Bodyweight Training Tips from Sin City


Bodyweight Training Tips From Sin City

Normally when you’re in Vegas with Jay Z pumping through the speakers and a big ass shakin right next to you at the pool you’d be thinking to yourself, “Maaaannn, look at those glutes, I’d love to see what that girl could do…

In the gym…

Or maybe that’s just me.

Or the over 35 year old version of me.

Truth be told, I’m obsessed with strength and bodyweight training and am always thinking about it in some way or another. Even when there’s a bunch of tanned, thonged, tattooed booty’s dancing within close proximity to me.

What can I say? Improving human performance and the art and science of strength development fascinate me.

Last week I had to head out to a Sin City for a meeting and decided to stay in town for a few days for a much needed break. On our second night there we went to see the Cirque Du Soleil show, O. I’ve seen several of the Cirque shows but O is probably my favorite. If you haven’t seen it I highly recommend checking it out next time you have the opportunity.

Anyway, during the performance I couldn’t help but think about the effectiveness and importance of bodyweight training the entire time. If you’re not familiar with the show I’ll give you a quick summary.  It basically consists of a wide variety of acrobatic stunts, gymnastics, high diving and numerous feats of strength on a stage that turns into a pool then back to solid ground right before your eyes in no time.

The physiques on the performers were incredibly impressive. The females all had lean, muscular arms and shoulders, clearly visible abs and rock hard glutes that you could bounce a casino chip off of. The male performers were all lean and in shape and those that performed the mind blowing feats of strength were absolutely jacked.

Strength is a Skill

What I saw on stage reinforced what I have said numerous times in the past, that strength is a skill. These men and women practice for hours at a time, nearly every day of the week. They have to in order to become masters of bodyweight training and pull of the incredible stunts that they do with flawless perfection.

To be able to hold a guy upside down with one hand palming his skull is insane! That takes an almost incomprehensible amount of strength.

To train for such a feat you have to practice often in a fresh state. No once per week, to failure and beyond, bodybuilding style workouts here. Nope, they’re hitting it day after day after day without ever burning themselves out.

This is no different than what Arthur Saxon did 100 plus years ago.

To gain strength rapidly, especially doing something you have never done before or something that takes a lot of coordination or skill, high frequency reigns supreme.

Now, I don’t think any of us will be joining Cirque Du Soliel and having guys do chin ups off of our flexed biceps while we hang twenty feet above the ground using nothing but the strength of our big toes to hold us up on the bar we’re swinging from.

But I do know that everyone reading this right now would like to get stronger. Most of you would probably also like to get better at some cool bodyweight exercises like pistol squats, front levers or handstands. Or maybe you’d just like to improve your pushups.

If that’s the case you have no choice but to utilize high frequency training. You’ll never get significantly better at those exercises, or anything new for that matter, by doing them only once per week. Improvements may come but they will be at a much slower pace then if you did practiced 3-5 times more often.

It’s like any physical endeavor in life.

Want to get better at martial arts? Practice every day.

Want to get better at basketball? Practice every day.

Want to do freakish feats of strength and athleticism like they do in Cirque Du Soleil? Practice every day.

Practice, Don’t Train

The key to making rapid strength gains is to get it through your head that you are practicing and not training. If you crank up Static X in your headphones and try to make it a Rocky IV training montage you will burn yourself out in a hurry. This will lead to slower strength gains. Think of it as practice (do it frequently and never to failure) instead of a workout and you will progress much more rapidly.

While I have said in the past that getting stronger is the best way to get bigger it also needs to be noted that there is a difference in training for maximal strength and training for hypertrophy. Hypertrophy will require more volume and the accumulation of fatigue which will demand a slightly lower frequency. Pure strength gains on the other hand, require less volume which means you can train for this goal more often.

If you want to get better at front levers you need to practice them 3-6 days per week and never, ever come close to failure. Simply do half the amount of reps you’d be able to do to failure as often as possible. Three times per week would be the minimum but you could easily get away with doing pistols (or chins or handstand pushups, etc.) throughout the day, five or six days per week.

How to Incorporate This Advice Into Your Current Workout Program

Pick one bodyweight exercise that you’d like to improve. Start doing it three times per week for 2-3 sets of low reps either at the end or beginning of your normal workout. You could even do it on off days or as a separate workout on training days. It doesn’t really matter. If you can do six reps do sets of three. Gradually increase your frequency until you get to the point where you’re doing the exercise every day, throughout the day. Simply bang out a few reps 3-5 times throughout the day. There’s no need to try to get better or add reps. Just add volume and frequency consistently for the next thirty days then test your max reps. I’m sure you’ll be quite pleased with the results.

