Anthony

B3W – A program that fuses barbell and bodyweight training

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Anthony Mychal B3W Barbell Back Squat

23. We’re picking up where we left off. Consider all of these points as notes to my past self rather than gospel.

24. In The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle looks into why Brazil is a soccer powerhouse. Naturally, being a country-wide ability, it’s easy to cite genetics. What Coyle finds, however, is that Brazilians play a game called futsal.

24a. Futsal is played in a smaller area with a smaller ball. Because of this, they develop better dribbling and passing skills and quicker decision making skills than they otherwise would on a “normal” soccer field. Essentially, futsal is like soccer on speed. After playing futsal, soccer seems slowed down and easier.

25. If you were so caught up in playing soccer that you only played by the rules of soccer, you’d never play futsal. Don’t get caught up in the boundaries of a sport. The rules simply are the rules because someone made them the rules. There’s nothing special about sports—they’re man-made confines.

26. When looking at “stealing” from an athlete that plays a certain sport, this is concern numero uno. You can extrapolate some heuristics (ie: athletes that are involved in “x” sport kinda sorta turn out like “y”), but you should also recognize that sports are naturally self limiting. You don’t have to listen to the limits unless you’re competing.

27. It’s not even fair to say that people involve in “x” sport turn out like “y” because it could very well be the case that people already like “y” gravitate to sport “x” because they have an advantage.

28. This is why the whole, “Train like a(n) <insert athlete here>” is garbage. It’s a soupy world, and what makes it even soupier is that there’s no universal training method within sports.

28a. Some gymnasts don’t touch barbells. Others, like Epke Zonderland, do. So what does it mean to “train like a gymnast?”

28b. Some Olympic weightlifters are minimalists. The Bulgarian system was all about mastering maximum weights with only a handful of exercises. Others aren’t so minimalist. The Soviet system was all about doing accessory exercises to train specific strengths and weaknesses for the competition lifts. So what does it mean to “train like an Olympic weightlifter?”

29. When you don’t dig far enough to uncover your own biases, you end up with this kind of thinking: I gotta’ do the Olympic lifts to look like them there jacked Chinese Olympic weightlifters! Screw bodybuilding garbage!

29a. Although Chinese weightlifters do emphasize the snatch and clean and jerk, they aren’t afraid of extra “bodybuilding” work at certain times of the season.

30. Or maybe you make the connection that training some bodyweight skills with your pull-up bar is the same as training like a gymnast even though you have no set of rings, don’t do the pommel horse, don’t do parallel bar routines, don’t train for 4+ hours every day, and haven’t been training and living on your hands as if they were feet since you were four years old.

31. This isn’t to say you can’t learn anything, but rather that the finer you try to get in your extrapolations, the further off you get. This is why I like heuristics.

31a. Some Olympic weightlifting heuristics might go something like:

  • Pull from the floor a bunch with varying grip widths
  • Lift at different speeds
  • Squat a lot
  • Support things overhead

31b. For gymnasts:

  • Live on your hands as if they were feet
  • Play on the floor, the bars, and the rings
  • Do things that require total body coordination

32. The usefulness of heuristics depends on what you want to do. If you want to do the Olympic lifts, then do them. I probably wouldn’t be writing about heuristics if a foot injury made me stop doing the Olympic lifts over a year ago.

32a. Without being able to do the lifts, I’ve been more and more formless; I’ve been trying to take the big picture principles that fit my situation.

32b. For instance, since I can’t clean or snatch, it’s not like I abandon Olympic weightlifting roots. I still squat. I pull from the floor with low pulls, panda pulls, high pulls, and various other pulls. This is almost a futsal moment because the Olympic lifts weren’t really “made” for anything besides being an efficient way to get the bar from the ground to an overhead position while playing by the rules of Olympic weightlifting.

33c. So for me, pulling from the floor + jumping in the grass = good aesthetic and athletic blend without being married and obsessed with power cleaning 302 lbs instead of 300 lbs. But again, it all depends on what you want to do. If I had a healthy foot, I might be obsessing over 302 lbs right now. And to be honest, I’m not sure whether that’d be good or bad. All I know is that right now I’m able to keep my wires straight. I deadlift and squat to strength train, I hop around outside to hop around.

33d. Because, context. Power cleaning won’t improve what I want to do anymore than what I’m doing. There was a time when it would improve what I wanted because I wanted to power clean.

