Make Body Weight Exercises Challenging Without Doing High Reps

November 12, 2009

The problem with many body weight exercises like push ups is that once you get strong, low reps stop challenging the muscle. I am a firm believer in including a decent amount of high-tension lifting to maximize muscle definition. Typically, high-tension is achieved by doing heavy weights for low reps. The problem with body weight exercise is that there isn’t really a practical way to add weight to your body. What if I told you there was a way to achieve super-high tension in any body weight exercise, allowing you to build muscle density and increased definition over time? Well that is exactly the tip I would like to talk about today!

body weight exercises

[I figured a nice autumn picture with a "Human Female Chameleon" would be appropriate for this article. Better than some guy doing push ups...yawn.]

Giving Credit to the Guys I Learned This From…

Adam Steer and Ryan Murdock are body weight Ninja-Masters. I have become friends with Adam over the past year and I am really impressed with his unorthodox training style. Anyway, in his BBFFL course, that I am currently following, he talks about this technique. In fact, the entire 2nd phase of his program revolves around doing nothing but this type of body weight training.

Body Weight Static Holds…Ouch!

I am not sure why I didn’t think of this before. It is such a simple way to make easy exercises like push ups, tough and effective. I have only completed 2 workouts of doing nothing but body weight static holds, and have experienced a noticeable increase in muscle definition. Here is the basic explanation of a body weight static hold…holding your body in a position of resistance without moving, for a set period of time. So in the case of doing a push up, you would lower yourself about 1/2 way down and then hold that position for a set period of time (40 seconds, 30 seconds, etc).

Using Push Ups to Explain This In More Detail

Let’s say you wanted to use body weight static holds to work your chest and triceps. You are going to perform 9 total sets of static holds. You will do 3 sets close to the bottom position of a push up (chest close to the floor). You will then move on and do 3 sets of static hold push ups close to mid-point of a push up. Finally, you will do 3 sets of static hold push ups closer to the lockout position. The goal is to do the toughest position of a movement first, then a position of less resistance, finishing with the easiest position.

Sets and Rest Periods of a Body Weight Static Holds

A set means that you are holding a position without moving for a set period of time. A good starting point is 40 seconds. You will rest for about 30-40 seconds (best if you time it) and then do another hold for 40 seconds, etc. As you get stronger, you can either increase the length of time you are doing the static hold -or- decrease the rest.

You Can Also Do These is Superset Fashion

With Adam’s BBFFL routine, we are doing these as supersets…using opposing muscle groups. So each static hold push up is followed by a static hold horizontal pull. You can get really creative doing body weight exercises in this fashion. The additional benefit of doing these is lactic acid buildup throughout the workout. I explain in great detail why lactic acid helps in burning body fat in this post: How Interval Training Works – Lactic Acid, Oxygen Debt, and Recovery

Increasing Lactic Acid While Generating High Tension?

Here is why I think body weight static holds are outstanding—> You will generate powerful contractions to your target muscles, while simultaneously building up lactic acid. This will help you burn fat while building muscle density at the same time. In most workouts you are either doing one thing or the other…it is pretty darn cool to find a way to both at the same time!

Get Creative While Implementing These Into Your Routine

Feel free to mix these in to your free-weight workouts. For instance, after you do bench presses, maybe you follow with 3 sets of wide grip body weight static hold push ups. Possibly you end your tricep workout with 6 sets of dips (2 holds in each position). You could firm up your legs with 6 sets of body weight Bulgarian split squats after (or before) doing HIIT on the treadmill, etc.

Note: These are tougher than they sound on paper. To get a sample of how this feels, do that 9 set push up workout I outlined above. Try doing each set for 40 seconds, followed by 40 seconds of rest. You will feel lactic acid buildup…you will feel serious tension in the muscles!

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Rusty Moore

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{ 86 comments… read them below or add one }

Trampoline March 25, 2011 at 7:05 am

Weight Watchers diet nutrition programs, with the advice and exercise, which are the key, and healthy weight loss and healthy lifestyle.

joe lund May 13, 2011 at 12:32 pm

lol. that picture had me really confused at first, but hey great writeup, I am huge into personal fitness and even I learned a few tidbits i didn’t know.

coach backpack May 18, 2011 at 2:52 am

it was a forgoten method, it’s a good thing that you brought this up

espinillas en la cara June 15, 2011 at 10:34 pm

Informative content and very interesting. This a great challenge for me to do some body weight exercises. Thanks!

Male Edge Extender June 17, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Anyway whatever exercise you prescribe if the client has no discipline and drive everything will be useless. First and foremost the client should be motivated and the exercises given should not bore him.

Dripping Springs Remodeling Contractor June 18, 2011 at 7:26 am

I have had real success simply by varying my routines, and even the number of reps over the course of a month. Sometimes I will drop my reps into the basement, but task myself with making my routine last as long as usual.

como aclarar la piel June 18, 2011 at 10:52 am

another wonderful article to read on.thanks!

como retardar la eyaculacion June 21, 2011 at 12:01 am

thanks for this great guide of body weight exercise!

ejercicios contra la celulitis June 21, 2011 at 9:40 am

I’m glad I found this post Rusty. You always have good intel! thanks!

teenage clothing stores July 18, 2011 at 10:45 am

This is a very bright post. I am sure there are lots of people out there that would surely love this article. It is great to know that there was a way to achieve super high tension in any body weight exercise.

Adrian August 26, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Well you can even progress with high reps. The key is to perform strength moves under cardio respiratory stress and do cardio respiratory moves under muscular stress. The reason why you need to add weights to barbell in weight training is that once you do 8 reps with weights, you need to add weight for progression and this is primarily because you don’t get huffing and puffing on the 8th rep.
With bodyweight exercises you get huffing and puffing on the 10th rep or more. When you rest for a minute and again do one more set of 10 reps it stress the muscles. Then once this becomes easy reduce the rest interval to 30 sec instead of one minute. Again once this becomes easy add one more set of 10 reps with one minute rest intervals and then reduce the interval to 30 seconds. Progress this way until you can do 10 sets each of 10 rep with 30 sec rest interval. Once this becomes easy go for supersets then giant sets. Your body does not understands the number of sets you do or reps you do but only the amount of stress the muscles and tendons are subjected to. This way you can become strong like hell. The reasoning why this works is because the muscles are subjected to perform under cardiorespiratory stress.
I have come across a web page with gives out a free report on cardio intervals

Como Controlar La EyaculaciĆ³n Precoz August 29, 2011 at 10:57 pm

I have had real success simply by varying my routines, and even the number of reps over the course of a month. Sometimes I will drop my reps into the basement, but task myself with making my routine last as long as usual.

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