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!
[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!