Two Bodyweight Techniques That Will Leave You Feeling Sore The Next Day… Guaranteed!

Written By: Todd Kuslikis
September 12, 2013

But I don’t feel sore after doing body weight exercises… Am I doing something wrong?

A long time ago when I lifted weights regularly I loved the feeling of soreness the next day. This phenomena is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS. I could do a monster superset for my chest with heavy weights and I could guarantee that my chest would be in pain the next day.

It was a feeling that I enjoyed because I knew muscular change had occurred.

After I switched over to body weight exercises I had to be comfortable with the fact that change could occur without DOMS. That soreness that I loved quickly became a distant reality and I had to trust that I was actually doing something.

Of course, my physique changes occurred and I understood that DOMS is only one indication of muscle damage. Acute soreness or pain or soreness immediately during or after an exercise is another indication that change is taking place.

I certainly brought my body to acute soreness but I secretly missed the feeling of DOMS.

People have frequently emailed me and shared similar concerns. “Why don’t I feel sore after a bodyweight workout?” I usually told them that as long as they are bringing their body to full fatigue DURING the workout not to worry about how sore they felt the day afterward. This was true but I understood their frustration. Being able to not walk a day after a workout is a love/hate relationship. You hate the soreness and also love it.

After great experimentation with bodyweight exercises I have found two techniques that are guaranteed to leaving you extremely sore the next day… especially when combined.

If you follow these techniques you’ll be able to experience the benefit of acute soreness AND delayed onset muscle soreness. You will know that you have caused real change by the pain you feel the day afterward.

Seek and you shall find. Seek the pain and you shall find it!

2 Bodyweight Techniques That WILL Leave You Sore The Next Day

1. The Rest-Squeeze Technique

I’ve been experimenting with this technique for about a week so its hot off the press. I tried to research similar ideas but have been unable to find anything. So experiment on your own and make a judgement.

By “Rest-Squeeze” I mean that instead of resting like you normally would between sets you bring your muscle into a shortened position (more below) and squeeze it as hard as you can. This is essentially an isometric exercise instead of the typical rest. I have been experimenting with Rest-Squeeze periods of 1 minute and 30 seconds and I found that 1 minute seems to work better.

Important: This is not a “pulsing” technique where you tighten the relax. You are holding an isometric contraction throughout the entire duration of the rest period. For the below workout it will be a minute for each set.

2 Components To The Rest-Squeeze Technique:

(a) – Bring the muscle that was just worked into a shortened position.

In order to full utilize this technique you need to shorten the muscle that was just worked. For example, the bicep muscle inserts in the forearm (radius & ulna) and originates not just in the upper part of the arm but actually up into the shoulder. See the picture below.

Image credit

So to shorten it completely you need to flex the bicep AND lift your elbow up into the air. This will naturally position the bicep into a shortened position and allow you to get the maximum squeeze.

See the picture below of the wrong way and the right way to do it.

When  you apply the rest-squeeze technique you need to do this for each muscle group.

Let’s take another example, the triceps muscle.

The tricep muscle does extension of the arm. So you need to extend not only your forearm but also bring your arm as far as you can behind you as if you were doing a tricep kick back.

See both pictures below. In the first one my tricep is shortened but not all the way. In the second one my tricep muscle is shortened as far as it can go.

I can’t over emphasize this point. You’ll get a way better isometric if you understand the anatomy of the muscle and put it into its FULLEST shortened position.

Here are some images that will help you and some descriptions on how to get the muscle into its fullest position:

Pec Major (chest)

Image credit

Do you see how the pec muscle inserts into the arm? When you want to shorten it to the fullest you need to not only bring your arms in but also rotate them.

See the picture below…

Back

Shoulders

Abs

Quads

(b) – Second Element of the Rest-Squeeze technique is to squeeze absolutely as hard as you can. Try to rip the muscle right off the bone by squeezing really hard. 

2. Eccentric Contraction

The second bodyweight technique that will leave you super sore is the eccentric contraction. Eccentric contractions occurs when the muscle is lengthening and contracting at the same time. Let’s use the pull up as an example. You start off on the ground and grab the bar. You then engage your lats (back muscle) and biceps and slowly raise yourself up. The lats and biceps are both shortening which lifts your body up. On the way down, however, your lat and biceps muscles are lengthening. When you go down slowly your lats and biceps are contracting (in order to support your weight) but are also lengthening.

This type of exercise has been well documented to cause muscle damage and soreness. If you are looking for more ways of incorporating eccentric exercises into your workouts you’ll find this article helpful. Also, good old wikipedia gives us an even deeper description of different types of muscle contractions. Take a look if you are still confused.

So how do I incorporate both of these techniques to create the ultimate “soreness” workout routine? Check out the routine below…

The 4 Week Ultra-Sore Workout Routine

Monday – Chest/Back
1. Do as many pull ups as you possibly can in a row.
2. Do as many eccentric pull ups as you can. Make sure it takes you a full 10 seconds to go down.
3. Immediately squeeze your lats as tight as you can. This is the rest-squeeze technique. Do it for 1 minute without stopping even for a moment. Try to tense your muscle more and more.
After 1 minute of rest-squeeze go back to number 1 above.  No rest until you are done withe the entire workout. Do 10 total sets.

*After you are done with pull ups go immediately to this…

1. Do as many push ups as you possibly can in a row.
2. Do as many eccentric push ups as you can. Make sure it takes you a full 10 seconds to go down.
3. Immediately squeeze your chest as tight as you can. This is the rest-squeeze technique. Do it for 1 minute without stopping even for a moment. Try to tense your muscle more and more.
After 1 minute of rest-squeeze go back to number 1 above.  No rest until you are done withe the entire workout. Do 10 total sets.

 

Tuesday – Arms

On Tuesday I work Arms and follow the exact same 3 steps above. I choose an exercise, do it to full fatigue, then do a 10 second eccentric to fatigue and follow it up with 1 minute of rest-squeeze.

*You literally can apply this technique to any workout you are currently doing… or make up your own by choosing an exercise, doing it to fatigue, immediately doing eccentrics, followed 1 minute of rest-squeeze. Simple!

Here’s what my Tuesday workout looks like.
1. Do as many chin ups as you possibly can in a row.
2. Do as many eccentric chin ups as you can. Make sure it takes you a full 10 seconds to go down.
3. Immediately squeeze your biceps as tight as you can. This is the rest-squeeze technique. Do it for 1 minute without stopping even for a moment. Try to tense your muscle more and more.
After 1 minute of rest-squeeze go back to number 1 above.  No rest until you are done withe the entire workout. Do 10 total sets.

*After you are done with pull ups go immediately to this…

1. Do as many half plank tiger bends as you possibly can in a row (This is an exercise found in Bodyweight Overload. Basically you get in a normal push up position but extend your arms out in front of you. You then keep your elbows in close and lower yourself to the ground and back up again.).
2. Do as many eccentric half plank tiger bends as you can. Make sure it takes you a full 10 seconds to go down.
3. Immediately squeeze your triceps as tight as you can. This is the rest-squeeze technique. Do it for 1 minute without stopping even for a moment. Try to tense your muscle more and more.
After 1 minute of rest-squeeze go back to number 1 above.  No rest until you are done withe the entire workout. Do 10 total sets.

 

Wednesday – Legs

1. Do as many hindu squats as you possibly can in a row.
2. Do as many eccentric hindu squats as you can. Make sure it takes you a full 10 seconds to go down.
3. Immediately squeeze your quads as tight as you can. This is the rest-squeeze technique. Do it for 1 minute without stopping even for a moment. Try to tense your muscle more and more.
After 1 minute of rest-squeeze go back to number 1 above.  No rest until you are done withe the entire workout. Do 10 total sets.

*After you are done with pull ups go immediately to this…

1. Do as many single leg glut raises as you possibly can
2. Do as many eccentric single leg glut raises as you can. Make sure it takes you a full 10 seconds to go down.
3. Immediately squeeze your butt as tight as you can. This is the rest-squeeze technique. Do it for 1 minute without stopping even for a moment. Try to tense your muscle more and more.
After 1 minute of rest-squeeze go back to number 1 above.  No rest until you are done withe the entire workout. Do 10 total sets.

Thursday – Same as Monday

Friday – Same as Tuesday

Saturday – Same as Wednesday

*For abs, I would recommend simply choosing the crunch and the reverse sit up and doing them to fatigue and then doing 1 minute of rest squeeze by curling up into a ball (picture above) and tightening your abs as hard as you can for 1 full minute. Do 3-4 sets.

***

For the comment section: Do you struggle with lack-of-soreness after doing body weight workouts? Have you found any tips that ensure soreness while doing just body weight exercises?

Show/Hide Comments (13 comments)
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13 Comments
  1. Cam

    Hey Todd, quick question.

    You seem to split the regular contraction exercises and the eccentric. Would it be plausible to combine them? Say, do your regular concentric exercises but do the eccentric (negative) of the same exercise really slowly?

    Taking pushups as an example, how would you do a set of eccentric pushups right after doing a set of pushups to failure? Would you just start in the top position of a pushup, lower yourself, then reset back at the top position and repeat? To me, it makes a little more sense to do the eccentric (negatives) during the same set as the concentric. Just do a regular push up but then lower yourself really slowly. Does this make sense?

    Thanks for the clarification.

    Reply
  2. Francisco Blanco

    Hey i’m really enjoying the calisthenics and all. I have a question though is it overkill if i add handstand push or shoulder workout with arms.

    Reply
  3. evilcyber

    Soreness simply is a product of eccentric movements and the body adjusting its pain threshold. It has very little to do with the muscles growing or not, so why concentrate on it at all?

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Eccentric exercises have been strongly correlated to muscle hypertrophy so we can use muscle soreness, particularly DOMS as an indicator for how our workouts are going. Plus it feels GOOD!!! 😉

      Reply
  4. Meghan

    Hey Todd,
    Three Questions:
    1) Do you have a video link to the Single Leg Glut Raise? Also when you squeeze your butt for the hold…. is that a double leg bridge and squeeze hold? or what is the best way?
    2) How many reps of the hindu squats and Single Leg Glut Raise (regular vs. eccentric) should we do? I am pretty mentally strong and will go really long on the Hindu Squats etc…..I would prefer to be able to count a rep range…. like 20 is “poor”, 50 “medium”, 100 “good”, 150 “superhuman”…. then for the eccentrics 5 “poor” 10 “medium”, 20 “good” , 30 “superhuman”…..
    3) Lastly, on the hindu squat you can’t see your feet in the video, do your heels come off the ground?
    Thanks,
    Meghan

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hi Meghan,

      Great questions.

      1. Here’s a link to the Glut Raise.
      2. If you can do 50-100 hindu squats in a row without fatiguing you are doing great. Though remember that you have to keep your goal in consideration. Are you looking for endurance? If so, than you want to shoot for higher and higher numbers. If you want strength than you have to adjust and start working on the pistol squat instead of the hindu squat.
      3. If you have good flexibility in your achilles than you can certainly keep your heels on the ground. If not, than definitely want to raise them up.

      Hope that helps!
      Todd

      Reply
      • Meghan

        Thanks…so I guess one question is… how many do you do?:)

        Reply
  5. Daniel

    Ill check the article out! Seems interesting. I am looking for a way to heal my shoulders with body weight exercises (tendinitis), if it’s possible? Does anyone know more about this?

    Reply
  6. Cecilia

    Nice informative article- thanks Todd!!

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Thanks Cecilia!!

      Reply
  7. John

    Hey Todd, loved the article and the technique you described. I have been doing a lot of reading on isometrics and performing Dynamic tension exercise along with a push up program. I have been using John E. Peterson book called ultimate pushup for awesome physique. It is really good. He teaches isometrics and dynamic tension exercises in other books. His site is called transformetrics.com. And he is a believer and minister of the gospel. If you had time chech him out. Be Blessed brother!

    Reply
    • Todd Kuslikis

      Hey John, Thanks for the site! I just checked it out and looks great. Check this link out. Looks like a very old book on isometrics.

      Reply
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