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View Full Version : The fundamentals of bodyweight strength training


Steven Low
03-22-2010, 06:17 AM
Finally got a primer out on purely bodyweight strength training work and/or combining bodyweight and barbell work.

The fundamentals of bodyweight strength training (http://www.eatmoveimprove.com/2010/03/the-fundamentals-of-bodyweight-strength-training/)

Hope you enjoy. Post feedback or comments here or there.

Corey Cedeno
03-22-2010, 01:26 PM
Very good read Steve.

One question though, under Routine construction, the 60s skill work. Is that aggregate of sets or one unit?

Steven Low
03-22-2010, 06:12 PM
Aggregated sets...

Probably should mention that.

Júlíus G. Magnússon
03-22-2010, 07:02 PM
Haven't read through the whole thing, yet, Just wanted to point out, you should probably copy all the pictures to your own server. All your pics seem to be directly linked to someone else's server, and all they need to do is remove them and you'll have a broken image in your article. At least one seems to be broken right now.

Also, just a typo I thought I should point out:

"full back lever and full back lever– images from drillsandskills.com and 128.pair.com"

One of the pics shows a back lever and the other front lever.

Looks like a good read, and I'll definitely be giving it a much closer look when gymnastics movements become more of a priority for me (when my stupid elbow stops being a pussy).

By the way, you mentioned phosphatidylserine in your log. Just wanted to say I'm very interested in your thoughts on that. So definitely make that your next article.

Steven Low
03-22-2010, 07:13 PM
Yeah, I'll probably try to get on that tomorrow (the pics).

It was easier hotlinking for now. :\ Gonna take a few hours which SUCKS.


I'm definitely gonna start working on the PS... but I have 4 other things in queue right now that I'm like 50% done with so it may get put on the backburner for a bit.

We'll see.

Grissim Connery
03-23-2010, 12:13 AM
since julius brought up typos, here's another

"Skill development for bodyweight strength training is much different than barbell work.

It is unlike most of the barbell movements where you can start to learn the most complex movements as a beginner such as the clean and jerk and snatch within a couple months of starting.

It is unlike barbell training where you can begin learning the more complex movements (such as the Olympic lifts – snatch and clean and jerk), as a beginner and reach a decent level of proficiency within a few months. In fact, with barbell work this is preferable because it allows for years upon years of meticulous training to reinforce proper movement patterns to do it under heavy loads."

so far though it's great!

Gavin Harrison
03-23-2010, 04:16 PM
I like the ideas and stunts of bodyweight training, but honestly, I doubt I'm built for it, being tall (6') with long limbs. I'm probably best suited for the deadlift, maybe strongman if I can gain some weight...

Steven Low
03-23-2010, 05:06 PM
That's why you can work it in partially. :)

Grissim Connery
03-23-2010, 08:37 PM
I hadn't really considered the manna to be the opposite of a handstand before. That was a really interesting concept. i'm restructuring my workouts now with that idea in mind

One thing i felt as i read it and i've also always had issues with is classifying the back lever. it definately makes sense that it's a flexion, but then then it seems strange to call it a pull. but then again, manna is considered extension and it is more like a push than a pull. i guess once you go behind the back, a push is a pull and a pull is a push.

what about bridge work?

Steven Low
03-23-2010, 09:19 PM
Yeah, I thought there would be a bit of confusion about that. I didn't really specify so here's my breakdown of it:


I consider it a pull namely because

1. your are "pulling" your center of mass towards your hands
2. the main muscle engaged are primarily "pulling" muscles -- lats, biceps, etc. (though some chest, minimal anterior delts)

Like I said, there some that are in the grey area... back lever is one of them. Manna is definitely another -- most people see it as a pushing (and it is in the sense of the "strict center of mass away from your hands" concept).

I classify it as pulling since it works shoulder extension extensively in the movement.

Although back lever is flexion, it does not engage the anterior delts sufficiently that I would put it in the pushing category.

i guess once you go behind the back, a push is a pull and a pull is a push.

Yeah, I considered adding this (because I noticed it too)... but the article is already long enough and I don't want to confuse anyone further. :\

-----------

bridge is under the development of low back flexibility -- Coach Sommer has articles on that which I linked to.

Donald Lee
03-23-2010, 09:59 PM
I also enjoyed the article.

The one thing I have grown to dislike about bodyweight training is the difficulty in measuring and making incremental progressions in strength without having to manipulate volume. I like sticking to set reps per set. But, I used to dislike microloading with weight lifting, and now I love it, so maybe some day I'll re-appreciate the way you have to progress with bodyweight training.

Grissim Connery
03-24-2010, 01:18 AM
yeah i have a love-hate relationship with bodyweight progressions. it makes progress seem more real in the sense that if somebody can deadlift 50 more pounds than me, it doesn't seem like a huge deal. on the other hand if somebody can full planche and i can only tuck planche or straddle planche, then the difference seems more profound.

making real progress also seems more like a random holiday when doing bodyweight stuff. with bar work, you can be close to something and then just brute strength it out and get a new PR. with bodyweight, it's like doing elementry school math forever, and then all the sudden you can do calculus out of nowhere. it's just a painful patience game.

i think the only reason i can deal with it now is just knowing that at some point, it will happen. it was like the first static handstand or muscle up day. "oh shit, i did it! woah!"

Garrett Smith
03-24-2010, 05:45 AM
Speaking of bodyweight training, has anyone here perused the new "Convict Conditioning"?

Steven Low
03-24-2010, 05:53 AM
I also enjoyed the article.

The one thing I have grown to dislike about bodyweight training is the difficulty in measuring and making incremental progressions in strength without having to manipulate volume. I like sticking to set reps per set. But, I used to dislike microloading with weight lifting, and now I love it, so maybe some day I'll re-appreciate the way you have to progress with bodyweight training.
Yeah, I agree.

There are exercises like pullups/dips were you can load. Same with things like hanging leg raises and such...

but mostly it's just "feeling" it as the exercises get easier. That's one of the things I don't like as much -- you don't get the sense of progress as you do with weights at least directly.

Steven Low
03-24-2010, 05:56 AM
Speaking of bodyweight training, has anyone here perused the new "Convict Conditioning"?
Hmm, looking at the chapter/page list I guess it looks OK...

http://www.dragondoor.com/b41.html

Grissim Connery
03-24-2010, 08:29 AM
i originally didn't look at convict conditioning because i thought the name was stupid (a little too tough guy sounding). after looking throught the chapters i really do wanna take a look.

i really wanna see the bridge progressions. i've always wanted to do some of this stuff
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZJwMpvJiYM

Blair Lowe
03-25-2010, 12:07 AM
Nice article, Steve. I really liked the fact it summed up a lot of things. Ho-hum, I am tired. Blame the tri-tip.

The Convict Conditioning looks interesting as it popped up on GymnasticBodies. That and the Dinosaur conditioning are more involved works besides GB as to BW conditioning. More so than Pavel's elementary stuff (the opposite arm/leg pushup and pistol).

Steve, thoughts on straddle-L work? Currently I focus on straddle-L work instead of the basic manna progressions because my straddle-L sucks so much that I never thought I could get much out of the beginning manna progressions using straddle-L. Do you think I should continue this or split time between straddle-L and manna. Yes, I am using myself as a test dummy in my programming for my guys. Do you think I should concentrate on straddle-L with them till it's satisfactory or split time with it (straddle-L/manna). I could either do 30s of each or alternate days of it. We are almost out of season and preparing to go into off-season.

Grissim, Ido Portal has some interesting progressions on bridging on the wall over on his site. I found the first half of those bridging progressions to be in what we work beginners or advanced beginners in our rec or developmental gymnastics class.

Steven Low
03-25-2010, 03:18 AM
1. Work on compression for L-sit and straddle-L everyday. After a couple months in.. everyone can handle this.

2. L-sits/straddle-L 60s for the skill work every 3-4 days. Once they can do either in one set that's great... then maybe go for the 90 or 120s.

3. Start integrating manna at the MSH variation once you have a sufficiently developed straddle hold. I don't like starting it before then because you need more equipment, and people will try to get ahead of themselves.

Donald Lee
03-26-2010, 03:25 PM
So, out of nowhere, I was able to do the BL pretty easily today. After I solidify the BL, what else should I start working on? I'm already working on FL and Planche.

Steven Low
03-26-2010, 04:06 PM
So, out of nowhere, I was able to do the BL pretty easily today. After I solidify the BL, what else should I start working on? I'm already working on FL and Planche.

Do you have rings?

If you want to be serious about bodyweight training there's always manna.

Handstand variations of course...

And as always iron cross. I usually suggest people first get both back lever and front lever before starting cross, and do some sufficient elbow preparation work. Coach Sommer's bulgarian dips are good as well as taking planche and strap assisted handstand/HSPU to the rings.

Donald Lee
03-26-2010, 08:03 PM
Do you have rings?

If you want to be serious about bodyweight training there's always manna.

Handstand variations of course...

And as always iron cross. I usually suggest people first get both back lever and front lever before starting cross, and do some sufficient elbow preparation work. Coach Sommer's bulgarian dips are good as well as taking planche and strap assisted handstand/HSPU to the rings.

I do have rings, but they're such a hassle to setup. Some day when I will use them again consistently, I will probably purchase the new Elite Rings.

The manna sounds interesting. How does the difficulty compare to the Back Lever, Planche, and Iron Cross? I'll have to decide between Handstand work or manna work.

Blair Lowe
03-27-2010, 02:07 AM
My/Our WU consists of 3 sets of seated pike and straddle leg lifts. Lately it's been 5 lifts with a 5s hold at the end. Another variation was lifts in 5-3-2 with holds of 3s and we used to also employ 10 lifts with a 3 or 5 hold as well or 3s lifts with longer holds.

Every 3-4 days? For my guys, they do it at the end of every workout which means MWF. I do it at the end of every workout, but only work straddle-L. Generally I do 6x10s. Lately, I've been doing it in an undergrip on the edge of a beam because it's similar to rings though it does flex my wrists hard (I probably should just do it on rings).