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17 Responses to Bodyweight Training Tips from Sin City

  1. Mark June 9, 2011 at 12:37 am #

    Hey Jason, what would you recommend me doing if i can only do 1-2 handstand pushups, handstands, and continue adding weight to my military press or should i try to do 1 rep a day on handstand pushups as well as practicing handstands>

    • matt July 18, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

      @Mark: Personally, I found doing handstand pushup negatives to be a great way to build strength until I could do multiple handstand pushups.

  2. Carl June 9, 2011 at 1:51 am #

    Great article and insight as ever!

    The general theme seems to align with Pavel’s work and words (strength is a skill etc). It is interesting to note that most athletes that are incedibly strong (gymnasts, weightlifters/powerlifters, sprinters etc) train frequently and therefore must avoid failure.

    It’s a mindset that I’ve certainly found works with my own goals to improve chin/dip/pushup numbers (although I still have to stop myself at times going too hard too soon and burning myself out).

    Any plans to develop bodyweight specific product/s or something aimed at those that work out at home with minimal equipment?

    I’m sure it would be a great read for guys like myself that are also obsessed with strength/improving performance but that have more interest in pushing their own weight than deadlifting a house.

    Keep up the amazing work!

  3. Johan June 9, 2011 at 3:07 am #

    Hey Jason, I am currently training for 1-1,5 hour 5 times a week and been gaining around 13.2 lbs the past 3 months and some of my friends at the gym says that I should start training every day to gain more.

    So should I start training every day or is it better to stick with 5 times a week ???

    Thanks for the help.

  4. Gary Deagle June 9, 2011 at 4:13 am #

    I have come to find the things they do in that show 10 X more impressive than lifting a huge weight one time. Not that anything is wrong with that, I just rank it behind incredible bodyweight stuff.

  5. Stuart Walker June 9, 2011 at 5:31 am #

    Great article. Reminded me of the most impressive feats of strength I’d ever seen by a pair of guys at a circus show in London a couple of years back (punch ‘English Gents Acrobats’ into Google and check out the first YouTube vid that comes up in the search results).

    The impact on my training after seeing them? To strive to finally master the handstand push-up. Took a damn long time but I got there. However, the looks of ‘what the f*ck is that guy doing’ from the rest of the gym made it all worthwhile.

  6. kohy June 9, 2011 at 5:46 am #

    yeah Monica Santhiago is very talented at body weight training!

  7. James Buchanan June 9, 2011 at 6:05 am #

    Great article, made even better by the first photo!

  8. Ben June 9, 2011 at 7:30 am #

    Great article.

    Quick question. You made the comment “throughout the day”. Say you wanted to get in 50 pushups a day. Would it be better to do 5×10 once a day or spread them out throughout the day like morning, lunch, afternoon, etc?

    I’ve heard people say doing them throughout the day doesn’t allow them to rest and heal but if you aren’t going anywhere close to failure does it really matter?

    Thanks.

  9. Chris June 9, 2011 at 8:41 am #

    Hi Jay…what if you can’t do a free standing pistol yet? How does this change things?

  10. Ricardo June 9, 2011 at 9:28 am #

    DAAAAMMMMNNNN!! Nice pic! I didn’t even read the post yet.. just had to comment. :)

  11. Hameed Bhatti June 9, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    I have a question – should the exercise you pick only be a bodyweight type exercise ?

    For example if I can military press 100 lbs for 10 reps, can I do the exact same exercise and 3 – 5 sets for 5 reps?

    Second question – would it be too much if you did two different exercises per day – shoulder press and chinups?

  12. Supermex1 June 9, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    who is the girl in the first photo??

  13. Jason - Fitness Workouts June 9, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    Some good points there. Something I need to do myself. I am not a good squater. I don’t practice, I train. I need to get better at the movement before I think about adding more weight. Even though I know it, sometimes it is god to hear it from someone else from time to time.

  14. Ryan McKane June 9, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    Damn, I think that girl might be a minotaur, she has the ass of a horse!

  15. Luke H June 10, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    Man that Lady is stunning – I think the article just gave me a testosterone boost! Interesting stance as strength as a skill. If you lift heavy/low reps you won’t be doing that for three times a week as most people struggle to get in one squat session a week – I’m struggling to connect the dots here. How often would you recommend to lift heavy? heavy and high frequency just don’t mix – body needs to rest etc etc You need to lift heavy to produce strength/muscle gains – or is the better way lower intensity – high frequency? Your article points to the latter

  16. Stephane June 17, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    On that note, considering that I work solely with military personnel that are obsessed with pounding out 100 push ups in a row, I’ve been experimenting with a ton of different protocols. One protocol involves an extremely high frequency of training (i.e. every 20 minutes).

    An unintended side effect to this protocol – gains of on average 1-2 inches for the chest.

    So what you say is bang on.

    Good stuff as usual Jay!