One thing I've never gotten away from are bodyweight exercises. No matter how big I've gotten or how many lbs I've added to my frame, bodyweight exercises have always been a staple. If you weigh 250 lbs and cannot perform a set of pull-ups then your 250 lbs is shit weight.
Think about it for a second, why would you build a big and powerful physique if it cannot even move your own bodyweight? It makes no fucking sense! Also, I think there is something to be said about the way the body functions to move itself. There is no better way for the mind/muscle connection than your body moving itself. You're not going to perform a push-up or a pull-up that you don't feel in the right muscle groups, however you can perform bench presses and lateral pull-downs where the shoulders and joints and biceps take the brunt of the work and not the back or chest. There is just something to be said for bodyweight exercises.
When most people think of conventional bodybuilding, they don't think that a push-up or pull-up will build you. They tend to think of these exercises as “toning”. Listen, any time you're pushing your muscles to failure you're going to get results. The push-up and pull-up is a fantastic way to build your body. You're not going to go from 10 push-ups to 20, to 40, to 80 in a row, without getting bigger and stronger. You're not going to do a bunch of dips or weighted dips, without building bigger triceps.
Now here is the trick. It's how you perform the bodyweight exercises that is key. If you go into it like a CrossFitter and just use a shitload of momentum to do these movements, you're only shortchanging yourself. If you go into it nice and slow and feel the muscles working, you're gonna get huge.
Eventually you will need more resistance to get bigger, but what if you could add resistance while still performing basic bodyweight function exercises? It's the functionality and leverage principles of the movements that builds results, not just the bodyweight. It's the arms, chest, and back moving in the natural plane that builds the results. Now take that natural plane and add resistance and you're going to get even bigger. Listen, if your muscles are pushing to failure then they are getting worked enough. It doesn't matter whether it came from a bench press or a push-up, all the muscle knows is it was challenged and stressed, and it responds.
Here is a 4 week program that will do a couple things for even an advanced trainee:
#1 – It will help build joint strength and allow the body to recover from heavy resistance training with weights.
#2 – It will help with mind muscle connection and controlling the muscles.
Take a 4 week phase where you train with bodyweight exercises only! Now, it's OK to add weight in these movements, but the basic bodyweight exercise doesn't change. For example, having a partner put a couple 45's on your back is fine if you're doing push-ups.
Every other day you will hit this:
4 sets of push-ups or weighted push-ups with plates on your back (15-20 reps/set)
3-4 sets of dips or weighted dips with a belt with chain, OR bench dips with plates in your lap, 15-20 reps
50 reps of pull-ups, any variation, weighted if you can. Do as many as you can per set until you hit 50 reps
Decline sit-ups- 4-5 sets of 25 reps
That's it, nothing more!
If it gets easy then add more weight, but make sure you stick with these bodyweight function exercises. When you go back to hitting dumbbells and barbells, you may be surprised at the strength gains! Not to mention, your joints might feel new again!