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ABC Program: Advanced Bodyweight Workout Plan For Muscle Gain, Joint Health & Weight Loss

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Most bodyweight workout plans suck

There’s no thought, no planning, no purpose – just a whole bunch of exercises put together in random order. Their only interesting feature is the fact that they only use bodyweight exercises.

What you end up with is a Frankenstein of a workout. 

Injuries mount up, form and function don’t improve and training is boring! With no sense of progression and achievement for your effort, you’re left back to square one and unmotivated.

Not here though.

I’m going to show you the ‘All Bases Covered’ (ABC) approach to bodyweight training. I have used this with dozens of my personal training clients. It’s a workout plan where we use bodyweight exercises to improve three major elements of fitness…

  • Strength & power
  • Joint health
  • Fat loss

I developed the concept at home during the lockdown. When I had to keep my personal training clients fit and strong without access to usual gym equipment. I refined the methods and the workouts, leading to the ABC Program.

I’ll lay out everything about this bodyweight workout plan here…

ABC Program: Improve power, joint health & lose weight in 8 weeks

Bodyweight workout plan advanced infographic

In the ABC approach, I use strategic bodyweight programming to develop 360-degree fitness. 

By taking bodyweight training and using it properly, you’ll enjoy fitness and body-transforming improvements. 

This isn’t an easy program. 

It’s an advanced series of workouts designed to make you work and take your training game up a couple of levels. Not all of these exercises are easy, but they are effective.

We focus on multiple areas of fitness to make you a more rounded athlete.

Benefits of bodyweight workout (advanced)

1. Improve strength and power at home

Challenge your capabilities with explosive exercises that build genuine strength and power. 

No need for weights though!

Do these workouts with minimal equipment and achieve maximum results.

2. Make your joints bulletproof with this bodyweight workout plan

Use bodyweight exercises to improve your joint health. 

No more unnecessary joint injuries from your training. Just functioning, pain-free joints, and improved range of movement across all exercises.

3. Massive calorie burn from HIIT workouts

Whilst it’s great to be fit, it’s also important to look fit too. 

The final aspect of the ABC program is huge calorie burn. Using bodyweight conditioning exercises to maximize fat loss and improve stamina.

Massive calorie burn from HIIT workouts

5 Steps to Use the ABC Program to Build 360 Degree Fitness

5 steps ABC program bodyweight workout plan (advanced)

A few pointers to maximize the effectiveness of the ABC Program…

Step 1: Do all 3 workouts each week

When you follow the ABC Program, a sample week could look like this…

  • Monday: Strength and power workout
  • Tuesday: Gentle swim
  • Wednesday: Joint health workout
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: Fat loss workout
  • Weekend: Walking 10k steps per day

What you do on your rest days is up to you. 

The focus should be on rest and recovery.

But I’ve found clients who get the best results make exercise a habit. The best way to engrain a habit is to do something (no matter how small) every day. 

Step 2: Keep workouts under 1 hour

The key here is the intensity of your workouts.

There are tons of benefits of HIIT as you can see in our research. But the main benefit is that it means most people can stick with the plan for 8 weeks. 

We have around 112 waking hours every week. Most people can find 3 to exercise… yes, even on those busy weeks!

Step 3: 4-5 sets of each exercise

Each workout has a slightly different focus. For that reason the sets and reps vary for each one:

  • Strength & power: 5 sets of each exercise for 8-12 reps
  • Joint health: 4 sets to failure
  • Fat loss: 5 rounds 

Step 4: Use the ABC Program for 8 weeks

Any program you do should last for at least 2 weeks. But for this bodyweight workout plan, I would not advise sticking to it for more than 8 weeks. 

Getting bored of the same exercises is the obvious reason. 

But more importantly, your body will adapt and become used to it. It’s important to mix up the exercises and programs to follow every few months to avoid plateauing. 

If you’re looking for a beginner weight lifting routine to do after this then check out our popular guide.

Step 5: Monitor progress

What gets tracked gets done!

If you want to see the best results you need to track your progress. Make a note of the days you perform each workout. 

And here are some tips for notes to make for each workout:

  • Strength & power: how many reps you perform for each set (highlight any failed sets)
  • Joint health: How many reps you can perform to failure
  • Fat loss: Make a note of when you needed to rest and your intensity/ form dropped
Always monitor progress

The All Bases Covered Program Workouts

In the ABC Program, we train 3 days per week, with a single focus per workout. If you want to mix in cardio between workouts, that’s fine. Just don’t do anything too taxing because the focus is on recovery between workouts. 

A walk, gentle cycle, or swim is sufficient.

The three resistance training workouts across the week are all-body sessions that can be done at home. There are even exercises that are repeated, but repeated in a different fashion. Although the movement pattern is the same, the outcomes and the feelings are VERY different each time!

Workout 1: Strength and Power Workout

Strength and power workout infographic

Time required: 60 minutes max

Sets and reps: 5 sets of 8-12 reps. In the case of single-sided exercises, perform 5 sets of 8-12 per side.

Focus: explosive, powerful movements. 

The focus here is on maximizing the force generated with every rep. These are more challenging versions of ‘normal’ bodyweight exercises, so make sure you execute each one with great form and function.

You have to work on generating the power each time because bodyweight is a limited variable.

So working on eccentric control, powerful concentric contraction, and speed of execution is the way to take these workouts up to a truly functional and effective level. 

1. Plyometric push ups

This is the OG of the explosive chest exercises. Use it through a full range of motion to improve explosive chest strength.

  • Assume the standard push up position, tight core, long body
  • Slowly lower yourself down until your torso nearly touches the floor
  • Explode up with a powerful push, making sure your whole body leaves the ground
  • Absorb your landing with a bent elbow, control your descent, and repeat

If you struggle to perform full push-ups then check out our beginner exercises to do at home. It includes progressions and regressions for push-ups and other exercises to help build up your strength.

2. Jump Squat

A perfect exercise for developing leg strength and power, this exercise has a huge carryover into sports performance.

  • Lower yourself into a deep squat, until your thighs break parallel with the floor
  • Keeping your chest up, drive your feet into the floor powerfully, forcing the jump
  • When you land, absorb the impact with your knees bent, lower back down, and repeat

3. Explosive pull ups

A fantastic way to build a strong, powerful back at home without the need for much equipment. 

  • From a hanging position, stiffen your upper body through the core and torso
  • Aggressively pull yourself up, trying to get your chest to the bar. If you need to, lift your legs to help you
  • Once you reach the top of the movement, lower yourself down and repeat

If you struggle to perform full pull-ups then check out our pull-up alternatives. It includes some great exercises and tips to help you perform full pull-ups.

4. Plyometric Lunges

The plyometric lunge is a functional exercise that builds single-leg power and strength. It’s another with great sports carryover.

  • Assume a deep lunge position, with your torso upright
  • Drive off both legs at the same time, lifting your body in the air
  • When in the air, switch the front and back legs around, so your back leg becomes the lead leg and vice versa
  • Land with bent knees and repeat

5. Toes to Bar

I like the toes-to-bar exercise because it’s great for grip strength, core strength, and it forces a large range of movement at the hips.

  • Dangle from a pull up bar with your arms out straight
  • In one movement, powerfully lift your feet up to the bar, engaging your core throughout to minimize swinging backwards and forwards
  • Slowly lower your feet to the start position and repeat

6. Pike push ups

This is an excellent way to train the shoulders at home without any equipment. You also have the ability to make it a powerful, explosive movement. 

  • Position your feet on something high enough to allow your upper body to point directly down to the floor
  • With your arms out straight and your torso long, lower yourself towards the floor by bending your elbows
  • As your head taps the floor, push yourself back up to a straight arm, maintaining back position throughout
  • Repeat as necessary

7. TRX (or towel) Row

The towel row is a real challenge for the grip/forearms, biceps, and back in one go. It’s also a really easy exercise to set up, given everyone has a towel!

