As you progress, your body will adapt to what you put it through. This means that you’ll become more efficient at the lifts you perform. To get past the sticking point, change the lifts you do, change your rep/set scheme, and change your intensity level.
Reverse Grip Bent Over Rows
Compare this routine with last month’s beginner program. Keep in mind that these are the only lifts you are to perform.
Strength is the backbone of every goal. Whether you want to lose fat, build muscle, improve your health, or become a superior athlete, strength is where it all starts. I have created a 12-week program to help you improve your strength levels. This workout is a beginner program. The lifts in this routine can be learned rather easily. However, I still recommend that you proceed with caution. Try to get an advanced lifter check your form.
The program resembles many of the great programs out there today such as Bill Starr’s 5X5, Stronglifts 5X5, and Starting Strength. What makes it unique, in my opinion, is really in the progression. I believe that you can not add weight indefinitely, or increase volume indefinitely, or use straight sets indefinitely, or use the same rest between sets indefinitely.
You will be asked to attempt to increase the weight each time, but we’re going to push things along by steadily increasing the number of sets performed, decreasing the number of reps performed, decreasing your rest periods, and decreasing the number of exercises performed.
Lets start off with the basic template:
Bent Over Row
Train 3 days a week, performing Workout A on Day 1, Workout B on Day 2, and then Workout A again on Day 3. Continue the cycle the following week with Workout B on Day 1, Workout A on Day 2, and Workout B again on Day 3.
Use the following 12-week progression plan:
Rest: 2-3 minutes
Start off with performing 5 repetitions for each set for 5 sets total. Rest 2-3 minutes.
Rest: 1-2 minutes
In the second month, drop the rest periods to 1-2 minutes. You may need to drop weight initially, but don’t worry, you’ll regain strength quickly.
Rest: 1-2 minutes
Switch to 8 rep sets. Once again, you may need to reduce weight initially, but will regain strength quickly. Also remember to keep you rest periods between 1-2 minutes.
In the grand scheme of things, don’t get too caught up in the sets, reps, or rest periods. As you lift, you will learn how to listen to your body. If you find that at the end of your session, you can lift more, then feel free to pump out a few more sets, but make sure to increase weight in your next session. The goal is here is to get a challenging workout and get stronger.
In the last installment, we went over how to choose the right training split and how to organize your exercises based on that split. I hope now you have a rough schedule set up.The next step is to determine how many repetitions to perform per exercise. Use the following table as a guide:
Note these are just guidelines. You can certainly move out of your rep range for a particular goal, and still be able to achieve some gains in other goals. For example, a trainee training for mass will certainly be able to increase their base level of strength if they continually use more difficult exercises. The key to progress with bodyweight training is to seek out more difficult exercises, or find ways of making a set more difficult.
How many sets per session?
The number of sets performed per session is based on the number of exercises you have per session. So, for arguments sake, lets assume that your session lasts 30 minutes and you have five upper body exercises in that session. Here is a sample routine:
If you’re goal is to put on muscle, then you will be performing 8 reps per exercise. Here is how you will determine how many sets to perform in total:
Time each set of exercises as you time them. For example, lets say you perform 8 pullups in 26 seconds. This means that you can perform one pull up in approximately 3.25 seconds. Do this for the rest of your exercises, then average the times. Lets assume our average is 2.1 seconds per repetition. Multiply this by the total number of repetitions per exercise, or 8. This will give you an idea of how long each set will take you. In our case the number is 16.8 seconds.
Next step is to determine the rest between each set. Let us assume that you are an intermediate. Since your goal is mass gain, you choose to start off with taking a 2 minute rest between each set. Add that two minutes, or 120 seconds of rest to the 16.8 seconds we found to be the average length of each set. This number is now 136.8. For simplicity, lets round it up to 137 seconds.
Take this 137 seconds, which represents the time it will take for you to complete one set of an exercise, and divide that into the 30 minute session. First convert the 30 minutes into seconds (30 x 60 = 1800). So, 1800 divided by 137 seconds means that we have room for 13 total sets.
Distribute these 13 sets amongst the 5 exercises that you have chosen from before. Here is a sample:
Use this process to create the workouts for the rest of your training program.
Designing an effective bodyweight workout is hard work, and frankly takes years of trial and error. Why not just grab a tried and true program that’s already helped hundreds of thousands of individuals just like you lose weight and build lean muscle mass? Get access to 100 of bodyweight workouts here!
You ever watch that show “Ninja Warrior?” Ninja Warrior is a tournament held in Japan that has individuals try to get through a nearly impossible obstacle course. These obstacle courses don’t require brute strength and incredible endurance.
What they require is the ability to move your own bodyweight effectively through space. The athletes who actually complete these courses are usually very lean and cut. The big guys usually fall off. The short guys usually slip.
And over confident guys fail the first.
Ninja Warrior is one of the best tests of effective body control and mental toughness. The reason I’m talking about this is because Ninja Warrior also effectively brings to mind the effectiveness of even basic bodyweight training.
Most people will never compete or even think about competing on Ninja Warrior. However, what the show reveals is a very simple lack of most training programs: the ability to move. Most people simply can’t move.
Powerlifters can move big weights, but most have difficult moving themselves up a flight of steps. Distance runners may be able to move forward, but they do so at aridiculously boring, slow pace. But a Ninja Warrior, on the other hand, needs to jump, crawl, duck, sprint, climb, and fall in order to survive the challenges that are faced before him.
What I’m talking about is the idea that you first need to develop a base level of health and fitness before you can pursue a narrower goal. Getting enormously big, or incredibly lean, or super fast, or super strong, or developing unbelievable endurance are useless if you can’t do other things well.
I believe that basic bodyweight movements such as pushups, pullups, squats, jump roping, jumping, sprinting – anything that involves improving the movement of your own bodyweight is very crucial to your overall well being.
Just by performing these basic movement, you’ll be leaner, stronger, and more agile. For example, when peforming a pullup or pushup, your body will perform better if it has less to push and pull. In other words you’ll lose weight.
And when you already carry a good amount of weight on your body, you’ll be training your joints to handle lifting that much weight. Why are you hitting the weights if you already weight 100, 150, or 200 lbs?
You already have enough weight to lift. Learn to lift your weight first before you decide to join a gym or start buying pieces of weight. Basic pushups and pullups actually work a greater amount of muscle tissue then popular gym movement such as the bench press and row.
Getting strong with a bodyweight program can be very simple. You just need to follow some very basic principles:
Your body does not know how much weight is being lifted. You and your mind quantify the amount of weight by pounds or kilos. It’s a human-made system. Your muscles only understand one thing: stress.
Hence, the more stress you place upon a muscle, the more that muscle will react. Whether or not the muscle grows stronger will depend on what you do after the workout.
The only way you can get weaker is if you do not do anything to place greater stress on the muscle. This is why many endurance-type workouts often cause a decrease in strength.
In order to increase strength through bodyweight training, a base level of fitness must be established. My opinion is that one should be able to perform 5pullups, 10 pushups, and 20 bodyweight squats before attempting any other strength goals.
There are numerous training methods for improving strength through bodyweight training. However, the most important thing you must learn is how to make an exercise more difficult.
Simple changes such as hand position, leverage, and sophistication can make a movement more difficult. These methods can also make a movement easier. For example, if you are unable to perform a fullpullup (palms facing away grip), you may find a chinup (palms facing you grip) much easier.
Strength is an important component to all aspects of fitness. In order to increase lean muscle mass, you need strength. In order to lose fat, you must perform certain exercises. These exercise will also require a base level of strength.
Follow these tips and you will find yourself much bigger and stronger through bodyweight training. For more information on bodyweight training, check out Bodyweight Exercise Revolution.
If you have very little time in your schedule to weight train, then you should try to maximize your time in the gym. Maximizing your time means sticking to compound exercises and picking a set/rep scheme based on your goals.
Now, this is just a general template for you to use for increasing your strength and size with compound movements. If you’re looking for a more well-rounded fitness program using compound movements, than I suggest you check out Athletic Body Workout.
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…
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No matter how many times I try to tell people that I do not belong to a particular category of fitness, people still tend to categorize me!
“Oh but you’re a bodybuilder,” says a customer at my Dad’s store while we’re talking about nutrition. “You’re a CF (CrossFit) athlete,” writes my bodybuilder friend on AIM.
Why do we Categorize?
Human begins use categories as a way to store information. It’s a great way to organize information, but a dangerous way of living your life. If you call yourself a Crossfit athlete, or a Bodybuilder, you will forever be a part of a stereo type of training methodologies and will inadvertently disregard anything that does not fit into the Crossfit or Bodybuilding methodology.
I feel that there are certainly things that bodybuilders can learn from Crossfit athletes, and vice versa. Each method has a particular flaw, and the best way to fill in the gaps is to “reach across the aisle” and try something new.
