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Monday, February 14, 2011

How To Build Muscle Using Bodyweight Exercise

Regular readers will know that I like bodyweight exercises.  Why?  They are simple, inexpensive, effective and safe.  If you want to compete in weightlifting at the Olympics or become a power lifter then you need a gym with free weights.  But if all you want to achieve is to get in shape, look good in clothes and get stronger so you can enjoy life more, then all you need are bodyweight exercises and the will to transform your body.

SIMPLE - you don't need a gym membership to get in shape, build strength or build muscular endurance.  You need a little space and a pull up bar.  Throw in some dumb bells if you have them but that's strictly optional.

INEXPENSIVE - You don't need P90X, Insanity or some other DVD program *unless* you need to see people around working out and that gives you motivation.  Instead of spending the money on exercise DVDs, buy a pull up bar and a yoga mat.

EFFECTIVE - Check this guy here. All he did was commit to a bodyweight exercise program called SimpleFit. I got into shape using mainly bodyweight exercises.  You can scale bodyweight exercises to be harder or easier depending on your strength level.  Check out these tutorials for common exercises.  Bodyweight exercises have the ability to transform your body if you are willing to change the way you eat.

SAFE - Safety is important and my number 1 priority in working out.  Once we are over forty, we really don't want to get injured.  Recovery takes longer when we are older and being hurt means we miss training time.

The key idea I employ in building muscle is to maximize the muscle's time-under-load.  In order to build muscle, the muscle has to be stressed to a point where it experiences microtrauma.  This microtrauma is what causes the muscles to ache 24-48 hours after the workout.  The pain resulting from microtrauma is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).  Once the muscle experiences hypertrophy, it gets bigger and stronger.

Demanding strength from muscles ultimately influences gene expression which causes protein synthesis. The body upregulates the entire biological chain needed to engage muscle formation and increase strength.  So how do we "tell" our muscles to get bigger and stronger?

With bodyweight exercise, our repetitions are usually upwards of 10 or 12 before we reach failure (the inability of the muscle to contract any further).  With standard push ups for example, I won't reach failure until upwards of 40 good form push ups.  Once I reach failure with whatever exercise I am doing, I will scale the exercise to an easier mode without interruption and keep performing work until the muscles reach failure a second time. Form is cherished over speed. After a minute of resting, I will perform a second set of the same exercise to keep working the muscle group.  I will do about 3 sets of that particular exercise.  Some times I might do more sets if I really want to work the muscle group, but never less than 3 sets.



Once those three sets are done, I might do one more set of increased difficulty repetitions.  This means I will choose a harder option of working the muscle even though I will be doing fewer repetitions.  In case of push ups, it might mean doing elevated push ups or clapping push ups or narrow, diamond push ups.  With pull ups, I just keep doing pull ups and chin ups until the muscles fail.  Even then one can still do SUPERSLOW negatives to continue the muscle's time-under-load.



Progressively loading the muscles during a training day then allowing up to 6 days for full recovery is a good and safe way to build muscles using bodyweight workouts.


Victor

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