For the guys, they need to master both the L-sit and straddle-L sit because it's in the routines (there is the L-hang and L-sit in L4 besides the press from straddle-L to L-sit in L4). In later levels, there is the endo roll press HS besides the need for L strength for the HB kip.

However, it's just done as finish 60s of the hold, mainly cause it's the end of the workout and they vary in how tired they are from day to day and because it's been quite a long time since we've tested hold times (since we have been in pre-season/season now for 6mo). As well, I've noticed these boys tend to suck with ever doing 50% of max time holds and rarely ever want to hold anything more than 3-5s.

I used to try to work V-hangs and straddle-L holds for time and that would just crush my hip flexors. Now, I just incorporate the V&L-hangs in HLL. 3s in V, 3s in L.

3 of my guys probably have the flexibility for manna one day but do not have the strength yet as they are far off from optionals. I'm thinking it would be a good goal to get them a manna by the time they are in optionals.

Steven Low
03-27-2010, 01:38 PM
I do have rings, but they're such a hassle to setup. Some day when I will use them again consistently, I will probably purchase the new Elite Rings.

The manna sounds interesting. How does the difficulty compare to the Back Lever, Planche, and Iron Cross? I'll have to decide between Handstand work or manna work.
Do both manna and handstand work... I suggest they be coupled.

Manna is a C level skill by the way... cross is a B, and maltese is a D so it is inbetween there.

Troy Kerr
03-29-2010, 10:08 AM
Great article.

1)If the front lever is weaker than the back-lever, would it be acceptable to just train it as the first pulling movement?

2) Although I did not see any mention of straight body work in this article what is your opinion on the straight body movements/progressions in a program. Would you consider them more along the lines of "accessory work"? If not, what is the role of straight body work in training? Sorry if this does not make sense.

Grissim Connery
03-29-2010, 12:09 PM
Great article.

1)If the front lever is weaker than the back-lever, would it be acceptable to just train it as the first pulling movement?


this actually sparks a question i've had for a while. the front lever is a ton harder than the back lever, and the victorian is a ton harder than a maltese. why is this? at first thought, it would seem the opposite since you can use your lats on the extensions. i always think of the lats as these massive slabs of muscle. yet these motions are incredibly harder. is the lat not able to engage as well as the anterior muscles when in a horizontal position?

i've been working crosses for not that long, and a part of me thinks that my crosses may surpass my front levers at the rate i'm going.

Gavin Harrison
03-29-2010, 01:13 PM
this actually sparks a question i've had for a while. the front lever is a ton harder than the back lever, and the victorian is a ton harder than a maltese. why is this? at first thought, it would seem the opposite since you can use your lats on the extensions. i always think of the lats as these massive slabs of muscle. yet these motions are incredibly harder. is the lat not able to engage as well as the anterior muscles when in a horizontal position?

i've been working crosses for not that long, and a part of me thinks that my crosses may surpass my front levers at the rate i'm going.

My guess is that for the victorian, your rear delts are going to be the weak link, since those have to be held at a kind of mid extension for the entirety of a victorian.

Donald Lee
03-29-2010, 02:47 PM
It probably has to do with how our bodies are built. Certain muscles and movements are naturally stronger. For example, you can do much more weight on the pec deck for your chest than the opposite for the back muscles. I'm sure the fact that the body's not very comfortable in a German hang position also makes the back lever easier.

Steven Low
03-29-2010, 06:01 PM
Back lever is much stronger than front lever because of a couple reasons:

~Lats are in a much more mechanically efficient position/angle of pulling. Since they insert on the thoracolumbar fascia on the back, with your arms in front for the front lever they have to basically wrap around your body and are not getting full force production out of them. In the back, the mechanical angle is much more efficient.

~We are stronger in flexion in general than extension. Even though the arms are behind the body, the scapula & humerus and all of the muscles that insert/originate from it are much more efficient (just like the example above) in performing movements that are generally in front of our body.

~lower back, glutes, legs contract harder and thus get more full body tension from back lever than in front lever with the abs.

~Often pulling work is limited by weakness in the external rotators, posterior delts, scapular retractors, etc. A lot of stalled front lever progress can be mitigated if you focus on those specific areas to bring them up to par.

Brandon Oto
03-29-2010, 07:49 PM
~We are stronger in flexion in general than extension.

Err, what?

Donald Lee
03-29-2010, 08:05 PM
Err, what?

Front shoulder raises = flexion

Bring your shoulder down = extension

He's talking about when your arms are in front of or behind your body.

Troy Kerr
03-30-2010, 01:27 PM
[QUOTE=~Often pulling work is limited by weakness in the external rotators, posterior delts, scapular retractors, etc. A lot of stalled front lever progress can be mitigated if you focus on those specific areas to bring them up to par.[/QUOTE]

I saw this stated on the GB forum as well.
Here is the link for a superset that targets the scapulae retractors.

http://gymnasticbodies.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=3574&sid=51bb365357b3d0f21fa9490cc33db8e9

I believe the 31x3 is the numerical representation mentioned below but I am not sure how to follow it. Is anybody familiar with this method?

Donald Lee
03-30-2010, 02:48 PM
Look down further on the page. Ido explains it.