Techniques to Build Muscle, as you can see then, there are plenty of ways you can make bodyweight training hard. Can you do a hand stand push up with one hand yet? Can you hold planche (arms on the maltese push up position, legs hovering behind you)? If not, then you haven’t exhausted all the possibilities with bodyweight training yet!
The problem is that a lot of people just don’t apply these techniques right when doing bodyweight training to try and build muscle. They do 30 press ups three times and then call it a day for pecs! Either that you they have a weak attempt at a maltese push up, or at a one handed push up and then they give up.
But remember: to accomplish the very most growth you need to increase volume and that means the amount of repetitions and the amount of weight.
And you need to find ways to push yourself past failure. If you stop before you’re forced too then you won’t cause those microtears and you won’t trigger that much growth.
This is where we can turn to bodybuilders for inspiration. They will combine a number of different exercises in unique ways in order to push past failure and increase their volume and their time under tension. These techniques are referred to as ‘intensity techniques’ or the ‘Joe Weider principles’.
They include things like drop sets – which involve lowering the weight each time you reach failure and then doing more reps. They also include supersets (switching quickly from one move to the next), giant sets (performing huge combinations of different exercises with no rest in between), burns (performing as much of the movement as they can once their muscles have tired out and given up), rest-pause (stopping halfway through the movement so that they aren’t able to rely on momentum to help them through), pre-exhaust (exhausting one muscle group before an exercise so that the other muscles have to work on their own), cheats (cheating through the move so they can do just a couple more reps)… and more!
This is how you need to start thinking about your bodyweight training if you want to trigger maximum muscle growth.
That means that you don’t just do ‘three sets of ten’ all the time. Instead you might use something called a ‘mechanical drop set’ which means that you make the weight lighter each time you fail but changing your position.
For instance, you could do:
Clapping press ups to failure à Normal press ups to failure à Press ups on your knees to failure
One handed pull ups to failure à Two handed pull ups to failure à Assisted pulls up to failure
Now you are fatiguing the fast twitch muscle fibers multiple times during the movement and you are pushing yourself far past failure. You’ve increased the weight, the time under tension and more and you should feel this start to burn in the muscle.
Really focus on that – listen to your body and try to feel how your muscles are responding. Can you feel the pump and the burn? Are you getting the same kind of workout from this training as you would do by lifting very heavy weights in the gym? If it doesn’t feel hard enough, then you need to go back to the drawing board and start making it harder!
You can even use ‘burns’ at the end of these sequences. So once you’ve done as many pull ups as you can, you simply hang and perform as much of the movement as you can and feel the muscle burning as you do.
Who said that bodyweight workouts had to be easy?