Body Weight Training

by Bob
(England, Kent)

Hi there,

Many thanks for such an informative site - very much appreciated. I have a question about bodyweight training. I'm a slightly overweight male in my 30s, and aspire to achieve a lithe long-muscled/chiseled type of look, as apposed to the big muscled look.

My main passion in life is yoga, which I've recently got back to after a 3 year hiatus. But I'm very interested in incorporating a few bodyweight exercises into the mix. E.g., pull-ups (fantastic article btw that you've done on here regarding the pull-up - I'm going to do all those exercises), handstand push-ups, planches, and a variety of push-ups (i.e., one handed, angled, clapped etc).

So okay, my question. I've just started reading Sean Nalewany's fantastic course about weight training. As you're probably aware he advocates as little time as possible per week exercising a particular muscle group and stresses the importance of rest. Would his advice still hold true for the type of training that I'm doing? I.e., I've no interest in lifting weights, and will only be performing the bodyweight exercises that I've mentioned. So how many times a week should I devote to these bodyweight exercises?

Also, the second part of my question: would I achieve the type of body that I'm aspiring for just through bodyweight exercises? (Btw, I'm REALLY sorting out my diet now thanks to your site).

Oh dear, a 3rd question has just occurred to me as well! I'm sort of addicted to yoga and train everyday for up to 1 to 2 hours. Would it be prudent to cut this down as well? Perhaps muscles need time to recover from stretching as well as lifting?

Anyway, sorry about the longwinded questions! And again, many thanks for a fantastic site.




Hi Bob,

Firstly, thankyou for your kind comments.

Now onto your questions...

If you want to build a more "lithe, long-muscled/chiseled" look as opposed to big and bulky, you're still going to need some degree of muscle right? You won't need as much muscle, but the muscle building principles still hold true. You'll also need to cut down body-fat...which it sounds like you're sorting out (diet)

(I'll just point out at this stage that yes bodyweight training can work for your goals, provided you're smart about it)

Now as you know from Sean Nalewany's course, intensity and progression are the first steps to building muscle. Without high intensity and progression, you will just stagnate and not see any real changes in your body. At least not over the long-term.

So if you're doing bodyweight exercises, you'll need to find ways of incorporating these principles into your training.

You need exercises which are incredibly difficult. (btw: the exercises you listed are great - planche especially)

You also need ways to make them increasingly more difficult as you get stronger. ie: progressing from normal pull ups to 1 arm pull ups.

Now if you are training in this way, then the answer to your 1st question is absolutely yes. You do need rest for your muscles. Exercising in this way is actually very taxing, not only on the particular muscle you worked, but also on your central nervous system, joints, immune system etc. Without enough rest you will eventually wear down, get weaker, get an injury, get sick or all of the above.

With the exercises you selected, it will be quite difficult to stimulate changes in your body if you only work each muscle group once per week. ie: Most of those exercises use your triceps. If you only workout your triceps once per week you won't have enough training volume to make much difference to your body.

Is there any reason why you're sticking with those exercises in particular? None of them work your legs which, in my opinion, is incredibly important.

It's difficult to say whether you should cut down your Yoga or not. There are so many different styles. I have personally done Yoga that is very difficult and makes me sweat like mad from all the exercise. I have also done yoga which is just stretching (it barely even raises my heart rate)

I think the best thing is to check whether you are able to keep progressing. If you start your strength workout and you find yourself going backwards, then you're probably training too much. If not, then stick with it.

At the very least, 1 recommendation I do have is to do Yoga after your strength training. Static stretches make your muscles weaker (temporarily) which is not really what you want while trying to beat your last workout.

Hope that helps Bob

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Thanks for your suggestions
by: Bob

Hi Tom,

Many thanks for taking the time out to respond to my (many!)questions. Your point about the legs got me thinking big time. I sort of assumed that yoga would do the trick, and in a way it does - certain standing poses tune the muscles in subtle ways. But it still got me thinking. Since my last question I've been doing a lot of research into the mother of all leg exercises, aka, the squat/pistol. I've since purchased a video that is entirely devoted to this exercise. Also,
thanks for pointing out not to do static stretching before a workout. I've now changed this to incorporate some dynamic martial art type stretching instead.

I've pretty much got my routine sorted out now. I purchased a brilliant book (not sure if I can name these books, wish I could - but will err on the side of discretion) that teaches noobs how to build a gymnastic body using bodyweight exercises - many exotic gym poses here, nice. I've also purchased 3 books entirely geared towards the art of resistance/progressive use of bodyweight. So I'm blending all this into one routine (dynamic stretching, strength training and then yoga) and hopefully will have a pretty good all-round programme together.

My approach however, after many, many hours of research is to keep things simple. To perfect form on fewest exercises and then to progress from there - quality over quantity. Perfect form is the name of the game :) I've also decided to 'grease the groove' (aka Tsatsouline) as opposed to training to failure, which means that I'm training more days of the week. So, steady is the name of the game and will slowly, very slowly, be making my way towards the goal of achieving the one-arm handstand pushup and the one-arm pullup. My only other concrete goal is to achieve both side and frontal splits within the next 6 months. The diet is going well: losing a consistent 3 pounds a week; eating high amounts of quality protein and tons of fruit/veg 6x times a day - and NEVER feeling hungry :) It feels good to be back in the fitness game, very good. Anyway, thanks again for your words of wisdom, and if, in the not-so-distant future, you see a guy in sidesplits performing onearmed pullups with lats like a flying squirrel, then say hi. That'll probably be me :)



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