body weight only strength

Masterofone

First Post
Hi all,

I'm new here and I had a simple, vague question.

Years ago I got myself into a good weight training program and got pretty strong I.M.0., I also got stupid and kept going while injured, thinking I could mitigate with just good form and not irritating the injury. Ignorant choices, but we learn I suppose.


Anyway I've had this one thought ever since. What does it take to be strong enough to move ones self through out exercises. No weight, just myself, my body as the weight. There leaves much to be worked on here, and Im curious from those that follow a large calisthenics foundation. How long would you estimate someone to take in getting strong enough to exercise their body weight, pull ups, lunges, crunches/sit ups, dips, reverse press, leg raises, everything that im not listing for your body weight exercises....

Weight training took me about two years before it leveled out. I know this question is a bit vague and depends on the person, but say average fairly fit joe that wants to master his body strength, How long would you estimate this takes?

I used to train daily, full body, none of this arms/ legs day crap lol. Its a new realm for me, just curious for those experienced on their journey.





`cheers
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
I don't think there is a specific answer to your question. I think a person could take years to develop more and more strong movement with bodyweight strength, with gymnasts as the extreme example. But the same can be said for weight training as you describe it. You said "weight training took me about two years before it leveled out." I would suggest that you didn't hit any sort of ceiling there other than the limitations presently in place for you, which were probably determined by your recovery and your programming. Dr. Austin Baraki from Barbell Medicine the other day posted (on IG stories; sorry no link) a 300 lb deadlift from 8 years ago which was a heavy and max lift at the time, maybe a year or two after he started lifting. Last week, he deadlifted 720 lbs. It took 8 years of consistent smart training, with plenty of ups and downs along the way... but not BIG ups and downs like injuries and layoffs... just fluctuations in what is capable, pushing when times are good, letting off when times are not so good.

So, to the question, "what does it take to be strong enough to move ones self through out exercises." The same as any other type of training. Consistency in training and practice. Good programming with sufficient volume and intensity to drive continued adaptations. Attention to form. Learning techniques and finding insights through others teaching or though your own learning and attentiveness. Backing off when your body asks for it. Optimizing recovery. Giving yourself specific goals and challenges at times. Being honest about seeing what is limiting you and addressing it. Keep moving forward.

More specifically to your new bodyweight journey, it's even harder to program because intensity isn't just a number on a bar or kettlebell or machine or dumbbell. It's leverage and so many other nuanced things. So there's where bodyweight practitioners can probably elaborate more, but I would think it's very hard to convey how to do this well. Interested to see what people do have to say about that.
 

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello,

I agree with @Anna C , as always ! I do not think there is a very accurate answer to your questions, unfortunately.

What does it take to be strong enough to move ones self through out exercises
Basically, you may have several answers:
- as soon as you reach the required sets and reps of your program (this is more based on pure "quantity")
- when you feel the move is easy, which is more "feeling-oriented".

How long would you estimate someone to take in getting strong enough to exercise their body weight, pull ups, lunges, crunches/sit ups, dips, reverse press, leg raises, everything that im not listing for your body weight exercises....
Once again, it depends on the combination of several things:
- the goal you want to achieve (for instance a [straddle] planche is a several years investment anyway, whereas a handstand is faster)
- consistency: how diligent you are, how good is your programming (as Anna said)

As @Anna C mentioned, intensity is key. This is crucial to pick the right moves to get a smooth progression. Putting effort in the wrong move will not get you where you want. For instance, as far as intensity goes, this is better to put time and effort in weighted pull ups than biceps curls if you want to do a OA pull ups.

but say average fairly fit joe that wants to master his body strength, How long would you estimate this takes?
This is a matter of standard:
- average guy in elite sport ?
- average guy in the military ?
- average guy in the street ?

What do you mean by "master his body strength". For example, walking upside down is a great feat of bodyweight mastery. But is this mastery useful - for your purpose - ?

Most of the time, we progress very fast when we start from zero. After a while, if we do not change the program, we reach plateau. If you are already experienced, you start from a "higher point" but will also reach a plateau. Plenty of training cycles / programmes last about 6-8 weeks.

Kind regards,

Pet'
 

offwidth

Level 9 Valued Member
Indeed... these questions fall into the ‘how long is a piece of string‘ category.

More context is needed to frame a meaningful answer.

And one could argue by posing a question... is mastery ever attained?
 

bluejeff

Level 5 Valued Member
I will echo what everyone else has sort of said: it depends on what you want out of your training.

Do you want specific bodyweight skills, or just to feel fit? Do you want hypertrophy? Endurance? You can get incredibly strong and mobile with BW work, but the ways in which you use it will influence your outcomes.
 

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello,

Reading these exercises names:
pull ups, lunges, crunches/sit ups, dips, reverse press, leg raises
it sounds like "high rep low weight" and thei possible transfer to other move variations.

So I did a few researches on SF and found the following threads regarding high rep routines:

Kind regards,

Pet'
 

Masterofone

First Post
I know I've completely opened a can of worms for ifs on this question. If it changes anything, my thought process was learning the exercises for my body that would negate the free weights in a gym. No curls, bench, weighted squats.... It was a thought of how much can I get out of my body before you would have to add weights to progress further (strength wise), if that makes sense, its the only way I know how to put it.
Much appreciated on everyones thoughts above, thank you.

Thank you for the threads Pet' I will dig through these.
 

DaveS

Level 2 Valued Member
I know I've completely opened a can of worms for ifs on this question. If it changes anything, my thought process was learning the exercises for my body that would negate the free weights in a gym. No curls, bench, weighted squats.... It was a thought of how much can I get out of my body before you would have to add weights to progress further (strength wise), if that makes sense, its the only way I know how to put it.
Much appreciated on everyones thoughts above, thank you.

Thank you for the threads Pet' I will dig through these.

Read The Naked Warrior bu Pavel, the principles of weight distribution, leverage etc answer much of what you are asking.

Some more specific thoughts...

Assuming your goals are what they sound of being more GPP rather than specific to anything in particular, you can almost replace any barbell/machine exercise with a bodyweight equivalent if you search the net for each one. They are all scalable too where you can go from making them very easy to very hard (even elite). The book Convict Conditioning despite its programming faults has some good examples with the progressions shown with the exercises starting out very easy and some going up to elite/near impossible.

The only caveat here is for squat and hinge work, additional resistance might be needed if pistols don’t give you enough resistance (but easy to just hold added weight in your hands) and there isn’t really a full equivalent of a bodyweight hinge as such with bridging giving some similar strengthening of the miscles involved but the movement patterns not really related in a functional way and so is this a substitute depends on the goals again. Hill sprints might be the closest think to a weighted hinge sub IMO.

This partly why the combo of bodyweight and kettlebells is so popular as you can load all movement patterns to suit most needs in an equipment minimalistic way.

Hope that helps,

Dave.
 

Philippe Geoffrion

Level 6 Valued Member
I saw an exponential increase on MOST barbell exercises with pure bodyweight training.

I was in a Paris apartment when quarantine hit. I’d been lifting with a barbell years and months prior. Upon the first week back of calisthenics training straight for two months without a single weight, I PR’d the deadlift, floor press (no bench available) and overhead press. My squat was maintained but improved greatly the following week after reacclimatizing to the bar.

Keep in mind I’d barbell trained for years and was beyond intermediate strength levels. My training during the calisthenics period was daily. Here are the exercises I felt led to my results

Floor press improved from pushups, one arm push-up variations, dips, handstand pushups, planche training and l-sits. Yeah, typical gymnastics

My overhead press improved from constant handstand training and handstand pushups.

Deadlift-pull-ups and front lever. I had a day where I did 300 pull-ups. Lots of leg work too. I feel the front lever did the most. It tied the lats to the abs and grip and really helped me attach myself to the bar. The position isn’t so different from a deadlift when you view the body’s relation to the bar. I was amazed how much easier it became to hold the bar when I came back to deadlifts and felt my lats and obliques clench very strongly.

For legs I sprinted, jumped, pistols, Hindu squats, high rep bw squats ( I did one set of nearly 500 on one day), sissy squats and airborne lunges.

Here were my results

Prior PR’s vs After Calis
PRESS 135 x 6 to 135 x 8
Floor Press 245 x 3 to 245 x 5
Deadlift 375 x 5 to 375 x 12!!!

My bodyweight was probably 155 at this time. Keep in mind, quarantine in France was VERY strict. I could only be out 1 hr a day and the rest was schoolwork and training. This, I’d train, nearly all day. Read a book, do some planches. Stuck on my essay, need a break, pistol practice. I’d wake up and feel ready to train. Had a lot of print up energy from not being able to go out, hence the 300 pull-up day, where I used all objects possible (doors, door frames, window frames, underside of the sink). It was a very eye opening experience for me how much I improved. I also became very lean and ripped.
I’ve felt since then what Chad Waterbury has preached that upper body work can be completely replaced to bodyweight work. Throw in a squat, hinge or carry (something heavy) or (DL or swing) and your strength needs are covered.
 

bluejeff

Level 5 Valued Member
my thought process was learning the exercises for my body that would negate the free weights in a gym. No curls, bench, weighted squats.... It was a thought of how much can I get out of my body before you would have to add weights to progress further (strength wise)

You can absolutely do this. Most calisthenics and gymnastic strength variations can get you brutally strong by simply changing your leverage. I would argue that you can get your legs really strong by adding jumping and plyometrics after pistols become easy. At my strongest I was doing single leg box jumps from the bottom of the pistol (with the added momentum of rolling forward like in a deck squat). However, if you want HUGE legs that can squat hundreds of pounds, you will probably need a barbell.

This article is what blew gymnastic bodies up a handful of years back. Sommer reports similar effects to what @Philippe Geoffrion did. The key words here though, are safe progressive manner. You can seriously mess up your joints if you try and jump in too deep too soon.

 

Philippe Geoffrion

Level 6 Valued Member
Hello,

@Philippe Geoffrion
Your results are just huge ! Congratulations !

Did you follow a specific training ?

How did you train the hip / hinge to improve your DL that much ?

Kind regards,

Pet'

Thank you!!! Honestly, I already do have great leverage for deadlifts. My torso is short and limbs are long. I credit most of the strength to the back, core, and grip work from all the lever and pull-up training. Of course, you get much other core training from gymnastics. I did do a lot of leg work, my squatting probably maintained much of my hip strength as well because I tend to use more hips when squatting do pistols, airborne lunges and high reps may have helped.

One thing I forgot to mention is I practed my deadlift setup often, sans bar. I visualized the loaded bar being there and would practice tending everything prior to lifting it. Sounds corny but when I first cane back to the bar, the technique was still there!
 

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello,

@Philippe Geoffrion
Thanks !

Putting aside your "natural gift", did you use a GTG approach with your gymnastic moves, or did you use something like C. Sommer or S. Low's routines ?

One thing I forgot to mention is I practed my deadlift setup often, sans bar. I visualized the loaded bar being there and would practice tending everything prior to lifting it
As a boxer, I practice a lot this kind of "visualization" (we call it shadow boxing, when you practice again a mirror or an imaginary opponent). I totally agree with you, it helps a lot. During the quarantine, I daily religiously dedicated 10 minutes to this. When the boxing classes have started again, I realized that my techniques were still there.

Kind regards,

Pet'
 

Philippe Geoffrion

Level 6 Valued Member
Hello,

@Philippe Geoffrion
Thanks !

Putting aside your "natural gift", did you use a GTG approach with your gymnastic moves, or did you use something like C. Sommer or S. Low's routines ?


As a boxer, I practice a lot this kind of "visualization" (we call it shadow boxing, when you practice again a mirror or an imaginary opponent). I totally agree with you, it helps a lot. During the quarantine, I daily religiously dedicated 10 minutes to this. When the boxing classes have started again, I realized that my techniques were still there.

Kind regards,

Pet'

It was definitely a lot of GTG but also auto regulation and almost conjugate. Note, I was training full body almost everyday of the week. There is a lot of joint stress, so some days if planche bothered me, I’d practice handstands or l-sits. So I basically, pressed and pulled, squatted daily. After a heavy day of one arm pushups, my chest would be tight so I’d do reverse bridges and yoga work as well. Yes, yoga became crucial to recovery. I like Max Shanks 5 minutes of flow or even Pavel’s morning routine. Once again, my body was my gauge.
It also wasn’t uncommon for me to do several sessions of planche or lever work through out the day. I organized my training through west side principles actually, you can train ‘heavy’ pretty often if you’re movements vary.

For pulling for example, you have heavier moves like Front lever, and one arm chin practice. You can “nearly” alternate these daily. Also, used isometrics for deads. If you have something like the bottom of a shelf or cupboard (make sure you actually can’t lift it and topple all your books), wedging and tensing under it can help maintain the hinge.

