Supercharge your bodyweight strength by adding external load
Want to get stronger through bodyweight movements? Here’s how to use simple weighted tools to push through plateaus and get seriously strong.
Bodyweight training is the foundation of all training styles and sports. After all, if you can’t master your own bodyweight then you can’t move your body through different planes of motion with load. But there’s one downside to bodyweight training – you can hit a plateau.
There are lots of ways to level up your bodyweight training to keep making progress. Tempo, paused reps, and adding external load are some of the best. If you want to get stronger using bodyweight training, try using weighted tools to supercharge your strength.
How does adding load build bodyweight strength?
Bodyweight exercises use the weight of your own body to force an adaptation in muscle tissue and therefore strength. But when your body gets used to pulling, pressing, or squatting your own weight, the progress can stall.
You need to trick your body into thinking you are heavier than you really are, so it starts adapting to the new heavier load. You could do this by putting on weight, but it’s much easier (and healthier) to use something like a weighted vest that you can quickly remove after training!
Adding load (aka resistance) makes bodyweight movements more intense, which recruits more muscle fibres and promotes strength gains. Simply put, using external load in bodyweight training helps with progressive overload – a key factor in building strength.
What is the best weighted equipment for bodyweight strength training
Weighted vest – weighted vests are really versatile tools for bodyweight strength work. They fit close to your body, so you can do a range of exercises including ones where your body is horizontal to the ground (push ups, burpees, planche work). Get a vest with adjustable weights – like the Gravity Fitness weighted vest.
Dip belt – best for exercises where you body will be moving straight up and down, like rig work and parallette/dipping work. Take a look at the Gravity Fitness advanced 4-in-1 dip belt which allows you to fix weights to the front or the back and use pulleys, bands, and sled/prowler.
Kettlebells – kettlebells are a fantastic functional training tool for bodyweight work. You can hold them in front rack or goblet position or attach them to a dip belt.
5 best bodyweight exercises for adding external load
Weighted push ups – wear a weighted vest to take your push ups past plateau. You can still play around with tempo, paused reps, and push up variations to build even more strength.
Weighted pull ups – use a dip belt plus a weight to make your pull ups heavier, building more strength in your back and biceps. When you take the dip belt off, your pull ups will feel so much easier. You might even be able to work on muscle ups!
Weighted dips – use a dup belt and weights for dips, a great upper body movement which can be slightly altered to target chest, front delts, or triceps.
Weighted squats – wear a weighted vest, or hold a kettlebell in a goblet squat position to do bodyweight squats with extra load.
Weighted lunges – do walking lunges with a weighted vest, or hold a kettlebell in a front rack position to do static forward or backward stepping lunges.
Tips for using weighted vest and dip belt for bodyweight training
Weighted vest fit tips
- Ensure the vest fits well, tighten any straps to stop is moving too much
- Start with a lighter weight and gradually add more as you get stronger
- Use a weighted vest for bodyweight movements like pull ups, push-ups, squats, even burpees.
Dip belt fit tips
- Attach the belt securely, with the weight centred
- Begin with a load that’s lighter than you think you can handle
- Use a dip belt for rig work and parallette work where your body moves up and down
Why use external load for bodyweight training
By adding external load into your bodyweight workouts, you'll unlock new levels of strength. Whether you choose a weighted vest, dip belt, or kettlebells, the key is to add weight gradually and use other training variables like tempo, angles, and rep ranges to build strength.
Take a look at the Gravity Fitness store for adjustable weighted vests, 4-in-1 dip belts, unusual kettlebells and plenty more functional fitness and unconventional training tools to keep your workouts interesting.