June 24, 2009
Tough Bodyweight Training
It amazes when some loud mouth bodybuilder who can barely get their arms over their head and couldn’t jump over hedgehog, suggests that ‘bodyweight training is for pussies’.
I have read this phrase in forums across the internet on many occasions.
If you agreement with the statement above, let me ask you a few questions:
1) Can you perform pistol squats for reps. In fact, do your over-leg-curled hamstrings and weak glute med from too much two-legged work allow you to even do one?
2) Can you perform handstand push ups?
3) Can you perform single-arm push ups for reps?
4) Can you perform single arm chin ups and pull ups?
5) Can you perform single arm rows or is your over-pumped chest so tight that your shoulder blades have never made friends?
6) Can you squat ‘arse to grass’ or even get your buttcheeks as low as your thighs to parallel in a squat?
If you answered no to any of the above, you could easily make big gains with some killer bodyweight training!
Don’t get me wrong, I agree that bodyweight only training is not enough of a stimulus in terms of variety to reach your peak in any area of training or sports
However, you can build SERIOUS amounts of strength, power and endurance with a large proportion of your training using just bodyweight.
If you see yourself as very strong but can’t do any of the above, then it is highly likely you lack strength and mobility in more than one area. Essentially you may see yourself lifting big weights but you are using the wrong muscles to do so, compensating for weak areas in the process.
This does not make you more of an athlete, but less of one in my opinion.
The problem is understanding the difference between ‘weight training’ and ‘resistance training’.
Resistance training for increased strength requires a stimulus that forces adaptation in the nervous system, causing changes in the efficiency with which the nervous system operates in recruiting muscle fibres during a movement.
Whether you are pushing against your bodyweight, a barbell, a kettlebell, a log or an immovable object if performing isometric training doesn’t matter, as long as you reach technical failure within 1-5 repetitions.
For instance a military press is no more effective than a handstand push up in developing overhead pressing strength.
There is no one best way to perform resistance training but ALL methods should be incoporated in some shape or form in your training.
Try these bad boys on for size and see if bodyweight training really is for pussies.
4 sets of 5, 45 seconds rest after second exercise.
A1: Pistol squat
A2: Handstand push up
B1: Glute ham raise
B2: Single arm eccentric chin up (use two hands to get to the top of the movement, then release one hand and lower yourself in 3-4 seconds)
5 rounds as fast as possible
10 split jumps
20 jump pull ups
10 single arm push ups each side
3 rounds as fast as possible of:
24 bodyweight squats
24 reverse lunges (12 each side)
24 jump squats
24 split jumps
Try them then let me know if bodyweight training is for pussies…..
Jon Le Tocq, Creator of World’s Toughest Workouts
How To Structure A Training Week
This post is no doubt going to leave me open to those who disagree and tell me that you should have a clear linear periodisation plan that first builds strength then converts it to power etc.
Put your toys back in the pram and your periodisation textbook back on the shelf. Science is great, real world results are better.
Just to prove how powerful this can be, I yesterday ran 8.25 miles in 58 minutes which included 8 x 50m STEEP hill climbs up and down on grass at half way and a fairly steep road hill at about 7 miles.
Whilst this is not anything that special to a ‘runner’ I run once per week because I have to get ready for an endurance event I am doing in July.
I hadn’t run until February.
I have also maintained my muscle and kept body fat at about 7% rather than ending up like a stick thin Sunday Shuffler / Pavement Pounder.
I can also…
– Deadlift 2.5 times my bodyweight
– Squat 2 x my bodyweight
– Perform a single leg squat with a 32kg kettlebell
– Perform 15-20 single arm push ups
This isn’t a brag and there are many people who could outperform that, however the point is that people tend to believe that you can only have good endurance OR be strong OR maintain muscle.
Consider that I also have kind of bodytype which qualifies me for the Grasshopper Olympics and has had me labelled ‘lanky streak of ****’ by my Grandad and ‘gangly’ in local newspaper sports reports.
If you want to be the BEST at any of the above, then no this training isn’t ideal, but the vast majority of us out there want to be capable of many things all at once – it makes life much more enjoyable and gives us much more potential!
My training philosophy is to build lean athletic bodies which, whilst they won’t win bodybuilding competitions nor half-marathons, are capable of holding their own in ANY competition.
They are capable of sprinting faster than most, running 10k faster than most and looking better than most.
Clearly the need for such abilities will fluctuate but the point is you have a great base of everything so that you can be ready to specialise for any event as required.
So what does a training week look like for me at the moment?:
Monday – Anaerobic Conditioning
A challenge such as 5 rounds as fast as possible of:
30 extreme kettlebell swings
15 burpee-pull ups
10 kettlebell jerks
10 sprints across my studio
Repeat until 5 rounds are complete
Tuesday – Strength
4 x 5 reps 45 sec rest
Superset of 1 leg squat with 2 kettlebell press
4 x 5 each side 60 sec rest after press
Superset of 1 arm push up with pull up (using weighted vest)
4 sets stoppping 1 rep short of failure
Wednesday – Anaerobic conditioning
Treadmill on steep incline (or find a nice hill outside – I live in the city centre!)
8 rounds of 45 seconds at high speed – 90 seconds rest between each interval
15 minutes steady run at 75-80%
Thursday – Rest
Mobility and flexibility work )e.g foam rolling and developmental stretching
Friday – Strength
1 arm dumbbell clean and press
Superset of barbell front squat with weighted pull up
4 x 5 reps – 60 seconds rest after pull up
Superset of 1 arm dumbbell chest press with single arm row
4 x 5 reps each side – 60 seconds rest after pull up
4 sets to 1 short of failure
Saturday – Rest
Mobility and flexibility
Long run (at the moment due to requirements for Tough Guy event)
This is just one week.
