Why Combining Bodyweight Exercises with Your Weight Training is the Number One Way to Improve Your Overall Fitness
Overall, bodyweight training is hugely underrated. Outside of a few guys in the industry, like the brilliant Adam Steer and Ryan Murdock (more on them later), most people who are looking to gain muscle and improve their fitness write off bodyweight exercises – movements devoid of external loading or, more simply, heavy-ass weights – as fit only for warm ups, in-home workouts, and people who can’t afford a gym pass.
Bodyweight exercises like push-ups, pistol squats and L-seats have an essential place in any training routine – yep, that includes yours.
From Spartans to Romans to Navy SEALS, bodyweight-only training has been a consistent training component of practically every badass military organization from antiquity to the present.
Sure, this is partly due to the inexpensive nature and the inherent convenience of equipment-free workouts. But cost and convenience notwithstanding, bodyweight workouts are undeniably effective for everyone, from new recruits to the world’s greatest warriors, and they’re a critical component of many of the best fat loss and muscle gain programs available —like mine, for example :) Why?
As an example, I don’t think anyone would debate that there is a tremendous difference between a bodyweight pull-up and a machine lat pull-down even though the same muscles — the latissimus dorsi, teres major, rhomboids, et al. — are involved. This will still be the case even if you use the same load; that is, use weight on the pull-down comparable to your bodyweight.
Of course, this raises the question: why are they different?
A lot of d-bags will tell you it’s because pull-ups are “hardcore” and pull-downs are kind of wussy. That argument is obviously not grounded in science, but this one is: Bodyweight exercises like pull-ups, push-ups, squats, and the like belong to a group of movements known as “closed kinetic chain exercises.” These are exercises performed where the hand or foot is fixed or in constant contact with a surface, and does not move relative to the body. Speaking generally, you are moving your body towards or away from an object.
Photo: Speshul Ted
Compare this with “open kinetic chain exercises” like the pull-down, bench press, or leg press, which involve moving something either towards or away from your body – this difference is of vital importance in the context of a complete training paradigm.
With the example of the pull-up (CKCE) versus the pull-down, (OKCE) you want look at the total picture. Physiologically, there is a tremendous difference between pulling yourself towards a fixed object and pulling an object towards yourself in a fixed position.
Incorporating bodyweight closed kinetic chain exercises into training programs stimulates your nervous system in a way that is completely different from open chain kinetic exercises.
So why should you care?
Exposing your nervous system to different types of stimuli helps to increase overall neurological efficiency; therefore doing CKC exercises like a push-up will have carryover to and help with increases in OKC exercises like the bench press.
In addition, the neurological stimulation activates muscle tissue in a different way, allowing for greater total recruitment of your muscles. This is great for hypertrophy, but also increases energy expenditure and fat loss.
Plus, closed chain movements are a little easier on the joints and tend to improve muscular coordination, balance and stability — that’s why they’re favored by a lot of athletes, particularly gymnasts.
Now, I generally shy away from the idea of doing only bodyweight training—that is, using it as your only way you train, ALL the time. (But then, I shy away from the idea of training monogamy in generally.)
That said, this is an enormously effective and undervalued training method that you need to be using more often.
I want you to reap the benefits of bodyweight training – the improved neurological efficiency, the greater muscle recruitment, the heightened stability and athleticism – but you need a plan. To attain maximum benefit from bodyweight training, it needs to be incorporated in a specific, periodized way.
That’s why I’m about to release the long-awaited bodyweight version of Final Phase Fat Loss.
Appropriately, I’m calling it “Final Phase Fat Loss Bodyweight Edition.” (Creative, I know.)
Co-written with bodyweight training gurus Adam Steer and Ryan Murdock, FPFL Bodyweight Edition uses the methods and modalities from the Final Phase Fat Loss System… with absolutely no equipment at all.
And yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds.