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high frequency strength training

12 Ways Bodyweight Training You Into A Ninja

bodyweight training, Expert Tips to Build Muscle

Since my middle school days I’ve been addicted to the iron. Pushing heavy weight, moving fast, and going hard in the gym, gets me goin’!

That said, some aspects have changed.

I’ve pushed too hard. Ignored too many nagging issues for too long, and paid the price.

For a bit, I saw my athleticism crumble and got worked on the field after only chasing strength to improve performance. After having it drilled into my head a million times, it finally clicked:  Tweet: There is no absolute, perfect way to train. bit.ly/1KGTjIW @Eric_Bach #fitness #bodyweighttraining #muscleThere is no absolute, perfect way to train. 

 

There is no “best” method, no inherently terrible method, and no perfect tool. Instead, there are only methods, and sound execution of the method.

From there, the precision in which you master the method drives results. Either you’re a high-performance beast in control of your body, or you’re r not.

If you’re like me, barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells make up the majority of your training.

Still, these are all a means to an end, rather than the end all be all.  At the end of the day, what’s important is…

How well you perform in your sport and pown your opponents.

How much lean, athletic muscle you’re building. Or whether that aching shoulder, stiff back, or cranky knee pain is subsiding. Recently, I made a major change— adding bodyweight training.

A lot more if it. The result?

I’m stronger, shredded, and more athletic than I have been in the last year and a half. Even better, I’m healthier with less joint stress and overuse injuries. My clients too. This just touches the surface on the benefits of bodyweight training.

In this post, I’ll show you 12 reasons bodyweight training will get you stronger, shredded, and more athletic. You’ll probably even look better naked, and develop some wicked ninja skills, sans the throwing stars. Enough chit-chat. Let’s get down to business.

1. More Variety for Advanced Trainees

The more advanced your training age, the slower adaptation is. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles. If basic linear overload worked 100% of the time, we would all be squatting 1000lbs after two years under the bar. Instead of sticking with the same basic squat, bench, deadlift, and power clean workout you did in high school, make changes. Start adding in single leg progressions, chin ups, or advanced push-up exercises, like the med-ball pop-up push-up below:

 

2.Bodyweight training Increases athleticism

 

Who the hell wants to get crossed over at the YMCA by some pimply faced teenager? We ain’t got time for that! In most sports, the speed and efficiency in which you move is what determines your success. This includes:

  • Juking and sprinting from an opponent in football.
  • Jumping off one foot in basketball.
  • Driving through your hips, rotating, and delivering a punch to your opponent.

These days, powerlifting and building max strength are the flavor of the month. While absolute strength is important, the most important factors for most athletes remain moving effectively with enough relative strength to move faster than the competition.

Bodyweight training is ideal to build relative strength because each exercise is limited by your ability to move, control, and stabilize your body through space. Maximum strength is still vital, but incorporating bodyweight movements like sprinting, jumping, skipping, and basic squats and push-ups is vital for athletic performance. Hurdle Hops are one of my go-to bodyweight jump variations:

Rather than fixing you into the same exact movement for the umpteenth time, you’ll reinforce timing, coordination, speed, stability, and mobility while moving your body.  

3. Lower Joint Stress

 

  Compound barbell exercises might be the backbone of most good training programs, but too much of a good thing is exactly that: too much. Specifically, excessive loading in the same movement patterns over years is a sure-fire way to wear out your joints, especially if there are technical flaws.

Bodyweight training provides a different mechanical overload while reducing joint stress. I’m not saying drop the big boy lifts, far from. Instead, incorporate more bodyweight movements like pistol squats instead of squats once or twice per week.  

4. Improved Mobility and Stability in Your Big Lifts

 

Most bodyweight exercises need stability and mobility that is neglected through more popular training methods, like barbells. Bodyweight exercises recruit often-neglected smaller muscles to fire and stabilize the body the way it was meant to work. Incorporate bodyweight work for a while and watch your big lifts explode once you’re back under the bar with greater kinesthetic awareness and support.  

 

5. Build More Real World Strength  

 

I’ve had clients come in with 400lb+ bench presses, yet they couldn’t perform a push-up properly. You must be able to control your own body safely and efficiently to be a high-performance beast. The body is great at compensating for underlying weaknesses, especially with the same redundant movement patterns.

Instead of blitzing the barbell again, overload bodyweight exercises. Bodyweight exercises provide simultaneous challenges mobility and stability with the prime movers and stabilizers concurrently firing. The end result is a body that is capable of moving in the real work, not just the platform.  

 

6. Higher Training Volume for muscle growth  

 

When helping clients add muscle mass the first training change I make is adding volume. Rather than hammering extra isolation work, I opt for bodyweight circuits for clients to hit at home before work or school.