TRX Pro4

Read our best suspension trainers guide here

This is the suspension trainer that we recommend for ‘most people’.

We have spent compared over 50 of them and ran them against our criteria.

It’s robust, very high quality, easy to adjust and pack away.

The main reason it gets our top spot is because of its versatility. The adjustable feet straps and rubber handles allow you to do more movements than other trainers that don’t have these features.

  • Set your towel – or towels if you’re using two securely – either trap it in a strong door or drape it over a strong beam
  • Get into position with your body at a slight upright angle 
  • Row yourself up, squeezing the shoulder blades at the top and maintaining a stiff posture throughout
  • Lower yourself down to a straight arm position and repeat

8. Pistol Squat

The biggest single-leg squat challenge is the pistol squat. It ticks all of our boxes – it builds strength, requires no equipment, and is functional.

  • Chest up, back straight, one leg out in front. Keep your arms spread for balance if you need to
  • Lower yourself down, putting your non-working leg directly in front of you
  • Reach full depth, then press back up through your foot until you reach a standing position
  • Repeat

If you struggle to do pistol squats then check out our hack squat alternatives. These exercises will help you to build up the strength to perform these.

Workout 2: Joint Health Workout

Time required: ~50 minutes 

Sets and reps: 4 sets to failure – track how many you do. In the case of single-limb exercises, perform 4 sets per side. Move on to the next exercise after a set to reduce rest time required.

Focus: full range of movement with every exercise.

The start and end points of each exercise are likely to be much further than you’re used to. 

But that’s on purpose. 

Healthy joints need a longer range of movement to stretch and strengthen muscles, ligaments, and tendons.

The focus here is on MAXIMIZING the range of movement. You should be working to the end of the range with EVERY rep, so you improve joint health. Always make sure you’ve thoroughly warmed up first.

1. Parallette (or dumbbell) push ups

A fantastic chest stretch and strengthening exercise, this is fantastic for people with shoulder and neck pain stemming from a tight chest.

  • Assume the standard push up position, tight core, long body but with your hands on the parallettes
  • Slowly lower yourself down until you feel a good stretch across your chest and shoulders
  • Pause here for a few seconds to elongate the stretch
  • Explode up with a powerful push
  • Repeat


2. Spanish Squats

The Spanish squat helps to isolate the quads whilst releasing stress and pressure on the knee. It means you can really help strengthen the structure of the knee.

  • Wrap a strong resistance band around a fixed anchor point that will support your weight
  • Lower yourself into a deep squat, keeping your knees away from (behind) your toes until your thighs break parallel with the floor
  • Keeping your chest up and drive your feet into the floor
  • Reach the starting point, then repeat

3. Dead Hang Chin Ups

A great lat stretch and opportunity to increase the time under tension of the back and bicep muscles during the rep.

  • Hang from the pull up bar with your shoulders ‘loose’ to allow a full stretch of the lats
  • From this hanging position, stiffen your upper body through the core and torso
  • Pull yourself up smoothly, trying to get your chest to the bar. If you need to, lift your legs to help you
  • Once you reach the top of the movement, lower yourself down and repeat

4. Knee Over Toes Split Squat

This interpretation of a classic exercise changes the feeling entirely. You help to improve ankle mobility, knee health, quad and glute strength, and finally, you stretch the hip flexors.

  • Assume a lunge position with your back foot elevated on a bench
  • Lower yourself into a very deep split squat, forcing your knees over your toes to improve ankle mobility
  • You should feel the hip flexor of the back leg really stretch too
  • Hold this position for a good 5-10 seconds to elongate the stretch
  • Push back up through the front foot and repeat

Note: Don’t like the knee over toes split squat? Consider switching it up with some other split squat alternative/variation instead.

5. Eccentric Calf Raises

This is another one that helps with ankle mobility, but it also strengthens the calf muscle and stretches the Achilles tendon.