I think people should follow some sort of hybrid of a variety of fitness programs. Use the following guide to create your own unique program:
High Intensity Training
Crossfit, Heavy Duty, Tabata
Pro: Exercise can be done in a short period of time.
Pro: You can improve strength and mass dramatically (depending on program)
Pro: Can drop fat and improve athletic conditioning dramatically (depending on program)
Con: May not be suitable for beginners
Con: Can easily lead to over training and fatigue if there is poor focus on diet
High Volume Training
German Volume Training, The Russian Bear, Traditional Bodybuilding,
Pro: Great for hypertrophy
Pro: Simply program for beginners
Con: Added size comes with minimal gains in strength
Motor units are the functional units of a muscle. The percentage of motor units activated at a given time will determine the amount of force (power) that muscle produces. The force generated by a muscle needs to match the needs of the activity. For example, you do not want to recruit maximum motor units while washing the dishes or picking up a small child. However, you do want maximal motor unit recruitment when sprinting to the finish line or catching a bus.
When you lift fast, you recruit greater motor units with each repetition. According to Strength Coach Chad Waterbury, maximum motor unit recruitment is only sustainable for the first 15 seconds of a movement. Your smallest motor units are recruited first, followed by your larger motor units. However, you can recruit your larger motor units if the weight is heavy enough and the speed is fast enough. Since we can’t really know what “fast enough” or “heavy enough” means without being strapped to all these complicated devices and machines, the best thing is to lift the heaviest weight as fast as possible.
Now, with bodyweight training “heavy” gets replaced by “difficult.” The key is to consistently move onto different variations of a movement when that movement becomes too easy. But most trainees don’t know what too easy means. They go after unecessary repetition numbers and wonder why they’re not getting stronger or bigger. Well, high rep movements do in a way help improve strength levels, but not as well as moderate repetitions. High repetitions do nothing for strength levels.
Image by Combat-Aging
Move Faster and Stronger
We can use Waterbury’s 15 second theory in our bodyweight training as well. Here’s how you do it:
Take basic movements such as a pushups and pullups, and see how many repetitions you can do in 15 seconds. I can do 15 pushups and 5 pullups in 15 seconds each.
Design a routine where you are doing circuits of pushups and pullups. Lets assume you decide to perform 3 rounds of 15 pushups and 5 pullups. The entire workout should take you a minute and a half, theoretically.
Since each round is slower than the one before, the workout may end up taking 2-4 minutes, depending on your recovery time.
Your goal is going to be to move faster each time you perform the workout. With bodyweight training, it is not the load that matters, but the illusion of load. As you get more and more tired, your body thinks you are lifting heavier weights, and so taking as little rest between sets is another important aspect.
Lets assume that your workout time was 3 minutes. Keep hammering at the workout until you’ve dropped down to accomplishing the workout in under 2 minutes. Once you’ve accomplished this feat, switch to more difficult variations, and test your 15 seconds max for that exercise.
This approach to program design accomplishes a few things:
It gives you a 15-second time frame for recruiting as many muscle fibers as possible. Remember, anything after 15 seconds and you’re recruiting your smaller fibers as opposed to your fast-twitch, larger fibers which are essential for improvements in speed, power, and strength.
When you work to drop your total workout time and improve your work capacity and recovery, you get faster. Your sets will end up lasting less than 15 seconds, which give you a greater benefit when it comes to recruiting maximal muscle fibers.
Muscle fiber recruitment also depends on the necessity of the activity. Once you’ve become faster, it’s time to move onto another, difficult variation. Difficult variations are the bodyweight version of lifting heavier weights.
Exercises to Try
This video features some very great advanced bodyweight exercises to use as you progress with your training:
Related Products and Resources
Shawn Lebrun shows you the basics of putting on muscle mass and dropping fat in his eBook, “Simple Steps to Getting Huge and Shredded.” A lot of his clients using the information from the eBook have put on 15-25 lbs of muscle in as little as 8 weeks. Check out the eBook here.
Coach Eddie Lomax teaches you how to successfully use bodyweight training to accomplish your fitness goals.. The best part about his eBook is that he shows you how to steadily progress with your bodyweight workouts, and even gives you templates to help design your own workouts. Check out his eBook, “Workout Without Weights.”
My free Intense Bodyweight Workout Manual features three training programs with simple methods of progression. The manual is especially useful for individuals that have limited time and equipment to exercise. Download it for free here.