How to Build Muscle with Bodyweight Only



The question: Can you build muscle by only using your bodyweight?

The answer? Hell yes! 

But just like lifting weights to build muscle, it isn't easy. It may even be too hard for a lot of people. After all, in order to destroy your muscles with bodyweight, you have to use leverage, push harder than you would with free weights to find failure, and learn to have complete control over your muscles in order to activate all the muscle you need when you need it.

What this all boils down to is this. In order to build muscle with just your bodyweight, you need to do three things:
  • Work to absolute failure
  • Continually progress 
  • Extend the time under tension
Work to Absolute Failure

Forget 'leaving a rep or two in the bank,' or avoiding the failure point to save energy for something else. The greater the destructive stimulus, the greater adaptation the body must make, and if you want to continue to build muscle in the long run, you will need to push to failure, fully recover, and repeat.

Absolute failure for bodyweight exercises can be hard to pinpoint. Let's face it, after you've done a couple dozen pushups or squats, you start wondering if you'll ever 'truly' fail. But you can, and eventually the muscles give out.

Using the bodyweight squat as an example, imagine you can perform 50 repetitions before it becomes difficult to stand up. This is when your set begins, and your mental fortitude is tested. When you cannot   stand back up (or you fall to the floor) you are done. 

But just to be sure, hold onto a chair or rail and perform slow eccentric (negative) repetitions. When you fail at those, then you can stop.

You can also reverse this process by pre-exhausting the muscles. Perform an exercise to failure or close to failure, followed by the target movement. Pushups followed by dips, or vice versa, for example. 

The same method can be used for pushups, pullups, etc. Perform a regular set to failure, then do an assisted version (pushups on your knees, pullups with a band or with feet supported) until you cannot perform another repetition. It takes guts to push to this point, and if you do it right, you will feel it the next day.

Continually Progress  

There are many ways to continue to stimulate your muscles to grow, but if weight is weight (your body, free weights,) then repetitions are repetitions. High repetition sets to failure will develop your muscular endurance, but only so much muscle.

As with free weights, you must continually challenge your muscles to grow. This means increasing the load somehow, as well as the overall amount of work done. Here are two ways to accomplish this:

  • Eliminate momentum
  • Increase the lever arm
  • Destabilize the base
Eliminating momentum is another way of saying 'slow down.' Instead of bouncing off the bottom of a pushup or dip, lower slowly, pause at the bottom and then push back up. This ensures complete control over the movement, helps prevent injury, and makes the muscles do all of the work. Use this same tactic with every one of your bodyweight workouts and see how long you last.

Increasing the lever arm means putting your body at a disadvantage to complete the exercise. So for instance, a pushup with your feet elevated is harder than one with the feet flat. Move the hands wider apart and it becomes more difficult still; move the hands further in front of you, and although it brings other muscles into play, it is still more difficult to complete a rep.

This is an easy concept to get if you like doing planks. Most folks can hold an elbow plank for a few seconds, but as you begin walking your hands ahead of your skull, the exercise gets significantly harder. 

Destabilizing your base forces the muscles to work harder to maintain proper form and execute the movement, while also bringing additional supporting muscles into play. 

Some good ways to do this include:

  • Performing pushups with your feet on an exercise ball 
  • Pushups with one foot elevated
  • Hack squats
  • Box squats
  • One leg squats
  • Planks with your hands/elbows on an exercise ball
  • Single leg deadlift
  • Side plank with extended arm and elevated leg
Extend the Time Under Tension

One of the easiest ways to extend a set and force the muscle to work a little longer is to keep them under tension a little longer. This may mean hanging with the shoulders, upper back, wrists and biceps activated for 10 seconds when you can't perform another pullup or row. 

It can also be done by good old fashioned flexing. After failing at that last pushup, stand up and tense your chest, shoulders and triceps in an isometric contraction for 10 seconds. 

Additional time under tension means more work for your muscles.

It Works if you Work it

Bodyweight muscle building is no mystery, and it's no myth. With the right workout and nutrition program, and enough mental toughness, you can push your body to limits you'd never imagined, and build muscle at the same time. 













Finding your Hidden Strength Reserves


It's amazing really, so many indirect actions are perfect metaphors other areas of your life. Take exercise for instance. From my observations, your level of dedication to your workouts indicates:

-How disciplined you are in other daily or frequently recurring activities (uh, diet anyone?)
-How much effort you put into those activities, or barring that:
-How hard you push to complete or push those activities to the next level

Of course, regular workouts can also contribute to your well-being on a daily and ongoing basis, but I'm talking about the less frequently connected dots in life. For instance, little victories in life tend to lead to, or contribute to a belief that you can, accomplish small (and large) victories in other areas of life.

Take a look around the fabric of your week after a good workout or two. What did you accomplish in those workouts? What did you attempt? How did you challenge yourself?

Often, we find that the best victory (especially as you push past 40!) in a workout is finding out how much effort we could give. Realizing, 'damn, I didn't know I had it in me!'

