First and foremost, I want to make it known that I am a big believer in weight training. In my opinion, it is essential to have basic knowledge of weight and resistance training. It triggers a response from our muscles that can't be matched by other forms of training. BUT, there are plenty of other ways to reach our goals if we don't have access to a gym and high-end equipment. Bodyweight training is one of those ways.
Bodyweight training involves using one's own bodyweight to provide resistance for the muscles to work against. Some of these exercises include pushups, squats, lunges, and more. One thing I love about weight training is the seemingly infinite versatility of resistance changes. Since our bodyweight doesn't fluctuate significantly in short periods of time, and we aren't using weights to adjust resistance, we must find ways to change up our routine. Some methods include tempo, angles, and believe it or not, equipment.
Usually, tempo is discussed in a three point model (#-#-#). The first number represents the number of seconds spent on the way down (eccentric movement). The number in the middle represents the time spent at the end of the eccentric movement, like the bottom of a squat. The final number represents the time spent on the muscle contraction (concentric) movement. Let's go through a pushup with a 2-1-3 tempo. From the initial pushup position, we'd take two seconds to go down, spend one second at the bottom, and three seconds on the way up. So why do we do this?
Since we don't have weights to resist the work our muscles are putting forward, changing the tempo can ramp up the intensity, and increase the time that our muscles are under tension. The purpose, to increase lactate formation as well as hormone production. Both have been shown to increase muscle strength and growth. One way to work up to more time under tension is by following this guide:
Week 1: 2-3 Sets, 12-15 Reps, 1-1-2 Tempo
Week 2: 3-4 Sets, 10-12 Reps, 1-1-3 Tempo
Week 3: 3-4 Sets, 8-10 Reps, 2-1-4 Tempo
Week 4: 4-5 Sets, 6-8 Reps, 2-1-5 Tempo
Similar to weight training, the purpose of changing the angle of our body is to target and use different muscle fibers that aren't used as much in traditional exercises. Let's relate the bench press to the pushup. A flat bench press will target the middle fibers of the chest the most. If we sit at an angled bench, say 45 degrees, we will contract more of our upper fibers of our chest. The pushup is similar. A regular pushup will target the middle fibers, whereas a pushup with our feet on an elevated platform will cause us to use our upper chest. Another example of this is a pull up. A traditional wide-grip pull up will command the muscle fibers in the outer lats to contract, but if we change to a neutral grip, stick our chest out, and pull our stomach up to the bar rather than our chin, we will command our lower lats and rhomboids (depending on the angle) to contract. Changing the angle in any exercise is a great way to challenge other muscle fibers as well as challenge your overall strength. But whatever you do, don't let me catch you doing this:
Yes yes, I know that bodyweight doesn't include weights or machines. When I say "equipment", that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about playgrounds, parks, bars, benches, and TRX Bands. Pre-installed equipment is going to be your best friend when it comes to bodyweight exercises. I just finished running a bootcamp at an elementary school park, and my clients loved it. It's a great change of pace, and the versatility we had with the playground was ridiculous. They could do pull-ups with all sorts of grips, rows, elevated push-ups, split-squats, and so much more. The equipment that you have to use is what is going to allow you to change the angle of a lot of your exercises, as I discussed before. Even then, there are still some limitations and creative restrictions when given some bars and a bench. What's the solution? The TRX band.
If you haven't heard of the TRX band yet, you absolutely need to read up and get one. Created by an ex-Seal, this simple, yet innovative item has completely changed the fitness industry, and can completely change the way you workout. You can take it with you anywhere, and ramp your bodyweight workouts up to an insane level. I use them in all of my classes with my clients to work on balance, strength, angles, muscle endurance, and more.
Guys, hear this: you can still do curls, with your bodyweight, can you believe that?! Yes, you can continue your curls for the girls! The TRX band can be placed at home, or be taken to any park, branch, and supportive structure. If you're a big believer in bodyweight training, or you just want to try it out, I HIGHLY recommend getting one of these. Click the box below to get one from Amazon.
Your knowledge on bodyweight training has just expanded immensely. I suggest doing some scouting in your town for great outdoor workout areas if you don't have access to a gym. Remember to change tempos and angles to continue building lean muscle tissue outside of the gym. And bring a TRX band with you for even more versatility!
For more questions on bodyweight training, The Office, or why I can't stand Crossfit, shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
Thanks for reading!