Tag Archives: bodyweight training

The beginner’s guide to getting strong & looking awesome

If you are truly interested in getting fit and/or looking awesome, there are a couple of things you need to do –

  • Stop asking about fitness, fat loss and health on FaceBook forums filled with idiots who think they know nutriton ‘cos they eat and fitness ‘cos they flail around a couple of dumbbells.
  • Shut up, open your mind and listen when I talk.

If thats cool, read on. If not, thank you for stopping by.

Linear Progression

Strength is the foundation of fitness. Period. The sooner you realize that and start working towards get stronger, the faster you will get to your goals. So then what is the fastest, safest and most effective way to get strong?

Arnold - Strong is awesome!

In the world of strength training, the world in which people are strong as hell and look awesome as heaven, the concept of linear progression is a very familiar concept. The awesomeness of this concept is that it applies equally to both the beginner who wants to look and perform well in life and to the fitness enthusiast who is looking to continue climbing up that fitness ladder.

Linear progression is, in all honesty, nothing more than continually progressing linearly. This refers to progress that is continuous and linear without any sharp jumps or drops during the (training) cycle. And if you understand the concept of linear progression, you will realize that it is the only sure shot way to fitness and success in general. Don’t believe me? Think about it for a second.

Why do you start school at grade 1 and make your way up to grade 12 before moving on to college/university? Why do you start off as a subordinate and slowly make your way to the managerial positions? Why are you asked to start off with the empty bar (wrt barbell work)?

The point is, linear progression works and it works so well that, as long as you stay the course, success is a given! Let me explain.

Have you heard of Milo? No. Not the sugary junk that is marketed as health food. I’m talking about Milo of Croton – a wrestler from the 6th century BC. Heard of him? If not, check this out. Definitely an interesting read. Among many of his feats of strength, the following is applicable to what we’re talking about.

Legends say he carried his own bronze statue to its place at Olympia, and once carried a four-year-old bull on his shoulders before slaughtering, roasting, and devouring it in one day. He was said to have achieved the feat of lifting the bull by starting in childhood, lifting and carrying a newborn calf and repeating the feat daily as it grew to maturity.

See what he did there? He started off by lifting and carrying around a newborn calf and then he continued to lift and carry around the same calf each and everyday. In a few years, the calf was no longer a cute little thing that weighed a few pounds but a fully grown monster bull that weighed as much as a dozen men! And, Milo, grew strong enough to lift and walk around with a fully grown bull!

Myth? Maybe. Maybe not. But the point is that you start with a load (resistance) that you can comfortably handle and every progressing day (or week), you increase the load by the smallest possible increment. Ideally, you want to increase the load in such small amounts that you hardly even notice the added resistance. That, my fine folks, is the holy grail of getting strong and there is no denying it!

What about beginners?

Here is a question for you – Before we get all fancy with loads and reps and increments and rest periods, can you control your own bodyweight? Are you strong enough to move your body under total control? If you said no, then read carefully.

Let me make this very clear.

  • If you can’t do 25+ proper full ROM bodyweight squats, you have no business trying to squat a load or sitting at the leg press machine.
  • If you can’t a 120+ sec plank you’re pretty far away from a 6-pack or washboard abs. Period.
  • If you don’t have 25+ legit pushups (chest touches floor), the bench press station means nothing to you.
  • If you don’t have a single pullup, you are only making yourself look like a douche curling those 25lb dumbbells.

I can go on and on, but I’m sure you get the message.

Folks, seriously – walk before you run. Bodyweight training before weighted training. As a general rule when you work with a particular weight, move on to the next weight, ONLY when you have truly dominated this weight!  So work up to a good number of reps of each bodyweight exercise before you even consider adding extra poundage or touching them machines.

How do you do that?

1. Simplify your training. Understand that a fitness program isn’t a compilation of a bunch of random fancy looking moves. Fitness is the capability to do things and there isn’t much things you can do if you haven’t mastered the basics. So instead of doing 30 different exercises for no sensible reason, focus on the very basic movements – squat, pushup, pullup and plank.

2. It might sound like common sense to learn to do something right before doing it over and over again, but common sense isn’t so common these days. So learn the right way to do these basic moves.

3. Once you have learnt the right way to do things, practice them! Strength is a skill and unless you practice strength (moves) over and over again, you’re never going to get good at it i.e. you’re never going to get stronger.

4. If you see that you’re not strong enough to perform the basic moves as is, look into beginner variations. Mark Sisson has some awesome videos that explain beginner progressions for the various basic moves. Check them out here – SquatPlankPushup and Pullup.