Sometimes, it doesn't matter that you didn't reach the goal, or complete the WOD. What matters, and what is most exhilirating, is discovering a power within you that had been dormant or undiscovered. A power that surfaces through the expenditure of energy from a synergy of mind and body.

That is what lifts you up. That feeling is what drives you on. Empowerment makes you realize that you have barely tapped your own potential, and damn that feels good.

Here's my empowering workout from today. I really didn't know I had it in me, specifically that many pullups in one workout. I have been struggling with consistency and setting up the right combination of home gym equipment in my garage and backyard. Now, I can't wait to load up another 50 lb. sandbag and add weight to my pullups!

Warm-up at track:

-Joint rotations (see instructions here. Just scroll past the first paragraph for the videos.)
-3 laps (jog/walk; sprint/walk; sprint/walk)
Coupled those with:

Finger-only pullups: 3 sets of 3-4 (on a fat steel beam, thus the fingers only)

At home:

5 supersets of:

-Kipping&strict pullups: x 3-4 (not to failure)
-Sandbag 'hug' lift from floor, 100# x 1-2 (not going for failure)
-Single arm 'gas-mower starters' with 80-120# power band x 5 each

So now it's your turn. Go out and start exercising. Do what you do, Crossfitter, runner, triathlete, whatever. If you don't do anything, just walk. Really push yourself. Reach deep. When you want to quit, keep going. After you ignore that quitter a few times you might just forget about it altogether.

Chances are, you will discover something about yourself that was long forgotten, or perhaps you never even knew about.

Cheers,
Mo



Exercise and Working Out True Lifesavers

Exericse Really can Save Lives

I love a good story of inspiration, especially when it involves someone overcoming incredible odds to reclaim their life and their health. 

Take the story I found on Science Daily about Tom Hoppensteadt, who weighted over 300 pounds, and as expected, faced real threats of diabetes and heart attacks. As Tom said, "He (the doctor) was pretty straight wth me, 'drop the weight or you'll die of a heart attack.'" 

Tom's wake up call was a cancer diagnosis, but the doctors told him that the more immediate and pressing threat was his obesity! He ended up losing over 120 pounds and dropping 10 waist sizes, not with drugs or surgery. Just hard work and dedication to a healthy lifestyle.

Tom attributed his weight loss to the following:

-Using the MyFitnessPal app to monitor diet and record exercise results
-Spin classes 3-4 times a week (45 minute class)
-Running and swimming 2-3 times a week
-Yoga

Tom even completed a triathlon, and hopefully he'll discover the benefits of some functional resistance training for his new lifestyle as well. 

Cheers Tom! Nicely done. 

To read the full article, click on this link:


Brutal Interval Workouts with Fat Shredding Results


Shred it Like Spartacus

From Men's Health: my.menshealth.com


I'm a huge fan of interval workouts. I've designed dozens myself, borrowed from places like
GymJones, any number of Crossfit WOD's and even, dare I say it, Men's Health.

I tend to take a look at everyone's workout ideas and adjust them to an appropriate level and using equipment that I have or prefer. One of my favorite authors of interval workouts is Istvan Javorek. He has been coaching athletes for decades and has some excellent dumbbell and barbell workout routines. But like I said, I like to mix things up, which is why I was intrigued by the Spartacus workout from Men's Health.



From Men's Health: my.menshealth.com
I like this workout for several reasons: Simple equipment (dumbbells,) emulates lifting in real life situations, and is seriously challenging.















The Spartacus includes exercises like the "Dumbbell Chop" shown above and the "Rotational Dumbbell Straight-Leg Deadlift" below:

From Men's Health: my.menshealth.com



There are also bodyweight exercises included, which are vital for developing great body awareness and what academics call "proprioception," (spatial awareness.)

You can check out the full Spartacus workout here:  http://my.menshealth.com/workout/The-Spartacus-Workout-2.0/workout-a?page=1

If you like to beef up your workout library with muscle ripping, fat shredding interval workouts, be sure to take a look at the Thor Workout as well.



A Dumbbell Workout Routine from Hell

Before starting this workout, get a thorough warm-up. Start by rotating your joints from the neck down to the ankles. Then do some light jogging, jumproping or similar cardio activity to get the body heat up.

To do this workout, all you need is a pair of adjustable dumbbells (or access to a nice db rack.) If possible, choose a weight that allows you to do all 3 exercises without stopping to change the weight.

Here is the workout. Perform all 3 exercises back-to-back with no rest in between. After each cluster, rest 1-2 minutes. As soon as you are ready, jump into the next round. Do 3-5 rounds depending on your fitness level.

Floor Press in Bridge

Get into a hip bridge on the floor with the dumbbells held tight to your chest. Press the dumbbells in a straight line while keeping the glutes tight and the heels pressed into the floor. Don't let the hips sag when you lower the weight. Do 20 repetitions.

lifestyle.yahoo.co.nz


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Keep a dumbbell exercise chart on the wall for quick reference. Click here for more.