4 times per week is core work using varied sets, reps and exercises.
Each week certain variables will change.
I might do one arm pull up strength practice or side-to-side pullups.
I might do kettlebell snatches instead of dumbbells.
I might use isometrics and complex training (not complexes) to increase strength and power.
Sometimes I’ll do more strength and less conditioning.
Please do not take this as a 6 week program or anything like that, it is purely to demonstrate how to mould strength training with conditioning without burning out.
What if I can’t train that much?
If you only have time to train three times per week you might do 15 mins heavy strength work at the start of a session followed by 20 minutes conditioning.
There is no set way of training so don’t get caught up in performing the same sessions every week just so you ‘get better at it’.
If it hurts, makes you sweat, is balanced in terms of muscles used and gives certain energy systems enough recovery time, it will work.
And don’t forget to eat well!
The Truth About Kettlebells
The chances are if you’ve found yourself at World’s Toughest Workouts, you’ve already entered the world of kettlebells – no well-rounded, killer training plan can be complete without them!
However, is the kettlebell revolutions destined to crumble faster than Ricky Hatton’s unbeaten record when something new comes in to excite peoples’ training?
Personally I love the damn things. They’ve nearly killed me on a few occasions and yet like a hot girl with little personalilty, you still feel happy to have them around and have them in your life.
The question is, like our young lady here, are they just flavour of the month and only suited to certain people?
When are they really right for us?
I like kicking the crap out of myself in training. It’s what I do. Yeah I want muscle and minimal body fat, but quite frankly I can’t be arsed to watch every calorie that goes in and my macronutrient ratio percentages along with the exact timings of when I get my chops around Lucy.
Kettlebells are awesome for my goals. They can be moved in such a way that it almost becomes an art form capable of destroying every muscle in your body in a matter of minutes.
I regularly perform complexes or circuits which leave me feeling like I got hit by a ton of bricks.
Try 5 rounds of 8 reps with two bells of double swings, double snatches, double jerks and renegade push-rows with some burpee-pull ups thrown in for extra pain.
However, if your sole training goal at a particular point is to optimise growth, I don’t believe kettlebells are the way forward.
Sure you can alter tempo and work with escalating density parameters to ensure progressive overload for hypertrophy but I still believe the fastest and most effective way is to structure 90% of your training around the big lifts (squat, deadlifts, bench, rows).
Performing squats with bells heavy enough for significant hypertrophy is pretty much impossible.
For those more advanced, the chances are you don’t have access to heavy enough bells for deadlifts.
Let’s be honest, most people who promote ‘functional’ training don’t really know what they mean.
Bicep training through doing curls isn’t functional apparently as it’s not a compound movement or involve rotation.
But what about athletes who need a strong bear-hug style grip such as in the NFL or MMA?
However, I believe there are certain exercises and areas EVERYBODY should pay attention to regardless of goals. This includes shoulder mobility, stability and strength, glute strength and the posterior chain in general.
The nature of kettlebell training especially lifts such as the swing and snatch, windmill and get ups, force positive adaptations in these areas. Yes, these can be replicated with dumbbells and barbells but not with the same challenge to stabiliser muscles.
Even bodybuilders need to be doing this stuff unless they want shocking posture and bench press injuries.
What’s REALLY working?
A lot of people do like I just did and promote kettlebells because they’re great for the posterior chain.
This is true but only when the muscles involved are firing in the first place!
You may well want to kick ass in your training session and see if you can achieve 200 snatches in 10 minutes, but if your glutes aren’t firing, all you will do is end up with an overactive lower back and eventually, a sore one!
Most peoples’ glutes don’t work and should be doing a lot of work like this before they go near kettlebell swings….
(This applies to luinges, squats and any other exercise which is supposedly good for the arse!)
I believe everybody of any age, fitness level and goal needs to be doing power training.
However if we just look at the top end of the spectrum at those who want athletic ability and to improve sports performance, we hit a bit of a stumbling block.
Unless you have grown up as a gymnast or spend hours each week on mobility, practicing olympic lifts can be just too time consuming to let you get any other training done.
Now don’t get me wrong, I think we SHOULD be doing a lot more mobility work than we do, but sometimes the time constraint of our goal just doesn’t allow lots of this work to be done. Much of it requires a skilled trainer to work with which many just can’t afford or access.
Whilst it still requires practice to master, kettlebell training enables power training to be done through single arm snatches and clean and jerks much more easily. I also think single arm power work is more applicable to many sports such as boxing, tennis and volleyball than barbell work anyway.
However, once you start getting to the heavy stuff, manoeuvring kettlebells can become somewhat harder to move than a barbell, especially holding at the rack position.
For instance, cleaning an 80kg bar is easier for most than 2x40kg bells.
It’s also easier to progress by adding 2.5-5kg at a time to the bar than going from 2x40kg to 2x44kg bells.
Again, the training goal matters.
If you want more speed endurance than raw power, kettlebells are probably more appropriate!
This bits easy.
You can throw kettlebells around anywhere at anytime.
Kettlebells are just behind bodyweight training in the ‘Get out the shitty gym world’ stakes.
The key to kettlebell training is understanding why you are using them. It sounds obvious but many use them just because they’ve heard a lot about them.
You also need to make sure you’re firing up the right muscles and usign them properly or shoulder and back injuries won’t be far behind – leave your fat ego at the door when learning kettlebells.
Get your arse working first. Trust me on this!
They are like sharks – mess with them when you don’t understand them and they will eat you alive.
Master kettlebells as part of your arsenal and then we can talk about pulling it altogether for some of the World’s Toughest Workouts!
Let me know your thoughts on kettlebell training and how you use it in your own killer plans!
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