A lot of clients and lifters have been asking us the question, “Will I lose my gains if I have to switch to bodyweight workouts?”
The state of the world is incredibly uncertain at the moment and with gym access continually being granted then revoked, the above is a really great question. Luckily, for many (us included!), bodyweight workouts will be adequate for maintaining gains, baseline levels of strength, and fitness.
Before we dive into why that is, let’s first define what we mean when we say “gains” and discuss what to expect when switching from something like formal barbell training to bodyweight workouts. In this article, we’re going to dive into the logistics of this question and bodyweight workouts and explore why it’s surprisingly easy to maintain what we’ve built.
How Do You Define Gains?
Everyone’s definition of gains will vary based on how they prefer to train and what their goals are with training. For example, Coach Eugen might define gains as visible changes in body composition as a result of muscular hypertrophy, while Coach Jake may define gains as physical weight increasing on the bar.
Yes, both body composition and strength will have some overlap as they’re often tied to somewhat similar styles of training, however, their true roots are grounded in our main goals with training.
So, when Coach Eugen asks the above about losing gains, he’s really asking, “Will my body composition change switching to bodyweight workouts?” And Coach Jake is actually wondering, “Will my maximal strength decrease only doing bodyweight workouts?”
If we can define what we’re asking, then we can objectively look at what we can expect to change when switching to bodyweight workouts. Shifts in gains will vary from lifter-to-lifter depending on how we define gains and what our expectations are.
What Can Influence a Shift In Gains?
For most recreational lifters, bodyweight workouts will be plenty sufficient to maintain fitness levels, baseline levels of strength, and body composition.
Once we understand that, let’s talk about two characteristics that can shift our rate of gains when we start doing only bodyweight workouts.
Specificity of Training
Think about gains shifting as being on a spectrum of specificity.
The more specific we are with our training, the more we can expect to see a shift in our gains. For example, if you’re a competitive weightlifter and you stop formal weightlifting workouts to do bodyweight workouts, then you can expect to see a noticeable decline in your “normal” rate of gains that you traditionally would get from your clean & jerk, snatch, and squat focused workouts.
This doesn’t mean the weightlifter won’t be gaining anything from doing bodyweight workouts, it just means that they’ve removed their normal very specific training style, so their shift will likely be more apparent than someone who is used to doing more recreational strength training to begin with.
It’s like drinking coffee again after taking a year off compared to someone who drinks it every day. Both will stimulate you, but one will be much more apparent than the other!
In addition to the specificity of our training, our training age can also play a role in our gains shift when doing more bodyweight workouts. When adding muscle and building strength, it’s a lot harder to put on and add than to maintain.
This is good news for both newer lifters and more weathered lifters.
For newer lifters, this means that bodyweight workouts will still usually produce gains at a fairly stable rate as they’re providing the body with enough stimulus to grow. For weathered lifters, they’ve already built a base of muscle, so bodyweight workouts will help them maintain what they’ve built when it comes to muscle, and maybe even improve in other areas that they undertrain normally (for ex: a powerlifter improving their muscular endurance with bodyweight workouts).
Now, it’s worth noting that weathered lifters will likely see a greater decrease in maximal strength when shifting to bodyweight workouts, but it will come back in due time. More elite lifters have a much higher threshold to meet, so their decreases might be greater than a beginner.
The Silver Lining of Bodyweight Workouts
Hopefully, we’ve made it clear that it’s really not that difficult to maintain your gains when having to shift to bodyweight workouts. It’s surprisingly easy to maintain what has been built over time when it comes to body composition and relative strength.
The body is incredibly adaptable and bodyweight workouts are great tools for providing adequate stimuli for strength, hypertrophy, endurance, and even power. Yes, you might lose some gains if you’re “elite” or very specific with your training, but that will come back fairly quickly when you’re back to regular training.
If you’re currently being limited to doing bodyweight workouts, try to take this time to focus on areas of your training that you CAN control. Easier said than done, we know, but now is a great time to focus on improving aspects like endurance, stability, balance, general strength, and power.
For anyone in need of direction, consider joining Pheasyque Lab. We currently have a 4-week progressive bodyweight workout plan and we’re building out a bodyweight workout Google Drive file as we speak that will host the following bodyweight workout options for members:
12-week bodyweight training plan
4-week plyo push-up program
4-week pistol squat program
2-a-day bodyweight workout programs
Sign up for Tier I for $9.99 a month or Tier II which has a coaching option for $19.99 a month!