fat loss clients is always to lose weight and bodyfat in the fastest but safest way.  Utilizing bodyweight training initially provides a different stimulus than either weighted stuff or interval work, allowing for a larger variety of exercises and training conditions.

Not to mention, because you can transition seamlessly from exercises to exercise and from a “muscle exercise” (push up) to a “conditioning exercise” (mountain climbers) it isn’t hard to see how this leads to pretty rapid fat loss.

One of my favorite things in this instance is the immediate increase in exercise selection.  Off the top of my head, I can think of maybe 6 different variations of the lunge, most of which are more suitable to training without weights.  Not only does this make my job easier as a coach, but also keeps the training fresh and the client motivated.

ALL of those factors weigh heavily into the results equation.

Method 3

WHO: The Weight Lifter Who’s Stopped Making Gains

This is the situation I see the most often; fairly big guy wanting to get bigger hasn’t grown in 6 months.  Of course we address diet and all other factors, but I like to get BW training in right away.

HOW: With this guy, screw integration.  He’s been doing the same stuff for 2 years, and needs some time off from the repetitive nature of his training.  With such a client, I do FOUR straight weeks of bodyweight only training before transitioning back into heavy lifting.

WHY:  Simply put, chances are this guy isn’t as in touch with his body if he thinks he is.  If he really is doing “everything right” in terms of both training and nutrition, we have to assume there is a disconnect somewhere.

In my experience, growth stagnation stems from stagnant training.  That is, he needs to change things up, and as drastically as possible.  Of course, bodyweight training fits the bill.

However, it’s effective for other reasons as well. One of the things I notice about clients of this nature is how “locked up” they are.  That is, they’re a bit stiff in their movement patterns; while I don’t need to get into a lengthy description of pattern overload, suffice it to say training in singular planes isn’t great for your nervous system over the long haul.

Enter bodyweight training for strength.  Here, we can get our guy moving in all sorts of different directions, as well as make tiny variations that we don’t have the option to do with traditional training.  Even something as small as offsetting one hand during push-ups will give the client a different training stimulus than that to which he’s accustomed.

More importantly, and for my clients who want to gain muscle this is really the main thing…there are just very important neurological adaptations that occur when you switch from training with weights to training with bodyweight.

That is, by replacing open chain kinetic exercises (bench press) with closed chain kinetic exercise (push ups) this trainee is going to stimulate his nervous system in a completely new way; this in and of itself it likely to push the client towards new growth.

In addition, he’ll be deconditioned from loaded training, and when he goes back to that (after the initially re-learning) he is likely to experience a good amount of supercompensation in response to what is now “new” stimulus.

Not only do we get him growing… we do it twice.

So there you have it.  Three ways I incorporate BW training into my programs for various types of clients.  And although I’m getting good results, the more I learn from masters like Coach Steer, the better results I get. I’m excited to continue to learn, and I hope you are too.


About the author



    • Gravity hasn’t always been my friend, but, you’re right Carey, BW exercise is helping to change that! 🙂 Along with moving toward my fat loss goal, I’m looking forward to also getting more definition to my “elderly arms” thanks to my new found “friends”! 🙂

      Thanks Coach Steer, for inviting Coach Romaniello to share – very helpful.

  • great bodyweight training….it’s part of what makes fitness bootcamp/military training so effective. As a former bodybuilder I never thought I’d say that 10 years ago…but even then Methods 2 and 3 mentioned in article played a role.

  • Great article. I like combining body weight with kettlebells (and would love to see Coach Steer create a KB-BW Fuzion workout). As a person prone to reoccurring hip/knee/ITB problems I now feel stronger since doing KBs and the unique BW exercises from the programs Coach Steer and Ryan create and there is barely a traditional squat in the workout!
    I wish my physical therapist just had me do foam rolling, KB swings and TGUs:)


  • I use mainly bodyweight exercises supplemented by clubbells and light indian clubs, smattering of kettlebells and some weight vest training. I am 6’2, 220 and 50 yrs old. At age 46 I had been transitioning to bodyweight exercises and after months off weights and doing many hundreds of hindu squats and other bodyweight exercises I did a workout with weights – on leg press on my 5th set I was using 1,300 lbs – had never gone that heavy before even though I have very powerful legs. My conclusion – bodyweight exercises win hands down over weights.

    • Great story Randy!! I think a big part of it is the neuro-muscular development that comes with challenging bodyweight variations. Can’t wait to see what you do next! 🙂

  • Great article on showing why it is important to do BW exericses with your weight training.

  • Great post, roman. Once again, you exhibit your difference from the typical bodybuilder who thinks that BW exercises are for beginners and weaklings. Ask these people to perform obe-armed pushups and they’d often not be able to even perform one good rep; challenge them to chinups (nevermind a one-armed pullup) and they’d be stuck in the dead hang position! People like you and Vince delmonte are really pioneers in your field!

    Do you have specific advice that enables guys to increase their pullup max reps? As they are arguably the most challenging bilateral BW exercise, I know you typically get asked this a lot.

    P.S.: I’m a friend of yours on fb, so here goes: awesome, smart, confident. Also, none of your typical outspokenness!

  • Thanks for more info. I love reading ideas on doing workouts. It keeps things interesting and new.