This allows a significant increase in training volume without making more trips to the gym. Beyond eating more (which I covered below), add bodyweight circuits once in the morning before heading off out for the day. Don’t half-ass these—make the bodyweight variations tough enough to cause stress and overload.

Related: Nutrition for Hardgainers  To quantify the volume lets say you do 45 push-ups during each workout.In 30 days, that’s an additional 1,350 push-ups in a month. DAYUM. If you did an additional 1,350 push-ups next month, would you be bigger and stronger? Yes. No struggle, no growth.  

 

7. Bodyweight Training Tests Help You Stay Lean While Bulking  

 

We’ve all been there. In the middle of a muscle gaining phase and all a sudden it hits: You feel fat, out of shape, and un-athletic. You’re not alone. Most lifters get so obsessed with adding weight to the scale and blow up with tons of unnecessary fat gain.

The result?

Decreased relative strength.

While getting bigger might appeal to you aesthetically, you’ll ruin your performance if relative strength decreases and you can’t generate force as rapidly and efficiently. To test the issue, my clients test their broad jump, push-up, and chin-up numbers every few weeks when gaining weight. Push-ups, chin-ups, and explosive jump decreasing?

Then your relative strength is dropping and you’re unable generate force as fast. Push-ups, chin-ups, and explosive jumps staying the same? Bingo! You’re adding lean mass and getting progressively stronger to keep up with your bodyweight.    

 

8. Control Cheat Days  

Listen: We all have cheat days. Beer, pizza, ribs, fries, fruity vodka drinks with cute umbrellas, chocolate covered bacon….the list goes on for these tasty little morsels.

IMG_1888
Delicious meatyness at Russell’s Smokehouse in Denver

  Eating has social implications—holidays, and social events where  “unhealthy foods” helps you relax and enjoy the company of others are part of our culture. That said, they’re still cheat days and must be limited for getting jacked and athletic. “Great, so where do bodyweight exercises fit in?”

I’m glad you asked. Due to their convenience, bodyweight exercises are the perfect weapon to increase pre-cheat insulin sensitivity.

Basically, by dropping and crushing 30 push ups, band pull-aparts, and squats you’re activating your muscles to be receptive to the calorie bombs.

The key? Glute 4, a transporter that handles transporting glucose into skeletal muscle from the blood stream, is stimulated by muscular contractions.

That means:  yes, it’s possible to limit your fat gain while drinking beer and eating pizza with your buddies. Just keep it in moderation and use mini-workouts 15-30 minutes before and after cheat meals to stay leaner and use the extra calories for building muscle. P.S. Props to Tim Ferriss for turning me onto the idea, after further research and self-experimentation, this really does help you survive cheat day.

 

9. Your Body Knows Tension, Not Weight

 

  “Wait, what?” Most of my athletes obsess over measurables like weight on the bar or the distance of a sprint. While these metrics are important, your body doesn’t care what’s on the bar or how far you need to run.

Your mitochondria don’t know the distance you’re sprinting; rather, it knows the intensity and time of the exercise and makes changes based on those demands.  

Similarly, your body doesn’t know 400lbs is on the bar for a squat. Instead, it knows it must recruit as many muscle fibers as possible and fire in a synchronized pattern to complete a muscle action against a heavy load.

Instead of the same old lifts, overload advanced bodyweight variations. Try pistol squats, chain push-ups, ring chin-ups, handstand push-ups, and L-sits to maximize muscular tension and build strength beyond the barbell.  

10. Bodyweight Training is Fun

 

It’s easy to lose sight of the primary reasons most of us train—It’s fun and a source of stress relief. Unfortunately, the same methods of training get stale over time and workout quality suffers. Missed workouts, poor focus, and a lack of determination are signs that you need to change up your training.

For starters, go with bodyweight training as a substitute for a major movement pattern. Instead of overloading your bench press for the 104th straight week, take a few months and progress towards a one-arm push-up. Your months of hard work won’t just disappear; rather, you’ll experience a fresh determination and super compensation from changing your routine.  

 

11. Bodyweight Training is Key for Injury Prevention  

 

Mobility and stability are important parts of any training program. Problem is, most lifters only focus on improving mobility and are a slave to countless drills and soft-tissue devices. While these all have their place, mobility without stability is like building a house without a sound foundation.

Everything looks okay at first, yet a greater range of motion without stability is no better than a limited range of motion. Instead of simply attacking mobility drills and soft tissue work, back them up with a stabilization movement right after.

For example, perform a mobility drill followed up by a 10-15 second isometric contraction to reinforce the new mobility.

Mobility: Thoracic Mobility Drill 

Stability: 90 degree Isometric Push-Up Hold

Instead of building a foundation and leaving it alone, build a foundation and reinforce it with concrete stability to maximal injury prevention.  

