By Matt Potak
In my first article on bodyweight training titled 30 days without weights, I spoke about the many benefits of using bodyweight training during a training phase. After the article was published I started to get questions from many athletes regarding this type of training. Most of the questions were asked about keeping your strength. Many athletes feared that by not lifting weights they would get smaller and weaker, in their current sport. My response to certain athletes varied. In the end I told all of them that if they did difficult bodyweight exercises, with intensity, they would still maintain or even improve their strength levels. Here is how.
The key is to do bodyweight exercises that are difficult.
Don’t just do a bunch of pushups and sit-ups to failure. Doing this will get you weaker. You have to try things that you can’t or almost can’t do. Instead of trying to do a bunch of pushups try to do a one arm pushup or pushups with your feet elevated. Or you can try to do a hand stand pushup. Below are some examples of how to keep your upper body strong using difficult body weight movements.
UPPER BODY STRENGTH MOVEMENTS WITHOUT WEIGHTS
Pushups with Clap
Pushups ( Feet elevated)
Pull-ups (No Help)
Dips (No Help)
Chin-ups (No help)
Pushups (Double Clap)
Pullups (One Arm)
Dive Bomber Pushups
One arm Chins
Pushups (Triple Clap)
LOWER BODY STRENGTH MOVEMENTS WITHOUT WEIGHTS
B/W Squats (parallel)
B/W Squats ATG
Split Squat Jumps
One Leg Hip Ext
Squat Jumps (get depth)
One Legged Squat
Side Split Squat Jumps
Glute Ham Raise
Have you ever seen a guy who can do a one arm pullup or pushup that is weak? I haven’t I used a lot of these movements with my athletes and once they went back to lifting weights they were stronger. I had a kid who was benching 215 for one rep. When Wrestling started he got burnt out from lifting and bored. I had him start doing smaller workouts focusing on bodyweight movements. He went from doing pushups to hand stand pushups, and chinups to one arm chinups. Eventually after the season he got back to lifting and on his first day back in the weight room he hit 225 for his new max. He also was at a lighter body weight than he was at the start of the season. I have also had great results and carry over from these movements. My bench and squat both went up after my last bodyweight phase.
If you ever look at a gymnasts, most of them can go into a powerlifting meet and win their weight class in the bench press. I had a training partner in college who was a former gymnasts and the first time he attempted a bench press he hit over 225 while he was in high school. Most of Gymnasts strength comes from years and years of bodyweight and event training. Legendary Strength Coach Louie Simmons once said
“Think about this. How much could you bench press the first time you tried? 200? 300 perhaps? Now how did you achieve that level of strength without ever having benched before? You did it through simplified training such as pushups and pull-ups. “
Louie Simmons is correct. His powerlifters use bodyweight movements to help recovery, and increase GPP.
I’m not downing regular strength training. I think different strength routines are great, and they work. I just think that sometimes athletes and regular gym rats need a break from their regular weight training routine and try a new method. Bodyweight training can help you get stronger. In my next article I will touch on how bodyweight training can build muscle mass.
Matt Potak is a wrestling and football coach at the high school level. He is also a personal fitness trainer in the St Augustine, Florida area. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can check out his blog at www.mattpotak.wordpress.com