We steal stuff. I would like to tell you that Kip and I stay up all night coming up with crazy stuff to do to you guys but it isn’t true. Yes, we do analyze the latest exercises, break down what is fact and what is fiction, but rarely do we come up with something that someone, somewhere, hasn’t tried before. One of my favorite trainer/authors Dan John said in one of his books that all trainers steal. Nobody can claim coming up with any specific exercise or routine because we all take things from each other.
And with this I will introduce you to our latest blog. I stole it. It’s from another one of our favorite trainer/authors Alwyn Cosgrove. Alwyn is one of the top trainers in the county and has taught around the world. Instead of me putting my spin on this, I thought I would give it to you straight from someone much smarter than I. Tony
Muscles are just plain dumb. Despite their ability at some level to perform amazing Cirque De Soleil type feats, muscles only ‘know’ two things – stretch and tension. They can’t differentiate between stretches (whether the stretch is coming from yoga or from Taekwon-do kicking) or types of tension.
Let’s talk tension. As far as a fitness enthusiast is concerned, muscle tension comes when you place resistance on the muscles. And it doesn’t matter what form that resistance takes. You see, as far as the muscles are concerned, resistance is resistance is resistance. The muscles have no idea what form the resistance takes, whether it is a dumbbell, a resistance band, a barbell or your bodyweight. True, free weights are superior to machines when it comes to building strength, but it’s because free weights require you to stabilize the load in three planes, not because the weight on the muscles is any different. In fact when you think about it, the only reason to ever use external load (i.e. weights) is because your bodyweight is not enough resistance. Yet most guys are making exercises harder by adding external load, when they aren’t capable of handling their bodyweight in the same exercise. I’m constantly amazed by how many people I meet who can bench press whatever pounds of weight, but are unable to perform 10 correct push ups (typically due to a lack of core strength and synergistic muscle stability. As far as I’m concerned – unless you can do an easy twenty push ups, you have no business getting under a bar for bench pressing. In my training facility everyone begins with bodyweight exercises. You have to earn the right to lift weights in my facility.
Now I’m sure some of you are jumping up and down right about now, convinced that your bodyweight is not enough for you to get a ‘good workout’. You think you’re much too strong. And you’re probably right. If you’re an Olympic Gymnast that is. Remember – most gymnasts use primarily their bodyweight in their conditioning programs and have no problem developing great physiques and great strength levels. I’d go as far as to say that most gymnasts have better physiques than most weight trainers. And these guys train exclusively for performance – not for mass or aesthetics. Nick Grantham CSCS, former conditioning coach to the Great Britain Olympic Gymnastics team noted that the majority of male gymnasts, after years of bodyweight training could typically bench press double their bodyweight the first time they ever tried it. If that’s not evidence of the efficacy of bodyweight training then I don’t know what is.
The key to effective bodyweight exercises are the same as with any exercise – time and tension. We need to select exercises that load the muscles effectively through the entire range of motion, and select a speed of movement that eliminates all momentum.