12. Bodyweight Training is More Convenient  

 

The biggest issue most people run into is missing training sessions and inconsistencies. Bodyweight training eliminates the issue and allows you to train anywhere without equipment.

A few pieces of equipment that make bodyweight training convenient at home are the ab wheel, and a door way chin-up. I’ve had dozens of weeks with only one or two lifting days in the gym, yet made progress hitting chin-ups (all angles), ab wheel rollouts, single leg squats, and push-ups.

Your body knows overload, every piece of equipment is just a tool. Add micro-workouts to your week—you don’t even need to go to the gym.  

At the end of the day…  

Bodyweight training keeps you athletic, lean, healthy, and creative in my training. Even when you love crushing big weights as your primary mode of training you’ll benefit from replacing some barbell and dumbbell lifts with bodyweight training. The benefits go beyond reduced joint stress.

You’ll improve your mobility, attack weak points, and stimulate stagnant growth from muscle fibers you’ve been neglecting.

You need to to stay healthy and move your body well through space– bodyweight training helps you do just that.

Train Smarter, Train Harder, Perform Better

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In it you’ll discover the best training, diet, and lifestyle strategies– personalized for you to build your ultimate high-performance body. Expert Tips to Build Muscle Click here to download the special report, for free.

High Frequency Training: Your Strength Building Solution

Expert Tips to Build Muscle, build muscle

High Frequency Training is a hotly debated topic.

Some “experts” say you should demolish every muscle once per week, blitzing the body part split. Others say focus on an upper-lower or total body split because training major movement patterns more frequently will stimulate faster gains in strength and size.

I’m with High Frequency Training. Here’s Why. 

Training Frequency the number of sessions performed per unit of time, is the most important training variable for building size, strength, and skill mastery for beginners.

For those looking to gain muscle and strength frequent training is the premier and logical choice for the fastest gains. Unfortunately, most people still follow bodybuilding body-part split routines popularized in every fitness magazine over the last three decades. These routines aren’t ideal for anyone except high-level bodybuilders.

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Consider the Following:

If you’re learning a new language is it best to study for five hours one day per week, or 45 minutes seven days per week?

Would you be stronger performing squats in 52 workouts per year or 104?

I would go with 45 minutes per day, seven days per week and 104 workouts without a doubt.

But Why?

Consistent exposure to stimuli is vital for learning new things and movement patterns.

The Research on High Frequency Training

In 2000 the study Comparison of 1 Day and 3 Days Per Week of Equal-Volume Resistance Training in Experienced Subjects 25 experienced participants were randomly separated into training groups. Group one performed one day per week of strength training with three sets to failure, with rep ranges moving from three to ten reps per set.

Group two performed workouts three days per week with one set to failure per day, while working in the same rep ranges. Volume was kept the exact same, yet group two had greater increases in both lean body mass and improved one-rep max strength. With total volume held constant, spreading the training frequency to three doses per week produced superior results in both strength and muscular hypertrophy.

high frequency training

In a 1997 study titled Isometric torso rotation strength: effect of training frequency on its development 33 men and 25 women were tested for rotational strength before and after 12 weeks of training. Groups were split into training groups that exercises one, two, or three times per week.

Although there were not major differences between groups training two or three times per week, strength was significantly increased compared to the one time per week training group. Once again, a higher frequency than one time per week was shown to improve strength gains.

In a 2010 study titled Anabolic processes in human skeletal muscle: restoring the identities of growth Hormone and Testosterone it was found that repeated phases of net protein balance, which can be generated in response to repeated bouts of resistance exercise and protein ingestion, underpins muscle hypertrophy.

This shows that frequent exposure to training increases protein synthesis at the cellular level, leading to greater amounts of muscle growth.

High Frequency Training for Hypertrophy and Strength

Full body workouts are the premier and logical choice for beginners. The more muscle you stimulate frequently the more muscle and strength you’ll build, with three or four workouts per week being plenty.

high frequency training
PhotoCredit:elitefts.net

To set up your own full-body workout start with a dynamic warm-up to activate muscles, lubricate joints, and prepare the body for activity.

Before hitting the weights start with some box jumps or medicine ball slams to fire up the central nervous system to lift more weight. Two or three sets of three to five reps should be plenty.

Pick an upper body push, an upper body pull and a compound lower body exercise.

This includes squats, lunges, deadlifts, bench presses, push-ups, chin-ups, rows, cleans, overhead presses, and glute bridges.

Stick with four or five sets of two to eight reps with one or two minutes of rest between sets. Multi-joint exercises should be practiced with a high training frequency and technically mastered for both safety and results.

Plan ten minutes (yes, only ten) at the end of your workout of free time to do things you want to do, whether it’s abs, biceps curls, or somersaults across the floor.

Have fun and enjoy yourself. I highly recommend a qualified coach to get you off on the right foot.

Upper/ Lower Splits

If you’ve been training for a solid year while making significant strength gains you can get more creative.

I recommend intermediates move to an upper-lower split, with halves of the body being hit at least 48 hours apart. Pick two presses and two or three pulling exercises performed in alternative sets on upper body days. Always train strength first and add weight to the bar, but feel free to add in some higher rep work to build those “pretty bumps.

According to The Mechanisms of Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training.” Chasing the pump is alright, as the accumulation of metabolites from exercise requires the use of anaerobic glycolysis resulting in the buildup of lactate, hydrogen ions, and other metabolites.

high frequency training

This metabolic stress leads to greater muscle fiber damage, furthering the need for tissue repair and nutrient shuttling to the source of damage.

Lower body workouts should be at least 48 hours apart as well, with 72 being ideal for maximum recovery.

Just like the upper body workouts train strength first and add weight to the bar, but feel free to add in some higher rep work to stimulate the metabolic environment to promote further muscle growth.

Here’s a sample lower body day: 1×10/each

  • Walking knee hug
  • Cradle walk
  • Straight leg march
  • Dynamic quad stretch
  • Forward lunge
  • Reverse lunge w/reach
  • Spiderman’s
  • Sub-Scap Push-Ups
  • Body Weight Squats
  • Box Jump 3×3

Weight Room:

1.Front Squat 5×5

2a.Romanian Deadlift 4×8

2b. Side plank 4×30 seconds

3a. Bulgarian Split Squat 3×12-15

3b. Hanging leg raises 3×10-15

4. Free time/ intervals/ Pretty bumps

*Note: If you’re a competitive athlete this isn’t a program for you. You’ll need more specialization and movement included early in the session. Many athletes succeed with total body programs because they place a premium on recovery. 

 Routines that train movements or muscles only one time per week are not optimal for high-performance strength development, especially for beginners. I recommend training each movement pattern at least twice per week for the best gains in strength, muscle, and performance.

High Frequency Training for Athletes and Skill Mastery

 “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” –Vince Lombardi

For learning a new movement or athletic skill the more frequently you practice the quicker it’s learned, eventually leading to unconscious competence—being able to perform a skill correctly without conscious thought.

Training skills to the point muscle memory is imperative for athlete success and transfer from the weight room. Practicing solid body position and movements like triple-extension to perfection will reinforce movement in the field of play.

athletes, sports performance, high frequency training

 

These same principles apply to anyone learning a new skill or movement. The more frequently you practice perfect technique the faster the learning process and subsequent gains.

Movement skill development must be grooved correctly until it becomes automatic and follows the following continuum: (Landow, 2013)
Unconscious Incompetence: Athlete looks clueless, unable to comprehend what is needed.

Conscious Incompetence: Athlete understands what’s needed, unable to produce it.

Conscious Incompetence:  Athlete can reproduce with much needed concentration, but not in series.

Unconscious Competence: Automatic near perfection execution without thought.

Training for athletic gains is a process that can’t be served due justice in this post, but matching movement patterns to movements required in sport is a key step. (No, this doesn’t mean throwing 12lb baseballs.) For more in-depth sports performance specialization read this & this.

It’s a Wrap ( In Dr. Dre Voice)

The process of perfecting a skill, whether it’s shooting free throws or lifting technique, takes much practice. Total body and upper-lower training splits provide higher frequency training to maximize strength and muscle-building gains with compound lifts.  

Put the leg extensions and seven variations of biceps curls on the back-burner and get back to what’s essential: high-frequency training with big movements, your strength building solution. 

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Resources:

McLester, J., Bishop, E., & Guilliams, M. (2000). Comparison of 1 day and 3 days per week of equal-volume resistance training in experienced subjects. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 14(3). Retrieved from http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/2000/08000/Comparison_of_1_Day_and_3_Days_Per_Week_of.6.aspx

DeMichele, P. L., Pollock, M. L., Graves, J. E., Foster, D. N., Carpenter, D., Garzarella, L., Brechue, W., & Fulton, M. (1997). Isometric torso rotation strength: effect of training frequency on its development. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 78(1), 64-69. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9014960

Landow, L. (2013, August). In Loren Landow (Chair). Train to win. Steadman Hawkins Sports Performance Train to win performance mentorship, Denver, Colorado.

Phillips, S., & West, D. (2010). Anabolic processes in human skeletal muscle: restoring the identities of growth hormone and testosterone. Physican and Sportsmedicine, 38(3), 97-104. doi: 10.3810/psm.2010.10.1814

Schoenfeld, Brad. “The Mechanisms of Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 24.10 (2010): 2857. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.

photo credit: planetc1 via photopin cc

photo credit: Ed Yourdon via photopin cc

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