34. What people don’t realize is that CrossFit, although it merges both barbell and bodyweight exercises, is perhaps the worst contextual program in the world because it’s random. The only reason to do CrossFit is if you want random results or don’t care about how your body adapts. (I have more on CrossFit. Now isn’t the time or place.)

35. Last time I mentioned the difference between the “river” and it’s “tributaries.” You can also think about a hydra. If you have multiple heads (avenues of interest), you still need body that glues the heads together – a body that can support the heads of interest.

36. Given the goals from last article, I have a lot of heads. Also, given that I think the barbell is the most sensible starting point, I start with a basic basic barbell program based on Olympic weightlifting heuristics. Basic bodyweight training is also included to lead into a gymnastics “head.” Also on the list: elements to prep for high frequency training, specialized hypertrophy, and specialized power-explosiveness.

37. What about Olympic weightlifting specialization? That’s inherent in the base program because I like to start with the barbell. I’m sure some people that start with bodyweight have a more gymnastics specialization from the start.

Goku Namek Super Gravity Barbell and Bodyweight

37a. Qualifying allegiances is stupid. I’m not doing that. When you’re in the Capsule Corp. shuttle on your way to save planet Namek, you need to be able to move yourself through space and resist supragravity. Barbell and bodyweight training are both good. I think fusing them together is best.

37b. I start with the barbell simply because I know no other way. I believe in writing about my experiences and not some fantasy land prose.

38. And this is exactly what B3W is. Get it? BB+BW. BBBW. B3W. Ok, so the name is tentative. (Give me a break.) B3W is my philosophy on barbell and bodywieght training that’s designed to…

  • Take you from basic barbell training to more of an Olympic-esque driven program by turning conventional deadlifts into snatch grip pulls and different speed pulls
  • Get you into basic bodyweight training by taking push-ups and inverted rows into pull-ups, chin-ups, and dips
  • Teach you a unique philosophy of stress and recovery, which is essentially what everything else stems from

39. This is a program that does everything and nothing. Will it grow you some muscle? Most likely. Will it make you more powerful and explosive? Probably. But as with everything else, these are merely side effects of preparing for those “heads” down the line.

39a. This preparation is something not a lot of programs do. And if they do any sort of preparation, they’re usually for an existing sport like powerlifting or Olympic weightlifting.

40. To give you some history, B3W started after I broke my foot. For most of my training life, I struggled to do everything I wanted to do. One of those things was strength train and trick. I looked at Olympic weightlifters and decided if they could squat to a maximum often, I surely could be able to squat one day and trick the next.

40a. This led me to the money split that I’ve used for years: squats/presses one day, pulls the next day. I started conservative and saw good things. After the ball got rolling, I started to tweak things only to realize that it wasn’t that hard to emphasize hypertrophy…or train gymnastics…or train with a high frequency. And it all starts with modifying this “base” program. The hydra’s body. The river. 

40b. Actually, I found the squats/presses – pulls split to be really effective for gymnastics exercise, while also trying to train barbell exercises. Training the upper body all on one day became a logistic nightmare trying to find a way to manage the stressors. Training with an advanced split was much of the same (is the planche a shoulder exercise? chest? bicep?)

41. That base program = B3W.

42. And back to this: B3W a program that does everything and nothing. What exactly is “everything?”

  • Since it uses Olympic weightlifting heuristics, it naturally errs to the strength and power side of adaptations in the lower body. (You’re also on the way towards building a body like an Olympic weightlifter, specifically the back.)
  • With the bodyweight additions, you get enough upper body work in to not only build some muscle there, but also prepare for more intense gymnastics exercises. (You also do barbell exercises for the upper body.)
  • There’s a smattering of extra aesthetics work, too. (Because adding biceps curls to programs makes people mad, and I take a slight joy from that.)

42a. And all around, it’s built to prepare you for what you need. For most beginners, that’s putting an emphasis on getting stronger. More importantly though, it’s teaching you a philosophy a stress and recovery that sticks for a long time.

43. By a “long time,” I mean just about forever. And that’s a good place to say, “until next time.”

 

 

 

Combining barbell and bodyweight training: principles of fusion

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B3W Fusion Combining Barbell and Bodyweight Training

1. This is me spouting some of my experiences and my philosophy on the relationship between barbell and bodyweight training (primarily how to combine both). It’s certainly not the only thing in the world that works—I don’t know if there’s magic here—but I know that it has worked for me.

2. I wrote two articles before this, so that this didn’t end up 10x longer than it already is.

2a. This first article was about context.

2b. This second article was about the differences between barbell and bodyweight training.

3. It starts with context, which shouldn’t be surprising. What you want determines what you should do. It sounds so stupid that I don’t want to have to point it out, but it is a common handcuff. Want to become a bodyweight beast with no regard for muscle mass? Then you’re going to be doing something different than someone that wants to be decent in bodyweight skills, but would rather be jacked.

4. This is a point struggle for myself, even to this day. Because I want it all. I want to be able to do high level gymnastics skills, lift heavy barbells, jump to the moon, fiddle with acrobatic fast-twitch mischief, and not give a lick about recovery. Oh yeah, don’t forget that whole  x physique thing. Perhaps better stated: I want to look well built and do cool shit.

5. Because, Goku.

6. If someone came to me with the same goals, I’d probably want to punch him in the face. And then I’d tell him he’d probably need to specialize in just one of those areas. And I’d say this because the more ends you chase, the slower your results will be.

6a. But this might be one of those instances where you’re better off listening to what I do, not what I say. (Actually, you’re always better off doing this.) Fortunately for me, I can mentally cope with banging my head against a wall, trying to do all of these things at once, only to see no results. I can also cope with slower progress because my brain isn’t infected with the idea that changing your body is an easy or fast process. Not saying that failure is the rule, but as some point you have to admit: it’s dangerous trying to juggle five knives when you can’t even throw one up and catch it safely.

7. Given #4, I think using Olympic weightlifters and gymnasts as archetypes of sorts is a good idea. High level Olympic weightlifters that keep their body fat down tend to develop a certain kind of physique, as do gymnasts. They also both train with a higher frequency, so we’re looking at juggling similar knives. Logic isn’t quite 100% sound here, but it works for now.

8. Beyond #3 context, there’s a second big contextual piece: where you are now. It’s going to be easier to delegate training if you’re already capable of some strength lifts or bodyweight skills (if you can already juggle some knives).

9. Given #3 and #8, another piece of context is how often you can train. In the end, most of the things we’re working towards are skills, and skills need their share of practice.

10. With the goals on the table, I want to punch myself in the face. The more goals you have, the less progress you should expect in any one area. But acknowledging these goals is important because what you do should always prepare you for what’s to come. So thinking of the future, a centralized program that prepares you for different concentrations down the line is a good idea. Think river and tributaries. You can have the tributaries unless you have the main river.

11. Given the goals, it starts with the barbell. I’m sure there are people on the other side of the fence, but this is the side of the fence I ended up on. I think a barbell training delivers faster results because…

  • There’s a smaller learning curve. You learn the movement and then the only remaining variable is adding weight or reps or whatever over time.
  • There aren’t as many limiting factors. Usually barbell exercises stress the muscles and tissues that are targeted and aren’t held back by secondary links in the chain.
  • There is a greater organism effect.
  • They’re easier mentally. I personally wasn’t ready for the strain of gymnastics exercises. The barbell forces strain by crashing down upon your skeleton. But with bodyweight skills, it’s on you and your own brain to give it your all. I don’t know how else to describe this, but I’ll admit that took me a while to be mentally prepared for gymnastics exercises.
  • The first two articles help understand the above points, so go read those. Context is here. Differences are here.`

12. Let’s qualify “barbell” real quick. I personally see weighted dips and weighted chin-ups as more barbell than bodyweight because they share the same characteristics as barbell exercises: heavy bone loading, not being held back by skill, overload being a tao of slapping more weight onto yourself, etc.

12a. Here’s another way I like to think about this:

  • Beginner bodyweight: push-ups, pull-ups, chin-ups, unweighted dips, etc.
  • Barbell bodyweight: weighted chin-ups and pull-ups and dips
  • Party tricks: one arm chin-ups, one arm push-ups, one legged squats (pistols, king deadlifts, etc.)
  • Gymnastics floor bodyweight: handstands, planches, levers, v- and l-sits, etc.
  • Gymnastics ring bodyweight: the above on rings

12b. Surprise, surprise. The above looks like the bodyweight levels I talked about in previous articles.

13. Starting with a barbell doesn’t mean neglecting bodyweight training. But given barbell exercises are easier to dive into, and that you can make progress faster with them, that’s where I put the first flag. You can give your body a decent training stimulus while you level up your bodyweight ability – until you hit the cusp of “barbell bodyweight” and beyond.

14. For those that have mucked with high level bodyweight skills, you probably know barbell strength doesn’t correlate that well to bodyweight skill ability, so what gives? Keep our context and goals in mind. If you solely wanted to be a bodyweight master, things would change. For me, aesthetics was a big bottleneck. If you’re wrapped up in aesthetics, you’re probably going to feel uneasy unless you know you’re working on the problem.

14a. Don’t think of this as “the best uber-ultra way to tackle barbell training” or “the best uber-ultra way to tackle bodyweight training.” Think of it as the way I go about fusing them both together given the absurd goals that I initially put on the table. In other words: appreciate context.

15. Don’t tangle your Schwartz. Barbell training is good for barbell training. Bodyweight training is good for bodyweight training. (And even then, there are categories that pop-up within each category. For bodyweight skills, down the line, you have straight arm strength and bent arm strength. Totally different.) Field work (jumping, hoping, etc.) is field work. Your mind is in a much better place if you see everything you do as a vehicle for just that: what’s being done.

15a. Sure, being able to squat a bit more weight might do you some good in the vertical jump department if you couldn’t squat much to begin with. Sure, being able to do some chin-ups might do you some good in the front lever department if you couldn’t do any chin-ups to begin with. There are many “Sure,” cases, but after an initial pseudo-beginner relationship, they all lose their zest.

goten and trunks fusion

16. Although they’re best seen as their own unique entities, there’s a sort of emergence that comes from combining barbell and bodyweight training — the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts, as is the case in any good fusionGotenks is stronger than Goten and Trunks. 

  • Barbell training is usually more organism taxing. There’s more grip work, spine loading, and it just seems to hit the entire system harder. Bodyweight training is less taxing, which means it’s easier for high frequency fiddling.
  • Barbell training forces you into a fixed vertically loaded movement plane most of the time. Bodyweight training allows for more movement freedom.
  • Because of the load, barbell training makes for a more bone bearing sort of tension and load. Bodyweight training, because of the freedom, allows you to adjust position and produce more tension through torque.
  • You can get better at barbell exercises while simultaneously turning into a fat slob. You can’t get better at bodyweight exercises and turn into a fat slob because you’re proficiency hinges on relative strength. Getting better at both makes for good things.

17. Perhaps the most interesting relationship of all comes from something Christopher Sommer said: gymnasts are “masters” of the shoulder joint, Olympic weightlifters are “masters” of the hip joint.

18. This makes it seem like the best idea is to simply jam them together, but that’s harder done than said. They are “masters” because they devote 100% of themselves to be said masters. Taking both and sandwiching them together is like smashing two religions together. Combine that with the fact that we have more goals on the table, and it’s getting sticky.

19. This is where a little context pops back up because unless you’re 100% involved in a sport, you have freedom of choice. Sometimes it’s best not to try to play by rules you don’t have to play by, but instead to take what’s most applicable.

Jeet Kune Do favors formlessness so that it can assume all forms and since Jeet Kune Do has no style, it can fit in with all styles. As a result, Jeet Kune Do utilizes all ways and is bound by none and, likewise, uses any techniques which serve its end.

In Jeet Kune Do, it’s not how much you have learned, but how much you have absorbed from what you have learned. It is not how much fixed knowledge you can accumulate, but what you can apply livingly that counts.

20. And so we get to an idea like this: If your goal is to do Judo, then go do Judo. If your goal is to do Taekwondo, then go do Taekwondo.

20a. But if your goal is to win a fight? Then maybe you should be formless. 

21. The goal of being formless is taking the most applicable techniques from domains that exist and not being a slave to arbitrary rules. The problem with doing this: we’re terrible retrospective thinkers. It’s easy to fall trap to our own biases, so we need to take a macro look and extract only the big principles.

22. I’ll save that for next time.

 

Is there a difference between barbell and bodyweight training?

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barbell bodyweight differences

Last post we waxed some context by basically saying that both “barbell training” and “bodyweight training” are ambiguous concepts that need a stronger definition. Being an Olympic weightlifter is “barbell training,” as is being a powerlifter. Being a gymnast is “bodyweight training,” as is being a twelve year old kid struggling to do five push-ups while watching Dragon Ball Z. (That last example may or may not be self anecdote.)

So the first step is really clarifying not only where your abilities are now, but where you want them to be in the future — you need a some sort of compass guiding your way.

Beyond the philosophical introductory layer, we can start to look at the differences between barbell and bodyweight training. And this topic is probably best seen under the direction of the age old question:

Is it possible to get good gains with just bodyweight training?

Stated another way, is there something one does that the other doesn’t? 

In my opinion, absolutely. 

The body only knows tension…right?

