8 Mistakes You Make with Bodyweight Training

8 Mistakes You Make with Bodyweight Training

#1 – Using a Bodybuilding Training Split

Organizing a typical weight training routine for muscle building is very simple. You train chest and triceps on day one, back and biceps on day two, shoulders and legs on day three.

Simple.

Not so simple with bodyweight training since it’s very difficult to isolate a muscle group.

There are a few other options you can use to organize your workouts:

Upper/Lower Split – Train your upper body one day, and lower body the other day.

  • Pro – can easily train upto 6 days per week, alternating between two workouts
  • Con – overemphasis on lower body. You’d logically end up doing more sets for lower body then upper body if you attempt to keep the time spent training the same.
  • Pro – Who cares for the con, as most people end up skimping out on leg training anyways.

Full-Body Split – Train your entire body within one session

  • Pro – will only need to train 3 days per week.
  • Cons – if you want to train at a higher frequency, you will need to start splitting up body. Try an upper/lower split.
  • Pro – Perfect option for beginners.

Push/Pull Split – On the first day train pushing movements such as pushups and squats. Second day perform pulling movements such as chinups and hanging leg raises.

  • Pro – can easily train upto 6 days per week, alternating between two workouts
  • Pro – avoids the the problem faced in upper/lower splitting, as you are training your chest, shoulders, and legs on one day
  • Pro – Training upper body pulling and abs on the same day is a perfect blend, as much of your abs are used when performing pullups.
  • Con – If you end up including stability ball leg curls, and other similar movements considered pulling, then you’d be performing legs back to back.

Strength/Cardio Split – On the first day, perform only movements you need to increase your strength in such as pullups and dips. Second day perform more cardio based exercises such as burpees and high knees.

  • Pro – great way to work in both muscle building/strength workouts and high intensity cardio moves.
  • Pro – useful if you want to prevent excessive fat gain while on a muscle building program
  • Con – works full body daily. If not careful, this split can lead to overtraining.

Movement-Specialization Splits – Select a movement you want to increase your strength on. Train this movement 3-4 times per week, with other bodyparts in maintenance mode.

  • Pro – great way to bring up your numbers on a specific movement
  • Con – might get week in everything else
  • Tip – make sure to train similar movements on the same day as your one primary movement. For example if you’re training the pullup, also include inverted rows and other back exercises.

Movement-Based Variations – Choose 2-3 core lifts, and base an entire day around these lifts. For example if your core lift is dips, then perform pushup and dip variations on that day.

  • Pro – provides greater clarity in how to structure a program
  • Con – beginners will gas out quickly.
  • Pro – great way to bring up your numbers on a specific movement

Conclusion: there is no perfect training split, and if you try to carry over bodybuilding splits or use that mindframe when trying to organize your programs, you’ll run into a lot of headache.

I like training push/pull, but stick to majority full body workouts. It’s easier to just get it all done in one day. Less hassle, less thinking, more training.

#2 – Putting a Time Cap on your Workouts

A 15 minute workout is rarely ever truly a 15 minute workout. You need to take time for a warmup, to mentally get yourself ready train hard, and to cool down from the intense blast your put your body through.

If you scheduled 15 minutes, and after that time, you’re not sweating, out of breath, and ready to give up, then you need to allow more time to focus on your workouts.

It’s not about the workout…it’s about the focus on that workout.

You rarely ever end up putting a time cap on things that are most important in your life. Do you a time limit on how much time you spend with your family? Your friends? What about how long you spend making money? If anything, most of us are looking for more hours and opportunities to earn an income.

So why skimp out when it comes to working on yourself?

Give the time commitment necessary to push yourself to your limits in each and every workout. You’re better off having one, 30-minute workout per week where you really push yourself, rather than 3, 15-minute workouts where you’re rushing through the movements and are too focused on the clock to concentrate on what you’re doing.

#3 – Putting a Cap on Sets and Reps

Along the same line of thinking as #2, the workout isn’t over until it’s over.

When I had training partners, we would take turns pushing each other by stating, “One more! One more.” This was when I had some of my best workouts. It’s essentially what a good personal trainer is supposed to do.

When training by yourself, it’s much easier to quit.

Look at your training program (hopefully, you’ve written it down somewhere). Memorize it. Then start training and listen to your body.

What you’ve written down on the paper is your MINIMUM. That’s what you HAVE to complete. That’s your commitment.

Anything more you do is your real work.

How’s that for a mindset shift?

#4 – Relying TOO much on Science

So now there’s any actual YouTube channel called BroScience. (Slaps forehead).

Actually, I take the forehead slap back. Broscience is probably the best kind of science. Broscience is what Arnold and all the greats relied on to build their bodies.

Exercise isn’t rocket science. It’s very simple. You do a set of exercises in an organized fashion.

Then you do those same exercises again in a few days, this time doing more sets and reps. Perhaps you make the exercise more difficult. Perhaps you add an exercises to the routine.

Etc.

The point is that you find a way to make the workouts difficult each session, pushing yourself just a little bit more to get stronger and fitter.

You don’t need a research study to do that. Use your instincts. After a few training sessions, you will have learned how to listen to your body.

Try a little bit of everything to see what works. Actually start and follow through with a program to its end. Stick to it for at least 4 weeks.

#5 – Stop Trying to be the Master of All

One of my favorite YouTube channels is BodybuildingRev, and their Strength Wars challenges. In these episodes, they pit two strength athletes against each other.

Sometimes it’ll be a Powerlifter vs Street Athlete or a Powerlifter vs Strongman, or a Calisthenics athlete vs Powerbuilder.

What you learn from these videos is that based on which exercises are chosen for each event, and in what order they are organized, the entire contest will given one guy the edge over the other.

In one episode they put a Powerbuilder vs a Powerlifter. A powerbuilder is someone who competes in both powerlifting and bodybuilding. The event was as follows:

  • Military Press 80kg, 20 reps
  • Pull ups 30 reps
  • Front Squats 110kg 20 reps

The powerlifter smoked the military press. By the the time the powerbuilder started his pullups, the powerlifter had completed nearly 20 repetitions.

This is a great example of someone training for one thing (maximal strength) smoking someone who has his hands in too many directions.

This is the mistake I see many people make. They want to burn fat AND build muscle AND improve their pullups AND get six pack abs….

Work on one goal at a time. Stick to one program. Find what you’re good at. Find what your body responds well to. Then get really really good at it.

The reason why people are all over the place is because of the increased availability of information.

There’s a new “secret training program” that comes out every day. It’s ok to read blogs, magazines, and books on the topic of exercise. It’s also great to feel excited about trying something new.

It’s not good to jump from one protocol to another before completing one. My recommendation is 4 weeks before starting something new, but I personally prefer sticking to something for at least 6 weeks.

6 weeks seems to be the magic number for me – this is when I can really judge whether or not something was beneficial.

There is also the matter of perception. We’ve been sold a certain image of what results look for. Apparently if you don’t achieve six pack abs in 12 weeks, it’s not worth it.

I honestly do not believe that if you’ve stuck to a program that pushes you, and have been monitoring your diet, then you’re incapable of losing at least 3 pounds in 6 weeks or gaining 1-2 pounds in of muscle in 6 weeks.

If you set a goal for yourself and you failed, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your efforts were worthless. It means that now you have 6 weeks worth of data. You should have been keeping track of every workout and everything you ate.

Now it’s time to go back, analyze, adjust, and restart.

That’s how you accomplish ANYTHING in life.  Whether it be business, career, education, or relationships – a period of self-reflection and commitment is absolutely essential to success.

#6 – Variation within Protocols

With Crossfit, you try to be a jack of all trades – master of none.

Variation is good, but only when it meets the needs of a single goal. For example, say you’re on a solid bodyweight regimen, with the goal of burning fat.

Using a strength/cardio split, you would have one day where you focus on building muscle and strength – then on the second day, perform more of a bodyweight cardio workout consisting of burpees, high knees, tuck jumps, etc.

There is variation, but you’re still sticking to a single protocol: bodyweight exercises.

You’re not swimming one day (which requires a good amount of skill), then rope climbing the following day (which also requires a good amount of skill), then performing olympic lifts the third day (which CERTAINLY requires a tremendous amount of skill).

This type of training is only useful for elite-level military personnel. Even within military training regimens, there is a level of specificity.

Variation is good, but it needs to be managed.

Suppose your goal was solely to build muscle. Then the recommendation would be to tone down the bodyweight cardio. Perform only one cardio session per week, for example.

There is ultimately no purpose in attempting to be great at many things, as pointed out in #5. Stick to a small set of protocols, and follow through.

One reason why people are unable to stick to one protocol is because they don’t believe strongly in it.

Yes, belief plays a huge factor.

Scroll through the comments of any YouTube video that features a routine. You’ll find at least one person asking, “Will this really work?”

I feel like saying, “No, bozo. This dude is just wasting his time sharing this information with you.”

If you believe it’ll work, then you’ll commit to it. If you do something long enough, and put your heart into it, you’ll get at least some results. Once you get some results, then you can go back, analyze, and figure out how you can get more results.

Simple.

That’s the process.

Rinse and repeat.

I often share the story of how one of my friends lost 50lbs with just running and pushups. It’s such a terrible training regimen. But he believed in it, and did it. No matter how long it took.

When it stopped working, he sought help.

Part of the blame is fitness marketers who make such hyped promises. But have you have wondered why it is that you believe such hyped offers?

It’s because you want to believe it. Even if you know deep down that it’s not possible for you put on 30lbs of muscle in 12 weeks, or lost 50lbs of fat in 6 weeks…you want to believe that such results are possible.

This might offend some people, but it’s true. We are all emotional creatures.  However, fat loss and muscle gain isn’t emotional.

#7 – Overtraining

Ah, no “mistakes” article would be complete without a discussion on overtraining.

What is it, really?

Overtraining is when you push your body to a point where you’re unable to properly recover from each subsequent workout.

Many believe overtraining is caused by excessive exercise. To that, I say this: look at Olympic and professional athletes. It’s not uncommon for them to train for 4+ hours per day.

So how do they avoid overtraining?

They eat more and get enough sleep.

With so many other obligations such as school, work, family, etc. – it’s much easier for us non-professional athlete folks to hit a point of overtraining.

This is because we skimp out on eating and sleeping.

Sleep, I believe is a general problem in the U.S. The large majority of us are already sleep-deprived (and some of us are proud of it). We drink an incredible amount of coffee and rely on energy pills/drinks to pick up the slack.

All we need is….sleep.

Eating wise, the problem isn’t necessarily that we don’t eat enough, but that we don’t eat enough nutritionally dense foods.

The great thing is that bodyweight training does not fatigue your central nervous system (CNS) the way barbell squats and deadlifts do. Therefore, theoretically you should be able to train at a higher frequency without much problem.

#8 – Attempting to Isolate a Muscle Group

Complete isolation of a muscle group – they way you can isolate your biceps with biceps curls, or triceps with triceps extensions – is fairly difficult with bodyweight movements.

Not impossible…difficult.

Many of the advanced movements such as one arm chinups and bodyweight tricep extensions will isolate your muscles…but they require a base level of strength before you even attempt them.

Think about it this way: it’s easy to curl a 30-40 lbs barbell.

It’s difficult to curl your own bodyweight.

That’s why you’ll see bodyweight athletes with such big arms. They perform the advanced moves…but not before they’ve developed a base level of strength.