The question is asked: Are you willing to do whatever it takes to build muscle, increase strength, or lose fat using bodyweight exercises? To make gym rats envious of your strength and physique?
Be careful before you answer.
Most people are not willing to do whatever it takes to get these results. Or they will ignore some commandments thinking “I already know that, or I don’t need to do that”. And they’ll end up not getting the body they want.
You’ll save a lot of time, avoid mistakes, and get great results if you follow these commandments diligently. If you’ve been led to believe weight training is superior, stick with me and you’ll see how you can get greater results with bodyweight exercises.
Frankly, it’s easier than you think to build muscle and strength with bodyweight exercises – if you do it right. And since there are a variety of bodyweight exercises on the focus fitness blog, the only thing left is following these rules.
I may also note that these rules apply for both men and women, young and old – whether you want to build muscle, lose fat or increase strength.
Enough with the fluff, let’s get down to business. Here are the 10 commandments of bodyweight training that you should abide by, ever!
I. Thou shall progress
This is the greatest commandment but one which is regularly violated.
You’ll often see folks use the same workout routine all year through. This is wrong because when you repeat an exercise for long the body gets used to it and muscles stop growing. Additionally, the body burns fewer calories than before, for the same workout, when you repeat it for long.
Muscles grow when they are strained and challenged. So you have to find ways to make your workouts more challenging. And one of the best way to do this is to replace current exercises with more challenging ones. Add new exercises or start doing harder variations of those exercises.
Increasing the number reps and sets is also another way to make workouts challenging.
Use a routine for 4 weeks then add more challenging exercises to it. Sometimes you can even replace the exercises before the 4 week period is over – if the exercises are too easy. I say this because high reps exercises (20+ reps) are not the best for building muscle – they’re good for muscle endurance.
Aim for a maximum of 15 reps for upper body exercises and 20 reps for lower body exercises. Start doing harder exercises after you can do the maximum reps.
II. Thou shall track thy workouts
This commandment complements the first. It will help you push to the limits and make the workouts more challenging.
You’ll realize that all serious trainees track their workouts. Reason being, tracking will helps increase reps workout after workout (progression). That means you’ll quickly build muscle and strength.
You have to keep record of the number of reps and sets for each exercise, in every workout.
First thing you need to do is set a minimum target – this is the least number of reps you should do for each workout. Let’s take pull ups for example – if can do:
Set 1 – 10 pull ups
Set 2 – 8 pull ups
Set 3 – 6 pull ups
Your minimum target is 6. The goal is to add one rep to the minimum target after each workout. So in the next pull ups workout do a minimum of 7 reps (6+1=7). And the next workout minimum is 8 reps, and so on. Do the same thing for isometric exercises – add 5 seconds to minimum target.
This approach makes you put maximum effort since you are constantly adding reps and will force the muscle to strain.
Do most of the exercises to failure. With a few exceptions of the ones might get injured, like – handstand push ups, feet elevated pike push ups, and so on.
III. Thou shall rest and recover
This rule is usually underrated. Muscles don’t grow during the workout – they grow when you rest and recover.
Training everyday will do the body more harm than good. You see, when you exercise muscles get microscopic tears and these tears have to heal for muscle to grow. Healing happens during rest.
Don’t train the same muscle group more than 2 times consecutively without taking a rest. Also, rest at least 2 days a week without doing strength training or cardio.
You may need to deload if you have been training intensely or if you feel burned out. Deloading is when you take a break from training without completely forgoing training.
Here are several ways you can deload – reduce the intensity of the workouts, do less reps, do less sets, or do less exercises. Aim for a 50% performance.
A deoading session should last for one week. In fact, studies show that deloading enhances muscle growth.
IV. Thou shall sleep enough
I was tempted to put this under the rest and recovery but sleep is so important it qualifies to be a commandment on its own.
The importance of sleep is usually unappreciated in the fitness industry. Folks take it for granted and this causes major problems like – stress, slow metabolism, fat gain, fatigue, slow recovery and so on.
In fact, Paul Wade (creator of Convict Conditioning) says that enough sleep is one of the main reasons inmates are able to build muscle and strength quickly.
It’s impossible to train maximally if you don’t get enough sleep. Get at least 7-8 hours of full night sleep.
V. Thou shall learn proper form
Most trainees don’t pay attention to proper form. If they did, it would be easier for them to build muscle and avoid injuries.
Don’t just focus on high reps without keeping proper form. It’s better to do less complete reps than many half reps. Even when training to failure make sure you maintain proper form.
Doing full range of motion is one way of improving form. Physics tells us that Work= Force x Distance. So the more distance you cover the more calories you burn.
Keeping your core tight in every rep will also improve your form. Especially when doing push exercises – it prevents hips from sinking.
If you are not sure about your form record yourself when exercising then critic your form after the workout.
VI. Thou shall do exercises within your strength level
Due to the desire for instant results, many people do exercises that are too advanced for them. This causes injuries and delayed results.
Choose exercises which aren’t too hard or too easy for you. Pick an exercise you can do at least 5 reps and at most 15 reps. You won’t benefit much from sets of 3 reps. If you can only do 3 pull ups, use horizontal pulls ups to build up strength.
The ligaments and joints have to be strong enough to perform some exercise. Don’t rush into doing hard exercises – advance slowly and gradually. You will get injured if you rush.
VII. Thou shall keep it simple
There are many bodyweight weight exercises out there. But you can’t do all of them. Just pick a few compound exercises that work all muscle groups.
I recently wrote about the only 7 bodyweight exercises you need – this will be a great place to start.
Don’t include skill exercises like handstand, human flag, front lever and so forth, in your workout. They’ll lengthen your workouts and get you tired quickly. Train them separately at a different time.
Again, if you have too many exercises in your workout it means you have to learn proper form for different exercises.
VIII. Thou shall warm up and stretch
Warming up will get the blood pumping, get you into workout mode and prevent injuries.
Static stretching after workout is also important. It helps restore muscle length (muscles shorten when you exercise) and some studies show that stretching reduces muscle soreness.
5-minute warm up and stretching sessions are enough to get the full benefits.
IX. Thou shall train all muscle groups
You have to train all muscle groups if you want to avoid muscle imbalances and bad posture. It’s true that most men train upper body more – don’t ignore the legs and glute muscles. Same thing for ladies – don’t just train the lower body.
X. Thou shall eat healthy
This is number one to me – whether you want to lose fat or gain muscle. The only way you’ll get the results you need is if you diet is on point.
If you follow all the other commandments but ignore this – you fill fail! Make sure you consume the right number of calories, maintain the right diet composition, and eat healthy foods. This article on 20 things healthy foods have in common will help you make better diet choices.
Simple rules, right? But simple doesn’t mean easy, and reality is most people won’t stick to them.
If you follow them, it’ll only take you months to achieve results which take most people years. Stop looking for miracle pills and supplements – just follow these commandments.[related_posts_by_tax posts_per_page="4"]