Bodyweight exercises are unbeatable when it comes to building high performance muscle.
This statement is in stark contrast to what many of you have heard.
That’s because people often associate bodyweight exercises with high rep endurance work like you used to do in gym class.
Pumping out endless sets of pushups and sit ups will never build any appreciable size and strength.
That’s more like cardio and all it does is add more wear and tear to your joints from the repetitive stress.
Strength Training; Not Endurance
I’m talking about real bodyweight strength training that men used to perform back in the golden era of Physical Culture, when they paid equal attention to lifting weight and advanced gymnastics type moves.
Some of the best ones are listed here:
To really garner the benefits of bodyweight training you need to challenge yourself with more advanced exercise variations that can only be done for 3-10 reps.
This is no different than the rules that apply to any basic weight training exercise.
If you can do fifty reps on something it’s never going to help youbuild muscle. At that point it’s endurance training, plain and simple. I’d even consider it cardio.
But it aint gettin anyone bigger or stronger.
For more on this check out:
The Ultimate Combination
An explosive power exercise like a high pull, a powerlifting exercise like a squat, a strongman exercise like a loaded carry, and a bodyweight exercise like a handstand pushups are all equals in my book.
They each serve a different purpose, and one may be better for a certain individual than another, but they all deserve equal billing as size and strength builders.
Each of them should also be a part of an effective training program. During the Golden Era of Physical Culture men paid equal attention to each of these different methods and were highly skilled at both weightlifting and advanced bodyweight and gymnastics type movements.
That’s a great way to train and will lead to well rounded development and the accumulation of high performance muscle mass.
Bodyweight Training For Maximal Strength
Contrary to popular opinion you can use bodyweight exercises for maximal strength work.
Think about it- if you can’t do more than three reps on a handstand pushup or L-sit ring dip doesn’t that make it the same as a heavy, three rep max military or bench press?
If you want to develop maximal strength you should train with exercises that allow you to do no more than five or six reps, on average. This can be a heavy squat or a pistol squat. It can be a hang clean or a front lever.
It doesn’t matter as long as you are maximizing tension and providing the necessary low rep resistance.
The Benefit of Bodyweight Over Barbells
Bodyweight exercises allow for more unrestricted, natural movement than barbell exercises do. When you use a barbell your hands are interlinked and you can’t always move the shoulder or wrist through a natural range of motion.
This is just one reason why injury prone or older trainees seem to gravitate more towards this type of training.
Bodyweight exercises also tend to incorporate more surrounding stabilizer muscles as well as more overall muscle groups from head to toe. When you’re on your back doing a bench press there are fewer muscle groups being activated than when you are doing a pushup suspended on rings. This can lead to greater gains over time.
Can You Get Great Results From Bodyweight Only?
Absolutely. Guys who are beat up and injured, therefore unable to do heavy squats, deadlifts or presses don’t have to feel like it’s the end of the world.
If you choose to skip the use of any equipment other than some rings and a chin up bar I think you can get great results. Probably 80-90% of what you could achieve with added resistance.
However, I do think you’d be missing out on a few things and would be better served over time to incorporate at least a few lifting exercises.
Your upper body would be fine, for the most part but a few areas will start to lag after a while. If you never pick up anything heavy off the ground your grip strength will suffer and your posterior chain won’t be as strong as it could be.
Without any external resistance it will also be a bit difficult to build your legs up significantly.
With jumps, sprints, single leg work and glute ham raises you will make significant improvements in speed, power and overall athleticism. But to maximize size and strength you will probably need to at least add in some dumbbells or weighted vests, if not a barbell.
Heavy sled work also comes in quite handy for size and strength development.
So, again, the ultimate training program will incorporate a little bit of each.
Hopefully by now you fully appreciate the power of bodyweight training and will make it a regular part of all your training programs.
For more great information on bodyweight exercises check out more of our top posts below: