Body weight only training

Q: "I recently read your article, Body Contract 2.0, and loved it. I read it, because though I know a lot about great exercises, I know almost nothing about creating a program. I love using difficult body weight exercises, I have a nice dumbbell weight set and some jump stretch resistance bands. 

"Since you know so much about putting together programs, how can I put together a program with body weight exercises and resistance bands and what would be some resources were I could learn how to put together programs? I appreciate you taking your valuable time to help me out."

A 16 year Old Basketball Player

My Answer: A strength training program is only as good as its equipment. If you have an effective weight training program but only have access to calisthenics, stretch bands and dumbbells, then that's like having the architectural designs of I.M. Pei, but you only a hammer and nails to work with.

It really depends on what your goal is with weight training. If you're looking to have a nice trim physique with muscle tone, then dumbbells, stretch bands and calisthenics should do fine. If you're looking to gain muscle mass, then what you have won't cut it. Truly effective programs require heavy phases, and unless you have some heavy dumbbells, then you're limited as far as effective programs.

If you're sticking to dumbbells, calisthenics and stretch bands because of space and inexpensive cost, then I suggest you get a "power tower," something that will allow you to do pull-ups and dips. Those are heavy body weight exercises when you first start out. Later on you can hang weight on yourself. Plus, your dumbbells should be heavy enough so that you'll pressing and curling at the 4-8 rep range.

If you're truly interested in program design, I go over the topic in detail in Strength and Physique Volume One and Volume TwoStrength and Physique Volume One goes over exercise selection and split routine design, while Volume Two goes over the nuts and bolts of designing a program that cycles through all of your body's natural anabolic hormones.

Q: "What is the minimal amount of cardio one can do w/o effecting muscles gains but while still getting the heart healthy benefits?"

- Matthew

My Answer: Frankly, cardio in the traditional manner doesn't do much for cardiovascular health. It's your diet that has the greatest impact on cardiovascular health. Doing cardio on a crappy diet is like hosing a brick wall hoping the other side gets wet. If you're serious about cardiovascular health, then don't eat high carb with high fat. This is what gets people into trouble, not high fat alone.

So a steak and salad? Good idea.

A bagel with cream cheese? Heart attack city.

Plus take some fish oil, the number one supplement I would recommend for cardiovascular health. If you want to train for cardiovascular benefits, then do some high rep kettlebell swings instead.

Q: "Why aren't the traditional barbell curls listed in your sample biceps routine? At least I don't recall that I saw them there. Barbell curls are considered to be the king of biceps exercises."


My Answer: King of biceps exercises? On what basis? I like the barbell curl, but Strength and Physique: High Tension Exercises for Muscular Growth explains why the biceps like dumbbells better. When it comes to upper body exercises and hypertrophy, the dumbbell version always beats the barbell version, hands down. This is for all upper body dumbbell exercises, not just curls. Your nervous has to exercise far more control on a pair of heavy dumbbells than it does on a barbell.

The dumbbells are easier on the joints, because they don't lock you in like the barbell. Your hands can twist and turn the dumbbells as you move the weight. Plus the range of motion is greater with dumbbells. Do a barbell curl, and the range of motion starts and stops at mid-thigh, because the bar is impeding the full range of curling. Dumbbell curls allow you to go through a full range of motion, which is better for biceps development.

Q: "My workout and Air Force PT test include pushups, situps, and running for 30 minutes 3 times per week. Do I run before or after the 10-8-6-15 workout? What are examples of carbs? Thanks!"


My Answer: You don't know what carbs are?! You need to do some homework. Take the time to educate yourself on diet and training. If you're just doing pushups, situps and running, then no wonder you're not gaining any muscle. I shouldn't have to tell you that you need to hit the weights. Focus on the weights and do the running afterwards.

Q: "Sorry to bother you again, but I'm just wondering if you have any recommendations for a lower chest exercise? Besides the dips you recommended in Strength and Physique Volume One, because those are impossible to do especially when you suggest doing them after other chest exercises.

"I constantly hear decline presses are useless, and considering your exercise guides have been extremely beneficial, I would like to know your opinion on the matter."


My Answer: I wouldn't say that decline presses are useless. They will definitely get you the thickness in the lower pectoral area. But do you want man-boobs? If you're looking to develop symmetry, then you want your pecs to look like a "\_|_/" not "(_|_)." You want to give your chest an angular look.

If you can't do Gironda dips, then try decline cable flyes. It's not as effective in giving you that lower pec thickness that creates that "W" shadow, but it is the next best thing.

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