Pitting your body against considerable external load is the stimulus required to create strong muscles, bones and connective tissue, as well as a beneficially functioning hormonal system that will ensure we maintain our man stuff (e.g., testosterone, other key hormonal activities, and relationships).
However, this can be tricky for some of us, such as those who suffer from old sporting injuries, recent consistent niggles, or poor technique that causes troubles that perpetuate themselves.
Lifting is always a ‘risk versus reward’ equation. What I mean by this is that if pre-existing issues are present, heavy loading can quickly increase the risk of causing us to slowly and loudly get off the couch each night! It’s a balancing act that must be intelligently weighed up, and this applies to both former athletes and weekend gym warriors.
Enter bodyweight training, where using your own mass as the load can help look after your joints and muscles, and challenge your body in a highly unique, effective (and sometimes very impressive) ways.
The great thing about bodyweight training is that you can begin anytime and progress at a pace that your body handles and skill allows. You’ll most likely stay motivated by your natural progression and from constantly pushing yourself and achieving small successes each and every week.
Using your body as resistance can be as simple as a bodyweight squat, or as complex as a handstand-to-planche-hold-push-up-back-to-handstand (and yep, that stuff really is achievable given the right progression and patience). And, in case you haven’t worked it out, this type of training may also be referred to as gymnastics, calisthenics, yoga and/or Pilates.
So exactly what does this mean, especially for the average man?
Well, these types of exercises include common push ups and dips, but also could mean handstands, handstand push ups, planche variations and anything in between; there really is no limit as to what you can achieve and/or progress towards. It’s hard to get bored or plateau with this type of training, which is another reason it’s so great!
Next month I’ll provide you with four different exercise options, but for starters
here is one movement you can try:
Exercise: Taking a standard push up into a decline version
1. Bring your feet on to a bench and then walk your hands towards them by bending at the hips and forming a ‘pike’.
2. Keep the legs and back straight, look at the floor and then slowly lower yourself towards the ground.
3. With a strong and rigid body, drive your hands through the ground.
4. Straightening your arms by using your shoulders and triceps, until you return to the top position.
Aim to complete a total of 20 reps. This could be done in four sets of five reps, or five sets of four reps, or whatever you can manage so long as you work towards progressing to complete 20 in total. As you improve, you’ll be able to keep adding reps to the total, and you’ll see the improvements come.