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For the past few weeks, I’ve been getting lots of requests from readers who need some help developing a strength-focused bodyweight fitness program. I decided to organize some of my best tips into a post…

Intensity and Strength

The word intensity requires a different definition for each goal that you choose. The only, generally accepted, universal definition for intensity has to do with focus and strength. How hard do you go?

For weight training, intensity can be defined by the percentage of your one repetition maximum that you lift. 90% of your one repetition for 2 repetitions is more intense than 75% for 2 repetitions.

We can employ a very similar approach to bodyweight training. The tricky part is choosing movements that you are unable to perform. That’s how you get stronger.

If you can do 10 pullups, and are trying to get up to 20 pullups, that is not maximal strength development. This is strength endurance. You’re telling me that you already have enough body control to perform lots of pullups.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you want to get stronger, you have to perform the movement as often as possible. Training a movement once a week is not going to cut it. If you look at the best athletes out there, they practice their craft for hours on end on a daily basis.

You do not need to train for hours on end to improve your strength levels. However, you do need to take a very similar approach. For example, if you’re training 5 days a week, 20 minutes a day, devote 3 of those days to your strength exercises.

Lets assume your strength exercises were handstand pushups and one arm pullups. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, practice handstand pushups and one-arm pullups 10 minutes each session.

Here are some potential ways you can organize your 10 minute strength session:

Method One: Straight or Super Sets

  • Perform 10 sets of 1 repetition (or half a repetition, any range of motion you can perform), with 45 seconds of rest in between.
  • For Super Sets, perform the first exercise, rest 45 seconds, then perform the second exercise.

Method Two: Max Reps for Time

  • Set a timer for 10 minutes, and pump out as many repetitions of a movement as possible.
  • Strive to perform at least one repetition on your next workout.

Cardio during a Strength Cycle

I’m not a huge fan of cardio as it is, however it’s very easy to gain fat during a strength or mass gain cycle. Hence, if you choose to do cardio, make sure it’s “fast” cardio. The following are examples of fast cardio:

  • Shadowboxing
  • Sprinting
  • Jump Roping (stick to tricks like double unders and cross overs)
  • Sledge Hammer Swings

Strength work requires lots of fast twitch muscle fiber activation. When you start steady state cardio during a strength cycle, you confuse your body, since slow jogging uses slow twitch muscle fibers. If your one and only true goal is to improve your strength levels, then stay away from steady state cardio until the cycle is complete.

Use these point to improve your strength levels for pullups, pushups, squats, or any other bodyweight exercises you need to work on.

If you’re ready to incorporate really increase your strength levels using bodyweight-only movements, then check out The Muscle Experiment by Mike Thiga. Click here to learn more.