Talking about the differences between barbell and bodyweight training starts with a heuristic often thrown around: the body doesn’t know the tools, it only knows the tension. 

The body only knows that it needs to strain a certain amount to overcome an unfavorable situation (like being nearly crushed by favorably arranged hunks of iron). It doesn’t really say, “This is a barbell. This is a kettlebell. This is a dumbbell. This is…,” and then go on to give special attention to one tool over another.

And because of that, the body doesn’t necessarily respond in any unique or special way to any one piece of equipment, which brings us to this:

There’s no difference between barbell and bodyweight training because it’s all about tension produced; as long as you’re producing the same tension, you’re good to go. 

Right?

The trouble with tension

The most tension my calfs have ever experienced come at 2AM in the form of muscle cramps, and I don’t really see those as training sessions. (Although maybe I should keep a post-workout shake on hand every night, just in case!)

This view of tension is a problem because everything becomes muscle, muscle, muscle. We break our training down by muscle groups. We massage muscles. We gauge fatigue on how our muscles feel. We look at muscle tension.

We ogle over muscles.

But training and tension taxes more than the muscle. Consider that the muscle itself funnels into a tendon and that tendon funnels into bone. All of these things remodel under stress, not just the muscle. And then there’s the nervous system, endocrine system, immune system — yeah, you get the idea.

Training isn’t necessarily about tension

Training is about stress.

In order to really compare the two, we have to take a look at the stress each form of training makes the body deal with.

STRESS GIBLET #1 – ORGANISM EFFECTS

Although you can tax muscles with bodyweight training, the over all systemic effect doesn’t quite match up to the blow you can deliver with a barbell.

You can produce tension in the upper body pressing muscles with a push-up, but compare the systemic effect of a push-up with something like a bench press. In a push-up, you only have a certain percentage of your bodyweight being born by the bones of your arm — a percentage that always depends on your own bodyweight. With the bench press, “weight” isn’t a limiting factor, so you can load up the bar with more than your bodyweight (pending strength), which generally makes for a greater systemic overload.

This systemic effect potential of barbell exercises often can’t be replicated with bodyweight exercises because you can’t “load” the system in the same way. (A lot of people smarter than me often say that loading the spine make for great neurological demand.) You might be able to create comparable tension, but that doesn’t exactly equate to comparable stress. 

In a sense, you can say that barbell exercises can be more fever (widespread effect). Bodyweight exercises can be more head cold (local effect).

STRESS GIBLET #2 – TENSION (HEADACHES)

Let’s jump back to tension. Beyond systemic effects, you might be able to create comparable tension with bodyweight exercises.

Might. 

To understand this, we have to bring back to the bodyweight levels from last article.

LEVEL 0

Bodyweight squats, push-ups, inverted rows, etc.

LEVEL 1

Cossack squats, chin-ups/pull-ups, parallel bar dips, etc.

LEVEL 2

One arm push-ups, one arm chin-ups, pistol squats/shrimps, etc.

LEVEL 3

Levers, planches, handstands, and other floor/bar skills.

LEVEL 4

Basically the third level done on rings, and other advanced ring skills.

It’s not simply about producing tension, it’s about being able to scale tension overtime to continually challenge the status quo of adaptation. These layers put scale and tension in perspective given your current ability.

If you’re below LEVEL 0, then working towards LEVEL 0 will likely give you the tension and stress you need to see change. Same can be said of LEVEL 1. But once you pass LEVEL 0 and 1, scaling tension and overload is tough.

I’d bet you’d gain muscle taking yourself from being able to do one push-up per set to twenty. But twenty to thirty? To one-hundred?

Not so sure.

And so when you get good in the LEVEL 0 and 1 range, often times high training frequency is one of the only ways to continue the overload. You’re not really producing the same high tension (because you’re stronger), and so the only way to amass more is to do more.

Of course, you can move onto a higher level, but that doesn’t come without hiccups.

LEVEL 2 STRANGENESS

Something funky starts to happen around LEVEL 2. It would seem that, given the skills are tougher, they’d naturally overload the targeted muscles more than the lower levels…but that’s not always the case. 

Let’s take the one arm push-up, for example. By all means, supporting more weight on one arm means more overload. It also means more responsibility for the bones, tissues, and entire upper body pressing structure.

Things look good.

Except that, for a lot of people, the limiting factor in the one arm push-up isn’t necessarily the pressing strength, but rather the torso strength and being able to lock down and stabilize the the offset loading. Same thing happens with the pistol squat. Single leg makes for more stress than any bodyweight bilateral version, but poor ankle mobility — not leg strength — is often the limiting factor.

Moving up the chain into LEVEL 3, a weak set of wrists can (and likely will) limit the maximum tension you’d be able to produce up the chain and into the chest and shoulders. I could go on and on, but the main message is that for a lot of bodyweight exercises, technique (on some level) interferes with the ability to produce decent tension.

A quick recap

The body doesn’t know tools, only tension…but there are two caveats:

  1. Tension is nice, but it doesn’t represent the totality of what’s going on inside the body – the total stress. 
  2. Even though bodyweight exercises can produce some worthwhile tension, they can also be self limiting.

Naturally, this makes it seem like I’m flushing bodyweight exercises down the toilet, but I’m not doing that at all. (So to all you zealots ready to bash my face in: have patience.) Some of the bodyweight training’s supposed downfalls are actually upsides. And besides: barbell training ain’t perfect either. This is why I think combining them both is ideal, and that’s something we’ll keep unraveling next time.

The basics of combining barbell and bodyweight training: qualifying context

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combining barbell and bodyweight training anthony mychal

A lot of the questions I get asked pertain to the relationship between bodyweight and barbell training. Some of the hard hitters include:

  • How do you merge both?
  • Which is better?
  • Is there a way to get gains with just bodyweight training? Or just barbell training?

Being my contextually obsessive self, I have a hard time answering these questions because it’s like asking about ingredients in a recipe…without actually having a recipe.

And so, most often, I’m sure I answer in some snide philosophical tone that makes it seem like I’m dodging the question, even though in reality I’m just saving myself from my own self induced existential crisis. So before we start to tackle the bodyweight and barbell bucket, let’s start with some context.

BB + BW Combo: the barbell side of context

What does “bodyweight” training mean? “Barbell” training? We need to qualify these things before we do anything else.

Barbell training seems obvious enough, but it’s not. Bodybuilders, powerlifters, Olympic weightlifters, and even CrossFitters—all of these athletes use the barbell for a high percentage of their training, yet each athlete spats out differently.

Plopping bodyweight training atop an Olympic weightlifting ethos of pulling from the floor, putting things overhead, and squatting with a high frequency is different than plopping it atop a powerlifting ethos of more benching is different than training like ‘roided up bodybuilder that hits every muscle group hard once per week.

Qualifying barbell training is important because it usually determines (a) not only lifts that are prioritized, but also (b) training programming. The biggest implication of all of this being stress, and how to manage the stressors that each philosophy brings about.

If you’re a powerlifter that can’t give up bench pressing, then you’re in a different situation than a goonie like myself that holds no allegiance to any sort of sport. I can pick and choose my spots given my overall interests and goals, which is why I have barbell stones that err on the Olympic weightlifting side but aren’t fully immersed there.

BB + BW Combo: the bodyweight side of context

Qualifying bodyweight training is more frame of mind than anything else. One the questions we’ll eventually get to (and one I’m asked a ton) is whether or not it’s possible to get gains with just bodyweight training.

There are two unknowns to that question, and we’ll deal with this one first: what does “bodyweight” training mean to you? Doing a push-up is “bodyweight” training, but so is doing an iron cross.

Bodyweight skills, in my opinion, have tiers:

++++++

LEVEL 0

Bodyweight squats, push-ups, inverted rows, etc.

LEVEL 1

Cossack squats, chin-ups/pull-ups, parallel bar dips, etc.

LEVEL 2

One arm push-ups, one arm chin-ups, pistol squats/shrimps, etc.

LEVEL 3

Levers, planches, handstands, and other floor/bar skills.

LEVEL 4

Basically the third level done on rings, and other advanced ring skills.

+++++++

This classification will pop its head back up again for different reasons, but primary point now is that if you have a LEVEL 4 frame of mind then you’re in a totally different place than someone with a LEVEL 0 frame of mind.

(For curious minds: the levels aren’t linear. You don’t have to accomplish LEVEL 2 before moving to LEVEL 3, for instance. The classification has a different purpose beyond progression.)

BB + BW Combo: the end game

The last initial contextual layer is qualifying the end game: what gains are you seeking? Prioritizing skill development is different than prioritizing hypertrophy is different than wanting a combination of both.

For instance, CrossFit merges barbells and bodyweight training, but I’d never do CrossFit. Yet I merge barbell and bodyweight training—see how context is an important thing to tackle?