  • Stand with your toes on the edge of a box or step
  • Lower yourself as far as you can go with your toes still on the bench
  • Feel the stretch for 10+ seconds, then slowly stand back on your tiptoes
  • Repeat

6. Scapular push ups

These help to maintain thoracic mobility and the strength and stability required to control the movement of the scapular throughout various exercises.

  • Assume the standard push up position with a tight core and long body
  • Keeping your arms straight throughout, lower your torso towards the floor by letting your shoulder blades come together
  • Return to the start position by pushing your torso back ‘through’ your shoulder blades
  • Repeat

7. Full Range Dips

Doing dips to full range helps to train the chest, shoulders, and triceps whilst stretching the chest and shoulders. This helps to keep the shoulders and elbows healthy.

  • Hop onto a dip bar and tip yourself slightly forward
  • Lower yourself down until you feel a good stretch across your chest and shoulders
  • Hold this position for a few seconds
  • Press back up to a straight arm and repeat

8. Side Plank Clamshell

The strength and stability of the hips help to control movement at the lower back and hip junction. This is very important to help offset discomfort around the hips and lower back.

  • Assume a side plank position with your body weight resting on your forearm and your legs bent at 90 degrees
  • Push your hips up from the floor, opening the top leg as you go
  • Lower your hip back down to the floor and repeat

9. Nordic Hamstring Curls

The Nordic hamstring curl is a fantastic exercise that helps to strengthen the hamstrings and the glutes. It also helps with knee stability.

  • Secure your heels under a fixed anchor point
  • Facing forwards, start on your knees and keep your body long and your torso rigid
  • Lower yourself slowly towards the floor, controlling the descent with your hamstrings
  • Push yourself back up with your hands and 

Workout 3: Fat Loss Workout

Time required: 55 minutes

Sets and reps: 5 rounds of this circuit. Perform each exercise for 1 minute before moving onto the next exercise. Rest for 2 minutes at the end of each round, then start again. 

Focus: high intensity, minimize rest and sweat!

The fat loss workout is designed to be all-out hard work. The key to making this workout successful is high intensity throughout. We’re looking to maximize calorie burn by performing exercises in a circuit fashion, with minimal rest.

The whole workout should take 55 minutes, giving you time to stretch at the end of the session. 

Perform 5 rounds of this circuit. Perform each exercise for 1 minute before moving on to the next exercise. Rest for 2 minutes at the end of each round, then start again. 

1. Push ups

  • Rigid torso, lower yourself to the floor, and back up. You know the drill here.

2. Floor taps to jumping pull ups

  • Deep squat and touch the floor with both hands. Jump up, grab the pull up bar, and complete a pull up in one movement. A tough one!

3. Air squats

  • Chest up, go deep – break parallel with your thighs, go fast, work hard.

4. Pike push ups

  • As described earlier. Legs elevated, hips up. Torso pointing straight down. Lower yourself into an inverted push up and repeat.

5. Single leg burpees (left leg)

In the video below I show you how to perform single-leg burpees…

  • Normal burpee technique, but keep your right foot off the floor at all times throughout the exercise. All work is done on the left foot.

6. Single leg burpees (right leg)

  • Normal burpee technique, but keep your left foot off the floor at all times throughout the exercise. All work is done on the right foot.

7. Plank

  • Strong, rigid core. Keep your back flat and low. Hold for the full 60 seconds.

8. Dorsal raises

  • Lie face down on the floor. Lift your upper and lower body off the floor at the same time, making you ‘U’ shaped. Repeat for the whole minute.

9. Running on the spot

  • As described, just go fast and bring your knees up high with each step.

We’re interested in maximizing calorie burn here, so go fast, go hard but don’t compromise on form. 

If you need to take a mid-set break to maintain form, do so.

Never lose sight of the fact that this is a conditioning workout though. Always work as hard as you can, for as long as you can. I’d suggest wearing a heart rate monitor throughout these workouts to ensure you’re always at a high enough output level. 