  • Awesome stuff Mr Romanizzle, beginning to see that you’ve incorporated some of the stuff in my program. Works wonders if you ask me, and a great challenge with all the variations. It’s functional strength we are going for after, and what better way to achieve that then by mastering BW exercises?

    Keep the good stuff coming my man

  • “Wow, this was a really informative post! It’s too bad Roman is kind of an asshole and thinks he’s so good-looking, or it would be even more awesome! Thanks”

    (how’s that?)

  • Hey Guys…

    Great post! A big “high five” to both of you!

    During my recovery from a serious motorcycle accident, I used bodyweight exercise exclusively to build strength and get blood flowing to the damaged areas to help speed healing.

    Once I got strong enough, I added some dumbell work…but still do a lot of bodyweight exercises along with it because I still have some physical limitations.

    Also…I love watching some of these guys at the gym trying to do weight pull-ups. They get about 5 partial reps and they’re happy. I don’t think anyone should be doing weighted pull-ups, dips, etc. until they can handle their own bodyweight. Sorry…just a pet peeve.

    Thanks again!

    Wishing you health and happiness,

    .-= Pete´s last blog -> 7 Ways Fasting Increases Fat Burning =-.

    • Pete, I hear ya man! There are so many ways you can make a pull up torturous without adding weight… 😉
      I’m really liking sternum pull ups right now.
      Thanks for sharing your recovery story!

  • Great content as always (and with some wittiness, also as always)

    Currently doing a lot of BW exercises on unstable surfaces from Dr K and it’s not easy!

  • I never looked at body weight training as you have emphasized it today.
    Awesome as always the best fitness guru in the world, I will always be your biggest Fan Roman.

  • John, thanks for the super-informative article. I was mixing BW exercises in with everything else because I have found it helps with recovery. Plus I get bored easily. It’s great to know I am on the track. You are so versatile managing to be arrogant and helpful at the same time. 😀

  • kool post i love doing bodyweight workouts there just really good at stmulating alot of muscles in your body

  • I started out doing all my strength training in conventional ‘bodybuilder’ style–breaking up muscle groups, isolating movements, etc. Later I evolved into trying for more functional strength, and in time I was indirectly persuaded by Steven Barnes to try out some of Ryan Hurst’s bodyweight material.

    From there it was onto TacFit Commando, and BER.

    It’s been amazing how much more I get out of bodyweight training than weighted, though I definitely itch to start working with KB’s, CB’s, and DB’s in a hybridized system. You just get a lot more movement sophistication with a lot less risk when it’s bodyweight only, and you can translate that into motion and skill much more easily.

  • It’s hard to rival lifting and bodyweight integration training. The two really do complement each other in such a way that improves the progress on both. Awesome article, very informative, and from a great although arrogant source.

  • Wow, Roman. Who knew you could string a few words together to make a coherent sentence that actually made sense? The fact that you actually made sense throughout the article is one of the greatest mysteries of the 21st Century. Some pretty heavyweight ideas from a lightweight. 😉

  • It’s more a question of how I incorporate other modalities into my bodyweight training. Bodyweight exercise has formed the basis of my workouts for almost ten years. Six years ago I added kettlebells and within the past year and a half I’ve incorporated clubbells. Almost every workout I have combines these three modalities.

    • Interesting counter-perspective =) I’m curious as to what your main goal is or has been?

      For general health and fitness as well as a baseline level of athleticism (particularly in martial arts, I’d wager) your approach seems pretty much perfect.

      Not so much with bodybuilding, of course.

  • That’s a cool post!

    As a martial artist I can’t agree more with the benefits of bodyweight training. If you can’t move your own body, are you really that strong?

    Very interesting to see those different strategies depending on a client’s situation!

    Awesome job again, Roman. You’re spreading the love more and more everywhere.

    .-= Mathieu D´s last blog -> Are you fully appreciating your life? =-.

  • Great blog, i am amazed how people still want to workout in gyms with machines, I much prefer using Bodyweight programs for my Bootcamp Clients, and also my personal clients.
    Recently I have added bodyweight programs into my Taekwondo martial arts classes to benefit my students too and adding dyna band exercises and occassional dumbells exercises too.
    Keep up the great work.

    • Well I would NEVER discount the value of in-gym training. It’s all goal dependent.

      I’m always going to be the type of guy that wants to have a musculature that’s well above average; and on top of that I enjoy lifting some heavy weights.

      Different strokes, of course.

  • Great post, I like to incorporate lots of body weight training with my clients and reading this has giving me more ideas on how I can do this.

    Thanks again

  • I mostly train bodyweight exercises, but it comes a time in your training leverage can become dangerous and weights seem to be a better option. Tahnks for the article.

  • Great post and very interesting to hear about how to integrate BW training with different types of clients. I do in-home training and most my clients are women who don’t have much experience or equipement so they are always floored at how great of a workout they can get with just their own bodyweight. I do like to mix in some free weights as well to keep things interesting!

  • Very timely article for me personally. I’ve been looking for ways to incorporate bodyweight exercises into my routine but was not sure the best way to go about it. You article gave me some good ideas. Thanks.

  • I like to use bodyweight exercises in a number of ways.

    1. Great for warm-up.

    2. Excellent way to vary workouts.

    3. Terrific exercises coupled with traditional weight exercises in supersets and tri-sets.

    As always, many thanks for your excellent posts and advice.

    Scott Jones

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