This sort of reroutes back to the above two buckets, in a way. CrossFitters compete in certain lifts and events and not others. There are not a lot of high level bodyweight skills in the sport, as the muscle-up was a long time pinnacle of bodyweight investment. For a gymnast though, a muscle-up is a ground zero fundamental skill.

BB + BW Combo: recap of context

Before going anywhere with a barbell and bodyweight conversation, you have to hit those three layers of context:

  • What kind of barbell training? What to do value? How does that determine how you’re going to train and the stressors you’re going to put on your body?
  • What kind of bodyweight training? Where’s your head at? LEVEL 0?
  • What’s the end game? Do you want to prioritize barbell training and use bodyweight as something “extra?” The reverse? What do you value and to what end?

And I think that’s a decent enough launch pad. We’re in a much better spot now to talk about merging both barbell and bodyweight training.

How I’m training one arm chin-ups

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one arm chin-up training pinky chin-up

I never really dove into one arm chins until a few weeks ago. With previous experience toying on rings and doing weighted chin-ups and archer chin-ups and just hanging from things a lot for the past few years, I expected to have a decent chance of doing one.

And then I found out I couldn’t even hang from one arm let alone pull myself up. 

Turns out, hanging from things with two arms is a great ball of cheese different than hanging from things with one arm. And so, the quest began.

If you don’t have a lot of weighted chin-up experience, some band and towel one arm chin methods (one arm on bar/ring, other holding the band/towel) are probably good for more strength.

But in my opinion, if you’ve been doing weighted chins for a long time you probably have the overall bilateral strength you need. What you need is to attack the weaknesses — the specific goobers that don’t get hit during bilateral work.

I decided that the best plan for me (as of usual) is to burn the fancy. With the pistol and one arm push-up, I learned those in a matter of weeks simply by getting as specific as possible to the movement and really exploiting my weak areas.

When you get too fancy or absolute strength oriented, it usually isn’t specific enough to the weak spots. So with the one arm chin, I’ve found two/one finger chin-ups to be the go-to.

Grab the bar normal with one hand. With the other hand, only loop your pinky (or ring and pinky) finger around the bar. (I guess, if you’re not as strong, you can use three or four fingers, focusing on ditching the fingers over time.)

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Come to a relaxed hang at both the start and finish.
  • Go slow on the negative.
  • Focus on using the pinky hand less and less.

How to make the last one happen? Use both hands going up. Obviously, you won’t get much out of your finger gripping hand, but it will help just enough.

When you get to the top, shift your weight to fully gripped hand. You should be able to ditch your grip on the pinky/ring hand, holding at the top with only one hand, but when you want to fully ditch your grip depends on your own strength level.

Since you’re stronger in the negative, lower yourself trying to use only your gripped hand. And that’s really the goal. Go up with the power of just your pinky, and then do the negative without it.

Happy chinning.

And may the gains be with you.

Trying to find the magic card

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There are fifty-two cards in a standard deck. Numbers go from 2 to 10. The face cards are the jack, queen, and king. And then there’s that ace thing, of course. Each card has four suits: clubs, diamonds, hearts, and spades.

Fifty-two total known cards.

It never changes.

The goofy thing about cards? If you aren’t playing a game, they’re nothing more than a shiny piece of paper or a thrifty coaster. But if you are playing a game? Everything changes. The cards represent a lot more.

But even when you’re playing “games,” there’s not one card that wins all the time — there’s no magic card that only a handful of people know about and are keeping secret.

Losers look for magic cards.

Because it’s not about the cards. The cards aren’t the hard part.

It’s about the game. The hard part is finding out the game you’re playing, and then arranging the desk so that you can’t lose.

Yes, the known deck.

It’s not a secret. Most everything you need is out there. And if you don’t know about it, it’s probably not hard to find. Instead of looking for new, think about context.

The rules of exercise order of operations

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A few “rules” exist:

  • Fast stuff before slow stuff.
  • Technical stuff before fatiguing stuff.
  • Big stuff before small stuff.
  • Complex stuff before simple stuff.
  • Difficult stuff before easy stuff.
  • Strength stuff before hypertrophy stuff.
  • Power stuff before strength stuff.
  • Speed stuff before power stuff.
  • Tough stuff before easy stuff.

But perhaps the most relevant:

Whatever you want to get better at most, do it first and do it fresh. 

Handstand training and balancing tips from my notebook

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Anthony Mychal Handstand Tips

Take your shoes and socks off, close your eyes, stand on your left foot, and then lift your right knee to the sky. Try to balance on your left leg. You might just tip over. At the least, you’ll probably notice that your weight is shifting all over your foot as you fight to maintain balance.

