Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Basic Bodyweight Program

     In past articles/posts, I have discussed the benefits of bodyweight-only – and bodyweight-primary – strength training.  Since I first started blogging about bodyweight training few years ago, I have received many emails from readers who are interested in this stuff.  The readers usually want one of two things.  One, they just want to tell me how much they have been enjoying bodyweight strength training, and they want to offer their two cents on how effective/ enjoyable this kind of training has been for them.  (I love reading these kind of e-mails because, first, it inspires me, and, second, it means I don’t have to reply to some of the odd-ball questions I occasionally get asked.)  Two, they want to know exactly what kind of program they should be following.  It is to this second set of questioners that this post is addressed – well, sort of.  You see, I think it’s important for people to learn to think for themselves.  When you learn to think for yourself in regards to training, guess what?  You learn to think for yourself in other areas of your life.

     Bodyweight strength training can be confusing for some.  This is especially so if you have been performing a lot of traditional bodybuilding programs that involve lots of “high-intensity” training with heavy weights and plenty of recovery between sessions – which, by the way, I really don’t care much for; that kind of training just isn’t effective for a good number of people.  So, never-the-less, when you are asked to perform very frequent training that involves lots of sets, reps, and very little in the way of external resistance, you will often end up confused as to just how to regulate volume, intensity, and then incorporate this into a weekly schedule.

     Okay, before we get to the nuts and bolts of an actual program, I would like for you to read the following points I made about this kind of training many blog posts ago in some other articles.  (If you just read these points, and ignore the minimalist program at the end of the article, then that’s fine with me.  Creating a workout program – be it bodyweight training or any other form of resistance workouts – is just that: an act of creation.  If you can create a good workout program for yourself, then by all means, do so.)

·         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 kinds 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 on bodyweight training at that point (more on this below).

Just the Basics, Performed Frequently
     This is one of the easiest – and, yet, most effective – workouts that you can ever perform.  (Hell, I just mentioned it in the last bullet point.)  Simply perform 100 push-ups, 50 chins, and 500 bodyweight squats 6 days a week.

     Sounds simple – which it is – but this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s easy.  The first day that you do it, it actually may be easy.  The next day you might be surprised how sore you are, especially if you haven’t performed this kind of workout any time in the recent past.  But, no problem, you should still be able to do it on the second day without being in too much pain.

     By the 3rd day, however, things are going to get tougher.  You may have to take more time to get through the workout.  Just make sure you do it, no matter what.

     The 4th and 5th days probably won’t be much easier, but once again just make sure that you complete the workout.

     Usually, by the 6th day, most trainees have adapted to the program enough that it’s relatively easy to perform.  In fact, by the time you’ve finished two weeks on the program, you may feel the “itch” to do more – resist that particular itch.  Stick with the program “as is” for at least one month.  The program works from the accumulative effect of daily training (high frequency, high volume, low intensity), not from adding more and more work to it.

     Of course, you can only do this program for so long before complete boredom sets in and/or you need to do more work.

     Also, feel free to combine this with more traditional methods of lifting.  For instance, you can do this 2 days each week, combined with 3 to 4 days of regular barbell and dumbbell workouts.  Alternatively, you could also do this program 3 to 4 days each week, combined with 1 or 2 days of the traditional training.

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