Bodyweight and at home workouts are an excellent way to continue to push fitness further from the comfort of one’s home. The surge of popularity with bodyweight workouts has brought up a lot of questions such as:
- What is the best bodyweight workout plan to follow?
- How can I make bodyweight workouts harder?
- How long should I rest between bodyweight workouts?
This article is going to focus on the last question above. After all, there’s a difference between a bodyweight push-up and a loaded barbell bench press, so should training frequency with bodyweight workouts be different?
As you’ve probably guessed, this answer (like most topics in the world of fitness) is not a clean cut one and rest days are going to depend on a multitude of factors. However, there are a couple ways we can look at rest times and structuring them accordingly.
Bodyweight Training Basics
The goal of this article is to not create golden rule guidelines for bodyweight training frequency. Instead, the goal is to provide you with tools to structure rest days and training frequency to be advantageous for your goals and needs without burning out.
At the end of the day, bodyweight training may not seem incredibly difficult for some lifters, and that’s where it can get tricky when programming rest and frequency. (1) However, despite how it might” feel”, bodyweight training should still be treated similarly to traditional training, or at least considered in the same realm.
Bodyweight training will require recovery and when programmed accordingly can increase hypertrophy, strength, and power when programmed correctly. (2) This statement becomes even more true as bodyweight training is strategized and increased in difficulty.
Bodyweight Training Frequency
So how often should we train bodyweight exercises at home? This question can be broken down in a couple ways.
How much intensity and volume are you programming?
These two go hand-in-hand for bodyweight training and will also relate to your current training status. Are you highly specific for a sport, or are you a recreational athlete that lifts with a lot of variety?
This question can dictate how much rest you’ll need due to the variance of your “normal” versus a new bodyweight training frequency. For example, if you never trained bodyweight movements with a higher volume or with something like circuits, then you’ll need a bit more recovery compared to a lifter who’s conditioned with these training styles.
The easiest way to structure frequency when beginning bodyweight training more routinely is to periodize your workouts like you normally would with your regular training. By creating a program, training will feel similar to what’s normal and intensity and volume can be easily tracked, which then can direct rest days accordingly.
A few ways to quantify bodyweight training intensity include:
- Time under tension
- Added resistance (weighted vests, bands, etc.)
- Velocity of movements
- Total volume
A program with detailed notes and numbers will provide a roadmap for allocating training frequency strategically. Likely, once there’s an adaptation to the new stimulus, then rest days can be spaced out per needs even more accurately.
General Rule of Thumb: If you’re using an intensity modality above that you’re not familiar with, then be conservative with training frequency when starting out to adapt and learn what your body is capable of.
What’s your training status?
Another factor to consider when considering weekly training frequency is training status. This point is relevant for lifters that were following a periodized plan prior to shifting gears and were in an intensification or peaking phase.
For athletes that were pushing the upward limits of their potential, then frequency should be kept higher to avoid detraining quickly due to a shift in stimulus. An example of this could be a powerlifter that was prepping for a meet who then lost access to their gym abruptly.
Likely, a level of detraining will occur due to lack of specificity, however, the rate can be slowed by keeping training frequency higher.
General Rule of Thumb: Try training with the same frequency you’re used to, and add an extra day/workout if that frequency feels easy. Conversely, if the same frequency feels tough, then drop a day or change a day into active recovery.
Build a Program With Similar Frequency: Instead of haphazardly performing bodyweight exercises, build a program and follow it like a traditional training plan with the same frequency you’re used to.
- Add Frequency If…
- Training feels easy and you’re not even being taxed during workouts, or you’re used to A) a very specific form of training, B) you were prepping for a competition and had to stop abruptly, or C) you want to really challenge yourself.
- Decrease Frequency If…
- Excessive delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is present, or A) you need to rest a nagging injury, B) you need a mental break from training.
The best bet is to keep frequency similar to what one’s normal training frequency is, then adjusting based on the above as acclimation occurs.
Treat bodyweight workouts and their frequency like traditional training. Bodyweight training when done with enough intensity will require recovery just like regular training.
If you feel tired, sore, or rundown, don’t feel bad taking a recovery day. Bodyweight training is still training and should be treated as so. Make a plan, execute, and adjust as you go.
Editor’s note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the author’s and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.
1. Harrison, J. (2010). Bodyweight Training: A Return To Basics. Strength And Conditioning Journal, 32(2), 52-55.
2. Kotarsky CJ, e. (2020). Effect of Progressive Calisthenic Push-up Training on Muscle Strength and Thickness. – PubMed – NCBI .