The Fitness Zone

The 2023 Top Fitness Trends Review: #3 Body Weight Training

Nov 01, 2023 | by Steve Irwin

In this series of articles we are going to take a look at the top ten fitness trends for 2023 as created for the annual ACSM’s (American College of Sports Medicine) Health & Fitness Journal worldwide survey [1]

The survey list actually covers 20 fitness trends as collated as part of the survey, but we’re just going to focus on the Top 10 and dive specifically into some background information about the trend, how it can benefit you as a fitness consumer, as a fitness professional and also add some general guidance and / or recommendations.

So here we go… Its Number 3 on the List: Body Weight Training

The Number 3 Fitness Trend for 2023: Body Weight Training

This dynamic approach combines multiplane body weight movements with neuromotor exercises, putting your own body weight to work as the primary resistance. The beauty of body weight training lies in its simplicity – it requires minimal equipment and space, making it an affordable and practical way to achieve your fitness goals.

Body weight training burst onto the fitness scene in 2013, quickly climbing to the #3 spot in trend rankings. Its ascent continued, reaching #2 in 2017, #4 in 2018, and #5 in 2019, before briefly dropping to #7 in 2020. However, it roared back to prominence, securing the #3 spot in 2021, and even though it dipped to #8 in 2022, its undeniable effectiveness keeps it firmly on the radar.

While body weight training isn’t new, it only gained recognition as a defined trend in the last decade. As it continues to captivate fitness enthusiasts worldwide, there’s no doubt that this timeless yet contemporary approach to exercise is here to stay.

The History of Body Weight Training in the Fitness Industry

Just like Strength Training with Free Weights (Number 2 on the list), the history of body weight training in the fitness industry is a tale of ancient origins, modern resurgence, and enduring popularity. The Greeks, in particular, integrated gymnastics and callisthenics into their daily lives, laying the foundation for what we now call body weight training.

Callisthenics, derived from the Greek words “kalos” (meaning beauty) and “sthenos” (meaning strength),[2] is a form of exercise that utilises one’s body weight for resistance and requires minimal equipment. Its origins can be traced back to ancient Greece, where it was an integral part of physical education for warriors and athletes. The Greeks believed that a harmonious blend of strength and aesthetics was essential for a well-rounded individual, hence the name.

In ancient Greece, callisthenics exercises included activities like push-ups, squats, planks, and various bodyweight movements. These exercises aimed to enhance physical performance and cultivate the ideal of the “kalokagathia” or beautiful and virtuous physique.

Over time, callisthenics spread across cultures and adapted to different fitness philosophies. In the 19th century, it gained popularity in Europe and the United States as a form of gymnastics, emphasising grace and strength. During this period, individuals performed intricate routines on equipment like parallel bars and rings, showcasing their athleticism and artistry.

In recent decades, callisthenics has experienced a resurgence in popularity, particularly in the fitness industry. It offers several advantages that appeal to modern fitness enthusiasts. 

  • Firstly, it requires minimal equipment, making it accessible and affordable for anyone interested in improving their physical fitness. 
  • Secondly, it emphasises functional strength and body control, which translates to improved athleticism and overall health.

The current use of callisthenics in the fitness industry is multifaceted. It is widely practised in bodyweight training routines, CrossFit, and street workout disciplines. Callisthenics parks, outdoor facilities equipped with bars and platforms, have also become increasingly common in urban areas, fostering a sense of community among enthusiasts.

Moreover, social media platforms have played a pivotal role in popularising callisthenics, with practitioners showcasing their impressive feats of strength and agility, inspiring others to take up the discipline. Additionally, callisthenics competitions and events have emerged, providing a platform for athletes to demonstrate their skills and creativity.[3]

The Benefits of Using Body Weight Training for the Fitness Enthusiast

Bodyweight training is a convenient, effective, and versatile workout regimen. Unlike traditional gym workouts that rely on machines and equipment, bodyweight training leverages your own body as resistance, offering a myriad of benefits that can transform your health, body shape, and physical fitness. 

Let’s dive into three key advantages and explore the liberating aspect of working out anywhere:

  1. Holistic Health: Bodyweight training engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously, improving overall strength, flexibility, and balance. This holistic approach enhances joint mobility and reduces the risk of injuries, promoting long-term health and vitality.[4]
  1. Sculpted Physique: Say goodbye to bulky equipment and hello to lean, toned muscles. Bodyweight exercises like push-ups, squats, and planks target specific muscle groups, helping you achieve the sculpted physique you desire without the need for heavy weights.
  1. Any Fitness Level: Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced athlete, bodyweight training can be tailored to your fitness level. As you progress, you can increase the intensity of your workouts, continually challenging your cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength.

What truly sets bodyweight training apart is its accessibility. You can perform these exercises anywhere, whether it’s in your living room, a park, or a hotel room while travelling. The absence of equipment means no excuses – your fitness journey is always within reach.

The Benefits of Using Body Weight Training for the Fitness Professional

Here, we explore how Fitness Professionals (Personal Trainers (PTs), Fitness Instructors, and Strength and Conditioning Coaches) can leverage the benefits of bodyweight training and seamlessly incorporate it into their clients’ programs.

  • Versatility and Accessibility: One of the greatest advantages of bodyweight training is its versatility. Whether you’re working with a seasoned athlete or a beginner, bodyweight exercises can be tailored to suit individual fitness levels. PTs can use exercises like push-ups, squats, and planks as foundational movements, gradually progressing to more challenging variations. Plus, bodyweight exercises require little to no equipment, making them accessible to clients who prefer home workouts or have limited access to a gym.
  • Functional Strength and Core Stability: Bodyweight exercises are excellent for developing functional strength and core stability, which are essential for overall fitness. Incorporating exercises like burpees, mountain climbers, and hanging leg raises can help clients improve their balance, posture, and muscle endurance. Fitness professionals can design programs that target specific muscle groups or work on full-body integration, depending on their clients’ goals.
  • Creative Programming: To keep clients engaged and motivated, fitness professionals should get creative with bodyweight exercises. Implement circuit training, interval workouts, and HIIT routines that combine bodyweight movements with cardio elements. These variations not only challenge clients physically but also prevent workout boredom. Additionally, integrating bodyweight exercises into group fitness classes can foster a sense of camaraderie among participants.

Helpful Tips for Fitness Professionals:

  • Assess and Progress: Begin by assessing your clients’ fitness levels and mobility. Modify exercises accordingly, and gradually progress as their strength and endurance improve. Individualised programs yield the best results.
  • Educate and Demonstrate: Take the time to educate your clients about proper form and technique. Demonstrating exercises ensures they perform them correctly, minimising the risk of injury.
  • Mix It Up: Variety is key to maintaining interest and challenging your clients. Periodically introduce new bodyweight exercises or modify existing ones to keep workouts exciting and effective.
How to get the Best Use out of Body Weight Training in your Programs

Bodyweight training, especially when it incorporates primal movement patterns (pushing, pulling, squatting, lunging, bending, and rotating), can be a game-changer in your fitness journey. These fundamental movements mimic the actions our ancestors needed for survival and are integral for overall functional strength and mobility.[5] 

Here’s how you can make the best use of bodyweight training in your gym program:

  1. Master the Basics: Start with foundational movements like squats, lunges, push-ups, and planks. These exercises engage multiple muscle groups, improving your strength, stability, and coordination.
  1. Progression is Key: As you get comfortable with the basics, gradually advance to more challenging variations. For example, move from regular squats to pistol squats or from standard push-ups to one-arm push-ups.
  1. Incorporate Variety: Incorporate all the primal movement patterns, including pushing, pulling, squatting, lunging, bending, and rotating, into your routine. This holistic approach ensures balanced strength development.
  1. Functional Fitness: Primal movements mimic real-life activities, making you better prepared for daily tasks and reducing the risk of injury.
  1. Use Your Environment: No fancy equipment needed! Use your surroundings creatively – tree branches for pull-ups, benches for step-ups, or even rocks for added resistance.
  1. Work on Mobility: Primal movements enhance your flexibility and range of motion, which are essential for overall fitness.
  1. Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to form and alignment to prevent injuries. Start slowly and gradually increase intensity.
  1. Mix It Up: Combine bodyweight training with other forms of exercise like cardio or yoga to keep your workouts exciting and effective.
My Top 3 Body Weight Training Workouts

Regardless of what stage you are at with your health and fitness journey, I always find the K.I.S.S (Keep It Super Simple) principle to program design works best… there’s no need to over complicate things!

Here are three Bodyweight Training programs tailored for beginners, intermediates, and advanced clients. Remember to consult with a fitness professional or physician before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions or concerns.

Beginner Bodyweight Training Program:

Duration: 8-12 weeks

Weeks 1-4 (Foundation Building):

Push-Ups: 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Bodyweight Squats: 3 sets of 10-12 reps

Plank: 3 sets of 20-30 seconds

Walking: 30 minutes of brisk walking on non-training days

Weeks 5-8 (Progression):

Incline Push-Ups: 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Bodyweight Lunges: 3 sets of 10-12 reps per leg

Side Plank: 3 sets of 20-30 seconds per side

Walking: 30-45 minutes of brisk walking on non-training days

Intermediate Bodyweight Training Program:

Duration: 8-12 weeks

Weeks 1-4 (Strength Building):

Push-Ups: 4 sets of 10-12 reps

Bodyweight Squats: 4 sets of 12-15 reps

Plank: 3 sets of 30-40 seconds

Jumping Jacks: 3 sets of 30 seconds on training days

Brisk Walking or Light Jogging: 30-45 minutes on non-training days

Weeks 5-8 (Progressive Overload):

Diamond Push-Ups: 4 sets of 10-12 reps

Pistol Squats (Assisted if necessary): 4 sets of 8-10 reps per leg

Russian Twists: 3 sets of 15-20 reps

Jumping Jacks or Burpees: 4 sets of 30 seconds on training days

Brisk Walking or Light Jogging: 30-45 minutes on non-training days

Advanced Bodyweight Training Program:

Duration: Ongoing, with periodization

Weeks 1-4 (Strength & Skill Focus):

Handstand Push-Ups: 4 sets of 6-8 reps (against a wall if needed)

Pistol Squats (Unassisted): 4 sets of 6-8 reps per leg

Planche Progression (Tuck or Advanced Tuck): 3 sets of 15-20 seconds

Burpees: 4 sets of 45 seconds on training days

Interval Sprints: 30-second sprint followed by 60 seconds of rest (repeat 5-7 times) on non-training days

Weeks 5-8 (Hypertrophy & Conditioning):

One-Arm Push-Ups: 4 sets of 6-8 reps per arm

Single-Leg Box Jumps: 4 sets of 8-10 reps per leg

L-Sit on Parallel Bars: 4 sets of 15-20 seconds

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): 30 seconds of all-out effort followed by 30 seconds of rest (repeat 8-10 times) on non-training days

Please note: Remember to progressively increase the intensity, duration, or complexity of exercises as you get stronger and more skilled. Also, ensure you maintain proper form and consider incorporating rest and recovery days into your program to prevent overtraining and promote long-term progress.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, bodyweight training is a game-changer for anyone looking to revamp their fitness routine. It not only challenges your body but also offers a refreshing break from conventional gym workouts. So, why wait? Dive into the world of bodyweight training and unlock your full fitness potential today!

Please Note: The information provided in this article are the opinions and professional experience of the author and not all activities are recommended for the beginner or participants with underlying health conditions. Before following any advice or starting any fitness, health and wellbeing journey please consult with an Allied Health Professional and / or General Practitioner.


  1. ACSM’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2023: Thompson, Walter R. Ph.D., FACS
  2. Callisthenics: Derived from the Greek words “kalos” (meaning beauty) and “sthenos” (meaning strength)
  3. FIBO 2018 – Barheroes Calisthenics Competition
  4. The Advantages of Body-Weight Exercise: Harvard Health Publishing
  5. The Origins of Primal Pattern® Movement Training Part 1: Paul Chek, Founder at C.H.E.K Institute
Steve Irwin

Steve Irwin

Steve has spent the last 19 years in the Australian Fitness Industry as a Group Fitness Instructor, 1-1 Coach, State Manager, Business Owner and is currently an Educator for the Australian Institute of Fitness. A lifelong fitness enthusiast he started his working life in the Military which guided him into the fitness industry where his passion for helping others on their health and fitness journey has been realised. Steve believes that for anyone thinking about getting fit or healthy they should “just get started” as “doing something is better than doing nothing”.

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