Balancing is hard, especially when you’re in positions and using muscles you aren’t used to using. If you get into handstands later in life (in other words: beyond five years old), the muscles and bones of your wrist haven’t necessarily adapted to support your entire bodyweight, let alone contract and relax to maintain some kind of equilibrium.

Just like balancing on one foot, it takes time to develop the proprioception and awareness to have your muscles fire on and off based upon the feedback your brain is processing in an inverted position (which is isn’t exactly used to).

A good friend of mine, Yuri Marmerstein, once said something that translated into: a very important part of learning how to handstand is learning how keep your body in balance. (By the way, Yuri has a personal website you can visit here.) Just like standing on one leg, you need to expect that you’re going to sway back and forth. It’s your job to fight this by contracting and relaxing the right muscles and understanding what it means to balance in the handstand position.

You shouldn’t expect to just fling your legs in the air and stick the position. You have to fight to maintain balance.

Although you should strive for “perfect” position, it won’t always happen. Sometimes you feel like you’re going to tip over your body (like if you threw your legs up too hard) — consider this tipping forwards. Other times you feel like your legs will just return to the ground (like if you didn’t throw them up hard enough) — consider this tipping backwards.

The picture above is a page from my training log a while back with thoughts on just that.

Tipping forwards

  • Contract glutes hard, as that makes it easier to contract abs
  • Point your toes to the sky
  • Jam your weight onto your fingertips

Tipping backwards

  • Open your shoulders
  • Get your head in between your shoulders
  • Break at the hips to try to get your hips more vertical
  • Get more weight on the base of your palms
  • Lead with the heels

You should go up with the best intentions; don’t get me wrong. These are just things you can do or think about once things start to breakdown.

And if you’re having trouble or are wondering about anything else handstand related, Gold Medal Bodies wrote up a pretty amazing tutorial for my site many moons ago that you can read here.

Training lesson from Goku and Gohan in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber

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Goku and Gohan Training Tip Hyperbolic Time Chamber

In prep for the fight against Cell, Goku and Gohan go into the hyberbolic time chamber and get to work. While inside they come across a funky idea: transforming into a Super Saiyan is rough business, and too much energy is lost in the transformation itself.

The fix?

Learn how to stay in Super Saiyan all the time. That way, the mondo amount of energy loss doesn’t happen.

Most everyone tries to push their ceiling — it’s all about pushing the max. Go Super Saiyan 1, then Super Saiyan 2, then Super Saiyan 3 . . .

Consider this pinnacle. You have a certain absolute power level and it’s all about ticking on another number.

Some food for thought though, especially if you have a decent power level: instead of constantly trying to increase your power level, think about whether it might be worth it to learn how to train at a higher % of your current max with less emotional investment.

It’s nice to be able to ramp up to a high level, but there’s a difference between being able to do that once in a millennium and once . . . every day. 

(Just saiyan: Super Saiyan 2 was right around the corner after implementing this strategy.)

Louis CK on first world hunger and third world hunger

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I’m a little hungry. I mean I “feel” hungry. Americans shouldn’t say “I’m hungry” they should say “I feel hungry.”

If you ate today you shouldn’t say “I’m hungry.” Hunger is a real thing.

I don’t have third world hunger, I have first world hunger: I would like a doughnut.

Some people say I’m starving. That’s offensive. Don’t say that… Because some people are starving, and they don’t say it.

How lucky we are to have this thing called “intermittent fasting” for our contemplation as a way to get jacked. It seems funny, doesn’t it? We’re so well off that we succumb to purposeful short term starvation in order to look better naked.

Although intermittent fasting has done a lot of things to me (both good and bad), one of the things I am grateful for is that it taught me what it means to be hungry. It also taught me how lucky I am. Even at my most desperate hour of hunger during my longest fake fast I could fathom, food is so simple to get a hold of.

How great that we exercise to increase our energy beyond normal so that, in a manner of speaking, we create a self inflicted energy crisis within our body.

If you’re reading this, you’re lucky. Luckier than you can imagine. If you’re trying to recreate your physical self — even if you’re at a place of total self hatred right now — remember that simply being in the position to do it is something special. It’s like the artist being given a notepad and pencil for the first time.

Beyond calories, sets, reps, exercises, and everything that everyone get’s caught up on, it comes down to this: are you going to care enough and feel lucky enough to pick up the pencil and draw?