Top 10 Bodyweight Training Lessons Learned in 2014

December 23, 2014

push up

We are all growing and learning.

No one has all the answers. We are all on a journey of deepening our knowledge.

One of my favorite things about having a blog is that I get to share insights that I’ve learned.

I don’t claim to have everything figured out. But I do strive every day to learn and grow in the field of bodyweight based training and nutrition.

Today, I’d like to share with you my Top 10 Insights I Learned in 2014. These all relate to bodyweight-based training and becoming healthier. I have understood some of them before 2014 but hadn’t fully integrated them into my training. Others were “game changing” insights I learned in 2014.

Top 10 Bodyweight Training Lessons Learned in 2014

1. Exercises like Handstands, Front Levers and Muscle Ups are NOT the most effective method for building muscle with bodyweight exercises.

When I first saw Hannibal for King, I became addicted to watching people do insane calisthenics tricks. I wanted desperately to be able to do handstand push ups, front levers and muscle ups. The “calisthenics trick” phenomena has created a loyal tribe of bodyweight enthusiasts.

These moves are super fun and great goals. Heck, just a few months ago I achieved my goal of being able to do 10 freestanding handstand push ups in a row. I was ecstatic to say the least.Muscle Up

HOWEVER, thinking that these moves will help you build large muscles is wrong. You will gain some muscle size but if your goal is hypertrophy  you don’t want to take this approach. Learning calisthenics tricks is about increasing strength (which has everything do so with training the nervous system).

Have you ever seen people on Youtube that could perform perfect planches but were still skinny? This is the reason why.

If you want to build muscle with bodyweight exercises you have to train the right way AND increase calories (which leads me into the next insight).

2. Calories ARE important for building size AND dropping body fat.

Counting calories sucks. Its boring and cumbersome. Many fitness authorities have tried to skirt around the issue by saying “Calories don’t matter. Its ___, that’s really important.” Fill in the blank with “metabolism”, “after-burn effect”, “training style”, etc. etc.

It is true that there are techniques for burning fat faster, revving up the metabolism so you burn fat longer, etc.

But no matter how you look at it, Calories matter. If you are not gaining size or dropping body fat, look to the amount of Calories you are consuming.

3. Pre-fatiguing a muscle will help you fatigue in lower rep ranges on later sets.

I preach this message over and over again. If you are doing countless numbers of reps, you won’t be building muscle size. You’ve got to fatigue within lower rep ranges to target the fast twitch muscle fibers (which increase in size) versus the slow twitch muscle fibers (which improve endurance – the ability of the blood vessels to transport oxygen).

One method that I have become a huge fan of is using “Pre-fatiguing”. Here’s how it works….

Choose an exercise, for this example, we’ll choose the Hindu Squat.

Do as many reps as you can of the Hindu Squat.

Rest for ONLY 10 seconds.

Then do another set. Try to get as many reps as you can.

Rest again for ONLY 10 seconds.

By the 3rd or 4th set you’ll be fatiguing within a low rep range and target the correct muscle fibers.

Since you are not allowing your muscle to rest, lactic acid will be building up and preventing you from doing high reps.

4. Deloading is a master key for improving every area of your fitness and health.

Deloading is a technique where you allow your body to recover from your training. This is often where much strength and muscle gains are made.

Note that this is NOT the same thing as “rest” or “active recovery”. When deloading, you are performing the same exercises in your normal routine but at a much lower intensity and difficulty level.

I wrote a detailed post here, fyi.

5. Mobility is essential for developing bodyweight strength.

A few months ago I attended an Ido Portal event.

It totally transformed my view of bodyweight based training. One of my biggest take-aways was the critical importance of mobility.


When you improve strength at the outer edges of range of motion… your overall level of strength goes through the roof. I’m talking about whole body strength, not the ability to bench press 300lbs. In order to achieve a front lever or muscle up you must have strength through the full range of motion.

6. You CAN drop body fat and build muscle at the same time.

Recently I received this question from a subscriber.

Todd, I don’t understand. In order to drop body fat you have to lower Calories but in order to build muscle you have to increase Calories. How can this be done at the same time.

The answer?

It has everything to do with nutritional timing.

In order to build muscle you must consume enough protein and calories during heavy training days. Also, a significant amount of these calories/protein should be taken after the workout (immediately to about 2 hours after the workout). In order to lose body fat you should consume fewer calories (especially carbs) on less heavy training days. On these days you can do more cardio workouts like High Intensity Interval Training. I’ll be teaching you exactly how to do this in a new community I’m building called “Bodyweight Academy“. It should go live in early February. 🙂

7. Angles should be the “go-to” tool for anyone progressing in bodyweight based fitness.

Angles are the secret weapon of advanced bodyweight enthusiasts.

Angles help you target more muscles fibers, more effectively. I just released a new book called Bodyweight Omni that goes into full detail about this. You can also learn more about this awesome technique for chest and quads by clicking on those links.

8. Building muscle and increasing strength are two VERY different things.

I’m restating this again because it is SO important.

Building strength is NOT the same thing as building muscle.

Got it?

So if you are working on your planche, hooray for you for having an incredible goal. But don’t think it will give you huge pecs.

For those looking to build muscle size with bodyweight training, here’s another great article to check out.

9. Most women SHOULD train like men.

The myth that NEVER seems to go away is that women will get big and bulky by doing intense, challenging workouts.


Please… women, pay. close. attention.

Men get bigger because of Testosterone and growth hormone. You have far less of both of these than us. You will NOT get big, monstrous muscles by lifting heavy weights or doing intense, challenging bodyweight workouts. You WILL instead get a beautiful, toned, sexy look. Period.