For reference, in the 55-minute workout, I’d expect you to be far exceeding 500 calories burned.

ABC Program Bodyweight Workout Plan bonus tips

1. Stick to the plan

In the ABC program, each workout has an emphasis – the idea is to focus fully on that outcome goal. 

We don’t mix methodologies in this program. So on the ‘Strength and Power’ workout, we’re not interested in anything other than the strength and power exercises.

2. Focus on form (especially in weeks 1 & 2)

Any workout program is only as effective as your execution of it. 

But your technique is going to be crucial to the success of this program. Always put an emphasis on your form. This is especially important in the first couple of weeks… I’d even rather you cannot do all the sets in the first couple of weeks if it means your technique is good to build on. 

3. Work hard

With bodyweight training, we don’t have the luxury of increasing resistance by much. 

So the benefit comes from the intensity. 

We have to execute the exercises with the best possible quality of movement we can. Keeping rest periods long enough to recover, but short enough to maintain intensity.

4. Full range of motion

One of the days in the ABC program is designed to protect and maintain your joint health. 

This is unique in exercise because we’re not often going to full range. In this workout though, we’re looking to maximize mobility so push your range of movement as far as you can.

5. Don’t hold back

The results from the program are directly proportional to the effort you put in, so don’t hold back. 

On your power days, work powerfully. 

On your range of movement days, work to full range, not ‘close to’.

And on your conditioning days, get SWEATY! 

If you want the most from the ABC program, you’ll have to be all in. Do it properly and you’ll learn so much about your health, fitness, and capabilities. You’ll also achieve so much in a short space of time.

ABC Program FAQs

Can beginners do the ABC Program?

Technically they could, yes. That being said, we’ve also created a beginner bodyweight workout version of the ABC program which is better for absolute newbies.

It’s a bodyweight workout plan so can be scaled as such. You just have to work safely on the explosive, strength-based workout. For the rest of the program, make sure you stick to the principles – work hard, achieve full range of movement, and don’t hold back when it comes to the conditioning. 

Can I swap one of the workouts for another in the ABC program?

It depends. You can certainly swap the order, so if you normally do it in the order I suggest (strength, range, conditioning) but want to swap it around, that’s fine. 

If you want to drop a workout and repeat another one from the program (i.e. drop the conditioning workout and do 2 strength instead), that’s not how the program is designed to run. You need to get all of the workouts in to experience the full benefits.

Can I train ABC workouts more than 3 times per week?

Absolutely! I myself did this when I had no access to gyms. I’d keep the same order (strength, range, conditioning) and just repeat them with a day of rest in between. It worked for me, allowed me to train and recover, and kept me going throughout lockdown!

Can I use ABC programming alongside another program?

Personally, I’d say no. The point is to follow the program properly – not half-ass it. You’re better doing one program effectively rather than two programs poorly.

How long can I run the ABC program for?

As long as you like. Personally, I think a maximum of 8 weeks is a good idea before you switch things up again. Aim for a minimum of 4 weeks, and a maximum of 8. You can always go back to it later, after a while on another program. Don’t let it become stale.

ABC Program FAQs

ABC Program: The bottom line

In this case, ABC stands for all bases covered.

In these workouts, we cover strength and power, joint health, flexibility and mobility, and finally, fat loss and conditioning. By following ABC programming for 8 weeks, you’ll make a huge difference to your health, fitness, and physique.

Perform each of these workouts once per week, ideally with a day off in between. You can do some gentle cardio on your days off the ABC plan, but not much more than that.

Enjoy the results…

If you are looking for a beginner weight lifting routine then check our popular guide out here.

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Steve Hoyles is a certified personal trainer and gym owner. Since graduating with his Sports Science degree in 2004 he's worked in the fitness industry, helping thousands of people reach their health and fitness goals. His writing has been read by millions of people in over 200 countries as he inspires to help as many people as possible live a healthy lifestyle.

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