In today?s society it?s easy to get caught up in the hype of quick weight loss, muscle building programs/scams and the next fitness gadget. It seems like I see a new product everyday claiming outrageous and unrealistic results, while designed to get you to work LESS hard? It?s funny how these products are primarily to be used in a seated position (Americans don?t get enough of that) and are typically isolating one particular muscle – usually the abdominals, arms, thighs or anything you can see in the mirror or show off at the beach. They are all missing the point about fitness, health, and building great bodies!
However, even on the opposite end of the spectrum, the world of strength and conditioning, power-lifting, and the bodybuilding gyms are by no means totally innocent of imperfect program design. While I believe we have a better work ethic, like to sweat, and no doubt choose a better selection of exercises, we are still guilty of what I call EGO driven program design. I?m talking about being drawn to the glitz and glamour of BIG BOY WEIGHT. Being drawn to weight releasers, chains, bands and chalk. You know that guy who tells everyone how much he bench presses yet lacks the strength to perform 50 FULL RANGE OF MOTION push-ups? That guy who walks around the gym with ILS (Imaginary Lat Syndrome), yet can?t perform 10 strict pull-ups? Who is stacking the Smith Machine or leg press, yet can?t do at least 5 Pistol Squats each leg?
These pure BODYWEIGHT movements may not be as glamorous as all those weights, yet they are essential to building a solid foundation to more advanced exercises ? exercises that many of these Big Boy Weight aficionados might not even be ready for. They are, after all, different. So, let?s crawl before we walk. In the rest of this post, I?m going to talk about how to begin integrating bodyweight exercises into your other workout routines.
The Strong Case for NON-External Loading
I know what lots of people are thinking: ?Is this dude out of his mind?? ?You?ve got to go heavy or go home!? ?NO pain NO gain!? I get it! I also get that people saying those things right now probably need bodyweight training the most. They might have limited internal shoulder rotation causing some sort of shoulder or neck pain because they flat bench too much. They might lack sufficient hip mobility, and thus are dealing with some form of knee or low back pain and will need a joint replacement by the age of 60. These are very common restrictions that can easily be corrected by choosing the right bodyweight movements. These exercise not only possess excellent strength, power and hypertrophy qualities, but when manipulated correctly can also be used as ?corrective exercises.? For example, they can increase mobility at the hip, open short pecs and deltoids, and activate long, weak and dormant muscular on the posterior chain.
Let?s also not forget that your HEART is a muscle, and a pretty important one at that. I know, I know, cardio is catabolic, but what if you?re FAT and have to rest half way up the stairs to catch your breath? Well then get over your fear; you can also use your own body weight to improve heart function and lung capacity.
Integrate, Don?t Alienate
Now I like to go hard and heavy as much as the next man? I love to push prowlers and trucks, climb ropes, press logs and carry heavy sandbags. I get a high from flipping tires, cleaning barbells and snatching Kettle Bells over my head. But the fact of the matter is that if I want to stay in the IRON GAME for the long haul, it?s an absolute must that I train smarter rather than harder. If not, I?m destined to become beat down and broken in my golden years.
No matter what your specialty or niche – Power Lifting, Olympic lifting, HIT, Cross Fit, etc. – bodyweight training can and absolutely should be integrated in to your toolbox. Here at Primal Fit Miami our philosophy has always been to utilize the Primal Movements Patterns as the centerpiece of our program design. We push, pull, squat, lunge, rotate, bend, walk, run, sprint and jump. All of these movements are mastered with bodyweight before progressing.
Now, progressive overload doesn?t always mean increasing loading parameters. Progressive overload could be increasing difficulty of exercise; increasing repetitions, sets, or tempo; decreasing rest period; or even decreasing base of support. I recognize that the basics can sometimes be monotonous, but depending on one?s age, training age, occupation and health history, the starting point should ALMOST always begin with bodyweight. Bodyweight training creates SHOW and GO muscle or SMART muscle tissue! It?s what we need to master first. If you can?t handle your own bodyweight properly why would you ever add an external load?
Progressing Bodyweight Exercises
Following is an extensive list of bodyweight exercises utilized at my facility on a daily basis. Keep in mind these are still integrated in with barbells, dumbells, club bells, Kettlebells, sandbags and many strongman implements.
Pushes and Presses
All of the following ?push? movements can be progressed by elevating feet, decreasing base of support, increasing or decreasing speed or changing of hand positioning or implement.
- Hindu Push-Ups (or Dive bombers)
- Furniture Mover Push-Ups
- TRX or Jungle Gym Push-Ups
- Walk-Outs, and Walk-Outs w/Push-Ups
- Handstand Push-Ups
- Plyo Push-Ups and Variations
- Swiss Ball Push-Up
All of the following ?Pull? movemens can be progressed by elevating the feet; decreasing the base of support; increasing or decreasing speed; or changing the hand positioning or implement.
- Horizontal Barbell
- TRX/Jungle Gym
- Vertical Pulls
- Rope Climbing
- Monkey Bar Work
- Muscle-Ups on Bars and Rings
- Ring Pull-Ups
- One-Arm Pull-Ups
All of these leg movements can be progressed by elevating the feet; decreasing the base of support; increasing or decreasing speed; or changing the hand positioning or implement.
- Squats, including Cosacks, Pistols, and Jumping
- Multi-Directional Lunges
- Bulgarian Split Squats
- Split Jumps
- Broad and Long Jumps
- Lateral Jumps
- Box Jumps
- Supine Ham Curls, including Bilateral and Unilateral
Don?t Be THAT Guy!
In the end, I?m not suggesting you train with less passion. I?m also not suggesting that you train less ?hardcore?. I?m simply stating that the many attributes that come from bodyweight resistance cannot be ignored. Change is a good thing! Our bodies are asking for it, so we shouldn?t be too stubborn to listen. You know the saying that the best program you can be on is the one that you?re not on? Well, I?m not even asking anyone to switch programs – I?m just asking that some of these movements be INTEGRATED into existing programs. These ?new? movements don?t take anything away; rather, they complement existing programs.
You CAN get stronger and bigger, increase mobility, move with less pain, and possibly have a little fun while you?re at it! Bodyweight training can also be fantastic for active recovery, as well a metabolic conditioning when training parameters are manipulated correctly.
Finally, let?s not forget why we do this! It?s to create muscle that?s smart! It?s to create muscle that?s ready to GO. Your goal should be to exercise to feel better, move better, AND look better. Yeah, that?s right, SHOW and GO muscle! What good is it if you?re looking good but can?t play with your kids? Do yourself and your body a favor and utilize what everyone has at his or her disposal. It?s your body and I challenge everyone to take full advantage of what it can give you.For more discussion of bodyweight training as a discipline, check out these previous GBT posts: