weighted push ups

The Best Tools for Weighted Body Weight Exercise

In Uncategorizedby Matt

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I like to get loaded once in a while.

I also drink a little too much from time to time :).

I’m talking about the art of loaded body weight training. It;s the ancient method of loading more weight onto the body to change the intensity of a technique.

In this post we will look at some of the tools and later, how they are used.


One of the most popular tools is the barbell. Unfortunately it is also one of the most limiting.
The main advantage is in the shear weight that can be used, the barbell allows you to place hundreds of pounds on your back or in your hands. This ensures you will always be able to load up as much weight as you can stand.

The disadvantage comes from it’s lack of versatility. Such a long tool requires a large amount of space and usually a rack as well to place a lot of weight on the back. Its size also makes it more difficult to load up mobility exercises and moves that are done in position other than standing upright.

Dumbbell / kettlebell

Where the barbell lacks, the hand weights like dumbbells and kettle bells excel. Their small size and ability to load up each side of the body individual make them very versatile and effective.

They can be used to load up the same exercises as with a barbell, however they primarily will load up those moves through the hands. This will limit the total amount of weight you can use since you have to carry that weight and can’t really place it upon your back.

They also allow you to wear the weight to some degree through the use of a dip belt or a length of rope around the waist.


By far and away, my favorite loading tool is the sand bag.

I like to think of it as a blend of the advantages of the barbell and the dumbbells. You can use it for pretty heavy lifting as well as lighter and more delicate mobility work.

All that’s fine, but the sandbag really excels for loaded B.W. training because you can load the body in many different ways. Since it can conform to the contour of your body, the sand bag can be used to load the legs, thighs, hips, lower back, stomach, upper back (prone) upper back (standing), the hands, arms, and shoulders. This loading versatility can allow you to load up exercises that would be very uncomfortable or just impossible through hard iron weights.

Back pack / weight vest

The back pack or weight vest allows you to load up your body by wearing the load rather than carrying it. This gives your hands the freedom to use various bars or straps for almost any body weight exercise you can imagine.

The disadvantage of this wearable weight is in it’s difficulty in adjustment. Taking the load on and off again takes time and energy, plus adding or taking out the weight can be time consuming because the weights are often small.

Children and friends

Sometimes the best weight to add to your body weight is another body. Back when I lived in Japan, I used to lift my host family’s 3 and 5 year old for exercise. They thought it was great fun and I got to work up a sweat at the same time.

Kids are great, they can climb and hang onto you adding lots of weight to any exercise you can imagine. You get a great workout, they get to have fun and the both of you get some quality family time.

Of course the disadvantages quire both of you to be in the mood and they also have to be able to hang on as well. It’s also though to adjust the weight, but they could hold onto a hand weight or something. Plus you could also see if you can keep doing push ups with them on your back as they grow older.

Over all though I use this sort of loading technique more in the name of fun and good times rather than a structured workout plan.

All of these tools are great, but there is no need to go out and spend a fortune on them. Ease into it through using what you already have on hand. I encourage you to play with loaded B.W. training only once you have mastered the non-loaded version of the exercise. Even then, I highly recommend using light weight.

All too often people (myself included) have heeded the siren call of adding more weight at the expense of form and coordination. As a general rule, if you can make the move more difficult and require less weight, then do that. After all we are in the art of moving the body through space, rather than moving weight. If we change how we are moving the body all in the name of moving weight, then we have gone off track.