Regressing patterns can also help. There’s be days when I’d push my planche to advanced tick, which is harder for me, and days when I’d just practice in the leap from stance, the most basic position or even hollow body pushup holds where I’d lean far forward and you basically do a planche with tippy toes. Brutal for the core but again attacks the same move from different position.

If heavy work was too much, also had lighter repetition days or even explosive work. Bands helped for upper back work, but you can do rows under your table to. I always seem refreshed after jumps or plyo pushups, as you stay away from failure and high load and just focus on speed. Variety was definitely key so yes it was a mix of GTG and Westside and Sheiko.
 

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello,

@Philippe Geoffrion
What you say is very interesting and appealing to me because, as much as I love the heavy one arm swings, I'd like to progressively switch to something more bodyweight-oriented. However, I would also like to keep (to a certain extent) my hip / hinge strength. I recently incorporated single leg deadlift with a thick resistance band and I really feel I have to put way more tension in this move, than in swings.

I found, like you that HSPU for reps tend to at least maintain (I never tried a PR) my regular kb OVH press. My only issue really remains the hip / hinge. The only alternative I have found until now is a combination of single-leg DL and good mornings using my thick resistance band.

So, your "receipe" was to vary a lot the gymnastic moves, building up towards "heavy bodyweight" move like planche or front lever.

Did you actually perform them ? Or the fact of working toward them leads to an increase in your barbell PR ?

Kind regards,

Pet'
 

Philippe Geoffrion

Level 6 Valued Member
I did practice single leg DL’s often but didn’t have much resistance to add to them. I did them very slow and very tense, with no rebounds, pause on bottom and full body tension. I’ve always had tight hammies, so I did a lot of hinges pushing into my hips with straight back similar to the preliminary DL exercise Pavel described in deadlift dynamite.

Some other good strength lifts might be very long stride lunges to emphasize your backside more and dingle leg bridges. You can add resistance with a band to the latter and tense your cheeks hard! If you have something to anchor your feet, natural GHR are killer. Some calisthenics parks here have bars, like a pull-up bar, at shin level height. If you have an easily adjustable pull-up bar, you could use that.

One thing to remember about DL, if you pull conventional, your back is the agonist with the legs assisting while sumo is opposite. Not super cut and dried like that but as a general rule. My DL Pr was pulled in swing/stance sumo ie vert barrow, hands just outside feet.

Don’t forget explosive work! Sprinting and broad jumping both make these muscles fire hard. I swear during my years as a sprinter, my deadlift and sprint times both improved when used together. Which is the cause and the effect? Hard to say. But sprinting is awesome.

I haven’t yet achieved the planche, front lever or one arm chin. But variations of each made up training. For example I can hold the Tuck planche for quite some time and do pushups here. The advanced Tuck planche, I can only get a few seconds, thus that was my heavier day. I can hold a front lever with only one leg extended right and only for about 5 seconds so that has the hard lever day while the tuck lever and advanced tick lever made up light and medium days. As for one arm chin training, slow negatives, single arm lockouts, single arm hangs and one handed chins using the other hand either around your wrist or a band from the bar, are all good variations. Thus, you’re working towards the same moves, but attacking from all angles. Like Pavel said in Naked Warrior, “the best exercise to get better at one arm pushups are one arm pushups. But you can’t do a one arm push-up. “ thus, remedial exercises are trained to get there.
 

Kettlebelephant

Level 6 Valued Member
It was a thought of how much can I get out of my body before you would have to add weights to progress further (strength wise)
For many movements there's going to be a tougher version in terms of leverage and lever arms, e.g. door rows -> inverted rows -> feet elevated inverted rows -> one arm inverted rows etc. until you end up with something like full front lever rows. Many of those later versions won't be accessible for most people that aren't olympic level gymnasts, so for a lot of things the ceiling is high enough that you won't ever need to use weights.
This is mostly true for upper body work.
For lower body work though that's different. Once you can do multiple sets of 15+ reps with various one-legged movements like pistols or shrimp squats you simple have to add weight if you want to get stronger, because you can't "play" around with levers as much as you can with the upper body.

Also you need to know why you want to do a certain exercise. For example a planche pushup is a great feat, but if you do it to increase your pushing strength it's a waste of time. Someone who can do sets of 10 of feet elevated pushups already has more than enough pure pushing strength to do a planche pushup. The hard part for the planche PU is the tension and balancing.
 
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