Thursday, March 29, 2007

An introduction to the brutality of bodyweight exercises

Later I will go into more detail on different exercises, positioning, transference of tension by percentage from one point of the body to another, but for now this will be just a basic overview.
A select few of my clients were recently introduced to one handed push ups, and one was introduced to the one legged squat, or 'pistol', a favorite of martial artists, SWAT operators, and Russian Spec Ops. A one legged squat is performed with one leg held straight out in front, and then squatting down, preferably until your butt hits the floor, then standing back up. Sound impossible? It isn't.
Now when you think of a one handed push up you might think it's impressive, and a good party trick, but does it really relate to true strength that much? This is one of those cases of something being so simple that it often escapes our grasp. The answer is: of course it does. This is not some tricky faux-one arm push up with the entire body sideways, twisting the hips. This is with your shoulders squared to the floor, coming down, and driving yourself back up. This action requires true strength.
Now lwt's look at a different type of bodyweight exercise, one which falls more into the category of endurance: The burpee, or as I like to call it 'fun on a budget'. Mostly fun for me, as I watch you do it.
The burpee is performed by dropping down onto your hands, kicking back into a push up position, reversing the action, then jumping up as high and explosively as possible. In the beginning, five of these will be sufficient to leave you breathing hard. Integrate them with some push ups, or bodyweight squats, and you have an endurance circuit.
Pull ups. How many people do you know who can bench press a lot, but do virtually no pull ups? I knwo that I spend a lot of time in my day to day life doing bench pressing motions- wait a minute, no I don't. I know it sounds like I am on the warpath against the bench press, but I assure you I am not. It is simply a matter of cost vs. benefit. The amount of time I see people spend on the bench press is simply not in proportion to the benefit, and the possibility of injury.
Pull ups are a great exercise. If you think about it, if you have the ability to knock out 10, 15, or even 20 pull ups, you must be in great shape, right? Can the same be said of barbell curls? Nope. It doesn't even come close. Let's say you are on of the legions who feels you simply must use some weight to get results. despite this not being true, I will humor you. Do pull ups with a weight plate hanging from your belt, or your foot hooked in a kettlebell. Use some heavyweight chains hanging from your belt in the manner of the Westside Barbell Club. As you pull up and the chains are raised off the floor, the amount of weight increases, thus building more explosive power in the ascent.
Push Ups are also an exercise that lends itself to great variety. Elevating your feet, doing them with one leg in the air, doing explosive push ups off a medicine ball or kettlbell, handstand pushups, etc. The variety is virtually endless, and each one transfers then tension to a different point in your body. Doing one legged push ups with your supporting foot on a kettlebell handle works the leg as you must push it into the floor to maintain your balance.
More to come...

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