“Get Yo Abs Right Mayo’nnaise!”
Editor’s note: If today’s challenge to take the Marines Corps Fitness test humbles you into wanting to get into better shape, starting out with a bodyweight workout is an excellent way to go. Here, Jim Smith from Diesel Crew lays out a great plan for one.
Many men don’t realize that serious muscle and strength can be built with just bodyweight exercises. Not only that, bodyweight only workouts can be high intensity and done in quick training sessions throughout the week.
Many men don’t have time to spend hours in the gym because they have families, they work long hours or they are just too busy going out on dates. Yet they still want to stay in fighting shape. For them, a short, intense bodyweight workout is just what the doctor ordered.
So what are the ground rules when you are setting up your bodyweight training routines?
- You should definitely include as many full body movements as you can to jack up the intensity and decrease the time of the workout
- You can increase the intensity of the bodyweight movements by doing more reps, decreasing the rest time between exercises or by changing the angle of the movement
- If you can’t do movements with your full bodyweight, you can change the angle or use elastic bands to deload the movement
Why is bodyweight training so effective?
The most basic form of all training is bodyweight training. Being able to move your own body in all 3 anatomical planes of motion; sagittal, frontal and transverse, or in real world situations, is the key to more fluid movements and injury prevention. In fact, many trainers won’t allow their lifters to pick up any weights until they “master” bodyweight training. This might be a little extreme, but the state of fitness in the US is very sad when many people, even kids, can’t efficiently move their own bodyweight.
At a fundamental level, bodyweight training improves:
So you can see, as you improve your ability to control your body, it will become your strength foundation moving forward when you begin to engage progressively resisted strength training exercises.
There are some rules that should be followed for any training session or workout program. Every session must be started with some dynamic movements to charge or excite the central nervous system, increase your core temperature and prepare you for the upcoming demands of the routine.
Here is a sample bodyweight workout:
1. Glute Bridges, 3×15
2. Tin Men’s, 1 min
3. Piriformis Stretch, 2×5 each leg
1A) Beyond the Range Push-ups, 3×20
1B) Bulgarian Split Squats, 3×10 each leg
2A) Pull-ups, 3×8
2B) Walk Walkouts, 2x 1 min (AMAP*, As Many As Possible)
Warm-up Exercise #1: Glute Bridges
This movement activates the glutes and hamstrings which are responsible for hip extension and hip abduction. Make sure it is the contraction of the glutes and hamstrings that elevate the hips for each rep, not just driving the feet downward and hyperextending the lower back. If done correctly, it is a short range movement.
Warm-up Exercise #2: Tin Men
After we activate the glutes and hamstrings, we will work on some dynamic movements. Walking back and forth, the lifter will swing their legs in an alternating fashion while making sure their torso and hips remain in neutral alignment.
Warm-up Exercise #3: Piriformis Stretch
This movement improves hip mobility and pelvic alignment. This is a great movement to supplement with Tin Men’s because it further improves hip movement by stretching the hip abductors.
1A) Beyond the Range Push-ups
This movement is not only great for activating more muscle fibers and improving shoulder strength and stability, it also builds a big chest. Beyond the range push-ups are done with the hands on an elevated surface like blocks or swings. The swing variation adds much more difficulty to the movement because of the instability factor.
1B) Bulgarian Split Squats
Unilateral movements are often forgotten in the gym where deadlifts and squats rule. But they are essential for maintaining a balance in the hip ad/abductors; they improve knee stability and have real world carryover to everyday life and movement.
One of the best, if not the best mass builder for the back. Pull-ups have too many variations to list, but here are a few:
- Shoulder width – conventional
- Wide grip
- Side to side
- Narrow grip
- Towel pull-ups
- L-sit pull-ups
If you have any elbow issues, a narrower grip on the end of a pull-up should be used:
2B) Wall Walkouts
At this point we’ve improved our hip mobility, strengthened our upper and lower bodies, and now we will hit the core. Wall walkouts seem very simple, a movement where you start in a handstand against the wall and then you walk out until you are parallel to the ground. At that point, you walk your hands back to the starting position. Well, it is not quite that simple. This movement will kick your butt, quickly. Not only will you be building a strong core (anti-extension) but you will develop serious shoulder strength and stability.
Well, there you have it, a quick, high intensity bodyweight routine. Remember, kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells, sandbags and everything else are tools to get you to a goal. They are not the end all, be all.
Jim Smith, CSCS is a highly sought after lecturer, author, consultant and strength coach at http://www.dieselcrew.com/. Jim is an expert writer for Men’s Fitness and a member of the Elite Fitness Q/A staff. Jim’s just released his new killer product for building muscle, while losing fat – all with only 3 short muscle building workouts a week – click here.