Don’t believe me? Here these same words from a woman here. Psst… its Kellie Davis. She lifts heavy and looks amazing. 😉

10. You MUST have a clear vision for what you want.

Ok, let’s switch gears.

I put this one last but really its probably the most important.

You might have heard this saying…

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

Its so true.

If you fail to plan you plan to fail.

You must have a vision for your fitness… and your life.

We all have so little time. Find out your “Why“.

Then pursue it with all of your strength.

Why waste time complaining about things going wrong in this world? Things will ALWAYS go wrong. Keep your vision clear and run toward it as fast as you can until you reach it.


How many of these insights do you agree with?

I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments.

Oh, and one more thing!

We Wish You A Very Merry Christmas!

Many of you know that I am a Christian and take this time of year to celebrate the birth of Christ. No matter if you believe the same way as me or not, I wish you a blessed Christmas season and Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas

I look forward to serving you in the new year!

Your friend and coach,

Bodyweight Todd


photo, photo, photo,

Show/Hide Comments (18 comments)
  1. Mike Guerreiro

    Always great seeing lists like this of lessons learned. We all learn a little bit every day that help us reach our goals. I plan on destroying 2015.

  2. Petr

    Great article!!

  3. Strus

    I can share my own lessons from the fabulous year 2014 and few years before, which were not so good :

    Technique is the king. You can always get better and don’t get injured.

    Mobility is the base of everything.

    You have either anabolic or catabolic metabolism

    You can drop the last few pounds of fat and change that for some muscle with right training protocol, which varies your activities from light to heavy – in waves. Don’t need to change your calorie intake at all(sic!)

    There are some foods that give you the same results as the HIIT

    You can only get bigger if you eat enough, train hard enough and you have right type of metabolism

    There are amazing training techniques there for strength and some size [ 1 set near to failure twice par day]. There are some moves(squats, etc) that you can train these way only once par day. Big credit for Nick Nilsson who shared it and East European heavy lifters who invented it years ago. This is far better than any training protocol from Convict Conditioning etc.

  4. Tim

    Hey Todd great article
    A while ago I purchased the body weight overload program and am about to go for another round. I was wondering if I could use number 3 (pre fatiguing) instead of angular training and if so do I still complete the same number of sets eg 8 for most exercises or should I lower or raise this amount?

  5. Ugis

    Hi Todd

    Was great to read this article.
    I could agree nearly with all you say, the only part I think (it is just my opinion) is calories and caunting them.
    The reason why is – first it is to complicated,not precise and puts lot of unneded stress on you.
    I never done it , but i m looking on What i eat, when and the combination of the food.
    Thank you

  6. Tom Schweickert

    Todd – Great insights (and vision, too!).

    God bless you and your loved ones in these interesting times!


  7. Raza

    Absolutely right about the calories. Training style really doesn’t matter that much as how much you eat.

    If you’re powerlifting, but eating severely under your TDEE, you won’t get much stronger. That’s why Mark Rippetoe recommends drinking a gallon of milk per day when following his program. The calories, in addition to the “newbie” affect, contribute to the rapid growth in strength and muscle people experience with his program.

    Calories matter.

    • Todd Kuslikis

      Great stuff Raza. Personally, I’m allergic to dairy but its a great tip for anyone that can handle it. Hope you are doing well!

  8. Gary

    Wow, Todd you continue to be a really awesome mentor and person. You give out more information than anyone else I’ve read and I always find myself gravitating back to your way of thinking on fitness and exercise. Thank you for all your time and generosity! I know 2015 will be awesome and inspiring for all of us. MERRY CHRISTMAS TODD AND FAMILY

    • Todd Kuslikis

      You are very welcome Gary!! Yes, 2015 will be rocking!

  9. Dave


    That was a outstanding blog post that provided tons of insight on a great way to train.

    I am really honor to have finally met you virtually this year and had the opportunity to work with you. You have expanded my knowledge on body weight training.

    After reading this post, I look forward to sharing and hopefully working together more in 2015.

    On behalf of and my family…. I would like to wish you and your awesome looking family a Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year.

    Dave Schmitz
    “The Band Man”

    • Todd Kuslikis

      Thanks Dave! It was great to work with you and I look forward to more partnerships in 2015! 🙂

  10. Jack L. Don

    Thanks for all the helpful info you have shared. I wish you and yours a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season

    • Todd Kuslikis

      You too Jack! Glad you like the content! I appreciate the comment!

  11. WH

    You’re knowledge, passion and generosity of spirit in sharing with us all is what this season is all about – but you do it all year long!! THANK YOU and Happy Holidays.

    • Todd Kuslikis

      Happy Holidays to you to WH! 🙂

  12. Dylan

    Hey Todd,
    Awesome article. I have definitely noticed a few of these ideas myself. Strength and size do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. My strength has improved dramatically in the last year, but I still have trouble putting size on (going to sets of 10-15 for a while to see if I can coax some growth). Ido Portal’s work is awesome, I’ve learned a ton from his vidoes and articles, not to mention the “Movement Culture” Facebook page (Ido isn’t horribly active in the group, but there are tons of excellent movers and it is a very supportive community). I will also admit that my goals this year became hazy, and I couldn’t really keep focused for very long, and therefore probably didn’t get the results I could have if I stayed focused.

    Just wanted to say thanks for what you do, Todd. You deliver excellent material and have helped a ton of people, all without trying to constantly push purchasable materials on us (although your purchasable material is awesome). I’ve been following you for about two years now and you just keep improving, both yourself and your website/blog/products. Thank you!


    • Todd Kuslikis

      Thanks Dylan. So glad you like the content! Ido’s stuff is awesome, glad you found him.

      Have you tried adjusting your nutrition? That’s going to have everything to do with gaining size.

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