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.
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.“
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.
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!
I look forward to serving you in the new year!
Your friend and coach,