Written by John Hockley
If you watched the Olympics this year and were amazed by the physique’s of the gymnasts then maybe it’s time to switch up your routine and try some body-weight exercises. Body-weight exercises help build strength, improve your body’s natural range of motion and avoid the likelihood of injury.
If you want to get stronger you have to force your body to change, and that means challenging it in a different way. Body-weight exercises are by far the best method to improve strength, which is why they have been around since the dawn of time. They build a well-balanced physique that does not just look impressive but is functional at the same time.
The king of all upper body exercises is the pull-up, it works every muscle in your back to your shoulders, arms and even your core. Resistance machines and free weights are great for improving strength, however I’m sure if you asked anyone on the lat-pull down machine to perform 10 strict pull-ups, it wouldn’t happen.
Why The Pull Up?
Well, the pull-up is a skill and it takes patience and time to perfect, but once you have mastered it, it’s a statement of true strength!
Not everyone can jump straight onto the pull-up bar and perform perfect reps, but don’t let that stop you, we all have to start somewhere. There are a number of ways to build your pulling power. These include:
#1 Machine assisted Pull-up
#2 Inverted Row’s
#3 Eccentric Pull-up
In order to build strength, you want to work in the rep range of 4-6. Even if you are performing one pull-up and having to rest, stick with it. I would recommend one day a week in the low rep range followed by another session 4-5 days later in the higher rep range. For example, on Monday you may perform 5 sets of 5 pull-ups with a 2-minute rest, and on Friday you may perform 4 sets of 20 inverted rows with a 1-minute rest. Over time, your strength and numbers will improve.
That’s your back taken care of, now for your chest. The two best exercises are Dips and the Press-up. How many times have you waited for a bench press or cable fly to be free on a Monday night when the Dip bar sits alone? There is no better strength builder than these two exercises.
The Press-up often gets overlooked because of how simple it is, but it remains incredibly effective. If the standard Press-up doesn’t challenge you then try switching up your hand positions or place your feet on a bench.
Once you have got to grips with the basics, you can manipulate these moves in a number of ways to keep your body guessing and continue to build strength. These include:
Perform as many pull-ups followed by as many Dips or Press-ups as possible. Rest 1-2 minutes and repeat. I promise your upper body will be burning.
Slow eccentrics are key to improving strength. Try performing any of these moves with a 4 second lowering phase, then explode back up. Repeat this for as many reps as possible.
Rest-pause. Having completed your set of five pull-ups, rest for 10 seconds and go again. You may only hit 1-2 reps, but repeat this sequence 2-3 times and your strength will sky-rocket.
Every minute on the minute. If you are short on time or want to try something different then this protocol is perfect. Try performing 5 Pull-ups or 10 Press-ups every minute, on the minute, for 10 minutes. Trust me, it’s harder than it sounds.
Take Home Message
If you are looking to improve your strength without the risk of injury, or simply trying to find new ways develop your physique, try something new by bringing back the old. There is a reason these three exercises have stood the test of time and I can guarantee the results will come.