How Effective is Bodyweight Training?

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.

Click here if you want to experience the true effectiveness of bodyweight training today and learn over a hundred simple bodyweight movements that will help you become healthier, stronger, and leaner.

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Getting Strong with a Bodyweight Program

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.

Click here for more information.

Workout Compound Exercises

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.

Compound Exercise per Bodypart:

Chest – Bench Press (Barbell, Dumbbell, Flat, Incline), Arm Pull-overs (Barbell, Dumbbell)

Back – Rows (Dumbbell, Barbell)

Legs – Squats (Barbell, Dumbbell, Back, Front, Overhead),

Shoulders – Clean & Press (Power, Hang), Shoulder Press (Barbell, Dumbbell, Push Press, Push Jerk, Arnold)

Sample 3-day template for Size and Strength:

Day One

Squat Variation 8×3

Bench Variation 8×3

Row Variation 8×3

Press Variation 8×3

Day Two

Squat Variation 5×5

Bench Variation 5×5

Row Variation 5×5

Press Variation 5×5

Day Three

Squat Variation 3×8

Bench Variation 3×8

Row Variation 3×8

Press Variation 3×8

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.

Click here to Grab your Copy of Athletic Body Workout Today!

Make your Quick Workout even Quicker by Setting up an Obstacle Course

Image by The Bunny Ears Network

The Japanese show on the channel G4 titled “Ninja Warrior” is the perfect example of setting up obstacle courses to test strength, speed, and endurance.

  • You don’t need complicated equipment to set up your own obstacle course. What I’ve done in the past is to take all the equipment I have and place it out in my back yard.
  • Then, I’ve just tried to create something intense and difficult.

Here is a sample workout:

Round One:
5 Kettlebell Clean and Press each hand
5 Burpees
10 Resistance Band Punches each hand
Sprint

Round Two:
10 Kettlebell Clean and Press each hand
10 Burpees
20 Resistance Band Punches each hand
Sprint

Round Three:
20 Kettlebell Clean and Press each hand
20 Burpees
40 Resistance Band Punches each hand
Sprint


Check out the video of round three:

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Gladiator Body Workout

  • Gladiator Body Workout is an Athletic Fitness system which combines Dumbbell and Bodyweight exercises along with interval training to help you Drop Fat, Build Lean Muscle Mass, Get Stronger, and Improve Athletic Performance.
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Am I a Bodybuilder or a Crossfit Athlete?

Image by Nadeem

I’m not a bodybuilder!

I’m not a Crossfit athlete!

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
  • Con: Workouts take a long time

Strength-Based Training

  • Stronglift’s 5×5, Starting Strength, Westside Barbell
  • Pro: Can put on size and strength extremely fast
  • Pro: Can drop fat due to an increase in metabolic rate
  • Con: Beginners need more time to learn movements
  • Con: Workouts are boring

There you have it. Try each program out for a few months.

Then:

  • Choose one program that you really like and know will stick for the rest of your life
  • Identify the strengths and weaknesses of that program
  • Fill in the weaknesses of the program using principles from other programs.
  • Now create your own website and brand your program!

3 Key Points to Help you Develop Strength-Focused Fitness Programs without Weights

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.

 

Maximum Motor Recruitment with Bodyweight Training

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

The Wrap-Up

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.

 

 

How to Train for Strength

Dave Tate

Dave Tate. Photo by Elite Fitness Systems.

Most trainees believe that training for muscle mass is the same as training for strength. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. There is some correlation between the two. If you train for strength, you will put on a little bit of muscle mass, and if you train for mass, you’re likely to gain some strength. But this only occurs when a “training crossover” takes place. More about this later. Read more.

How to Design an Effective Quick Workout

Image by Somewhat Frank

I spend a lot of time on this website talking about quick workouts. It’s time to give you guys a primer on how to design such a workout:

Step One: How long will the workout last?

  • Determine how long you want the workout to last and make that your time period or TP. You can choose a TP of 20 minutes, 10 minutes, or even 5 minutes. But be careful. The shorter the TP, the more intense the workout will be.

Step Two: Choose your Exercises

  • Use the following video to decide which exercises you wish to use.


Step Three: Organize your Exercises

  • Use the following table to determine how many repetitions you should perform per workout:

Table 1:

Goal

Rep Range

Mass Gain
8-12 reps
General Fitness
8-20 reps
Strength
1-8 reps
Fat Loss
12-20 reps
Athletic Fitness
12-20 reps

Step Four: Put it all together

Here is a sample 10 minute workout with the goal of General Fitness:

Maximum rounds in 10 minutes of:

Pullups 8 reps
Pushups 14 reps
Bodyweight Squat 20 Reps

Wait a sec, how did you come up with that workout?

The truth is, there is a certain amount of creativity and experience involved in designing quick workouts. What I did in the above workout was put together a triset, or three exercises back to back without rest.

  • The goal is to perform as many rounds, or sets of the workout as possible in 10 minutes, without rest. If your goal was to increase strength, then you would still use a 10 minute time frame (or any other time frame, depending on your schedule).
  • The exercises you choose will need to be difficult. Remember, for strength you need to be working in the 1-8 rep range. It is suggested you use some for of exterior resistance if you are unable to or do not wish to perform more difficult bodyweight exercises.
  • It is also suggested that you take some rest, at least 60 seconds, between each set.


BONUS TIP:

Forget the Cardio

Most trainees spend too much time on distance or steady state cardio, especially while trying to lose fat. Cardio is just one tool in the battle against fat, but not a necessary one. If you replace your hour-long cardio sessions with short 10-15 minutes of intense exercise, you will save an enormous amount of time and may even achieve better and faster results. Here are some articles for more info on this topic:

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