5. Work towards satisfying the following requirements before adding any kind of weight to your movements.

  • Squat – 25+ repetitions with perfect form
  • Pushup – 25+ repetitions for men (5+ repetitions for women) with perfect form
  • Pullup – 10+ repetitions for men (1+ repetitions for women) with perfect form
  • Plank – 120 sec+ elbow plank

Be it the random trainer at your neighborhood gym or the extremely experienced CrossFit level 1 trainer or Mark Rippetoe himself. I don’t care who tells you what. The bottom line is – if you aren’t strong enough to satisfy the above requirements, you have absolutely no business doing anything other than these 4 basic movements.

I’m not a beginner anymore! What now?

If you don't know what this is and/or which book this is from, you're still a ranked beginner

So I’ll assume you laid the foundation as stated above and you’re now an advanced beginner or an intermediate i.e. someone who satisfies the above requirements and is aware of the proper technique to do the basic moves. Here is what you need to do.

1. Simplify your training. Choose a squat (back squat, front squat, KB squat etc.), a push (OH press, pushup, dip etc.), a pull (pullup, row, inverted row etc.), a hinge (KB swing, Rack-pulls , Deadlift etc.) and a isometric hold (plank, L-sit, L-hang etc.). Forget everything else. Seriously.

2. Do 2 sets of 5 reps of each of these moves every other day or 3 days a week. For eg. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Rest as required between sets.

3. Each progressing training session, increase the number of repetitions by 1. Once you get strong enough to perform 12 solid repetitions, increase the weight by the smallest possible increment. Continue progressing.

4. Eat slightly above appetite and sleep as much as you can.

5. Don’t do anything else. And by that I mean, don’t f*cking do anything else! No running on off days, no basketball in the evenings, no extra ‘weights’ at the gym, no more nonsense. More is not better. Better is better and it doesn’t get better than this.

What about women?

Yeah. What about women? Won’t we get big and bulky? Ummm no, you wont. Don’t believe me? Look at Neghar Fonooni. Is she big and bulky? Or is she strong and awesome? You tell me.

Neghar Fonooni – Strong is awesome!

How does she train? Well, here is a sample.

Summing up

Whether your goal is to get fit or look awesome or both, do what been said, and only whats been said, till you get strong enough to back squat 2 x BW (1.5 x BW for women), deadlift 2.5 x BW (1.75 x BW for women), do 15+ pullups (6+ for women) and hold a 3min plank.

And then we’ll talk. We’ll talk about variety and macros and six pack abs and training frequency and rest periods and tempo and what not. Until then, shut up, open your mind and listen when I talk.

Peace out.

Training when traveling (with minimal to no equipment)

Enough has been said about training when traveling but the questions never cease. So here are my thoughts on what, how and when to do what when traveling.

  • Keep it super simple. Stop obsessing about how perfect your training can be and spend time on what you’re actually traveling for, be it business or pleasure.
  • Get your training done first thing in the morning and eat a good breakfast so you don’t have to worry about dedicating time for training and/or special meals during the rest of the day.
  • Forget body part splits, forget isolation exercises, forget targeting anything and focus on full body moves that train strength, speed, anaerobic/aerobic endurance and mobility. Do a kitchen sink workout of sorts.

As for exercises to do when you travel, I’ll give you 3 options. Choose 1 each day or choose more than one and combine them.

1. Burpees

Few exercises can replace a properly executed burpee when it comes to time efficient and effective training. Irrespective of what your goals are, a burpee workout will make sure you move closer to it. Here are some suggestions.

– If you are beginner, stick to the modified 4-step burpee and focus on performing each squat with perfect form, each plank with core activation and each jump with explosion. Set a number and work on completing that many burpees as fast as possible while maintaining good form or set a time and get as many legit burpees as possible in that time.

– If you are an intermediate, do the regular 6-step burpee with perfect form and fight for reps. Focus on sky high jumps and chest touch pushups in each rep. Do 5-10 reps per set ,exploding in each step, for 10-15 rounds resting as required between sets.

– If you’re advanced and are after both strength & conditioning, do one of the three…

  • Find a couple of heavy dumbbells or a weighted vest and do weighted burpees, again, fighting for good for and explosion in each rep. 10-12 sets of 5-10 reps with 30-45 sec rest between sets works wonders.
  • If weights aren’t available, up the number of pushups and jumps in each burpee to 3. So each burpee will have a squat, a kickback, 3 pushups, a reverse kick back and 3 squat jumps. And of course, you’re fighting for solid form in each rep. Stick to the same rep-set scheme as above. A hundred burpee workout = 300 pushups and 300 jump squats… can you handle it?
  • Do a burpee pyramid. Start with a regular burpee and as you do more, increase the number of pushups and jumps in each. Example below.

2. Pullups/Chinups

Chinups work everything the burpee doesnt (biceps and back) and hit that core again. So, if you have a bar or a ledge or a door and the strength to do some chin-ups, do them without fail! Here are some suggestions.

– Set a number that is 6-7 times your max and try to hit it in as few sets as possible without ever going to failure. If your max is 10, try to get 60-70 chinups in say 10 sets.

– Get max reps of chinups in 5 sets trying to get the same number of reps in your last set as your first set. Rest 3-5 minutes between sets.

Here is a short instructional video on pullups/chinups.

3. Run/Sprint

You don’t need anything to get this done really. Even shoes are optional. Find a road and go out for an enjoyable run or find a stretch of road/land and sprint. Here are some suggestions.

– Sprint 100 m at 90% effort. Walk back 100 m. Repeat for a total of 6-12 rounds and stop when your sprint is considerably (20%) slower than the first one.

– Run 400 m at 70% effort. Walk back 100 m. Run 300 m at 80% effort. Walk back 200 m. Sprint 200 m at 90% effort. Walk back 300m. Sprint 100m at max effort. Repeat for a total of 2-4 rounds and stop when you’re 100m sprints start feeling like a painful run (as opposed to a tearing flight!).

4. Combine

Now like I mentioned up top, you can do one of these each day or you can club these together and do a conditioning workout of sorts. Here are a couple of examples.

1. Repeat for a total of 5 rounds…

  • 10 Burpees [4-step burpee is your a beginner, weighted if you’re advanced]
  • 10 Chinups [Assisted if you’re a beginner, weighted if you’re advanced]
  • 50 m sprint
  • Rest 3 min.

Note: Make sure form is perfect and each rep/sprint is strong, solid and explosive. Do NOT do more reps at the cost of form. Increase rest period if required.

2. Complete in as less time as possible without compromising form in any move…
  • 30-100 Burpees [30 if you’re a beginner, 100 if you’re advanced]
  • 1 max set of chinups or 400m run for each burpee break

Here is a sample (short) conditioning workout that includes just pushups, chinups and squat jumps.

Peace out.

3-Week Bodyweight Badassery

If you think I’m just chilling eating my south Indian vegetarian diet downing 6+ country eggs and few liters of raw dairy everyday, you’re wrong! I’m also not complaining about the heat-humidity combo and impatiently waiting for Septemper 19th when I can make poor BootCamp members suffer! Oh! I’m also designing and destroying workouts and… loving every second of living the dream!

That said, I’m also going to give you what I promised – The equipment less training routine

My training in the next few months will be split into 3-6 week mesocycles in an effort to hit some body comp and performance goals. The first mesocycle is designed to be 3 weeks long. It will start tomorrow, the 8th of August, and end on the 29th of August which is just in time for my big (shirtless) day. I will outline my training in this post and will publish daily workouts on my Facebook page.

Workout Outline:

Everyday: Farmers walk, short run, mobility work

Monday: Upper body push and pull, core work

Tuesday: Lower body speed work (sprints), handstand pushups, sandbag work

Wednesday: Extended mobility, L-chinups, rotational stability work, agility training

Thursday: One arm push and pull, zero negative explosive push and pull, slow push and pull

Friday: One legged lower body strength work (pistols), weighted squat jumps, handstand pushups, 5-10 min conditioning workout

Saturday: Extended mobility, box jumps, single leg pull off the ground

Sunday: Sun salutations

If you aren’t a member of my Facebook page, join now and share your thoughts ‘cos there is just way too much you can learn from me and I can learn from you!

See ya there.


Time Efficient Training – 15 min Bodyweight Training

If you consider the average person, he/she is more likely ‘to try to’ eat clean than to workout and, if workout is on the cards, he/she is definitely going to want to hop on a treadmill/elliptical or go for a run/bike ride than to actually perform a proper resistance training session. While there is nothing wrong with running, there are too many things right with resistance training to neglect it. If getting fit is your goal, resistance training is an absolute necessity (and we’ll discuss why in a different blog post).

When I asked a bunch of folks why they choose cardio on machines or running over resistance training, I got a number of answers… at least 50 different answers really. But when I looked into those answers in a little more detail, they all trickle down to the following….

  • Resistance training is time consuming.
  • I don’t know enough about resistance training to be able to design a workout. Its just easier to run.
  • I don’t know how to perform most of the exercises.
  • Home is where I can workout and that makes it impossible to do resistance training.
  • Driving to the gym and back takes too long and is more time that I can afford.
  • Gym memberships are expensive and so are buying equipment to be able to workout at home.

And among these answers lack of time, equipment unavailability and lack of program design knowledge seemed to be the most common! So, in this article, I’m going to give you some workouts that will work pretty much every part of your body, take less than 20 min, require little to no equipment and get you fit n fayne! Maybe you’ll consider resistance training then?

Beginner Bodyweight Training:

Workout 1:

– Choose a push-up variation that you can only do 20 of and a pull-up variation that you can only do 10 of.

  • Minute 1: 15 push-ups, 4 pull-ups
  • Minute 2: 12 push-ups, 6 pull-ups
  • Minute 3: 10 push-ups, 8 pull-ups
  • Minute 4: 12 push-ups, 6 pull-ups
  • Minute 5: 15 push-ups, 4 pull-ups

Repeat once more.

Total time ~ 10 min

Workout 2:

  • Max Height Jump Squats x 10
  • Jumping Lunges x 10/leg
  • Pike Presses x 10
  • Rest 30 sec

Repeat for a total of 4 rounds

Total time ~ 8 min

Workout 3:

  • Rest 30 sec.

Repeat for a total of 10 rounds.

Total time ~ 10 min.

Total weekly workout time ~ 30 min

Intermediate/Advanced Bodyweight Training:

Workout 1:

  • Weighted Pushups: 1 set of 8-10 reps
  • BW Chinups: 1 set of 70% Max reps
  • Pistol Squats: 1 set of 70% Max reps
  • Rest 1 min

Repeat for a total of 4 rounds.

Total time ~ 15 min

Workout 2:

  • All-out Sprint 20 sec
  • Plank for 40 sec

Repeat for a total of 8 rounds

Total time ~ 8 min

Workout 3:

  • Hindu Pushups: 1 set of max reps
  • Chinups: 1 set of max reps

Rest 2 min

  • Broad jump x 2
  • Squat jump x 4

Repeat for a total of 5 rounds.

Rest 2 min

  • Hindu Pushups: 1 set of max reps [Goal is to beat first set]
  • Chinups: 1 set of max reps [Goal is to beat first set]

Total time ~ 15 min

Total weekly workout time ~ 40 min

Don’t tell me you don’t have time for this! Do these three workouts every week for six weeks in addition to eating real food and I promise you that you will look, feel and function way better than you do right now! In the next post in this series, I’ll list out a few workouts that need nothing more than a single dumbbell. Trust me, it will be fun!


Six exercises to do and to not do

Sure there are a million exercises out there. But that doesn’t mean you do all of them right? Some moves are legit and pure genius and will benefit you immensely as they have benefited millions of people of hundreds of years. Some others, mostly the new ones with fancy names, will more often than not mess you up and leave you looking like a weasel on wheels.

That said, though I will try my hand at as many different activities/exercises/training methodologies as possible, there are some exercises I will do for the rest of my life and some that I will never ever do!

6 exercises I will (and you should) always do…

  1. Deadlift because it is the king of all exercises. Working more muscles than any other workout, this lift strengthens everything from your grip to your lower back to your traps to your entire lower body. A strong deadlift literally means great pick-up strength in real life and I’m pretty sure I’m going to be picking stuff up throughout my life.
  2. Weighted Pull-up/Rope Climb because it is one of the most challenging upper body pulling movements. You’re not fit if you can’t climb a rope.
  3. Sprints/Sled Drag/Prowler Push because it develops speed, endurance and incredible lower body strength. The exercise taxes the lower body so much you have no choice but to get faster and stronger.
  4. Standing Press/Push Press because it is the one (and only) pressing movement that has relevance to real life. FYI – If you’re abs are not sore after a heavy pressing session, you’re doing it wrong.
  5. Plank/Planche because it strengthens the “core” without jeopardizing any joint or the spine.
  6. Push-up because it has more variations than I will ever need, it develops explosive upper body strength and it strengthens the core. In addition to being one of the most awesome bodyweight exercises, it is super functional and relates to real life activities. Also, one arm push-ups are just cool.

6 exercises I will (and you should) never do…

  1. Any kind of bosu ball crap because it’s just sad, lame and downright stupid.
  2. Kipping pull-up because it works nothing. Wasted reps. Waste of time. High risk of rotator cuff injury.
  3. Leg extension because never in my life will I need to exert force by extending my knee joint in isolation. Aesthetics? Not interested in disproportionate quads. My deadlifts work my lower body more than any machine ever will.
  4. Behind the neck press because risk >>> benefit.
  5. Any and all kinds of sit-up because I don’t want to end up with a surgery in my lower back.
  6. Anything on the smith machine because that’s as fake as fake can get. The whole point of barbell training is to strengthen synergists and stabilizers along with prime movers (agonists) and antagonists. By restricting the movement of the bar to only up-and-down the smith machine removes the synergists and stabilizers our of the equation resulting in uneven strength distribution which is a recipe for disaster.

While we are on stupid exercises, this one is a whole new level of stupidity!

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