Friday, June 25, 2010

C.S. Sloan - Bodyweight Training

Sometimes we can't make it to the gym - the kids need be picked up, we need to grocery shop, the car needs an oil change, or whatever. But that doesn't mean we have to skip the workout entirely. We can stay fit, challenge our muscles, and work up a good sweat with simple bodyweight exercises.

C.S. Sloan recently posted a short article on bodyweight training - I agree with what he says, but I want to add an adaptation for the time-challenged. You can get a good workout in 30 minutes or less by simply not taking rest breaks - keep moving, keep breathing hard, and keep sweating - it'll feel pretty tough after 10 minutes or so.

Here is crux of the post (Some (Very Random) Thoughts on Bodyweight Strength Training):
I'm pretty keen on bodyweight strength training (read some of my early posts on the blog), and tonight I really had a hell of a workout by doing nothing more than squats (about 500 of them), some push-ups (150), and some sit-ups (don't know how many—a lot).

All of which got me to thinking. And so here are some (quite) random thoughts on bodyweight-only strength training:
  • This kind of training should be done frequently. There's no reason that—if bodyweight training is going to be your only form of resistance training—you shouldn't train six-days-per-week for 1 (beginners) to 2 hours (intermediate to advanced) per session.
  • You recover fast from this sort of training. This is good—and bad, I suppose. Not only should you train more frequently, you really need to train more frequently.
  • This stuff is great for conditioning—and getting you in shape fast. As Paul Chek has said, the key to being in great shape is to perform anaerobic exercise until it becomes aerobic. Bodyweight training can easily fit the bill here.
  • Bodyweight-only training is excellent for the athlete who wants to be ageless. You want to live to a ripe old age, and be able to look half your age, have sex like you were half your age, and out train guys half your age? Then these kind of workouts should be the staple of your training.
  • This kind of training is great for mixed martial artists. If you are into MMA, I would advise that you lift weights 2 days per week (HEAVY) and the other 4 days a week should be comprised of bodyweight-only strength training.
  • When performing bodyweight squats, don't count reps during a set, count the time of your sets. You should work up to 5 to 10 minute sets of squats. Then you will be in very good shape.
  • This kind of training teaches you to eat well. You can't do these workouts and eat like a super-heavyweight powerlifting competitor—you'd be winded within 5 minutes of starting your workout. You need lots of lean protein, and plenty of complex and fibrous carbohydrates.
  • Everyone should do this kind of training at least once per week. (Yes, that even goes for your super-heavy powerlifters I was talking about.)
  • These workouts are great as "extra workouts" in your powerlifting arsenal, especially if your workouts in the gym are mainly comprised of "maximal effort" training and "dynamic effort" training.
  • You will not lose your muscle mass if you switch over from typical bodybuilding training to bodyweight-only training. Don't believe me? Try doing 100 push-ups, 50 chins, and 500 bodyweight squats six days per week for the next month. You'll be absolutely friggin' sold.
I'm totally on board with this approach - and this guy knows his stuff.

I've had a should glitch lately that has kept me from benching and doing dips, so I have been doing a lot of push-ups, multiple sets of 25, or even three or four sets of 50 each. My chest has been sore, and my shoulder is healing - sometimes bodyweight is better than barbells.

As an added extra bonus, here is an older article on bodyweight training from C.S.'s excellent blog (check it out - this guy is not only strong, but smart - and integral in his orientation).

Bodyweight Training

About a year ago, my wife (of 12 years) and I separated. Now, apart from the usual angst such a thing can bring about, it was also upsetting because I had a whole slew of weight equipment at our house. In fact, our entire garage I had turned into a gym: squat rack, bench press, deadlift platform, 1,200 pounds of weights—and all that just for starters.

When I moved out, the only thing I took with me (as far as weight equipment goes) was a pair of dumbbells.

I had plans to occasionally go over to our (now her) house and lift weights. (We got along well enough.) However, I knew that most of the time I would just be lifting solo at my apartment with nothing but my dumbbells. And—in time—it got to where I would do mainly bodyweight-only training.

And I—considering the kind of workouts I had performed in the past—was certain that I would lose at least some degree of muscle mass.

Imagine how surprised I was when, six months or so later, not only had I not lost any muscle mass, I was now bigger than I had been in a long time.

My separation from my wife turned out to be a blessing in disguise (at least as far as building muscle mass went). Not only did I gain muscle mass with my limited equipment workouts, they also allowed me to train pain-free. (Due to a surgery I'd had a couple years ago, pain-free workouts had been a real rarity for some time.)

First, here are the rules you need to follow if you plan on performing limited equipment workouts or bodyweight-only strength training:

Rule #1: You must train frequently. And when I say frequent, I mean it. Two, three, or even four days per week will not cut it. Not one friggin' bit. You must train five to six days each week.
Rule #2: You must train each bodypart frequently. In other words, if you train five to six days a week, you can't do any of this one-bodypart-per-workout crap. You need to be training your whole body, or performing upper/lower splits.
Rule #3: Volume Rules!!! A couple of sets per bodypart isn't going to cut it, either. You need lots of volume.
Rule #4: Plenty of Reps. And I mean plenty! Unlike other workouts I've recommended in the past, you have got to do some high-rep training here. As you'll see from the workouts below, 100 reps per bodypart will be a minimum.

Now, on to the actual workout programs:

Workout #1: The Waterbury 100-Rep Workout
This is one I got from Chad Waterbury (which he wrote about not that long ago on the T-Muscle website). It's really simple.
This is an upper-body specialization program for those of you who just want to look good with your shirt off. It requires only two exercises. (Like I said, it's simple, but that doesn't meant that it's going to be easy.)
For six days per week—for the next 30 days—you are going to perform 100 reps of push-ups and 50 reps of chin-ups each day. It doesn't matter how many sets it takes to get the reps, or how many times you train throughout the day. In other words, you can do all 100 push-ups and 50 chin-ups in the same workout or you can spread it out over 2 or 3 sessions.
Just get the required number of reps.
And don't skip one single day.
Yes, you may be sore the first week—and by day three of the first week you might be having a hard time getting all of your reps—but your body will adapt.

Workout #2: The Upper/Lower Split
This one might be even simpler. And it also requires only 2 exercises. But it's also highly effective.
Train six days each week. (For the sake of this article, we'll assume you're going to take Sundays off—reserve it for plenty of meditation and devotion to Spirit.)
On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays you will perform 200 reps of push ups. As with the Waterbury workout, it doesn't matter how many sessions it takes to get all these reps. It doesn't matter how many sets it takes. Just make sure that—by the end of the day—you have performed 200 push-ups.
On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays you will perform 500 reps of squats. These can be hindu squats, bodyweight-only wide-stance squats, or you can use a light pair of dumbbells.
As with the push-ups, it doesn't matter how long it takes you, or how many sessions, just make sure you get 500 reps.
Perform this program for the next 30 days. And get better results in those 30 days than you have in any other 30 days of training before that time.

If you want to—once you have adapted to these programs as they are written—start adding abdominal work and extra dumbbell work. You could start adding several sets of dumbbells, some walking lunges, some calf raises, or whatever it is that you need to improve.

And one more rule—we'll make it the official rule #5: Once you have adjusted to the amount of volume in the above workouts, make sure you add more. Trust me, once you have reached the point where you can do several-hundred push-ups each day for six days a week, your lack-of-upper body gains will be a thing of the forgotten past!
For more ideas on bodyweight exercise (for variety), check out this site - and this article from Mike Mahler.

No comments: