Bodyweight or Bust


Bodyweight or Bust

Are these bodyweight movements really that Important?

No matter what gym you are part of you probably hear your coach constantly blab about the importance of your push ups, squats and pull ups and how they translate to “the more exciting movements”

If your coach is not putting as much emphasis, if not more, on the body weight movements we might have a problem. I could literally write a 200 page book on the importance of these movements. However, I do not have a publisher or the funds to do so. So a one page blog will have to do.

The three most important reasons are the:

  • Habits it develops (good and bad)
  • Standards
  • Looks


Body weight movements are the foundation. There is no denying that. The air squat is the foundation of all our other squats, the push up is the foundation of all our press movements and the pull up is the foundation of most of our gymnastic movements. Because of this the most important reason for taking pride in these movements and doing them right is the habits they develop. Many times, body weight movements are looked at as easier than weighted or more complex movements. And for those who have mastered these movements they are easier. (Yes there are some of y’all out there who have not mastered all of your body weight movements yet.) Because they are looked at as easier  we have higher repetitions in our body weight movements. Now this is good and bad.

For person A who takes their time, keeps their body weight movements pretty, and upholds standards, it is a time to continue to engraine good movement patterns. If i have a workout with 200 air squats and i squat all the way down, stand all the way up, drive my knees out over my toes and keep my chest nice and high, then when I get to my 1RM back squat my body will remember these patterns and continue to execute them at a more complex movement.

Now I have personally seen numerous examples of the opposite. If you are doing air squats, and your core is broken and chest is literally down, then don’t be shocked or disappointed when the first thing to happen in your heavy barbell squats is your hips rise, chest comes down and if you actually miss the light, you miss it on your toes leaning forward. The same goes for push ups; if you never lock out your elbows doing push ups then why do you think it’s so hard for you to kick upside down or lock out a handstand push up.

Instead of treating them like they mean nothing, treat them like the most important part of your workout.

Because honestly they are.

On my favorite days (Snatch and Clean and Jerk) one of the most important parts of my warm up are those first air squats I take before I grab my favorite barbell. Those set the tone for the rest of my day. Just because the body weight movements are deemed as “easier” does not mean that there is no standard to uphold.


Which brings me to my next point: standards. I always notice how everyone wants to know the cool standards of all the cool movements in the open and our super fun CrossFit workouts, but some of us kinda just yawn and go about our business when it’s time to uphold standards on squats, pull ups and push ups.

So let me address them all. 🙂

First of all, there are rules to everything. If you are not upholding the standards, sure you are making it harder on yourself and hindering your more advanced movements, but you are also breaking the rules and doing reps that don’t count. In my opinion squats are easy, squat all the way down while keeping your chest nice and high. If you actually have trouble with depth grab a ball to squat to and don’t forget to keep your entire foot glued to the ground.

Next. On my pull-ups, kipping included, your chin should be clearly above the bar. You should be pulling enough for you and everyone around you to clearly see that. If you have been doing pull ups for a while now and you are still “hungry hungry hippoing” at the top then you need to rest, stop doing so many in a row and fix that. If we are linking the reps together, for heaven’s sake lock your arms out at the bottom before you tear a bicep or get rhabdo.

Push ups, my favorite, and because they are my favorite I may or may not have the most to say about them. For starters, please keep your lower body private parts off of the floor. Of course you can’t get your chest to the floor because your genitalia are in the way. Squeeze your belly button to the sky and make sure your hips descend at the same time your chest does. If your chest, I literally mean your actual chest muscles and not your tummy, cannot make it to the ground then we have to take a step back and correct that. Just as many hips and genitalia I see on the floor, I see equal or more booties being left in the sky. It’s great that your p and d are not touching the ground but remember everything needs to come down and go up as a unit. You cannot leave your other half up there in the air. Lastly, lock your elbows out ladies and gents. If you do not, you are training the muscle to not go through is proper range of motion. So when you do movements where locked out elbows are required, ie: upside down, your body is going to be looking at you like “nah bruh not happening”.


For the sake of your attention span, I will stop with the standards and address my last point. If you practice good habits with the body weight movements and uphold the standards then they look pretty. Yes I said it, pretty. We all like to look good and working out is no exception. All movements look worse when standards are not upheld, and this is especially true for air squats, push ups, and pull ups. So if for no other reason, do these movements correctly so that you look good while working out.

I hope this did not sound like a scolding or a rant. It honestly is not. When a coach gives you a cue about your body weight movements it’s because we want the best for you. Telling you to slow down, do less reps, or fully complete the movement is not because we want to hold you back or make your time longer.

We legitimately care about you and the standards.

You would not buy a beautiful three story house for you and your family that was built on a foundation of straws and sticks. You want a strong foundation for your future, something that will last, and something that will keep you safe. Look at the three little pigs fairytale. Which house was hardest for the wolf to blow down? The straw house, easiest to build, the stick house which was a little better but still a shortcut, or the brick house, which took the longest but in the end withstood the most and kept that little pig safe.

Coach Selby