Body Weight Training: Kicking It Up a NotchBy Niall Ebbs of Ebbs Fitness ACE Personal Trainer, Health Coach, Weight Management Specialist In my last blog post I discussed the reasons for why I feel that body weight training is a such highly effective and convenient exercise modality. When used regularly it can be a complete game changer in terms of your health […]
By Niall Ebbs of Ebbs Fitness
ACE Personal Trainer, Health Coach, Weight Management Specialist
In my last blog post I discussed the reasons for why I feel that body weight training is a such highly effective and convenient exercise modality. When used regularly it can be a complete game changer in terms of your health and fitness. If you’re already using it, I commend you. If you’re still thinking about it, I suggest you take the plunge and get started!
For the purposes of this post, I am assuming that you’ve already begun to incorporate body weight training into your exercise routine. Once you get accustomed to the basics – push-ups, squats, etc. – you’ll eventually reach a level of conditioning at which you transition from strength to endurance. Performing lower repetitions develops muscular strength, whereas higher repetitions develop muscular endurance. So, as you add or increase reps you are gradually changing the type of fitness component that you’re working on from strength to endurance.
Typically, once you can perform fifteen or more reps of a given exercise you are moving into the endurance range. If this is aligned with your exercise goals, then you can certainly continue adding reps. If you want to develop more strength, however, you’ll need to find new ways to challenge your muscles and test your physical limits.
With body weight training it is a little more difficult to provide the same specific incremental increases as you can when using free weights or machines. However, you can still utilize a few techniques that will add resistance, thus developing strength:
- Change the Angle: By changing the angle of the movement, such as from a regular push up to a feet elevated version, you will increase the complexity and difficulty. In this case you will challenge the chest, shoulders, and triceps beyond their previous level of conditioning. This stimulates strength development and can also add muscle mass depending on the reps/volume.
- Use Unilateral Exercises: If you’ve been doing two-sided/bilateral exercises up until now, you can begin to incorporate single-sided/unilateral movements to up the ante. For example, moving from shoulder-width bilateral squats to split-legged squats will stimulate growth in the glutes, quads, and calves, as well as test your stability and balance.
- Introduce Pre-Exhaustion Supersets: Supersets are an excellent technique whereby you will pair exercises back-to-back to increase intensity. In this case, a pre-exhaustion superset pairs two exercises targeting similar muscle groups one after the other with no rest. A good example of this would be if you were to perform a set of standard shoulder-width push-ups and then moving directly into a set of narrow push-ups. Both target the same muscle groups, but when completed back-to-back it will add another level of difficulty and intensity.
Increase the Time Under Tension: By slowing down the speed of your movement when you are performing any given exercise, you are increasing the time under tension. This is particularly effective on the negative/eccentric phase, which would be the lowering or downward phase in a push-up or pull-up, for example. Moving quickly will usually permit more reps to be completed, whereas moving more slowly requires greater control and stimulates more muscle fibres. Usually this decreases the number of reps that can be performed.
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