Sep 052013
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Bodyweight training is awesome and effective for building muscle.

I’m always searching for ways to build muscle.  In my last post about my experience with yoga over the weekend an interesting thought came to my mind.  Your body is the best training tool.

I’m one to have a strong belief on the importance of resistance training and that everyone should be lifting weights.  But then I came across that thought - the body is the best training tool you have.

When building muscle with only your bodyweight the first athletes that come to my mind are – gymnasts.

No one can deny the muscularity these athletes have.  Yes, they train 4+ hours almost every day and the majority of gymnasts start at a young age.  But, they use their bodyweight as their main tool to train with.

But the great thing about bodyweight exercises is that they don’t put as much stress on your joints.  In the long-run, that’s a very important point.  When you think of bodyweight exercises, I’m sure you think of push-ups, sit ups, pull-ups, some calisthenics, or maybe the thought of high reps and boot camp comes to mind as well.

I remember when I did the challenge of performing 44 Best Bodyweight Exercises, and was able to cross of 43 off the list.  I still can’t do a back flip burpee.  But it did show me variations of basic exercises to strive for which did lead to an increase in strength and muscle growth.

Simply put, in order to build muscle there must be enough tension and overload in the muscle to stimulate muscle growth.  Doing your basic push-ups, pull-ups, and lunges won’t help with that.

I’ve done a video of 15 Push-up variations to add to the mix up of bodyweight exercises or you can work your way up to a 1 arm push up.

Or what about a Pull up variation shown below by Ben Bruno:

Also, working your way up to be able to perform a pistol squat is not easy task as well.   Al Kavadlo does some great tutorials on advanced bodyweight exercises.

These are just skimming the surface of bodyweight exercise variations.  But the overall message is that bodyweight training can lead to an increase in strength and muscle.

front lever pullupIt’s  a Work in Progress, Be Patient.

When I trained and practiced the 44 Best Bodyweight Exercises Ever, it took me awhile to perform the exercises and I had to figure out ways to progress.  It seems so easy to put more weight on the bar than to play around with your bodyweight to do exercise you have no clue why you can’t do it.  I can see I’m a pretty strong guy but was totally frustrated when I could barely lower myself doing a one arm push up.

Then there was a the front lever pullup which I thought would be the coolest exercise to do if I were able to do it.  I spent every workout just hanging from the bar and leaning as far back as possible until I couldn’t keep my body straight.  I’ve never felt my back muscles and core build up so much tension than in any other exercise.

My take away from this experience – it may be a pain in the ass to learn and you may not know where to start but it’ll be a good challenge.

By advancing in body weight exercises, you are opening yourself up to a different type of muscle growth and strength.  I mean, you seriously can’t deny the muscle strength and muscularity of gymnasts.

Aipa’s Recommendation

In every workout you do, make sure you perform some sort of bodyweight exercise.  Choose anything.  If you can’t do a pullup, start working on being able to do them.  You can already do the one arm pushup, try a one-armed clapping pushup.  Give it a try and have some fun with it.

Aloha and with that I’ll leave you with this awesome display of using your body weight: