Note: Mike Joplin has sadly passed away on 29 November 2017 at age 72. (Full details here). I’m sending my condolences to his family and loved ones.
In the mid 1960’s a young US NAVY medic named Mike Joplin was stationed in Puerto Rico (Roosevelt Roads: aka – Roosey Roads).
Like most young men, he craved the attention of beautiful women, and he got it, but for the wrong reasons.
At a mere 155 pounds and at 6’1 height, he was known as “the skinny guy”.
Despite his low bodyweight, he was unable to complete a single pull up!
Fortunately for Mike, all of this changed…
After just 12 months of training, Mike was a lean mean 200 pounds of muscle at 6’1.
He had what most people would call a great “beach body”: wide shoulders, V-tapered torso, square chest, muscular arms, a trim waist and legs that were in proportion to his upper body.
At the time, Mike didn’t even know what sets and reps were. He just followed his gut and trained and ate in a way he thought would get him results.
The Motivation Behind Mike’s Transformation: WOMEN
When I first arrived in Puerto Rico, I quickly discovered that Puerto Rican women will tell you what they think… whether you ask or not. The girls would call me “skinny” (in Spanish) right to my face. They would yell at me: “How Skinny!” in Spanish. I hated that. As a matter of fact, THAT is why I started exercising. But by the time I left Puerto Rico, I had girls coming right up to me to feel my muscles…girls that I didn’t even know…girls that I would meet just walking down a street. They would call me “How Big!” in Spanish. What an amazing transformation…in just 12 months. – Mike Joplin
A lot of people will scoff at you when you mention that you do something to get the attention of the opposite sex, but Mike used women as his motivation to succeed. His intention was not to get “stronger”. His intention was simply to “look better”. He got both!
He succeeded because attracting higher quality women can be one of the biggest motivations for a man to succeed in whatever area of life he chooses to focus on.
In the book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill states that sexual energy is the single best natural stimulant that is given to a man.
Sexual energy can stimulate a man to achieve massive success or it can break him. In Mike’s case, he directed his sexual energy into transforming his body, and it paid off big time.
Greasing the Groove: Pull Ups Every Day
Mike was determined to make a change in his life, therefore he would do pull ups every single day – except on weekends where he partied in San Juan or in small towns close to the base.
His pull ups were always done on an open doorframe, since he had no other choice. This makes the exercise much harder and activates the lats more. (The navy base had a gym, but it was very small and had one bench, one barbell, and one set of dumbbells. So he just started doing bodyweight exercises).
When Mike trained, he would make sure to never exhaust himself too much. He would always stop his sets one or two reps before failure and feel fresh after his training sessions. He never maxed out and kept each pull ups set to a maximum of 12 reps. However, he always did partial reps and static holds on the negative reps.
This strategy has connotations of “grease-the-groove” which means that you train the same exercise often (sometimes several times a day), but you never go to failure. By doing this you avoid the daily fatigue that comes from high intensity training where you go to muscular failure.
The idea behind this strategy is that by staying away from failure you can train the same exercise often and over time you will be able to increase your reps since your body gets accustomed to the exercise.
In other words, Mike trained his pull ups as a “skill”, where he focused on getting good at them by practicing them often.
Besides pull ups he would occasionally do push ups (and a couple of other upper bodyweight exercises, like inverted rows – with a pole over the backs of two chairs). He also did leg raises for his core. And two or three times a week, he would do 30 minutes of hill sprints for legs (sprint 20 seconds, rest 2-3 minutes).
Nutrition: 4,000-6,000 Calories a Day
(During the weekdays)
The most interesting part about Mike’s amazing 1 year transformation was his nutrition.
When he was on base (Monday-Friday) he would eat like a starved dog. He would eat EVERYTHING he could get his hands on, except for bread, deserts, and sugary snacks — which he would never touch.
Besides eating everything in sight, Mike estimates that he drank 1 gallon of milk on the days where he was on base, and he would also drink beer/rum & coke with a slice of lime (aka: Cuba Libre, meaning “Free Cuba”) at least 2-3 nights while on base.
With that amount of milk, food and alcohol it’s fair to estimate that Mike got in approximately 4,000-6,000 calories on the 5 days of the week where he was staying in the base.
However, when the weekends rolled around his nutrition would change… drastically. His last meal of the week was usually Friday night where he would eat dinner on base, and then leave for San Juan to party the whole weekend.
While being in San Juan, he would go out, drink and have fun, but he would rarely eat. When he did eat, he would get a quick Puerto Rican meal like chicken and potatoes, or rice and beans. In the smaller towns of Puerto Rico, cold coconut water from fresh, young coconut shells (high in potassium) was available from street vendors.
You Can Get Away With A Lot When You’re Young
When you’re a young man (around age 18-25) you can get away with a lot.
Mike is an example of that. He ate an enormous amount of calories, partied all weekend, often skipped his sleep, and drank 3-5 nights a week — yet he was able to gain 45 pounds of quality mass in just 1 year while maintaining a trim core.
However, to “get away with a lot” you have to start your transformation from a lean base, and you have to train often.
When you’re lean, your body is better at partitioning nutrients (using food for muscle gains), therefore it is primed to pack on quality mass as long as you train often and eat enough to support muscle gains.
And this doesn’t just apply for the young guys reading this. It applies to everyone.
Mike still uses many of the principles he used during his early 20’s, and is in AMAZING shape at age 70!
Mike Joplin’s Massive Back at Age 70!
It’s easier to build a great physique when you are between 18 and 25 years old. However, anyone who is willing to commit to an (adjustable) training program can change his or her life in a matter of a few months. I actually built more muscle and had a more massive physique when I was in my late 30’s and early 40’s than when I was in my 20’s. And now that I am in my 70’s, I’m still in great shape. – Mike Joplin
The picture shows Mike’s massive back TODAY at age 70. He’s still doing his pull ups religiously, but he has made a few adjustments since his young years where he could get away with a lot of drinking and eating:
I’ve never counted calories, and I rarely count reps. My training is mostly effort based. And I always finish my training sessions feeling fresh. I never change my exercises. I’m not (and never have been) into the ‘muscle confusion’ theory. I never change my exercises, but I do change the way I do them. Regarding my nutrition, I usually eat the same kind of meals over and over. However, it’s not boring, because I can mix and match all kinds of ingredients, etc. Because I abused my stomach with alcohol as a youth, I have also found that the older I get the more supplements I use… mostly for digestion purposes (Probiotics, HCL w/ Pepsin, Greens, etc.). I also drink smoothies, and I juice every now and then. – Mike Joplin
Current Exercise, Nutrition and Supplement Regimen
Resistance Training Exercises (all bodyweight exercises except for one):
- Pull ups
- Inverted rows
- Deadlifts (once a week, 1 set of 3 reps — just to lift something heavier than my body weight once a week)
- Chest and Triceps push ups (feet always slightly elevated)
- Leg raises
- Ab wheel
- Windshield vipers for abs
- Bicycles for abs
- Sissy squats
- Bodyweight ham curls
- Wall sits
- Intermittent fasting
- Paleo diet
- Poliquin’s meat and nuts diet
- Tim Ferris’ slow carb diet
- Vince Gironda’s Meat and Eggs Diet
(And lots of water throughout the day).
I don’t mix them (diet strategies) through-out the day. What I do is maybe follow one for a whole week (or longer, sometimes), and then another. I don’t eat many different meals. I usually eat the “same” meals over and over. It’s so simple to do that. And for me, because, even at 70, my days are filled with things to do, I don’t have time to prepare new meals all the time. It’s just not necessary. – Mike Joplin
- Fish Oil (#1 supplement): Reduce inflammation inside your body.
- Multi-vitamin with minerals: Minerals are just as important as the vitamins – maybe more.
- Protein powder (only for convenience)
- Coconut Oil (organic, cold pressed) or MCT Oil
- Greens (if not juicing): Cover your daily vegetable needs.
Getting In Shape After A Decade of Drinking
After reading this article you may think that Mike has been in shape for his entire life, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Once Mike was discharged from the navy he continued his drinking and partying, but he slacked on his exercise regimen.
As time went by he got out of shape, gained weight and became “really FAT” — with a 46″ belly.
He managed to turn this around again though. At around age 39-40 when he settled down and got married, he resumed his training (he did pull ups and a few other exercises). However, he first dropped down to 175 pounds to lean out and prepare his body for massive muscle gains.
(Mike hasn’t consumed alcohol for over 30 years!)
Once he had leaned out, he rebuilt his body to a massive 220 pounds of muscle, which is 20 pounds heavier than he was in his early 20’s!
I was HUGE. I turned heads everywhere I went. – Mike Joplin
This is just one of many examples of Mike being in-and-out of shape since his early 20’s. He even got skinny again (below 160 pounds)… and then skinny-fat.
The lesson here is that once you have built your body it’s easy to rebuild it because of muscle memory. (Your body remembers it used to carry a certain amount of muscle mass so once you resume exercise it does everything it can to regain that muscle mass quickly and adapt to the demands imposed by exercise).
Another lesson is that you shouldn’t let yourself get out of shape.
Once you build a muscular physique you can maintain it with as little as 2-3 short training sessions a week (max 45 minutes):
After being in and out of shape most of his life, Mike understands that maintaining the physique that you have worked so hard to build is easier than the building process. (Maintenance is defined as keeping the “look” that you want while continually increasing your strength…in very small,but steady increments).
Final Words of Advice by Mike Joplin
The advice below is written by Mike Joplin:
After 70 years of life I can tell you with certainty that no matter what your condition is now, and no matter how old you are… you CAN build a great physique and KEEP it. You just have to decide to do it and then follow through.
If you have never attempted to transform your body, or if you have tried in the past without success, and if you are confused by all the hype on the Internet… then hiring a professional may be your best bet — at least for the first few months of your transformation.
And-by-the-way, as I look back on my life, having a BIG physique (200 pounds) or a HUGE physique (220 pounds) was not the best physique for me.
I looked best and felt best at 185 pounds. Actually, I could have lost another five pounds (at least) and looked and felt even better.
So don’t think that you have to build a big or huge physique, because you really don’t.
Adding just two or three pounds of muscle to key muscle groups is all you really need to transform yourself (as well as losing fat, if necessary).
See my picture below, at 185 pounds.
Conclusion written by Oskar Faarkrog:
Even though Mike isn’t naturally skinny-fat like most of you reading this, he had 2 huge obstacles that are not present in the modern world:
- He didn’t have access to a fully equipped gym or even a pull up bar. (In the mid 1960’s, the navy base had a gym, but it was very small and had one bench, one barbell, and one set of dumbbells).
- He didn’t have access to an abundance of free fitness content.
Despite that, he managed to gain an impressive 45 pounds in 1 year of training while staying lean.
I believe that his success can be boiled down to 3 key things:
- Consistency: He was consistent with his training and trained often without any excuses.
- Simplicity: He focused on getting good at just ONE exercise: Pull ups done from a doorframe.
- Balance: He didn’t make his entire life revolve around fitness. Just like me, he had fun and partied throughout his entire (initial) transformation. (He now — and has for many years — attends church regularly with his wife, daughter, and granddaughter).
To conclude this article, I would like to thank Mike for taking the time to discuss his training, diet and life with me and if you have any questions for Mike, feel free to leave a comment below and he will get back to you.
Be proud but stay hungry,
PS: Check out more tips and wisdom from Mike’s 50 years of calisthenics at HomeMadeMuscle.com
I wish Mike was still around.
After years of Calisthenics, most of it inspired by this article and Mikes many insightful comments, there are a number of subjects Id like to talk to him about today – to learn even more from him.
And I wish he had had the time to finish his book – what a calisthenics treasure that would have been!
Heres thinking about you, Mike – thank you again, and Godspeed.
I first heard of you from a review you did for the “Iron Chest Master”. I’m sadden I haven’t got the chance to talk to you. Thank you for all your motivation.
Had passed this to MIke and wished to say here, how much miss MIke’s influence, motivation, and unwavering determination, even when “challenged”.
R.I.P. Mike, gone but Never Forgotten as you live on with each rep conquered!!
R.I.P. Mike Joplin
You will always be there in my heart!
This is so sad. I thought he had recovered.
RIP, Mike. You will be missed.
:( do you have details? Someone contacted you?
The news of his demise is mentioned on top of this page.
Thanks Oskar, Mike helped change my life, condolences also sent.
Oskar, William, and Solomani,
Thank you for your continued encouragement. I appreciate it.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble.” II Corinthians 1:3-4 This is my goal, if God spares my life and takes me through this very painful ‘trial of fire.’
Im so glad to hear that you are recovering, albeit slowly.
Your strength, knowledge and experience as it relates to diet, training and health, as is evident in this blog, has surely helped you immensely.
Keep up the good work!
With much respect – Thomas
If Mike could post here again, it’d be nice. If not, at least an update on Mike’s recovery would be nice. Hope Oskar could fill us in. It’s been a while.
Thanks for your concern. Here’s an update…
I now weigh 138 pounds, up from 112. My goal for this month is to reach 145 pounds. The fact that I’m ganing weight shows that the cancer is no longer in full control.
I got a CT Scan last week, but will not know the results until Thursday…and maybe not then.
I can’t swallow as well as I could a few weeks ago, but my oncologist doesn’t think it’s the cancer causing it. He just thinks I need my throat ‘dilated’ (forced enlargement).
I’ve finished my ‘radiation’ treatments, but I still have a 46-hour ‘chemo’ teatment twice a month. These make me very weak, but I’m still much stronger than I was. I have several more months of chemo.
I still believe that because of the prayers of many friend and by God’s grace and mercy, I will beat this cancer (my story, God’s glory).
MIke – You are always in our prayers. As you inspired us through your training, now you motivate us to never let something defeat us, but to focus on growing stronger mentally and physically from it.
Take care, God bless!!
Mike – Take care, God bless!!
A friend of mine said this about my battle with cancer, and my decision to share it with the world: “You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved…to the praise of God’s glory.” I agree: my story, God’s glory.
I am very much aware of the fact that I am not moving this mountain of struggle and pain alone. People (friends like you) from all over the world have been (and are) praying for me. I am blessed…
Thank you ‘all’ for your prayers.
Feel eternally grateful for your friendship, and the opportunity to learn from you.
Best to you, God bless,
Sold Deo Gloria – good news Mike.
I’m so happy to hear that you are getting better Mike. You will beat this cancer.
I am experiencing pain in my front shoulder. I thought only dips or benching created pain in front shoulder. Do pullups aso create pain in that area? I am surprised, really. Will sufficient rest be enough for this? It is annoying, this injury, it takes away the joy of working out. Very frustrated.
This is annoying , I hate when it happens!
I would suggest you to record your pull-ups in video from front, back and side to see your form and get it checked by someone who has experience in calisthenics.
Facebook groups are a great place to do so. I corrected my elbow pain and knee pain with squats in this manner. Maybe it will help you as well. Check out “oldschool-calisthenic” group on facebook for further tips and help.
I’m sorry about not answering your question. I put it in a ‘holding file’ and forgot about it. But Winner gave the perfect answer. Thank you Winner.
That’s okay, Mike. It happens to me too sometimes.
Be well, my friend.
Thanks Mike, I have learned a lot from you and a few other guys like Matt from Red Delta Project and others. And I am still learning….
Winner, I discoverd Matthew’s website a long time ago. I agree. He provides a lot of solid information.
And by the way, I’m 72 yo, and I’m still learning. You will never stop learning either, because, like me, you enjoy the rewards of learning.
Hey Mike, I just read through this thread and realised you had fallen ill. I am extremely sorry. Please let me know (if it’s not too intrusive) if everything is fine now.
Yes, I am very ill. I was diagnosed with terminal cancer about six months ago. My doctors tell me that I have only a few weeks left. I weigh between 125 and 130 pounds. I am constantly weak. I need help in and out of bed. I need help walking. It’s difficult to even sit in a chair. I struggle to breath.
But I am a Christian, and it’s not over till it’s over. This is how I ‘feel’: “My spirit is broken, my days are spent, I am ready for the grave.” (Job 17:1) However, this is what I ‘believe: “I shall not die but live, and declare the works and illustrious acts of the Lord.” (Psalms 118:17)
“This is the day the Lord has made and I shall be glad and regoice in it.” (Psalms 118:24)
Still praying for you Mike as a fellow Christian. Though I hope and pray you get better no matter what happens when you close your eyes in death you open them to Jesus Christ and Heaven.
Thank you very much. I am now 90% bedridden. So this is one of the last emails that I will be answering.
God bless, Mike
Based on your other posts it sounds like you are on the road to recovery. I’ve been praying for you and I hope this is the case. Keep us here in the loop.
Yes, thank God. I am on the road to recovery. It’s not easy, but I just take one day (actually, one ‘step’) at a time. Thanks for your prayers.
Dear Mike, I am sorry to hear that. I find this so hard to accept. I went through the thread and you seem to have recovered somewhat in the month of april. That’s why I am quite baffled and sad that it didn’t endure. But I believe in miracles. Still praying. You will recover.
I, too, believe in miracles, and I really need one. I’m 90% bedredden now, so I probably won’t be answering any more emails.
You are a great person and whatever God decides for you will be the best for you. You have a special place in many hearts and helped them better their lives. Oskar’s readers will forever remain grateful for your guidance.
And I personally think very highly of you as you helped me in so many ways, and my prayers are always for you.
Peace and love!
I know you probably will not be responding to any more mails given your present circumstances, so my intention with this text is to thank you one more time for sharing your experience and knowledge with us, by telling you my story and your impact. This article unlocked my understanding of what calisthenics has to offer.
Ive been doing some form of resistance training since my middle teens, and Im now 44. I started with calisthenics and basic weight training at home, before “progressing” to training at a gym, with a traditional approach, then HIT/heavy duty, and when that didn’t deliver either, the main part of my 20’ies was spent steeped in Hardgainer type training, inspired by McRoberts writings. I was satisfied with my strength (140 kg bench, 200 kg dead, 160*5 squat) but not my build, mainly because of unrealistic expectations for a natural ex-meso trainer. In my early 30’es I was waking up to the disappointing return on investment, despite of being dedicated with my training, and decided to take a break for a month or so. I had no serious and specific injuries besides a shoulder joint that felt somewhat sensitive.
My body loved the break from the weights, and I choose to focus on martial arts and yoga that I had been doing besides the weight training. Those were great activities, and combined with walking, interval training and everyday physical activities, I was pretty satisfied. But I missed the intensity and feel and results of focused strength training (and being an ecto-meso blend, without that type of training my BW trended downwards from mid-80’s to low 70’s which is too low for my taste), and I dabbled for years with “Bodytraining” like Maxalding, and tried starting out with Gymnastic Bodies and Convict Conditioning type training. Those where interesting, and I learned from them. I still think calisthenics people should try out Maxalding, as the mind-muscle connecting can be greatly improved by this, and it is complementary to calisthenics training.
However, they weren’t perfect for my needs, but reading this article about you and your training program and experience and your results about two years ago somehow made all my previous experience and ideas about training click into place, and I still expect your approach will/can be the backbone of my training for the rest of my life. I love training this way for a host of reasons, like the variability, flexibility of when and where, the results, the minimal wear and tear, etc.
I started following your routines and suggestions, and with that as a steady base, I am now experimenting with my training and enjoying it a great deal. Im not seeking for the coveted “the perfect routine”, but simply like an “freestyle exercise scientist” enjoying experimenting with frequency, volume, intensity, rep strategies and more. My core exercises are Pike Pushups, Australian Pullups and bodyweight squats + core training. Everything else, and even those sometimes, are up for experimentation, although I stay locked in to a schedule in a cycle format. My cycles used to be longer (8-12 weeks), but now I use shorter cycles of 4-6 weeks before deload and changing the parameters.
I can genuinely say that enjoy and thrive on my training again. My body is once again in the mid-80 kgs with some abs showing (I’m 180/5.11). Im “past the bodybuilder look preference” but once in a while when everything is going great, and I get the inkling to up the bodyweight further, I remember the wisdom of your words about optimal size and bodyweight. Less than 200 pounds is best for me too :-)
Regarding training excursions, I did a joplin-gironda density type training last cycle, before that it was a Joplin-Johnston rep strategy (cluster and stage reps), and Im currently in the last part of a calisthenics version of an old friend, the 20 rep squat program.
Next cycle will be higher frequency Joplin classic ladder focus, and further ahead a rest-pause routine, a Mccallum inspired clean bulk routine, a minimalistic abbreviated 20 rep squat routine again, and also a pre-planned Hardgainer style linear progression awaits.
All of them rooted in the things you have taught us here, in the Joplin master class.
So once again, thank you so much for the inspiration and the ideas, which I will continue to learn from, test, and pass on. Your example has made a real difference for me, as I see it has done for others in this “forum”.
Mike, I hope for the best for you, freely admitting that this little speck of dust don’t know what that is, in the grander scheme of things.
With much gratitude and respect,
This will be my last post, as my wife will be taking me to the hospital today. But I had to respond to your post.
Thank you so much for your kind words. You’ve analized me and my training methods to a “T.”
My training is intuition based (instead of pre-programmed based) and effort based (instead of weight load based). I like to use rep manipulation and rest period manipulation to build strength and mauscle mass.
Also, experimentation, record keeping, and then making adjustments in my training routines make things ecxiting. The most important factor in training is you must enjoy it. If you dont, you’ll quit.
As you said prior, that was your last post, but I hope that this comment still finds your eyes.
Im also a Sailor, been in since 2012. I discovered your article in December of 2014, a few months before deployment, and felt a kindred spirit immediately. Living on a ship, your methods kept me sane and added 15 pounds of muscle to my frame. But I would be foolish to believe that your contribution to this world was confined solely to fitness.
As a Christian, I find your strength in the face of illness as nothing short of incredible and inspiring. Your faith in God is insurmountable, and you serve as a beacon of light for the young men following in your footsteps.
I know you havent touched alcohol for over 30 years, but Id still be honored to buy you a drink someday.
God bless you Sir. Youve got this.
Yes, your comment has found my eyes. Thank you. I very happy that my methods have helped you. As you know by now, 15 pounds of muscle in the right places can make a huge difference in a man’s physique.
I agree, as a Christian…I have more to contribute. You see, I’ve just spent the last three weeks and a day in the hospital. I’ve been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus and both lungs. It has also spread to other areas of my body. When I entered the hospital for cancer treatment, they also discovered that I was having some heart problems. While in the hospital, I had a major heart attack. The doctors also informed me that I had pneumonia in both lungs. In addition, I had two respiratory failures and ended up on a life-support ventilator (twice).
Only by the grace and mercy of God and the prayers of family and friends am I alive today. I have a testimony to give and I believe will be an encouragement to others that it’s not over until God says it is.
God bless you,
P.S. I only weight 117 pounds now. (I need to get back to 185 pounds.) And I’m very, very weak. So please keep praying. Thanks…
P.P.S. I’d take that drink (a small one).
Im humbled and thrilled that you took the time to respond to me. Compared to what you’re dealing with daily and spending time with loved ones, I know that replying to comments is hardly the most important thing on your plate.
As always, as great as you built your body and have inspired young men to mimic you, it all pales in comparison to your love and devotion to God. Your testimony and life will echo and ripple throughout the world, long after we’re both gone. You inspire me to be a greater Christian simply by telling your story.
As for your diminished bodyweight, it means nothing. Its only temporary. If you want to get technical, even when muscles atrophy they still possess the enlarged fibers, but I wont bore you with insignificant science. In short, you havent lost it. But I will keep praying, rest assured
God bless you Sir.
P.P.S. Then we’ll stick with one shot lol
We are all praying for you! My friends keep on mentioning you in their training and we all wish you the best!
Thank you very much. And thanks to your friends. Much appreciated…
For some reason, as I type, this post is appearing under Winner’s post.
Yes, indeed. It requires a great effort for me to get out of my recovery bed and answer email messages, etc., but it’s also a necessity. I must get up and move. My body needs exercise if I am going to get stronger. Right now it’s just simple movement and walking.
I regard my testimony as a ‘cave’ experience. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. Because through this amazing trial, I was isolated in a hodpial room (my cave) of tremendous suffering. But I literally got to see the glory of God working in my life. He never left me for a moment, and I am grateful for the experience.
It may take several months before full recovery, and that’s okay. I’ll just wait on the Lord and (spiritually) fly like an eagle (as He says in his Word). The higher I fly, when I look down, the smaller my trial appears.
And I agree. Muscle memory will take over. It will take time, but the weight/muscle will return.
God bless you Gino…
Hi Mike, I am glad you’re recovering, been praying since last month. Is the tumor gone now? So all that’s left is recovering weight and strength? If so, that’s great news.
Will continue praying, though…..
The cancer is slowly shrinking. I am recovering, but it will take months of hard work. But with God’s help, I’ll make it.
Yes, weight gain (65 pounds) and strength gain are my main goals for the next few months.
Thank you for your prayers.
Ah thank God. That’s all I wanted to hear – that you’re recovering. Will continue praying until full recovery. Please keep us updated on your spectacular progress.
A month ago I achieved my first pull up. But it is going incredibly difficult to add reps. I can barely manage three now. Can you suggest some effective routine to increase reps when starting number is as low as 3?
All you have to do is look through this thread and you will find all kinds of ideas to increase your reps.
Yes, It works. And it works quickly as well.
I am lean and light weight, so maybe it was easier for me, but I can safely say that I am a walking proof of this method albeit with a slight difference.
Back in January 2016 I started doing pullups and I did 5 (not so good) on my first try. Then I stumbled across Mike’s story and started doing 10 sets of 2 reps throughout the day for a week and then got to 3 reps and so on upto 5 reps and 10 sets during the day.
In February I decided to go for low rest period and complete my reps during an hour or two.
So I started doing 3 reps every two minutes for 10 sets. Suffice to say it was hard. I did it gradually upto 5 reps every two minutes for 10 sets. My max was around 7-8 reps. But by the end of February I got 13 decent reps without doing over 5 reps. And my rest was 2 minutes.
After that I regretfully admit that I fell of the wagon and didn’t do anything for next few months or so. But still I could manage 10 reps anytime and 13-15 chinups as well. Without specifically training for high reps. Grease The G helped a lot and your suggestion of still lower rest may even help a lot more.
That’s how I did it.
Excellent post. Your experience is great encouragement for those who are stuck at 3, 4, or 5 reps.
My entire system of training is “effort based,” which includes “rep manipulation” and “strategic rest periods.”
Thanks, Mike and Nehra. I am learning a lot from you two.
One q for nehra (and Mike can also chime in). You said you did 10 sets of 5 eventually, So basically 50 reps. But how long did the 50-rep workout last, rest included?
I am currently aiming for 50 reps in 30 minutes, but so far I’ve only managed 35-40 reps. Many people say density (doing more volume in less time) is the most important factor. that’s why I am aiming to do more reps in one brief workout rather than do them throughout the day. 50 reps in 30 minutes, I believe, will have better value than 50 reps spread throughout the day.
Charles Staley has written a book about “density training.” It’s one of my favorite books of all time. It’s called “Muscle Logic: Escalating Density Training.” You can get one now at Amazon for less than $2.00.
Now here’s one very important fact about density training: you can’t do it continually. I’s so demanding that you will burn yourself out.
But it’s a fun way to train for six to eight weeks, and then you absoluely must change your routine (for a week or so) to something that is less demanding…to give your body a break.
Also, when you return to density training, and you have no trouble doing 50 reps in 30 minutes, then it’s time to make your reps a bit more difficult (hand position, body position, etc.). And then try to get 50 reps in 30 minutes doing the more difficult reps. You can keep repeating this strategy for as long as you like. But remember to take a break from density training or you will stop making progress.
I did not record time as I did start my reps at 4 pm daily and finished somewhere around 5-5:30 pm on most days. However once I did 75 reps in an hour. 20 were chin ups and rest shoulder width dead hang pull ups.
I believe if I did it for 2 weeks and then rested 2-4 days and then tested myself, I could have managed it within 2 training cycles of 2 weeks each. I rest Saturday and Sunday and only walk or play football when resting.
Remember that I am lean and weigh 60-63 kg only so beginning wasn’t much hard for me.
However I don’t like doing more than 50 reps as I get sore elbows very quickly, plus I like doing one and half reps and slow reps as Mike advised to make the few reps I do harder. My joints are a bit soft and I like passive reps to build them. I am doing this because I want to maintain my health for a very long time and connective tissue is the key to it.
I have a peculiar problem in that if I do consecutive pullups I manage only a few. But with some gaps – one pullup, rest, second pullup, rest, 3rd pullup, rest, etc. – I am able to do 20.
So I got thinking. Is it ok to AVOID consecutive so as to accumulate more volume? Because I am assuming if we add more volume then over a period of time consecutive reps may become possible. I hope I am making sense. Instead of doing consecutive reps and exhausting myself after 5 reps, if I rest and do 20 would this method eventually help me do 10-12 consecutive reps? Meaning, increasing volume by avoiding consecutive reps … and then because of that accumulated volume the consecutive reps go up eventually?
Yes. Indeed. You can increase your consecutive reps by doing accumulative reps with rest periods in between. I’ve been there and done that, and it works great. Do this several days a week and then pick one day every week to test yourself with consecutive reps. Rest one day before your test.
Eventually, you should start doing two reps and then rest, etc. And then three reps and rest. The key is to keep the rest period seconds the same.
If you will take the time to search this thread for my training methods, you will see that there are several ways to avoid the exhaustion created by doing consecutive reps.
Does pull up or chinup work the side deltoids (which is what gives the appearance of broad shoulders)?
I have heard on Red Delta Project that slow focussed pull-ups chin ups can cause rear shoulder development. But if you cover good shoulders then I suggest start using gymnastics rings. Set a five year target and learn various moves on rings. Pay with blood and sweat and you will have good shoulders that are fully developed.
There’s nothing wrong with what you are saying here. But I developed my shoulders in approximately 12 months without rings, and by doing mostly overhanded, wide-grip pullups (against a door frame) and Australian overhanded pullups.
Simple is almost always better…
Although pullups (overhand grip, wide and narrow) do work the “rear” deltoids somewhat, they are not the best exercise for deltoids. A wide-grip is best, but do both.
I like to do Australian (overhanded, wide-grip) pullups for the “rear” deltoids. Google or Bing Australian pullups to see how to do them.
P.S. Ahmd, for some reason this program is showing that this reply will be attached to Manoj’s post, and not yours. If so, I hope you see it here at Manoj’s post.
Dear Mike, thanks so much for the tips. I meant side deltoids (lateral or medial) not rear delts. Its believed that side delts give that broad look to shouldERS. Front delts r worked in pushing, rear delts r worked in pulling. So i am wondering if any bodyweight work ( pullups included) target side delts.
Pullups done on rings will challenge all 3 sides of shoulders due to stabilizing demands. Or you can do them on a cheap homemade suspension trainer system.
That’s right, Matthew. A cheap homemade suspension trainer can be a “rope” anchored to a wall or ceiling. The Human Trainer is the best “commercial’ system (in my humble opinion).
Please look at my photos in Oskar’s article. I have had many, many people comment on how wide my shoulders are. Well, they got that way from doing wide-grip, overhanded pullups and Australian pullups.
Now I did one exercise that I learned from a Chiropractor that helped develop the side laterals “somewhat,” but I believe that at least 95% (I have no way of really knowing) of my deltoid development came from the two types of pullups mentioned above. So a specific exercise for developing the “side deltoids” is “not” necessary.
However, I do have one bodyweight exercise for developing the side deltoids that I will be putting in my book. It’s a powerful exercise that will really add extra width to the deltoids. It’s an exercise that I have discovered and tweaked. I’ve never seen anyone do it. So it’s really unique. But I’m not going to reveal it until my book is published. I don’t know when it will be done, but I have an editor working with me now, as well as an artist. I’m taking my time because I want it to be extra good.
Wow Mike, it’s great to see you’re still replying to comments! I’ve just read your story and it’s incredibly motivational, since I’ve been doing something similar, doing pull ups/dips/inverted rows/intermediate shrimp squats/feet elevated diamond pushups. I was wondering, how many total reps do you do per day on average? I’m doing only about 30-40 per exercise (I train in the morning, at lunch and at dinner) and I’m considering doing more. Thanks in advance for the answer and kudos for your accomplishments!
Thanks for your positive comments.
Your question is: “How many total reps do you do per day on average?” Well, that has varied quite a bit over the years (50+ years…via three transformations). I’ve done low volume and high volume. They both work…IF done correctly. And that’s the key.
You see, my success hasn’t come from “how many” reps I do (because most of the time I don’t even count them). My success has come from intuitive, effort-based training…where I focus on ‘rep manipulation.’
During my first transformation in Puerto Rico, I never had a specific amount of sets and reps to do during a training session or for the day. I had never heard the terms sets and reps. So I would do as many full-range pullups as I could, and then stop (at the ‘top’ position of the pullup) when I knew I couldn’t do another full rep. I would then do as many partial reps (from the top to the mid-point) as I could. Once I couldn’t do any more partial reps, I would do a static hold at the mid-point for as long as I could. I would then lower myself to the bottom position as slowly as I could. Then I would just hang in that ‘stretched position’ for as long as I could. This is intuitive, effort-based training using rep manipulation on the last ‘negative’ part of the last rep of a set. I never knew (and I didn’t care) how many full range reps I would do at the beginning of a set. My focus was always on the negative part of the last rep of a set. This type of training ‘never’ exhausted me, and I was able to do this as many times a day as I wished. However, if I trained to ‘failure’ (where I would struggle to do another rep…attempting to pull myself up with every ounce of energy I had), I was done for the day. It was a downer physically and psychologically. Eventually I got to the point to where I would do a full range pullup with both hands and then lower myself with one arm, alternating arms. Once I got to the point where I couldn’t do full-range reps with each arm I would do my “last negative rep” strategy. I didn’t like doing a lot of full range reps in one set, so when I got to that point, I would do a brief static hold at the beginning of a set (to slightly ‘pre-exhaust’) and then start my full-range reps…
I did the same (as described above) in my second transformation (late 30’s and early 40’s). However, when I got to my third transformation (late 60’s and early 70’s) I added a new routine.
For example, I would write down a series of numbers for pushups, like 5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12-13-14-15-16-17-18-19-20. My goal would be to complete three numbers of full range pushups. I would do 5 pushups and then resp five seconds, 6 pushups and rest 6 seconds, and then 7 pushups and rest 7 seconds. I would repeat this series of numbers until I couldn’t complete a series. During my next training session, I would move up the ladder to numbers 6-7-8…and repeat. Once I could complete 18-19-20 for at least three times, I would drop back down to 5-6-7 and do 5 full reps followed by 5 partial reps (from top position to mid-point), and then do 5 partial reps (from the mid-point to the bottom position). I would rest 5 seconds and then do the same thing with numbers 7 and 8. Once I got to the point where I could do 18-19-20 like this, I would then to to ‘one arm pushups” and follow the same procedure. However, my series of numbers would drop drastically, like 5-6-7-8-9-10.
This strategy allows you to track your reps (which most folks like to do). You can do this with any exercise, and you can ‘alternate’ exercises…going from pullups to pushups. There are countless ways this method of training adjusted and manipulated. It’s a lot of fun, too. I have hundreds of pages of notes on ‘experiments’ regarding rep manipulation.
Hope this helps…
P.S. Ed, read through this thread and look for areas where I describe some of my methods of training to get some new ideas.
Man! You are a true fountain of wisdom! I have been waiting eagerly for your book since ages!
How much weekly volume will be adequate? At least a good rule of thumb?
I think it is not how much volume you should do but how much volume you can do!
I started doing two times a week and then slowly progressed up to 5 workouts per week.
As you can see I am still doing one workout per day and now my goal is to include 2 workouts per day slowly into my routine and build up to 2 workouts daily for 5 days per week. I don’t like doing doing more than 5 days per week as I feel my connective tissues feel more refreshed after 2 day rest. But it is personal choice after all.
My point is that you need to start improving your volume slowly by doing different methods but still keeping it according to your personal needs and capacity.
Nehra is correct. He says “…it is personal choice after all.”
Volume depends on a lot of things: how long you’ve trained (weeks, months, years), your age, what you are trying to achieve (mass, fat loss, etc.), and other factors…
Do you think I can get a bit taller with calisthenics and stretching for spine?
I just turned 18 and I am only 5 feet 6 inches tall.
Internet is full of B.S. about it.
I stretch when training, and I’ve also stretched on an inversion table. I Stretch when training to aid in gaining additional muscle mass. I’ve used the inversion table simply for the comfort it provides. I do believe that an inversion table will add a little bit of height (maybe a quarter of an inch or less) to a person’s frame, but it will be only temporary. Why? Gravity.
I do yogic asana to stretch and mobilise my spine, and hang from bar as well. I don’t think it made me any taller but I look athletic and decent compared to others. Being athletic is more important than being tall when it comes to looking good.
Yes, in my opinion…being athletic is more important than being tall. Google or Bing “Joseph L. Greenstein: The Mighty Atom, World’s Strongest Man” to see what I mean.
Hello Oskar and Mike!
I have been a long time reader of this website and a big fan of Mike as well.
I wanted to ask Mike what his opinion of Ido Portal and his methods is?
I came across his students on social media and I am a bit confused about it.
Is it just a marketing stuff or what! The exercises they do are good and new and some of them are from combat arts etc.
But 800€ for 2 days! It’s so expensive!
What are your thoughts?
I had never heard of Ido Partal before your post. So I visited his website and blog.
Obviously, he has a great physique and he’s definitely fit. However (from my review) my opinion is that he promotes “strength and flexibility” more than bodybuilding. Also, his methods require a lot of time and commitment. He’s definitely not a minimalist regarding training!
You can visit the following link and read some “reviews” of people who have purchased his system/program. I would suggest that you read through all of them and then make a decision. My opinion: save your money. https://www.reddit.com/r/bodyweightfitness/comments198xdki_just_finished_3_months_of_online_training_with/
I had never heard of Ido Partal before your post. So I visited his website and blog.
Obviously, he has a great physique and he’s definitely fit. However (from my review) my opinion is that he promotes “strength and flexibility” more than bodybuilding. Also, his methods require a lot of time and commitment. He’s definitely not a minimalist regarding training!
My opinion: save your money.
P.S. You can Google or Bing Ido Partal and then click on the Reddit link to see the reviews of people who have purchased his system…and hen make your decision.
I have followed calisthenics athletes on facebook for a long time. I have seen videos of Ido and his students a lot. But to me it seemed like a waste of time (not that it is ineffective) .
I would do chin ups and variety of push-ups and maybe planche or lever and do some sports and yoga and I think it will be all I need to develop my healthy physique instead of crawling and animal flows for like 6 hours every day. Just my thoughts.
This article was very inspiring and motivating!
Thanks Chris. Oskar did a great job. Mike
Please give us an update on Mike. Really hope the treatment is working.
Very concerned. Praying.
Three months ago, I could hardly get out of bed or sit in a chair and hold up my head. Today, I am much better. I’m still weak at times, but my strength has increased a lot. I get out of bed with no problem, and I walk around the house with ease.
Also, I don’t have near the pain in my throat as I did at the beginning. I have discomfort, but very little pain.
So I have been improving. Family and friends tell me that I look better every day.
My main problem is that I can’t seem to gain any weight. So that’s where your prayers need to be targeted.
Thanks for your concern and prayers.
Great to hear from you, Mike. I was so worried. I will continue to pray that you recover completely and gain strength and weight. Please keep posting on your remarkable progress.
Thank you, my fiend. I will do my best to keep every one updated.
We are praying for you! And we know you are going to overcome it all and inspire us all :-)
Thank you Winner. Friends like you who continually encourage me and are faithful in praying for me are an inspiration to me. Mike
Is it just me or are notifications not working for this thread?
Hey..please check out this interview of Mike Joplin if you get time!
Oskar just forwarded several email messages to me from his blog readers. All were uplifting and a blessing to read. Thank you all for taking the time to encourage me and to wish me well.
Some one asked what kind of cancer I have. I have esophageal cancer. It has metastasized to my lymph nodes and to my right lung.
Also, thanks to every one who sent me tips, website links, and product suggestions (via Oskar) to help me fight my cancer. I’m looking into all of them.
Been traveling for work and just caught the news of your cancer.
You’ve always been included among my close friends daily prayers, however now will especially focus on you recovering from the cancer while gaining more and more vitality along the journey. Words, can not begin to express the feelings of sadness upon hearing the news. However, knowing how strong your mind is, know it will focus on this challenge to come out of it even stronger.
With continued Prayers along with Positive energy your way Mike,
Take care, God bless there
Thank you for your kind words and concern. And most of all, thank you for your prayers.
I’m doing much better than I was when I was diagnosed with cancer a little over three months ago. To God be the glory. I just need to gain weight, and that has been a real struggle.
I found the following quote that (along with God’s Word) helps me get through each day: “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.'” Mary Anne Radmacher
Every morning when I wake up, I have a choice. I can say “I give up,” or I can say, “I will try again…” Since I’m not going to give up, it looks like I’ll try again…until I beat this disease (via God’s grace and mercy).
For all who may be interested, this is my daily anticancer nutrition program. This is not set in concrete. I change it now and then when I find better solutions.
Wake-up cleansing and energy drink…
* 2 – 3 cups of filtered water
* Juice of 1 lemon or lime
* 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil or MCT oil
About 30 – 45 minutes later…
* Budwig anticancer protocol drink:
* Mix thoroughly: 3/4 cup of cottage cheese & 6 tablespoons of flax seed oil
* Add to Vitamix blender with the following:
* 1 tablespoon unsweetened chocolate powder
* Approximately 10 drops of Stevia
* 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds
* 2 cups of unsweetened coconut milk
* 6 ice cubes
Throughout the rest of the day…
I drink five, eight ounce glasses of carrot juice (with an apple and lemon added). As I gain weight, the number of glasses will increase.
I “may” drink two additional veggie/fruit juice formulas (1 red juice and 1 green juice)
I “try” to drink two “weight gain” smoothies, which I need to fight Cachexia. I also grind my vitamins and “immune” tablets and capsules in a NutriBullet and then add them to my smoothies. I can’t swallow the tablets and capsules whole because most of my cancer is located in my esophagus.
I “may” eat snacks (beef jerky, nuts, boiled eggs, veggies, yogurt, etc.). The beef is grass fed and drug free, etc.
At the end of the day… I have one solid meal or soup…mostly veggies. But I also eat drug free beef, chicken, lamb, and ocean caught fish.
Obviously, I spend a lot of time in my kitchen. But I have no choice. And I’m grateful that I have the financial and physical ability to do it. My wife is a big help.
Eventually, I will be going to a strict Keto Diet for at least eight to twelve weeks, maybe longer. I’m going Keto, because it’s low/no sugar. Cancer feeds on sugar.
Thanks for sharing these tips…it is a grossly misunderstood disease and I believe that natural method to fight it is the best method.
You are correct, Vinner. It is a misunderstood disease. It’s actually an “immune system” failure. My natural protocols are building up my immune system…and also attacking the cancer directly.
Chemo does the exact opposite; it destroys the immune system and muscle mass. And it attacks “every” cell in the body, not just the cancer cells. And it doesn’t kill the cancer “stem cells.” That’s why, after chemo, cancer usually returns more aggressive than before.
Regarding my daily anticancer nutrition program, I forgot that I also add about 8 – 10 drops of liquid Stevia to my “wake-up cleansing and energy drink.” Without the Stevia, the drink is not too pleasing.
First of all, this article has been a huge inspiration to a lot of people, including myself. Thanks for that.
I love the way you’re staying positive and staring death straight in the eye.. You truly are a badass!
Thank you Mike, you’ll far outlive the “death sentence” , we all assure you !
Thank you Sudarshan for your support. I’m glad Oskar’s article has inspired you.
Keep the spirit alive, Mike! You’ll get it over!
Thanks for your support Martinezzz. Keeping the spirit alive is (indeed) the key…and challenge.
I am saddened to hear you have cancer. I have (and will) pray for you. Your push-up and pull-up routine posted here made me stronger and look better since since I was in my twenties!
I do implore you to not rely on natural methods. The only medically proven treatment are the various treatment you will get in a hospital like kemo (if applicable) and they only work if started early.
Ultimately it’s up to you of course and I wish noting but the best. Please keep us updated.
Thank you, Solomani, for your concern and prayers. I’m happy to hear that you’re getting stronger. Remember, getting stronger (or building a great physique) is not just about the ultimate goal (whatever that may be), it’s about the daily journey…and being faithful to completing simple, positive habits.
You’re a tuff old man and you will kick the cancer’s ass!
Thank you, Vladimir, for your vote of confidence. Although every day is a challenge for me, I count every challenge as an opportunity.
I’m planning projects and events long after the death sentence (October 2017) that my doctors have given me.
“I guess it comes down to a simple choice: Get busy living, or get busy dying.” (The Shawshank Redemption)
I’m busy living…
Sorry to hear about your battle with cancer. I too believe trying a natural approach is the best way to fight cancer. I’ve been doing alot of reading about the Budwig Diet for fight cancer and other health problems. It is supposed to have very good results and fits in with the natural approach you’re taking. Plenty of information on this can be found on the internet.
You are in my thoughts and prayers.
Thank you for your support and kind words. I’ve been using the Budwig Diet (protocol) for about five weeks. It does (indeed) have a good record for naturally curing many types of cancer. Only time (and God’s mercy and compassion) will determine if it works for me or not.
My biggest problem is that I am also battling Cachexia, which causes the body to “cannibalize” itself. It attacks (eats) the muscles of the body. That’s why I have gone from 215 pounds to 140 pounds. Many cancer patients die of starvation and malnutrition, not the cancer itself.
Anyway, thank you again for your concern and prayers.
I am so glad to hear that you’ve been on the Budwig protocol these past weeks. In looking up cachexia, I’ve read that Omega-3 fatty acid has positive effects in dealing with this condition. The flax seed oil used in the protocol has Omega-3, so hopefully that will help you in fighting the cachexia as well as the cancer.
The Budwig Diet/Protocol requires “cottage Cheese,” which I hate. However, I’ve finally found a way to hide the taste of cottage cheese. Thank God.
Yes. You are correct. Omega 3 helps fight Cachexia. I’m also taking extra fish oil.
Hi Mike ,
I treated my Dad who had advanced Lymphoma.
To fight the cachexia I gave him HMB 4 g a day.
Btw A keto diet will not stop cancer, cancer can use every fuel source just like your body can. look up reverse walberg.
Alkaline diets are bogus the body regulates it ph level in a very tight range otherwise u die.
In 3 mths I had my Dad in remission and his tumors were shrinking. but he enventually passed any way from complications from the lymphoma.
If you would like to contact me to discuss what worked u can reach me at t t r e v s 1 @ y a h o o . c o m
I agree with you about every thing you have posted, except the keto issue. I’ve sent a message to you via your personal email address with information about the keto diet.
I’m also very interested in how you helped your father.
I didn’t know about any of this. So sorry. I am praying for you.
Get well soon.
Thank you Oscar. I appreciate your concern and prayers.
How’s it going?
I am also doing door pullups because it allows my elbows and legs NOT to swing.
Just a technical question. I know you said full range is important, but whenever I go dead hang I get elbow pain. Is it ok to keep the elbows a little bent (instead of a full dead hang) because that’s easy on the elbows?
I am assuming the muscles get worked even if a full range isn’t used? I take it some bodies are such that a full dead hang will hurt their elbows or shoulders? In my case, the shoulders are fine, only elbows cause irritation when I go dead hang.
I agree. Door pull-ups stop “the swing.”
If you have pain, you have to make adjustments. This may take time. But it’s necessary to prevent further injury. Do what you have to do to avoid the pain. I do a full hang because the “stretch” feels great to me.
To help relieve your elbow pain, I recommend Dr. Christopher’s Formula: “Complete Tissue and Bone Ointment” (4 Ounces). You can get this formula at Amazon and at other websites, too.
Yes. Muscles do get worked even if a full range of motion is not done. Actually, if you read through this article thread, you’ll see that I am a big believer in “partial reps.” I do them all the time, along with static holds.
Got it mike, thanks. Reg. partials, from bottom to middle and from middle to top … which one works the lats most? I am assuming bottom to top , middle to top works mostly rhomboids. Is this right?
Both (partial) areas work the lats. But remember, it’s the fact that your forearms are pressed against the door or door frame that causes your lats to take on extra resistance.
The bottom to middle area is usually the most ‘difficult,’ whether you are doing a full range of motion rep or partials. The middle to top area is usually the ‘easiest.’ And, yes, I believe the middle to top area does mostly work the rhomdoids. I’ve worked the middle to top area a lot, and my rhomdoids are very ‘thick.’
Is it fine to do only pullups and do away with pushing work?
Without pushing work, I could focus exclusively on pullups and get better.
Is that a good idea?
I did very little pushing work (i.e., pushups) during my first transformation, and I regret it. I did manage to build a good physique without pushing work, but I could have built a better physique with pushing work. Later on in my life, I always did pushups (with my feet elevated, to work my upper chest).
I recommend doing a set of pullups, followed by a brief rest, then a set of pushups, followed by a brief rest, etc…. Balance is always a good thing.
It would be easy for you to focus on pullups and pushups…and get better at both. However (in my opinion), trying to do too many exercises is a mistake.
It is not that i don’t want to. I have reached a stage where I can easily do even the toughest type of pushups or dips. So it’s become redundant now. That’s why I thought instead of doing an easy exercise over and over, maybe I could focus only on pullups (as I still find them difficult).
Or is there some unheard of/unconventional pushing work out there, which is very tough and beneficial to the body?
Would love to know your thoughts.
You can “easily” increase the difficulty of pushing exercises by implementing any or all of the following training methods:
Super Sets: Do a set of “Handstand” Pushups to negative failure and then “immediately” do a set of Diamond (close-hand position) Pushups to negative failure OR Dips to negative failure.
Giant Sets: Do one set of each of the following exercises to negative failure (with brief rest periods between exercises OR no rest periods between exercises): 1. Handstand Pushups,
2. Dips 3, Diamond Pushups.
Pre-exhaustion: BEFORE doing a set of Pushups, do a Static Hold in a “mid-position” for 10 – 30 seconds, followed immediately by Partial Reps at “Bottom” position for 10 – 30 seconds…and THEN do a set of “Full Range” Pushups to negative failure followed by an additional Static Hold and Partial Reps.
Unilateral (One-Arm) Pushups: Do One-Arm Pushups, and when/if that gets too easy, implement some of the above
mentioned methods (Super Sets, Giant Sets, and
Add Weight with a Weight Vest or with a Hip Belt (for Dips): You can Add Weight with a Weight Vest or a Hip Belt (for Dips).
I suggest you use a Reverse Pyramid Training (RPT) strategy when adding weight. You can easily Google or Bing RPT to see how it works.
If this is not enough to make your pushing exercises difficult enough, you can also add the following training strategies: Rest-Pause Drop Sets, Same Reps System, Rep Targeting, Fixed Time Sets, etc….
Alf, the above training strategies will provide you with enough “variations” and “increased difficulty” to keep you interested and progressing for years. Redundancy should not be a problem.
That’s an amazing set of ideas.
I’d like to do the ones without weights.
But …. they say it only increases endurance and not muscle mass. Is that false?
Set after set of “continuous” HIGH REPS and sets increase endurance…and will build (limited) muscle.
However, all of the ideas/strategies that I presented in my last post to you will BUILD MASS!” — and also increase (limited) endurance. So by using these mass building strategies, you will not be able to do a lot of “continuous” reps and sets.
The information shared by Mike is truly amazing.
Glad I stumbled across this article.
I have been doing chinups in a park since last 2 years. But I never did them frequently.
Just did a few sets of 6-10 reps on infrequent days.
Now I want to try Mike’s approach and get the gains on my back. I am naturally very slim so big lats will help a lot.
Nice site Oskar. Very good stuff!
I’m glad you like it Manoj. Let us know how it works out for you! :)
I’m glad you liked my story via Oskar’s article.
If you really want to build your ‘lats,’ do the following:
1. Open any door in your house and put a wedge (wood, etc.) under it. Otherwise the hinges will rip from the door.
2. Grip the top of the door frame with your hands about shoulder-wide (put a thin towel across the top if necessary for comfort).
3. Do as many pull-ups as possible (slow but not extremely slow), and do ‘not’ go to positive failure.
4. When you can’t do any more positive reps, do partial reps and static holds on the ‘last’ negative rep. And then slowly lower yourself into a “stretched-hanging position” for several seconds.
By doing ‘door’ pull-ups, your ‘forearms’ will be pressed against the door. This will really activate your lats like nothing else. The result: BIG LATS! Oh yeah… You have to EAT for gains, too.
P.S. Eventually, try different hand positions: close, medium, wide, etc. Also, after you get used to the basic door pull-ups, pull yourself up with both hands but alternate lowering yourself with only one hand. This will really work your lats.
Door Pullups. Wow!
I never could have thought of it in a 100 years.
Sounds interesting! Will try it for sure.
I’m a few months shy of 90 and I still do half a dozen door chin-ups 5 times a week. After spending 6 days in the hospital with pneumonia, I could no longer do even one single chin-up. But I kept trying and 3 months later I’ve worked myself back to my old half-dozen chin-ups 5 times a week
It takes persistence and determination.
Has anyone heard of a 90-year old still doing chin-ups?
Wow that is amazing John!! I want to do chin ups when Im 90.
You are a real inspiration. I’ve had to come back from severe sickness also. It’s not easy, but the effort is always worth it.
I will be happy if I could make it to 90 years! let alone chinups!
Is doing on door more diff. than doing on regular bar? Because I could do only 5 whereas on a bar I could easily do at least 12 or even up to 15. is it because of the grip?
I think it might be a personal thing, because we are all different. Door pull-ups are easier for me because the door keeps me from swinging. Also, after years of doing door pull-ups, I’m completely comfortable with them.
Is it possible that for some, pullups may work the abs more than the lats?
Being doing pullups, I have not lost weight but my upper abs are showing. Not much improvement in lats. Not that I am complaining bcuz the abs r looking super cool, lol. Still curious about whether muscle are worked differently for diff. people.
It’s possible. And, yes, we are all different. However, “form” is the key. If a trainer is not using proper form to work a specific muscle or muscle group, other muscles will be worked.
During my first physique transformation as a young man, I hardly ever did pushups…or anything to develop my chest. But, as you can see by viewing my photos, my chest development was adequate…and proportional to the rest of my upper body.
When I do “open-door” pull-ups, my abs really get worked, whether or not I extend my legs or raise my knees to my chest area. But when I do “door” pull-ups, I (of course) can’t extend my legs. And with door pull-ups, the lats get most of the work.
Glad your abs are developing. It’s hard to beat broad shoulders and cool abs.
Curious about bone structure, but I dont know if this will apply to you, Mike. But most of us skinny or even skinnyfat sufferers seem to have very small bone structure – tiny wrists, tiny elbows etc.
So my question is – and I could be totally wrong here – is it possible that big wrists help when it comes to pulling yourself up or in doing any of those extremely tough exercises? I’ve noticed that people with big wrists and elbows are able to pull themselves up with relatively more ease with those with small wrists (which most skinny and skinnyfat people have).
So, along with upper body strength, is it possible that pullups also reveal how strong or how weak your wrists and elbows? You’re only as strong as your weak link, they say. So even if upperbody is strong, is it possible that small wrists are preventing ppl from doing more pullups?
When I first started training in Puerto Rico, I was skinny from head to toe. I was a bag of bones. My wrists grew right along (symmetrically) with the rest of my upper body. My weakest link wasn’t my wrists, it was my “grip.” So, in my opinion, you could have big wrists AND a weak grip. Big writs would provide no advantage until the grip was improved.
Hello Mike, could you explain what u mean by improving grip? U mean holding the bar in a certain way or holding it for a long time?
When I first started training in Puerto Rico, I held on to the bar (actually a door frame) overhanded. My grip was the problem… when I extended my set with partials and static holds. But eventually, my grip problem wasn’t an issue. As I grew stronger, I could even “lower” myself with one arm — doing partials an static holds.
I didn’t like doing one arm “pull-ups,” as it would exhaust me and I would terminate my workout rather quickly. I always tried to finish my training session feeling fresh. I was able to build a lot of muscle that way and still stay motivated. Going to failure is not necessary.
When I started doing chinups, my grip wasn’t that strong. It will start hurting after 2-3 sets of 4-5 reps only.
Then I joined a gym and same thing happened with me on lat pulldown machine!
My grip started burning and cramping when I did 15 reps sets with low weights!
I improved it by hanging and chinups with a towel on bar. Very hard work!!!!
Does wonders for grip.
Good job Siraj. I love it when someone ‘thinks outside the box’ to solve a training problem. It not only strengthens you physically, but mentally as well.
Oskar just emailed me and said that you are from Denmark. I didn’t know that. So the Barnes & Noble book information will be of no use to you. However, it may be of use to those here in the USA.
First of all, it’s always a pleasure to hear from someone who has been successful and continues to be successful using my training methods. As you know, keeping things simple really works (fancy fitness equipment is not necessary). Keeping things simple is the foundation of auto-regulation (intuitive training). Also, enjoying and looking forward to your training sessions is a big deal. Because the two primary reasons why people never start to train or quit training are based on making bogus excuses and not enjoying or looking forward to training.
I hope your cousin from Germany is as successful as you are. If he focuses on being faithful to daily training (a target/goal that he can now see and experience) instead of looking too far ahead at a target/goal (his ultimate transformation physique) that he can’t see or perhaps even imagine at this time, then he will be successful. During my second physique transformation, my wife and I had three young sons to care for. If I had not learned how to make my training sessions brief and flexible, I would have given up.
Here are my “top 10” books that I read over and over (in no particular order):
1. “Take Charge” by Clarence Bass (Chapter 2 [Forget Heavy – Think Effort]
2. “Power to the People” by Pavel Tsatsouline
3. “Dinosaur Bodyweight Training” by Brooks D. Kubik
4. “Perfect Health Diet” by Paul & Shou-Ching Jaminet
5. “Maximum Muscle – Minimum Fat” by Ori Hofmekler
6. “Unlock Your Muscle Gene” by Ori Hofmekler
7. “Prescribed Exercise” (sixth edition) by Brian D. Johnson
8. “Girth Control” by Alan Aragon
9. “How to Train For a Better Physique” by Scott Abel
10. “The Hardgainer Solution” by Scott Abel
Okay Thomas, just because “I” like these books doesn’t mean that you will. Only number 3 applies to “body-weight training.” And that is the only book that I would suggest you purchase at this time, if you are interested. Almost all of these books are expensive. However, Scott’s books are reasonably priced. Although I only concentrate on “certain sections” in most of these books, I do read and study some of them from cover-to-cover.
I doubt if your local library would have any of these books, but you should be able to read “reviews” of (and “Look Inside”) most of these books online at Amazon.com. And, if you’re interested, you can probably order most of these books via Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble usually has a policy that if you don’t like a book that you order, then you will not have to buy it. (They will allow you to examine the book at the store before you decide to buy it or not.) However, check first. Usually they will just place a book (that you decide not to buy) on a bookshelf in the store.
I wish you the best…
Dinosaur Bodyweight Training is an awesome book. I like to read the inspirational stories given in it a lot.
I agree. It is an awesome book. I especially like his information on “rope training.”
“Although I have hundreds of books on health and training, there are a few (four or five) that I read over and over…and I always discover something new. A nugget of information here and a nugget there eventually turns into a treasure chest of unique and usable information.”
What are the aforementioned 4-5 titles you keep returning to, I wonder?
PS: I’m still thriving on, and very much enjoying, training the Joplin way. I guess its about 1-1 1/2 years since I started – and I still look forward to each session, new progress, and planning my next training cycle. All I need is the floor, a table (for Australian pullups) and a pullup bar, and at the moment, an exercise bike for interval Training! And the Joplin bug has spread to my cousin in germany, who was tired of going to the gym – he needed a more flexible solution with a baby in the House :-)
Kind regards – Thomas
Wow…that’s very nice
I am looking forward to your book!!!! You have many years of experience we can all benefit from.
I do have a couple of questions for you:
1. I’ve been reading about joint problems associated with various forms of exercise. Have you ever experienced joint problems resulting from doing bodyweight exercises? How did you handle them and what have you found prevents such problems?
2. Sometimes when I exercise too much, or do endurance strength training, I get a feeling of tension in my throat and diaphragm area that lasts for a few days. It’s not a heart problem or anything – I had that checked out by my doctor. Have you ever experienced anything like this during your years of training?
I appreciate the information you have shared with us, and look forward to hearing much more from you.
No. I’ve never had any joint problems resulting from body-weight exercises. That’s one reason (of many) why I like “body-weight training.” But there are some people who have experienced joint problems. Body-weight exercise joint problems ‘usually’ stem from two errors: bad exercise form and/or high frequency training with extremely high reps.
Pavel Tsatsouline has written a book called “Super Joints” (197 pages). He also has a DVD with the same title (33 minutes). They’re not cheap, but they may be of interest to you.
First of all, I never exercise too much. I’m often finished with my training sessions in less than 30 minutes. And I always feel fresh at the end of my sessions. Read through this thread for more information regarding my training methods.
Secondly, I’ve never heard of “endurance strength” training. Endurance and strength are at the opposite end of the spectrum. Endurance training usually refers to light resistance and high reps. Whereas strength training usually refers to heavy resistance and low reps.
No, I’ve never had a “feeling of tension in my throat and diaphragm that lasts a few days.” If I were you, I would stop doing whatever kind of training you’re doing that is causing this “tension.” It appears (to me) to be “unhealthy.”
P.S. My book is a work in progress…Thanks for your interest.
I am stuck at 4 pullups for the last six months. Pls help, I can’t devote more than twenty minutes to workout every day. Every day I do pullups, at the 4th rep my body tires out and I am done. the 5th rep seems like an impossible goal.
Very often it’s our “mind” that prevents us from progressing, and not our muscles. So here is how to use your mind to break through your four rep limit.
Do the following routines on alternate days:
Routine 1: Start counting (out-loud) at five (instead of one), and work your way “down” to one. (5…4…3…2…1 = 5 pull-ups) The fact that you’re doing less reps each time will give you a psychological boost.
Routine 2: Start counting (out-loud) at five (instead of one), and try to get to nine. (5…6…7…8…9 = 5 reps) The fact that you’re “saying” higher numbers will give you a different (but just as affective) psychological boost.
Since you only have 20 minutes a day to devote to training, do the following:
A. Once you have completed either routine 1 or 2, REST 5-minutes.
B. You have about 14-minutes remaining. So do ONE pull-up every 2- minutes. That will be 7 pull-ups. Now when you do these pull-ups, make sure that you “power-up” and “lower yourself as slow as you can.” And try to do some “partial reps” as you lower yourself. If (at first) you can’t do one pull-up every 2-minutes, then jump-up (or step-up) to the top of the bar and just lower yourself “slowly” until you can do 7 pull-ups.
You can train every day, or every other day. For a week or two, I recommend training every other day. And if that seems to work, stay with it until it doesn’t work, and then try training every day for a week or so. Or take a week off…
Once you meet Routine 1 goal, start your set at 6. And once you meet your Routine 2 goal, attempt to go from 5 to 10. And continue on with this strategy for awhile.
thanks so much, I tried routine 1 and I was able to do 4 and a half (almost five in fact). Hope I can reach five and also more in the future. Maybe it is like you say psycholgoical block.
Good job. And you’re welcome. Just keep at it. And be sure to do both routines, alternating them. And maybe rest a day between routines. Experiment and take brief notes at each session (e.g., easy session, difficult session, added 1 rep, felt tired, etc.). Your notes will be valuable — a personal record of what went right and what went wrong. Adjust where necessary and keep going…
Wow…looks like an awesome method to hack your brain. You are a fountain of training wisdom Mike. Waiting for your book eagerly.
Thanks, Vinner. My training knowledge comes from years of trial and error…and keeping notes. The book is coming along. My biggest problem is deciding what “not” to put in it.
Well, I think you should do the basics in one book with the most important factors included.
Then for those who want an in depth resource you can create a series of eBook material that they can order and see separately. That way not everything will need to be put in a single book and in present world regrettably nott everyone will spend time on such huge amount of information (regardless of its value).
Thanks Vinner, that’s excellent advice. As a matter of fact, it’s the same advice that I offered a friend last year. So I think I’ll take “our” advice.
Is swimming a whole body workout? Does it build muscle?
Although I like to swim and have access to a pool, I hardly ever do it. Regarding building muscle via swimming… Well, just look at the physiques of Olympic swimmers (men and women). They have tight abs, long muscular legs (not bulky, though), broad shoulders and big, thick lats.
Can i do pullups from rafter ? Does cylindrical bar offer some benefit that rafter wont be able to stimulate
I’ve done both. And I prefer the rafter over the cylindrical bar.
Is it ok to alternate between push and pull? One day pushups, next day pullups? Muscles will recover that way, but frequency per peek will come down.
Yes. Sure. It’s OK to alternate days of push-ups and pull-ups. Many people prefer to do that.
However, with body-weight training, it’s even OK to do pull-ups and/or push-ups (or any exercise) on a ‘daily’ basis. Of course, your age, eating habits, and sleep habits will determine the intensity and volume.
I worked in a prison for 10 years and I saw convicts do the same exercises day-after-day (and sometimes several times a day), and their physiques were amazing.
Good to hear from you, Mike. I do dips for pushing not push-up. I currently do 4 weighted dips with additional 35 pounds. Is this any good? My pull up is still bodyweight only. Very slow improvement.
Substituting dips for push-ups is just fine. I like to do both, alternating them between a pull exercise.
After your weighted dips, rest about 3 – 4 minutes and do as many non-weighted dips as you can. Rest another 4 minutes and repeat the weighted & non-weighted sequence…except this time drop the weight from 35 pounds to 25 pounds. Repeat this procedure one more time, but lower your weight to 15 pounds. S.l.o.w.l.y increase your weight over time. Note: Your rest periods are very important!
One way (of many) to increase your pull-ups is to do (something similar to) Pavel ‘ladders.’ Every-other-day, do the following: Do 1 pull-up. Rest 10 seconds. Do 2 pull-ups. Rest 20 seconds. Do 3 pull-ups. Rest 30 seconds. Start over and repeat as many times as possible until you can only do 1 pull-up + 1 pull-up + 1 pull-up. (Keep the rest periods at 10, 20, and 30 seconds even though you’re doing less pull-ups.)
The following week, do this: Do a pull-up with some added weight. Lower yourself as slowly as possible. Do this until you can no longer complete a good-form pull-up. (Stop before positive failure occurs.) Then, still with the added weight, stand on something safe and simply lower yourself slowly. However, do not exhaust yourself. Stop when you start to lose focus. Increase the weight slowly over time.
The third week, test yourself (without any added weight) and see if your pull-up count has increased. You should be able to add at least 2 – 3 reps each three week period. However, over time, your rep increases will slow down. But remember, it’s not about constantly adding reps. Quality reps always beat quantity. You can do this routine indefinitely, and not necessarily to add reps, but to simply keep things interesting and to keep your body from adapting to the same routine.
That’s excellent, Mike.
Many people say pullups every day is a bad thing because the body needs time to recover. Others, like you and Oskar, say everyday training is better.
Is it because you believe muscles can recover quickly and not take that much time? Is recovery time (48 hours or 72 hours) a myth, then?
I do about 3 reps (not sets) of Olympic bar dead-lifts a week (just to lift something heavier than my body). I also do a few 45 pound kettle-bell swing-squats each training session for warm-ups. However, the remaining exercises that I do are body-weight only. Almost all of my exercises are compound movements. I never go to positive failure. I work the last negative rep of each set with partials, static holds, and stretches. My training sessions are brief. Therefore, I never burnout or over-tax my Central Nervous System (CNS). I ‘stimulate’ my muscles each training session instead of exhausting them. And I still manage to get plenty of ‘volume’ – without hindering exercise form. I actually feel ‘fresh’ at the end of my training sessions, and I still build or maintain quality muscle.
So, with all of that being said, I can train more frequently. Depending on the muscle groups that I’m working, and depending on how I feel right before and during a training session, I can not only do the same exercises day-after-day, I can sometimes also do the same exercises several times a day.
The key for me is that when I’m ‘not motivated’ to train, I know that I haven’t slept well, or I’ve not followed my nutrition plan, or I’m stressed, etc. I never associate my lack of motivation or ability to train to over-training.
Now if I did multiple sets of high intensity exercises to complete positive failure each training session, I wouldn’t be able to train as frequently. MY CNS would be over-taxed. That’s when the 48 hour or 72 hour recovery time may be feasible.
Thank you for your kind words.
Q 1: Example…
Heavy Days: Pistols and/or Sissy Squats (Multiple Sets of Low Reps)
Light Days: Hindu Squats (3 – 5 Sets of 20 – 100+ Reps)
* Legs need a mixture of low rep difficult exercises and easier high rep exercises.
Heavy Days: Overhanded Pull-Ups + Diamond Push-Ups (Alternate Exercises: Grease the Groove)
Light Days: Inverted Rows + Regular (Shoulder-Width) Push-Ups
* Do one initial set of each exercise, and then do several more sets attempting to complete the same number of reps. Use rest-pause if necessary, and it will be.
Q 2: Staying with a routine for 6 – 8 weeks is usually about right. I’m done less, but only if I seem to hit a plateau or get bored. If I don’t enjoy a particular routine, I’ll change it regardless of how long I’ve been doing it.
I often like to start a new routine with the most difficult exercises and then work into easier exercises. That usually means starting with fewer sets and then working into more sets. I think that that is similar to what you do. However, when my volume increases, my intensity decreases…and (of course) the opposite of that is true, also.
This is what I’ll do sometimes. I’ll type out a string of numbers like this: 5+6+7+8+9+10+11+12. If I’m doing decline push-ups (feet elevated, my favorite), I’ll start by doing 5 reps, and then I’ll rest for 5 seconds. (By keeping my rest periods the same as my rep numbers, I can easily remember my last rep number.) Then I’ll progress down (actually “up”) the string until I get to 12 (if I make it that far). If I’m still feeling rather fresh, I’ll go back to the beginning and start over and go until I’ve had enough.
If the 5 – 12 sequence gets too easy, I’ll start doing 1-1/2 reps, or for each series of numbers I’ll do the same number of partials reps at the top or bottom. Or I can start doing one arm push-ups. The options and variations are almost endless…
Q 3: As you know from this thread, I lost years of research and months of work when my computer crashed…and I didn’t have a backup for my book. (My wife warned me!) So I’ve spent many months researching specific topics again, and I’m now done with that phase. I’ve also finished my outline and my book chapter titles. Right now I’m transferring blocks of information from my research and personal experience into specific chapters. Since I want to be accurate, it’s a process that will take me several months. (I have over 1,000 files and hundreds of pages of experiments.) Eventually, I’ll start writing. My biggest problem then will be to decide what to “not” include in the book. I would rather write a 75 page book that’s focused than one that’s 150 pages with fluff.
Q 4: No problem. Just ask Oskar for my email address, and he’ll send it to you. Since you’ve been training for almost 30 years, I would be glad to hear your input.
This continues to be a real masterclass in effective bodyweighttraining :-)
I’ve been around the block for quite a few years (Ive been into training for almost 30 years), and I know a good thing when I see it and try it. So I continue to enjoy my Joplin inspired routines greatly – and look forward to years of experimentation and progress. I’ve always been training regularly and enjoying it – but seldomly as much as now. Thank you, Mike!!
1) when writing up your routine above, you mention having one heavy day and two light days in a row. I can’t find an explanation describing what for you constitute light and heavy days (sorry if I missed it – I’ve read this post+thread so many times, but may have missed it?)
2) I like sticking to my plan for a cycle (6-8 weeks-ish), often starting with fewer sets and working up in volume and intensity. That means not that much instinctive training for me – but I am wondering what your experience tells you about going into the workout knowing the program and exercises, but doing as many sets ‘as you feel like’ for the day – sometimes 3 for an exercise, sometimes 9?
3) Ive been biting my tongue to not ask you this – but as a MJ fan that wants to learn as much as possible about your perspective and experience, I’ll respectfully ask: how’s your book coming along? :-)’
4) Can I have your email for direct contact?
Regards – Thomas
As stated in Oskar’s article, when I started training in the navy (1960s), I had never heard the terms sets and reps. So it was impossible for me to count something that I had never heard of; I simply focused on how my muscles felt as I was exercising. Basically, I was training according to how I felt on any given day. Some days I was hung-over from drinking too much (sad, but true) and didn’t feel like doing a lot, but I did whatever my body was prepared to handle. And on days that I felt really good, I trained really hard – but not to failure.
However, during my second transformation (late 30s – early 40s) I had learned what sets and reps were, and I started counting “sets.” However, I wouldn’t usually limit myself to a specific number of reps on any set. I would work a set until my rep speed slowed-down and to the point to where I knew that I could only do one or two more good form reps. That’s when I would start my eccentric/negative partial reps and static holds. I would also extend each set with 2 or 3 reps after resting 15 seconds or so…and do that until I couldn’t do any more reps. My pumps would be amazing…
Now some people find it difficult not to count sets and reps. And I understand that. Some people need a goal. Without a goal, they can’t determine whether or not they have made progress. And I understand that, too. But it really isn’t that difficult to measure progress. For example, if my pants don’t fit as tightly as before and if my chest and arms fill-out my shirt a bit more, I know that I am making progress.
One of the reasons that I don’t (usually) count reps, is because I had rather focus on contracting my muscles instead of hurrying to finish a set with a specific number of reps already determined.
Now if you get to a plateau in your training, or if you want to start counting sets and reps, then go through this thread and review some of the set-rep strategies that I’ve posted. You’ll see that when I do count sets and reps, it’s usually via a “Rest-Pause” strategy.
I’m not against counting sets and reps. And I’m not saying that it’s the best way to train. I just started training that way decades ago, and I often (not always) feel comfortable with that strategy personally.
Thanks, Mike, that makes sense.
This is a general question, so I hope you can respond based on personal experience. Many times people tell me that calisthenics only work the body as a whole and NOT specific body parts. So while it’s good for the body as a whole, it’s not good for sculpting, they say. They say certain body parts (like side delts, biceps etc.) are not easy to hit with calisthenics alone.
Do you find any truth in that?
Normally, calisthenic exercises do work the body as a whole, and I think that’s a good thing. Because your body symmetry will be close to perfect.
But, yes, you can target (isolate) specific muscle groups, too – but usually “not as precisely” as with weights or some machines.
Here are some examples of using calisthenics to target (isolate) specific muscles:
In this thread, I’ve noted twice that you can isolate your lats by pressing your forearms against a surface while doing pull-ups.
My favorite type of push-ups are decline push-ups, where my feet are elevated. This doesn’t completely isolate the upper chest, but it does place extra emphasis on that area.
Dips will work the chest and triceps. The position of your body and feet determine which muscle group gets the most work. Also, diamond push-ups work the triceps a bit more than the chest, especially if your hands are positioned closer to your sternum/breastbone (lower chest).
If you use a narrow parallel grip on the chin-up, your rear delts will get most of the work.
This is why I’ve always said that you do NOT need 50 or 100 different calisthenic exercises. All you need is a vertical push, vertical pull, horizontal push, horizontal pull, 2 or 3 squat variations, and 2 or 3 ab variations. Once you become skilled at doing the basic movements of these exercises, then you should start experimenting with different hand and feet positions, body leverages, etc. This is where you will learn to isolate muscle groups…to a degree.
Mike, I forgot to ask one thing. What do u think of one arm negative pullup? Does it have any value in increasing mass, or is it just a skill based exercise? I don’t mean one arm full pullup, only the negative portion of one arm pullup.
I think the one arm “negative” pull-up is a great exercise. I’ve used it from the very beginning (1960s). I pull myself up with both hands and then move my body to one side (alternating from side-to-side) and lower myself (as slowly as possible, and with static holds) with one arm. I use the non-load-baring arm for balance. And, yes. I think it’s excellent for mass building.
For people who can’t do a pull-up, they can jump up to the bar and then do the one-arm negative rep.
Hi Mike, I hope I am strong enough for that.
Another thing, just curious. U said about stretching, I normally stretch (hang) after doing my static holds. But this is only possible in pullups. How do we accomplish this in pushing work like dips or pushups? Is that possible at all?
Joey, all you have to do is Google or Bing the following phrase: How do I stretch my (fill in the blank)? Just fill-in the blank with chest, hamstrings, quads, traps, etc. You’ll discover all kinds of ways to stretch any muscle group.
For example, the best way that I’ve found to stretch my chest muscles is to use “rings” or “straps” with my arms out-stretched (about 6” off the floor) and with my feet on the floor or on a bench. Be careful, though, because you can lose control and do yourself some damage. There are easier and safer ways to stretch your chest muscles. You can simply lean forward in a doorway with your hands out-stretched on the door-frame, or clasp your hands behind your back and try to raise your hands.
A word of warning: You can injure yourself quickly and easily stretching muscles. So be careful. When I stretch my back muscle with dead-hangs, I do it after my back muscles are warmed-up. And by-the-way, “weighted” hangs really stretch the back muscles.
I’m glad my story has motivated you. And regarding your comments; you are correct on all accounts.
In Oskar’s article, he states that I did all of my pull-ups on an “open door-frame.” That’s true. But to be more specific, the open door-frame was in my navy barracks. The door-frame had no door and the frame didn’t go all the way to the ceiling. It was only a few inches higher than my head. So it was easy and comfortable for me to grasp.
When I did my pull-ups on the door-frame, I would bend my legs and lower my body, so my knees were about 12 inches or so above the floor. I would then pull myself up with my forearms (down to my elbows) pressed against the edges of the door-frame. This procedure made it more difficult, BUT it had great benefits, too. There was no discomfort at all.
In The Naked Warrior (p. 188), author Pavel Tsatouline writes about professional kickboxing legend Bill Wallace doing “door pull-ups.” Pavel says that “You will find that your lats get a powerful overload because your elbows are pressed into the door and your elbow flexors have minimum leverage.” He’s 100% correct. This one exercise will give you a super-wide back quicker than any other exercise — in my opinion! But as you know, you’ll have to work for it.
Remember, I never did more than 12 reps at a time. And I usually did a lot less than 12 reps at a time. And I would do several sets, with appropriate rest periods. And also remember, I would really work the “eccentric/negative” part of the reps with partial reps and static holds.
Now if you want to add “thickness” to your back (and you should), start doing “inverted rows” with partial reps and static holds on the eccentrics/negatives. Eventually get to the point to where you do “unilateral” rows (with partials and static holds). If you want to make your pull-ups even more difficult, do a super-set by doing your inverted rows first. Experiment…
Add some push-ups and shoulder presses to your routine and you are on your way to a powerful physique. (You have to EAT, too.)
And don’t neglect your legs. You don’t want a fantastic upper body and have chicken legs. I have to do a LOT of leg work to keep my body in balance.
Leg lifts will work your abs just fine. Eventually get to where you can do windshield wipers at various angles.
P.S. To really get all you can out of your door-frame pull-ups, do “full-stretch hangs” at the end of all your sets. It feels great and it helps make room for more muscle growth.
Thanks, Mike. I am following the method you outlined earlier – partials, statics holds etc. I am using this for both pullup and pushups. But I am not counting reps or sets. I just go by feeling, and stop when I realize my target muscles are pumped up. Is this a good method to follow because I feel tension is more important than counting reps. So basically I focus on feeling adequate tension on target muscles (chest if pushups, lats or biceps if pullups etc.).
Unbelievable, Mike, I am truly inspired. I’ve been making excuses (because I am skinny fat) but now I realize I should work harder. I think pullups may be the magic exercise because it involves lifting the whole weight against gravity.
Just one question, Mike, if you dont mind. I am currently trying to do pullups on the door….. not doorway pullups using bar, but actually doing it on the door itself! I find this increases the exercise difficulty tenfold, but I am able to do it somehow. It works all the muscles much more efficiently than regular pullups on bar.
Can u please comment on this, if this is a good way to proceed with my pullup training? I feel that making the exercise as hard as possible is good for my body, that way my body will adapt by getting stronger. Is my logic correct?
Thank you for your comments.
It’s always good to receive honest feedback from someone who understands ‘why’ I decided to improve my physique. Because over the years (every-now-and-then) I’ve received negative feedback for boldly stating that I improved my physique for one purpose only, and that was to attract women. My critics will say, “Don’t you think improving your physique to attract women is rather shallow?”
My response is always, “No.” I was motivated to improve myself because I was tired of hearing ‘how skinny I was every day of my life.’ It was psychologically painful. Why would I continue to endure this pain if I thought that there was potentially a way to avoid it? I knew that something had to change, because I was living a dreadful, stressful life. I was embarrassed to take off my shirt and wear shorts in public. Because when I did, the teasing and verbal harassment really got bad.
Improving my physique definitely worked in my quest to attract good-looking women. But as I look back on my life I can see that my improved physique was only one aspect of my success. My self-esteem and confidence also improved dramatically! And I think women can ‘sense’ a man that has good self-esteem and confidence, just as they can sense the opposite. Self-esteem and confidence probably attract women to men almost as much as a good physique. Put them all together and it’s a great package. And by-the-way, women can also sense a ‘prideful attitude,’ which I earnestly guarded against.
P.S. A few weeks ago, a 30 year old woman told my wife that she hopes her husband (when he reaches his 70s) looks as fit as I did. My wife just smiled…
A fantastic story!
Thank you Mike, stories like these keep me going, keep me doing my exercises on days I’m tiered and not in the mood for “hard work”.
I also like the fact that you mention “sexual energy”. Finaly someone who tells the truth, and to be honest, we as men, the motivation for all we do in life (at least when we’re young) is to attract women.
Thank you so much!
Florian from germany
Your post didn’t make it to my mailbox either. Sorry about that.
First of all, you are in no way “weak.” You’ve built a good base to work from.
Secondly, review the comments that I made to Evgeny, just above your post. You can alternate any “push” exercise (lower body, abs, or upper body) with your pull-ups. It doesn’t have to be push-ups.
Thirdly, also try doing Reverse Pyramid Training…like this:
* Do a dead hang from your pull-up bar (for a few seconds) to gently
engage your back muscles.
* Do one “body-weight only” pull-up: power up and slow down & rest
about a minute.
* Do your one rep max with your 25 lb weight & rest 2 or 3 minutes.
* Try to do two reps with about half the weight and rest 2 or 3 minutes
* Try to do three “body-weight only” reps and rest for 2 or 3 minutes.
* Do as many single rep pull-ups as you can with 60 seconds rest
between sets. (Over time, decrease the rest periods from 60 seconds to
Be consistent with your training. It’s what you do “daily” that will get you from one level to the next…not some far-off goal that seems impossible to reach.
Dear Mike, thanks so much. If u dont mind, what is ur view of Drew Baye and his high intensity training? Is it better for busy ppl who dont have time to follow high frequency routine that u and Oskar advocate? Just asking.
I have Drew Baye’s book, “Bodyweight High Intensity Training.” Although I don’t agree with his recommendation of doing slow positive reps, he does have a good bodyweight progression protocol (consisting of bilateral and unilateral exercises, full range of motion reps and partials, and static holds).
Here’s my suggestion. Try Drew Baye’s HIT for 4 to 6 week. Rest a week. And then try the high volume routines for the same amount of time. Your body should tell you what is best for “you,” as we are all different. Also, you will know rather quickly which one you “like to do.” If you don’t like a certain type of routine, you won’t stay with it very long.
You could do both, alternating them every other 6 weeks or so.
Great ideas and tactics for training, Mike. Hope to reach ur level someday.
Quick question, Mike, as u’ve the expertise in pullups.
I can do about 5 pull ups, that’s it. But my one rep max for pull up is bodyweight plus 25 pounds.
So am I weak bcuz I can only do 5 pull ups or am I strong bcuz my one rep max is decent?
Hello, Mike! Thank you forsharing your wisdom. It is precious indeed.
I have two question which keep me confused, maybe you could help.
1. Do I have to force myself to do more reps/sets to make the strength increase eventually? Or the specifics of bodyweight training is that I can do exercises by my feelings (not maxing out) and at the end of the day my strength will increase?
2. Is it okay not to differentiate the training process and always do the fixed number of sets snd reps and increase them when it becomes light? Or should I make my next training not look like my previous one? What way is better?
Thank you and God bless you
For some reason your post didn’t make it to my mailbox. I just happened to visit Oskar’s site and saw your post.
Q 1: No. Although you do (indeed) want to “progress,” you should NOT force yourself to do more sets and reps to increase your strength. (By-the-way, there are several kinds of “strength.”) Maxing out is not necessary for strength gains or for mass gains. You just need to get within one or two reps of failure.
One of the best ways to increase your strength is by doing “Ladders.” (Ladders is a training technique invented by a Russian gentleman named Pavel Tsatsouline.)
This is “one” way that I do Ladders:
(Alternate the following exercises for 5 sets)
(Rest a few seconds between exercises, if necessary).
Diamond Push-ups: 5…6…7
Once you can complete all reps through all 5 sets, increase the reps (not the sets) of each exercise (Pull-ups: 1…2…3…4 (etc…), and Diamond Push-ups: 5…6…7…8 (etc…).
By doing Ladders, you will increase your strength without exhausting yourself.
Q 2: There are a number of ways to “differentiate” your training routines. You can increase your reps and/or reps. You can shorten your rest periods between exercises. And one of the best ways (in my opinion) is to “make your exercises harder” by leveraging your body (hands, feet, etc.) You can also (eventually) go from doing an exercise with both feet or hands to doing them with one foot and one hand. Quality before quantity.
Hope this helps.
P.S. And yes, always review your last training session just “before” you train. Try to equal that last session or do a bit better. Don’t worry about increasing every session, because you will have off days. Just be consistent. And back-off now and then…
Thank you very much for your answers, you’ve helped me a lot and now I fanally know what to do.
But still I don’t quite seem to get it, do I have to make every next training session different than the previous one, but still trying to more or less match the volume? (This is referring to question 2).
And just out of interest, have you ever heard of a man Brooks Kubik and training methods offered by him? If yes, what are your thoughts about that?
Thank you in advance,
With greatest respect,
I mean his bodyweight training methods.
Every training session needs to be “different” regarding effort and progress.
Here are two very simple “progression” techniques that will help you put on pounds of muscle…if you eat enough and if you sleep enough.
First of all, you need to make a list the exercises that you want to do. You don’t need dozens, just a few like pull-ups and/or chin-ups, push-ups, inverted rows, shoulder pike presses or hand-stand presses (eventually), Hindu squats and/or Bulgarian split-squats, and maybe hanging leg lifts for your abs.
Next, you need to decide if you want to do all of the exercises on the same day or split them up. If you do them all on one day, you need to take every other day off (initially). If you do them all on the same day, alternate from upper body exercises to lower body exercises. If you split them up, then you can train 6 days a week. Example splits: (1) upper body one day and lower body the next day; (2) push exercises one day and pull-exercises the next day.
1. Rep Targeting: Here you set a number of reps “for each exercise” to complete each training session, regardless of how many sets it takes. Your goal is to not only do “X” amount of reps, but to do them in less sets. You want to write down the “time” that it takes you to do the reps also.
Here’s an example. Rep Target: 100 reps of Hindu squats. Write down your start time. On your first set, you get 30 (good form) reps. You have 70 to go. You rest a few seconds and do 25 more. Your total now is 55 reps. Let’s say that it takes you 3 more sets to reach your goal of 100 reps. You write down your finish time. You’ve reached your “rep target” in 5 sets.
So, the next training session, your goal is to reach 100 reps within 4 sets, and then within 3 sets. Once you accomplish 100 reps within 3 sets, increase the “difficulty” of your exercise…and start over…or increase your “rep target.”
2. Same Weight Progression: You want to get the “same number of reps” for each “set” that you do.
Start by setting a goal of 3 sets.
On your first set you get 15 (good form) reps without going to failure.
You rest for 15 seconds.
You get 15 reps on your second set.
You rest again for 15 seconds.
On your third set, you get 13 reps.
You didn’t make it. You didn’t get 15 reps each set.
But let’s say that the next training session you do get 15 reps for 3 sets. You have a choice of either increasing the number of sets, or increasing the number of reps, or increasing the difficulty of your exercise.
Hope this helps…
P.S. Brooks Kubik is an excellent author. His Dinosaur Bodyweight Training book is definitely worth buying.
From all my heart let me say thank you and wish you to always stay in good health and strength.
You have helped me great deal.
All the best to you and success in all the things you do!
P.S. We’re waiting for your book
No problem. My pleasure… And thank you.
Remember, it’s the “daily” consistency (with learning and necessary adjustments) that will get you to your goals.
Go here to calculate your body fat index: http://www.active.com/fitness/calculators/bodyfat
Just checking in. Took both ur advice n made progress.
This q is for both Mike n oskar bcus it’s not abt any exercise. It is body composition. I weigh 150 pounds at 5’10”. Waist size is 31 inches. At least approximately what is my body fat percentage? This may help me know if I should continue cutting or maybe bulk?
Try standing up and grabbing the rope slightly above your head. Then raise your knees and lower yourself s-l-o-w-l-y. Do this as often as you can throughout each day. Then after a few days of lowering yourself in this manner, try to do a full movement of going up and down. You may surprise yourself.
You can use ropes work the whole upper body, abs, and legs. If for some reason that I could only afford one piece of exercise equipment, it would be ropes.
To make a rope exercise more difficult, increase the diameter of the rope(s).
I’m all for enthusiasm and ambition, but “rings” are on a totally different level. In my opinion, you should not incorporate rings into your training until you can do several sets of push-ups, pull-ups, and dips in “good form.”
And the “Iron Cross” (which I’ve never been able to do) will probably require years of practice.
Before you attempt training with rings, you might want to try adding weight to regular push-ups, pull-ups, and dips.
I agree with you Mike. Never push the pace.
If I have learned anything from all these hours of online researching, it’s that “Quality over Quantity” and “getting stronger in basics before trying advanced things”. If I can apply these consistently I may have every chance of making my dream come true.
Right now I am only performing 1) Pullups/Chinups 2) Pushups 3) Sprints/Stairs 4) Plyometrics.
I have used rings for chinups only and I know how demanding they are. Anyone who wants to take his strength from average to exceptional should try them. But at present with only six months of experience it’s just talking too much.
By the way I got a small rope attached and tried the L Sit but it was insanely hard just to maintain the position. So I improvised and tried it with bent knees. Managed to climb up but failed to get down!!! Loving it so much. Thanks for the awesome advice. I could never think of it myself in a million years!
And the best thing i suppose will be cannonball delts! Rings will give you shoulders like a gymnast without directly doing shoulder exercises. Pushups, Pullups, Dips, and if you are ambitious then “IRON CROSS” maybe. Haha….I can’t wait to get my hands on rings.
You explained my training philosophy perfectly: keep it simple, make adjustments when necessary, enjoy the journey, and keep it challenging.
RINGS: WOW! What an inexpensive, portable, and versatile tool they are. A person can get away with a bit of sloppy form doing regular pushups on the floor, but not with ring pushups. Ring pushups require continuous focus. But the “strength” pay-off is huge. However, the longer a person has been doing regular floor pushups, the easier the transition.
As you probably know, there are several unique pushup movements that can be incorporated with the rings. One of the best pushup exercises with the rings is to spread your arms to the outside while lowering yourself. And then on the way up, bring your arms back to the center.
When doing “chin-ups” on the rings, I like to keep a parallel/neutral grip (palms facing each other). Although that is a natural grip, it’s still more difficult than doing them on a bar, because of the instability of the rings. You are going to work a lot more muscles just to remain stable…
Also, doing “dips” with rings is far more difficult than doing them on parallel bars. If a person can do 20 dips on parallel bars (for example), getting 5 reps on a set of rings would be a real task. The rings are unstable and every little move has a ripple effect on maintaining proper form.
Sure. I’ve sent you my email address.
And “rings” are perfect. Not only because they can be adjusted for height, but also because of the various hand position options.available.
Continue to enjoy your wisdom and advice. It always reminds me to keep it smiple, tweak where needed, and enjoy the challenge.
Wonderfing what your thoughts are on using the rings for pushups as well as various pullups / chinups?
Best to You !!
Thanks for you kind remarks. My suggestions come from decades of trial and error via experiments. By-the-way, a rope or ropes will not only give you an alternate way to train (to help keep your training fresh), they will actually make your “bar” pull-ups and chin-ups feel like child’s play.
Vinner, try adding some inverted rows (for back “thickness”), push-ups (w/ feet on a chair – for upper pecs), and deltoid presses (chair pike presses, if necessary) in with your chin-ups. Alternate the exercises in a push – pull circuit (chins + push-ups + rows + presses). Your upper body will ‘explode’ with strength and mass!
I also train while watching TV. I train during commercials. I watch a lot of TV news programs. It’s a very bad habit.
P.S. Yes. Oskar has built (and continues to build) a great site. I always look forward to reading his articles.
If it would be acceptable to you then I would love to get your email address! If you could send me a mail, I would like to have someone who can clear any doubts and you are the best in my opinion.
Mine is [email protected]
For Inverted rows can i use rings dangling from my pullups bar? I suppose the advantage will be the adjustable height.
Wow….that’s amazing info and suggestions..hopefully I will get a rope installed soon. You are a big inspiration and I. don’t know where would I have been if not for sites like Oskar’s and my friend who gave me Paul Wade’s books to read.
I was neck deep into the iron game and thought that the size and definition of these guys was achievable naturally.
I joined a gym and lifted heavy and soon got pains and aches in lower. back, knees, elbows and wrist too.
The best thing i like about you and Oskar is your simple training philosophy and approach on fitness as a lifestyle and I don’t know how but somehow you guys attract me to be like you.
Well enough chit chat..gotta do work now. I did 120 chinups today in sets of 8 reps then 5 reps and 3 reps. I enjoyed doing them while watching TV in morning and after school in evening.
Thanks for the reply. Keep inspiring people.
Building muscle mass with body-weight training is different than doing so with weights. Also, regardless of the type of training, going to fatigue (failure) to build muscle is never necessary. You have to stimulate your muscles by going to “near failure.”
Go through this thread of questions from other readers and take note of my comments about building muscle mass with body-weight training. It will take an investment in time, but you will find out how I did it. Look for the following terms: last rep, partial reps, static holds, accumulated reps, etc….
Now please understand, building muscle mass is not an overnight event. It’s going to take time. And it’s not just about training; you’re going to have to EAT enough to support your training. You will also see my comments in this thread about eating.
It’s going to be a “journey” of experiments and adjustments. We are all different.
You are not bothering me.
GTG is geared mostly for building strength. Also, since the technique helps you practice a specific exercise, and because you don’t go to failure and you do it frequently, it will allow you to slowly but surely increase your number of reps. And eventually, once you can add more reps per set, your time under tension will also increase…and eventually so will your muscle mass
So since there’s very little time under tension per set, GTG is not a mass building technique. However, with that being said, someone that is new to training can build some muscle mass with GTG.
P.S. GTG is similar to what I did during my first transformation in my 20s. I practiced the same exercise (pull-ups) over and over, and I built a certain amount of strength before I added much mass. No. Do not go to fatigue. You can go “near” fatigue…leaving one or two reps in the tank.
Thank you sir for the information .So can i follow say two week gtg and after that 2 week ttaining to fatigue.Will that work for decent muscle mass?
Sorry to bother you again.I had a doubt about grease the groove method .Does it increase muscle mass ? And if not , should I follow the typical training muscles to fatigue?
And you can wrap a towel too. It will blow your forearms and give you a crushing grip. But you won’t be able to do as many reps. So I suggest doing them first and then doing regular ones. And Fat Gripz are also awesome.
Yes indeed. Towels work great.
Correct. Do the towel exercises first. Otherwise they will be too difficult to accumulate much volume.
What an incredible story. I have been doing pullups and chinups since December 2015 and I have gained V taper. My arms are still not upto my expectations but I have faith in pullups so I guess I will get there one day.
I have got a pullup bar made from iron pipes and got it fitted on a wall in basement. Recently I welded two handles to it to do neutral grip pullups. Thinking of getting a rope to climb!!!! But Not enough space. Thanks for sharing.
As you already know, a “V” physique sets you apart from others. It’s worth the effort to build it.
If you will do 2 or 3 chin-ups for every pull-up, your arms should grow more. Do both close grip and shoulder-width grip chin-ups to stimulate the outside and inside of the biceps. Also, a parallel/neutral grip will work the forearms.
I’ve built all kinds of homemade exercise equipment. Some have worked and some have not. It used to really irritate my wife, but she has gotten used to it. I’ve had different kinds of bars and straps hanging all over the house (in doorways, against walls, etc.). I used to be a welder (and actually taught college welding courses), so that skill came in handy. Now I mostly use galvanized pipe or black pipe with appropriate fittings.
Ropes are fantastic for body-weight training. And they take-up very little room. Hang one from your ceiling, and when you are done training, simply hang a hook of some sort on your ceiling to store it out of the way. If you train in a garage with open rafters, installing a rope will be simple.
If you have a normal 8 foot ceiling, you can still do rope training. You sit on the floor and do L-Sit rope pulls…or cross your legs and pull yourself up. To start out, keep your feet on the floor and pull yourself up…sort of like a row. You can use one rope or two. You can also use a rope (or ropes) for sissy squats.
You can also install a “horizontal” rope on your ceiling. You can do close-grip and wide-grip chin-ups and pull-ups. The wide-grip chin-ups and pull-ups will test and strengthen your forearms and grip. You will need to do the chin-ups and/or pull-ups by leaning backwards slightly (unless you are in a garage with open rafters), or you will bump your head against the ceiling. This slight backward lean will not make the exercises less productive.
Also, start out with a small diameter rope, and then work your way up to a larger, and larger, and larger diameter rope. Your forearms will grow like crazy and you will have an amazingly strong grip. It takes time though…
P.S. Make sure that you secure your ropes really well, or you will end up on the floor with a thud!
You’re welcome. Sure. Keep in touch…
Keep trying. You can do it, and more.
Thank you very much sir for your invaluable insights and knowledge into pull ups.I am sure i would progress into one full chinup within a month.Iwould really like to be in touch with you.
A smaller diameter (thin) bar is great for a beginner, because it makes the pull-ups much easier. Once you can do two or three sets of pull-ups, you can try a thicker bar. It will be much harder. However, a thick bar will really help develop your grip and forearms. I use Fat Gripz to transform my regular bar into a thick bar. You can Google Fat Gripz or just go to Amazon to view the Fat Gripz product.
Thank you sir i will definitely try this in my next workout . By the i am certain that my pull up bar wont break . It is made of steel and supported . Actually i wanted to ask wether thin bar would not stimulate same result as normal sized bar?
I forgot to add sir i can do australian pullups comfortably without any strain.Rather i find them easy doing 3 sets of 10
It’s good that you are able to do Australian pull-ups. But stop doing 3 sets of 10.
What I’m saying here is, if you find that during your set that you can do more than 10 reps, then keep going. Keep going until the “speed” of your reps slow down…and stop when you think that you may have one or two reps left. (In other words, don’t go to failure — but don’t just stop a 10 because it’s a number, either.) Take about 10 – 15 deep breaths and do as many reps as you can again (without going to failure). Do this one or two more times with the deep breaths and additional reps. Record your total reps.
After you have done a Rest-Pause set of Australian pull-ups, rest a bit and do a set of pushups (from the knees if necessary). Do these the same way as the Australian pull-ups. You can alternate this pull and push sequence several times. It’s up to you. By doing this, you can get a lot done in a short period of time.
P.S. Read through this thread for more tips.
Thank you very much for your reply.I recently ( a week ago) a full body checkup with doc and reports were normal and my doctor suggested to indulge in some sports as iam bit overweight. I wanted to ask that would a very very thin bar for pullup do the work?
After I posted my comment, I thought about asking you if you had a weight problem, because that would explain your exhaustion. That clears things up a bit.
No. A thin bar won’t work. You need a bar that will hold your weight (and any weight that you might add). If the bar breaks and you injure yourself, you may not be able to train for a long time. And that kind of a delay can turn into permanent procrastination. Been there, done that.
There are several strategies that you can use to increase your pull-ups. But first, I will address the reason why you are capable of doing more dips (even with extra weight) than pull-ups. It’s because we are all “different.” Every person (if he or she is truthful) has at least one exercise that causes frustration. So, cheer up. What you’re experiencing is normal. By the way, I used to have trouble with “dips.”
Now with that out of the way, here are a few strategies you can use to increase your pull-ups:
(Note: Always warm up a bit first…)
1. Put your 10 kilo pack on your back and do as many pull-ups as you can. You may only get one rep, or maybe none. Next, get a chair or bench and place it under your pull-up bar. Stand on the chair or bench so you can start your pull-ups at the “top” position. (You may even have to jump up a little.) Lower yourself s-l-o-w-l-y. If you can do additional sets, wait at least 5 minutes between sets. (Do not do any more positive reps, just negatives.) Do this (every day or every other day) for about a week, and then go back to your regular pull-ups after a day or two of rest. AND when you do, start counting at “5” (not 1). You may shock yourself, because you will probably end up with a count of 11, 12…and maybe 13. And this means that you will have completed 6, 7 or 8 pull-ups.
2. Since you can only do 5 reps, start your count at 6 and count down: 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. And if you can do more, keep going. If you eventually get stuck at 6 reps, start your count at 7, and again work down… This is a little psychological trick that I’ve used for years. Mentally, in the middle of your set, it’s easier for you to believe that you can do 3, 2, 1…instead of thinking about having to do 3, 4, 5.
3. Pavel’s Ladders & Specificity: Do a lower body-weight exercise, rest a few seconds, and then do 3 pull-ups. Rest a few seconds more and repeat. You will eventually get to the point where you can only do 2 reps. Keep going until you can only do 1 rep. But never go to failure. This will help you build strength, and increased strength will help you do more pull-ups.
4. Do your pull-ups FIRST at every training session (when you’re fresh).
5. If your pull-up bar has parallel/neutral grips (palms/knuckles facing each other), do parallel pull-ups for awhile to increase your rep numbers. Because parallel-grip pull-ups are easier than overhanded pull-ups. You can alternate regular pull-ups with parallel pull-ups, every other day if you wish.
6. Take a break from doing wide-grip pull-ups. (All of my pull-ups are now shoulder-width, not wide.) Instead, do your pull-ups w/ your elbows close to your rib cage…and think about driving your elbows down instead of pulling yourself up.
7. Use assistance “bands” without bouncing at the bottom. Use as many bands as necessary to get to 10 (or more) pull-ups (or 20 reps if you wish). Then, after you reach your rep goal, remove one of the bands and start over with the same goal (10 – 20 reps, for example). Continue doing this until you don’t need the bands at all.
9. The way that I did it in Puerto Rico (during my first transformation) was to pull myself up and then lower myself s-l-o-w-l-y with both hands engaged. Then when I got a bit stronger (without doing the positive part of the rep) I would re-position my body to one side slightly and lower myself with that arm, while I used the other arm for balance. Then I would do the other side. I also did partial reps and static holds on the last rep of a set.
There are more strategies, but you have plenty to work with here. Don’t mix-up the strategies. Do one at a time, and give each one a chance to work before moving on to try another one. You can use these strategies over and over, and with other exercises, too.
Hope this helps.
P.S. Stay calm and enjoy the journey…
P.P.S. Ahmed, you may not be using your back muscles correctly. Remember, pull-ups done properly work the arm muscles AND the back muscles. A friend of mine, Anthony Arvanitakis, has written a really good book called “How to Carve a Gymnast’s Ripped Back with Pull ups.” You can get the Amazon Kindle Edition for $2.99. He goes into detail about proper pull-up “technique.”
Hi Mike, thanks a lot, at least it gives me confidence. Looks like my pulling is weak, so I will use your techniques to progress.
One other thing, from curiosity. It is reg. fat. I am confused because my stomach is flat and yet it is NOT hard, it jiggles a little. It is flat (no beer gut), but it is soft rather than hard. I am confused by this because why does a flat stomach jiggle? If there is fat and therefore jiggles, shouldn’t I have a protruding belly? But my stomach is flat. I hope u see why I am confused.
Probably 90% of the industrial world would love to be in your condition: a flat stomach with a little “jiggle.” You’re making a mountain out of a small hill (or “jiggle”). A protruding belly, if not caused by food or alcohol, is usually a “posture” problem.
I have never had six pack abs, where you could see the ripples. However, I have had and still have (at almost 71 years old) the classic “V” shape, and that’s fine with me. I personally like the “smooth” look…as long as it’s also a “V” look.
However, if you want to “experiment” (and that’s what it will be, because we are all different), then do the following:
1. Drop your calories “slightly” below maintenance. (There are dozens of websites that show you how to calculate this number.)
2. Increase your protein intake throughout the day (especially before and after your training session).
3. You do NOT have to do ab exercises at this time…unless you want to do them.
4. Do compound exercises that work the whole body.
5. Follow a PHA training system, where you do a lower body exercise followed by an upper body exercise. (Go here: http://www.dennisbweis.com/Aug08articles/ARevisitWithThePHASystem.html)
6. Train in a “fasted state” if you can.
7. Keep your rest periods between exercises short.
8. Hydrate yourself throughout the day and sleep well.
9. Be consistent…
If you were to ask 100 trainers how to get a “six pack,” you would get 100 different answers. So as I said earlier, this will be an experiment. So enjoy the journey and keep records, and change only one thing at a time for accurate results.
By the way, that little jiggle of fat (subcutaneous fat) around your abs can be a good thing, because it can actually release chemicals that help fight “visceral fat” that lies deep inside the body behind the muscles. And visceral fat is bad news. So if you can’t get rid of that little giggle, move on. You’re still better off than most people.
Hi Mike, yes I know v taper is cool but somehow I have this obsession with six pack. Some say low bf is enough, others say ab exercises are also necessary. it is so confusing because both of them seem to be right.
If you are obsessed with getting a six pack, then you are not going to rest until you succeed…or at least exhaust yourself trying.
In my opinion, adjusting your diet is far more important than doing ab exercises. Because almost all of your other exercises (pushups, inverted rows, pull-ups, etc.) work the abs quite well.
What you need to do NOW is to clear your head of all the internet articles and advice (including mine), and get busy experimenting on your own and keeping accurate records of what works (for “you”) and what doesn’t work. Be focused, consistent, and patient.
Ahmed, you can do it. If you separate yourself from all of the internet confusion, and do your own thing…you just might surprise yourself and end up with a first class six pack!
Hi Mike, thanks for the encouragement. I will work towards it, problem is I find it hard to go too far with calorie deficit since I am naturally skinny. People who have lots of muscle, they can confidently reduce calories knowing that fat will come off. But for skinny people it is diff. that’s why I am hesitating. I don’t wanna end up looking skin and bones.
But anyway, One other thing I’ve been wanting to ask you, Mike. You have experimented on various techniques over the years. Have u ever experimented on failure or have u always stopped short? For instance, have u trained to failure (on pulups, pushups or any exercise) every day without rest days? Or have u always given rest days whenever u trained to failure?
The reason I am asking is, whenever I train to failure (even if it’s only one set), the next day I don’t seem to have the strength to perform better. For me, failure always means more rest days in between. Is this normal?
Take a look again at my last post to you. I emphasized that if you do have a calorie deficit, you need to increase your protein intake. Because this will help you retain any muscle that you have now. Your training sessions also need to be fairly brief.
If you are in a calorie deficit, and if you do not increase your protein, and if your training sessions are too long…you “will be” skin and bone. It’s a fine line to balance on. That’s why I’ve always been satisfied with a “V” physique (a flat but smooth belly).
Ahmed, since you have some fat around your abs and you are skinny everywhere else, you are a bit skinny-fat. And that’s what Oskar (the owner of Skinnyfattransformation.com) specializes in. You’re at the right place. Read some of his articles and maybe consider signing-up for one of his training programs.
Going to Failure:
Read through Oskar’s article again. You’ll see that both of my physique transformations (as a young man and as a middle-aged man) were achieved without going to failure. But I have gone to failure several times (out of curiosity) and (like you) didn’t like the experience.
Actually, if you do the research online, you will find that going to failure is NOT necessary to build muscle. Near failure works just as well. Now, some people like going to failure. And they do train less because of the intensity and they naturally need for more recovery. And they like to train less. But personally, by not going to failure, I can train almost every day…and I like that.
Dear Mike, sorry for the delay. So I’ll avoid failure and continue as i’ve been doing. Keeps me fresh and motivated.
I am probably skinnyfat but since I can do a tough exercise like dips with additonal resistance, I am assuming i am a somewhat strong skinnyfat? Is such a thing even possible, or all skinnyfats weak?
It is hard to pinpoint my physique, last year I was unmistakably skinnyfat because I couldn’t do even one dip or pullup. But this year my strength has gone up, my body also looks different (smaller waist, bigger chest etc.).
Yes. Some skinny-fat people can be strong. Years ago when I taught inmates math at a local prison, I remember several skinny-fat men who were very strong. They were stronger than some men with much larger muscles. Muscle size doesn’t always equate to strength.
Ahmed, you seem to be “analyzing” every little thing, and it will eventually “paralyze” you. You must stay focused. Instead of analyzing every little thing, start looking at the positives in your training – like a smaller waist and bigger chest. That’s called “progress!”
Hi oskar and mike
I am 16 year old boy and having great difficulty with pullups.I cant do even one negative pullup without completely exhausting myself.Also my body kinda swings back and forth when i lower myself.So are there amy easier progression to pullups?
By the way great great inspirational story.It really moved me to do somehinh about my physique.Thank you very much.
I’m glad to hear that my story has inspired you and motivated you to do something about your physique.
Now you may be disappointed with what I’m going to tell you, but I want to be truthful with you. Since you are unable to simply lower yourself from a pull-up bar without becoming exhausted, you may have one or more medical issues. I’m NOT a medical doctor, but you may be suffering from Mononucleosis (a medical problem that affects people your age) or Adrenal Fatigue. If you have either one of these health problems, ‘exercise is the last thing that you need to do’ (at this time, anyway). Because exercising would make both of these medical issues worse. I would advise you to get a check-up with your doctor, because it’s not normal to be that weak.
However, with that said, if you still want to start pull-up training, here is what I suggest:
Step 1. Start doing Australian pull-ups (also called “inverted rows”). Place a bar (or something similar that will hold your body weight) over the backs of two chairs. Sit down on the floor, grasp the bar overhanded (underhanded would be easier, though) and pull your “upper body” up…leaving your butt on the floor. Once you can do this for several reps, attempt to raise your butt off the floor “after” you have raised your upper body. And then lower yourself with your body in a straight line. Eventually, try to raise your whole body off the floor. Once you can do several reps of Australian pull-ups, go to Step 2. (You can Google “Australian pull-ups” to watch videos of the this exercise.)
Step 2. Place a chair under your pull-up bar. Stand on the chair (be careful) and grasp the bar underhanded – with your palms facing you. As you stand on the chair, with your legs straight, lower yourself by bending your knees…and at the same time allowing for “some resistance” with your arms. Keep doing this until you can do negatives without the chair.
Step 3. Read through this thread of comments that I have made to others for additional strategies.
Dear Mike, thanks so much for sharing your knowledge you’ve gathered over the years with practical experience. I have a rather weird problem, it doesn’t make sense at all. hope you can shed some light.
Last year I got into bodyweight training with 0 chest dips and 0 pullups. This year I am able to do 10 dips with an additional 10 kilo backpack with perfect form. So obviously my dipping/pushing strength has increased at a good pace. But pullups – i have progressed from 0 last year to a meager 5 this year.
I can’t make sense of this at all, Mike. I started out weak at both dips and pullups, but my dip has progressed smoothly and not my pullup. It is very frustrating. I am now so good at dips that I am even adding weights and still be able to do with perfect form. But with pullups – I can barely do 5 or 6 with perfect form. How come I’ve progressed in one exercise so well and not in the other (even though i started at 0 in both exercises)?
The confusion alone is killing me. Hope you can shed some light, Mike, if you have the time.
First of all, your English is just fine.
And I’m vary glad that my story has motivated you to take action. As you already know, by reading Oskar’s article about me (and perhaps the Q & A thread), that I have been skinny and overweight…and everything in between. So I can relate to your current situation.
Although I’m going to attempt to briefly answer your questions here in a “general manner,” I’ve asked Oskar for your email address so I can address your overweight issue with you directly and more extensively.
But here and now, the first thing that you must understand is that your “nutrition/diet” is the most important matter to examine, not the type or amount of exercise you should be doing. Because no method of training and no amount of training is going to help you meet your goal of regaining an athletic body unless you change your eating habits. Actually, it’s probably not the “amount” of food that you eat, but more importantly “what” you eat and “when.”
Doing 100 pull ups, 100 dips, and 250 push ups should (“perhaps” eventually) be a “weekly” goal, not a daily goal. And since you are in need of losing weight (fat), PHA training is better than HIIT training (via my experience). Following is a website link that explains the PHA method of training. It will not only help you lose fat, but it will also help you build (a female amount of) muscle…and that will aid in your fat loss.
(I use the PHA training method “exclusively” now for losing fat and for gaining muscle. I’ve added a few tweaks to the system, but it’s primarily PHA.)
When/if I get your email address from Oskar, I’ll answer any questions you may have about your nutrition and training. Because you are so young, and because you are ready to take action, you should be able to make quick (visible) progress…and that will encourage you even more.
Hello Mike and Oskar!
@ Oskar: Thank you for a very inspirational site – you have a unique and finetuned intuition that seems to allow you to cut through to the essentials of what works and what doesn’t regarding training and nutrition, and not get caught up in all the (often flawed) standard advice you see everywhere. Your learning curve is impressive – and your advice is practical and realistic and downright inspiring. Your bodyweight training and nutrition advice is were most young men should start out – effective, fun, cheap and simple. When I meet af young (danish :-) man with physique aspirations, your site is my primary recommendation.
Your choice of Steve Reeves as a natural role model is also spot on – what an ideal physique!
@ Mike: I can hardly thank you enough for telling your story to Oskar and explaining further in the comments – it has meant a lot for my training. I’ve read it countless times, and sometimes skim it for a couple of minutes as a mental prep before working out. Your condition is impressive for any age – but to look like that at 71 years is downright inspiring. I can hardly wait to get up there now (I’m 43 ;-)
And after testing your approach for about 6 months, I know it is effective for me (in gaining muscle and strength), and safe, fun and flexible. I’m very satisfied with my progress – and people often assume that I work out with weights in a fitness facility. But all I need now is the floor and a table (thank you for the australian pullup – its better for my purposes, even though I can do regular pull-ups).
Im into my third training cycle (approx 6-8 weeks of building up in intensity and/or volume – then deload – adjust program, and then at it again). I especially enjoy antagonistic supersets with pushups and pull-ups. At the moment I train twice a week for 30 min intensively – 45 min if counting warmup and down.
Your knowledge and examples and strategies have offered me a framework or training concept that gives me enough to go on for years to come. Ive seen other fine calisthenics programs (ex Convict Conditioning and Maxalding, which I still like), but this is just perfect for me.
If I was to start over again as a young man, knowing what I know now, I would just do bodyweight training – it has so much more to offer than people realize.
And if you ever decide to put together a book on this subject, I will be interested in buying it. Until then I’ll try to rework the material here into an easily accessible ‘training book’ of sorts for myself.
?) could you tell about your boxing training – you mention jumping rope, the heavy bag and I see a speedbag in your picture. I myself have benefitted from combining such exercise with BW training, and would like to hear what you do and why?
Oh, and paying it forward with a small non-weights training advice to everyone in here – I’ve found that doing high intensity interval training on an exercise bike works very well in offering some functional strength and size, and of course – and complement BW squat well (I often change between the two from training to training for the leg part of my fullbody routine)
Thank you both –
Thanks for your kind comments. Your comment about reading the article and Q & A thread numerous times reminds me of my reading habits. Although I have hundreds of books on health and training, there are a few (four or five) that I read over and over…and I always discover something new. A nugget of information here and a nugget there eventually turns into a treasure chest of unique and usable information.
I’m very happy to hear about your bodybuilding and fitness success. Mentally prepping before a training session gives you an edge. It always improves my training sessions.
By reading your comments I can readily see that your training sessions are both structured and flexible. That’s perfect.
I am writing a book. It’s taking me longer than I anticipated, but I will complete it (God willing). My biggest problem is deciding what NOT to include. A few weeks ago, I found a great illustrator for my drawings and so-forth. So I’m making progress…
I use my boxing equipment for warming-up and cooling-down. I might jump rope for two or three minutes and then hit my speed bag for two or three minutes for my warm-up. And then for my cooling-down session, I’ll bang on my heavy bag for a few minutes (reducing the intensity little by little). And then in my next session, I may reverse them.
Incredible story and reading all this you motivate me even more!
I just want to ask you, if I will do 100 pull ups, 100 dips and 250 push ups, 6 days per week, and HIIT training 3 times per week, what will happen with my body? I am 25 years old, 93 kg (205 lbs) 1.76m(5 ‘9), when I was younger I had really athletic body, just had some rough time and now I am overweight
sorry for my english, I am from Latvia thats why I have some difficulties to write :)
Yes. I like to do high frequency training. I could easily maintain my physique by training three days a week, but I don’t like to lay off. If I lay off training, I’ll eventually start to lay off more than I should. Also, when I train, I don’t go to failure, and my training sessions are usually very brief (sometimes 20 minutes or less).
Everybody is different. So don’t ever limit yourself to a list of “this is the way it’s supposed to be” rules, or by what anyone else says. For decades I’ve trained by “auto-regulation.” Although I train 6 days a week, if I feel like doing less or more during a session, that’s what I’ll do regardless of my list of exercises and sets and reps.
Whatever you do that helps you progress, keep doing it until it stops working. Then make adjustments…
P.S. Actually, ectomorphs often have good recovery abilities…if they eat properly and sleep enough.
I’m glad to hear that it’s soreness and not pain. Yes… Tough exercises do require extra focus to maintain good form. But good form is necessary. Once it starts to break-down, stop…or you will pull a muscle somewhere. And that could set your training back weeks.
Hi Mike one q out of curiosity. U and oskar both encourage high frequency but I find that if I leave a weekly gap my strength and performance increases. Is it possible that some people, especially ectomorphs, have poor recovery so low frequency is better?
I’ve never experienced any problems with L-Sit pull-ups. Now there’s a difference between “soreness” and “pain.” Soreness should eventually go away. Your form can be good, but you can still experience pain if something is wrong. I would back-off L-Sits for a few days, and then maybe try them again. If the discomfort continues, I would go to another ab exercise.
Hi Mike, no i meant soreness in a good way, not pain. The reason i asked was because most ppl said they experienced in the upper stomach area, but for me it was mostly lower. That’s why i asked. But it is not pain or discomfort, it is the good kind of soreness you experience while working a certain part. While doing a tough exercise like l-sit it is so hard to mentally pay attention to form all the time.
I’m happy to hear about your progress. That’s awesome!
Way back (mid-1960s) during my fist transformation, I used to love to do L-Sit pull-ups, even though I didn’t know that’s what they were called. I could actually do pull-ups with my legs so high that my toes would be (almost) pointing to the ceiling. However, during that time of my life, I was usually drunk on a daily basis. And since I lived on the “third floor” of the Marines barracks, and since there was a row of windows right next to where I did my pull-ups, I came close to falling through one of those windows more than once. So I went back to my L-Sit pull-ups. It was safer…
There are several things that you can do to increase your L-Sit numbers. This is what I recommend:
1. Start raising only one leg at a time. In other words, alternate them. Even though you’re not doing your L-Sits with both legs, this helps psychologically. Because your numbers should go up to almost 15 immediately. And once you can do 15 L-Sits with alternating legs, start including both legs on every third pull-up. And then (slowly) continue to replace two alternating (one leg) reps with one rep of both legs.
2. Do L-Sit “static holds,” and try to keep your legs a little higher than parallel to the floor. This will improve your grip, stretch your back muscles (which is a good thing), and tighten your abs. You should do these on an off training day, or long after a training session when you are fresh again. Also, every few seconds, you should do the static holds with your arms slightly bent (which causes tension).
3. Do your 5 L-Sit pull-ups…and then, as your set progresses, simply start raising your knees on the way up. And when you get to the top of your pull-up on each rep, extend your legs on the way down. Once you can do that, start trying to do a full L-Sit on the 15th rep. Once you can do that, continue working your way “down,” from the 15th rep to the 14th rep…to the 13th rep, etc. You also (eventually) want to start trying to add full L-Sit reps at the bottom of your sets, too (from the 5th rep to the 6th, to the 7th, etc). Eventually, you will meet in the middle and will have completed 15 full L-Sit pull-ups.
There are other ways to increase your numbers, but these three should help. I wouldn’t mix-up these strategies, though. I would alternate these from week to week. You will eventually find one that works best for you. And again, you may want to continue to do them all.
I attribute the L-Sit pull-ups to the “V” shape that I built. This exercise widened my back/shoulders and kept my mid-section at about 33” (my pants size) and tight. Yes. You are correct. L-Sit pull-ups work just about everything…even your mind.
P.S. You might want to go online and find you some instructions for stretching your “hamstrings.” You will be surprised as to how much this will help…if you have tight “hams.”
P.P.S. Remember, patience and consistency matter. And any time you start to struggle, back off and take a brief break from L-Sit pull-ups. Work on the Ab Wheel for a few sessions.
Thanks, Mike, I’ve been doing someting similar but I will attempt the first method first, it seems better. Another q out of curiosity. I experience soreness in lower belly region (below belly button) after l-sit pullups. Is this normal because I dont experience this during regular pullups. Just want to know if my form is correct.
Excellent n inspiring. Reached 15 pullups follwing ur advice, but struggling to do even 5 L-Sit Pullups.
Any advice, Mike? People say L Sit pullup is the best because it involves all muscle of regular pullup plus core, chest, leg, etc. So basically almost whole body.
Thanks Mike, I’m zero blood group, which are you?
We are meat, veggie and fruit eaters, no milk and wheat products “allowed”.
Especially foods that bloat you, or influence excrements to be too soft, which means gut had no time to pull nutrients out.
No matter how much you eat, or if you somehow manage to eat a lot, still undernourished, if you crap coft ;)
Sleep, eat and train, that’s the baseline, that has to be kept.
I like the last set only max effort idea + negatives.. I mostly use max effor on almost all sets, to be able to keep pullups 10 sets, with 12 reps in check and other exercises following.
Maybe my training volume would be reduced, and regeneration sped up, if I didnt force to max till last rep every set. Good one!!
What would you recommend in, say 5 rep target exercises (bench press, overhead press), to stop 1 or 2 reps before failure and go all out on 3rd set, maybe even squeeze 6 or 7?
Also, recommendation in hi-rep exercises, like pullups, pushups. 1 rep before failure?
My case is 3 sets of pumping max reps diamod pushups, 5 min rest time, for max recuperation. And then final set of slow controlled reps with max motion.
I need those fast reps for military annual checkups, where only reps done in 2 min. count, so you have to pump..
I’m very well read, but I’ve not heard the term “zero blood group” before. My blood typing is “O Positive,” if that’s what you mean.
I can eat most food groups without any problems, even milk…which is highly processed. If I eat bread, I usually like Rye and Oat.
Yes. Undernourishment affects millions of people around the world, even in nations of plenty like America…because people eat too much junk food.
I’ve been an “effort based” (max effort) since the mid-1960s, and always will be.
I’m a 99% “body-weight” trainer. The only weight lifting I like to do is (maybe) 1 set of 3 – 4 reps dead-lifts once a week. So I really can’t make any recommendation regarding bench presses, overhead presses, etc. Oskar may be able to help you with that.
I do know that from reviewing your post here, that you seem to be making things too difficult. Keep your training simple. Simplicity and consistency almost always produce good results.
I will say this, however, regarding your “rep” comments. In Pavel’s book “Beyond Bodybuilding,” he explains (on page 116) that varying rep tempo can increase your gains. I’m always experimenting with rep tempo. However, I do not count the positive and negative seconds. My focus is on the rep itself…the feel.
P.S. I sometimes do “speed reps” with pushups. If you do “mid-range partials,” the pump can be unreal.
I didn’t realize that your training window was only 30 minutes a day. With that fact in mind, let’s do the KISS strategy: Keep It Simple (for) Success. What I’m going to show you here is a simple way to increase both intensity and volume (at the same time). It’s a win-win strategy.
Step 1: Choose four exercises to do from the following list:
* Legs: Squats OR Bulgarian Split Squats (my favorite body-weight leg exercise) (You may alternate these every other session.)
* Pull-Ups OR Inverted Rows OR Chin-Ups (You may alternate these every third session.)
* Push-Ups OR Dips (You may alternate these every other session.)
* Pike Deltoid Presses (work-up to doing wall handstands)
Step 2: Use a combination of Rep Targeting & Jump Sets and/or a Circuit:
* Decide on a Rep Target for each of the exercises listed above. (Remember, you only have 30 minutes a day for training.)
* Arrange your exercises (along with the Rep Target numbers) into a “circuit”:
Squats: 50 (example)
Pike Presses: 25 (example)
Pull-ups: 20 (example)
Push-Ups: 50 (example)
Do your exercises in the above “order” until you have met all rep target goals during your 30 minute training session.
Note: You do “not” have to follow a “circuit” like this. You can “jump” around from exercise to exercise in a freestyle manner. Also, you do “not” want to go to failure UNTIL you get to your last set of each exercise. And that’s when you will employ your negative rep partials and static holds.
Note also: Once you reach a specific rep target goal, you need to make that specific exercise more difficult. (There are several ways to do this: do a short static hold “before” you do your exercises, or use a different angle or position of an exercise, etc…). You could add more reps to your rep targets, but that would require more time…which you don’t have.
Step 3: EAT! One of the simplest ways to eat that I have found is the Warrior Diet strategy developed by Ori Hofmekler. At 71 years old, I’m busier than ever. But this diet (simplistic lifestyle, actually) helped me re-build my back muscles (see my photo in this article) at my current age. I stayed fairly trim and packed on the muscle (mostly from “muscle memory”). So you might want to consider buying his book and giving it a try. It fits well with my busy days. If may do the same for you.
Step 4: SLEEP! This is the “missing link” to success with a lot of people.
Al, follow these steps and “get ready to grow!” Be patient, but consistent.
Thanks so much, Mike. You’ve been very helpful, I will put these methods into practice and see how it goes. Thanks again for taking the time/pains to explain everything in detail.
You’re welcome. My pleasure – no pain.
Remember… Keep It Simple (for) Success. Be consistent. Be patient. Adjust when necessary. Experiment and take notes. Learn and improve…
Hope you and yours are doing well.
Thank you for the reminder to KISS = Keep it Simple for Success.
Always enjoy your timeless training wisdom that is so practical.
Best to you Mike !!
It’s good to hear from you again.
I am doing well, thanks. I just received my blood-work (and other test) results from my VA doctor, and they are all in the normal range. My physical condition at 71+ all point to a much younger man. Exercise and proper nutrition work…as do the blessings of the good Lord – especially.
I have accumulated hundreds of pages of (exercise, nutrition, and supplement) “experiments” during my life. And because of my constant “tinkering,” I know for a fact that “simple” is always best. Simple and “short-cuts” are different. Short-cuts will lead you to a “dead-end.”
Hi, Mike & Oskar.
Sorry for late reply, somehow msg replies got thrown into spam, corrected now.
I like this page, as I learned a lot here.
Problems I laid out, are pretty much my case :)
Not enough sleep, apparently not enough food, lack of appetite…vicious circle.
I loose weight faster than gain, but I seem to loose mucle, rather than belly fat.
Its connected to above statement of sleep, food…concentration camp style self deprivation :)
It’s hard to eat enough tasty calories, and avoid junk, which actually doesnt do you good (bread etc)
But, what I still do on a large scale is diamond pushups and chins/pullups, either pre workout or as a main filler on rest days.
Last training, medium wide grip pullups, I did 4 sets of 20 reps.
When I use them as pre workout, i do 10 sets of 12 reps and then contiune to deadlifts, TRX row, barbel row…
I think too much volume for my frame, which shows a few days later…
Not yet discovered the sweet spot, even though I vigorously track progress and calculate combined weight.
And yes, 38 years…
Go online and search for ways to “increase” appetite. You’ll discover all kinds of ideas that will help.
Also, read my comments to “Al” in this thread. Take note of the ingredients for making a high calorie shake. I forgot to add this to the shake ingredients, but “cottage cheese” is a great addition…if you can stand the stuff (which I can’t).
Don’t do too many exercises when trying to add weight/muscle. It’s not necessary. Just choose three, four, and maybe five and work on them. That’s enough.
If you “analyze” training and nutrition too much, it will mentally paralyze you…and most certainly destroy your physical efforts. Been there, done that.
As soon as I posted my last comment, I was concerned about you maybe being confused. My bad! I’ll try to be more clear here.
In my last post, I said this: “After a few months of training, I started slowing down the ‘speed’ of my reps (both pulling and lowering) so that they would be very slow. Going slower hastened my fatigue to the point that by about the sixth rep, I was ready to really work the last rep negative with partials and static holds.”
“After a few months…” was really closer to the “end” of my 12 months of training of my initial transformation. I had already built my physique. So it was at the end of my transformation, and I was experimenting on rep speed. During my initial transformation, I never did go to failure. I always avoided failure…so I could do more sets and accumulate more volume.
Once I was discharged from the Navy, and when I started my second transformation in my late 30s and early 40s, I would often “alternate” non-failure sets (of pull-ups, push-ups, inverted rows, etc.) with my failure (to the point of shaking) sets. In-other-words, I would alternate a light week of training (non-failure higher rep sets) with a heavy week of training (failure low rep sets).
I’ll be 72 years old this year, and over the years I have compiled “hundreds” of pages of “experiments,” but for some reason, I’ve not “dated” the experiments. I just have the pages numbered and all in one file. So the “then” and “now” gets a bit cloudy at times. If you are fortunate to reach my age, you’ll understand.
So in my initial instructions to you for “increasing your wide-grip” pull-ups, you will be doing the “heavy” (or difficult) training for awhile. THEN, once you go back to your normal training (of avoiding failure and staying fresh), you should be very pleased with the outcome — additional reps.
Important (regarding my instructions to you for adding additional wide-grip pull-ups):
You should be aware that when you are doing parallel pull-ups (with a 30s second rest period…or a bit longer) before your regular wide-grip pull-ups, your wide-grip pull-up rep numbers will go down. BUT, when you go back to training your wide-grip pull-ups without doing the parallel pull-ups as a pre-fatigue strategy, your wide-grip pull-ups will seem far easier.
Although I usually go by how I feel after each set, I have done “fixed set” training now and then. Some people like “structure” (fixed sets), and that’s a personal decision. Both ways work. But now, I rarely go beyond three sets, unless I am working on a lagging muscle group. And I will then use multiple sets, like this: decline push-ups, inverted rows, decline push-ups, pull-ups, decline push-ups, chin-ups, etc. Alternating sets of push-ups (my upper chest being my weak muscle group) with other exercises, allows me to stay fresh and to really work my chest muscles. Notice, my push-ups are always alternated with a “pulling” exercise. But at the end of the “chest” circuit, I may really trash my “triceps” with a set of pike deltoid presses followed immediately by a set of “diamond” (close-grip) push-ups.
Thanks, Mike, it is clear now. I am learning something new every day from you. I am in my late 30s myself, so what would u recommend – your first transformation (not going to failure) or second transformation (alternating between the two)? If one is too young, then non failure is fine because the body is primed for growth anyway, but if one is old(er), then must we push ourselves to failure?
So basically what I am saying is, would it be better to follow the techniques you adopted for your second transformation since I am that age now? Because I hear conflictng stuff about this – some say avoid failure (to avoid injury), others say go to failure to stimulate growth. What has been your experience, Mike? Which actually helped you the MOST? Because my specific problem is, my strength is increasing wonderfully but my size is increasing very slowly (again probably because of my old age).
After reading your last post, one thing that you said stood-out to me, and that is: “Because my specific problem is, my strength is increasing wonderfully but my size is increasing very slowly (again probably because of my old age).”
Now if you will review this article and thread, you will see that I had the same problem (before my initial transformation)…except that I was worse off than you. I was skinny AND I had no strength. I couldn’t even do a single pull-up. I was a 155 pound weakling.
So how did I change that? What was my solution?
1. My training sessions were very brief.
2. I didn’t go to failure.
3. My daily calorie consumption was quite high, and could be considered high carbohydrate, as well. I ate a lot of rice and beans, chicken and potatoes, and I drank a lot of coke, rum, and beer, but I didn’t eat cake, candy bars, chips, etc. And I also drank gallons and gallons of milk.
So if you’re not getting bigger, it could be that you’re not eating enough. I can guarantee you that if you engage in long training sessions and if you “under-eat,” you will not get bigger.
Your “age” (late 30s) has little (probably nothing) to do with your failure to get bigger. My biggest gains occurred when I was your age. And I was using both non-failure and failure strategies. And my calorie intake was very high during my second transformation, too.
So here is my recommendation for you to get bigger: 1. Decide what you would like to weigh. Multiply that number by 16. The result will be your “daily target calorie intake.” In deciding what you want to weigh, don’t go too high. I’m 6′-1”, and my ideal weight is about 180 pounds. If you don’t start gaining weight, increase the multiple from 16 to 17…up to 20, if necessary.
Note: I do “not” recommend drinking a gallon of milk a day like I did. You can take a “quart” of milk and make a great weight gaining “shake” by adding protein powder, cream, extra virgin olive oil (120 calories in just one tablespoon), etc. It doesn’t take a lot of cream or olive oil to increase your calories significantly. If you’re not allergic to peanuts, you could add peanut butter (with chocolate protein powder) for even more calories.
When making my shakes, I like to pour the concoction into several small glasses and drink them (slowly) throughout the day. The colder they are, the better they taste.
Now be careful with increasing your calories, because you can get “fat” very quickly. You could use this high calorie strategy for three weeks, and then stop for a week – and then repeat…
Regarding your training, I would do both, but mostly non-failure. However, including the failure strategy once every four weeks will provide you with a little variety and keep you from plateauing.
P.S. One of the best physiques that I’ve ever seen was that of a convict student of mine. He built huge biceps and a big chest by doing push-ups: 3 reps (or so) and then resting 10 seconds or so, and then repeating this multiple times. He would do low rep push-ups in front of one cell, walk to the next cell (his rest period), and do more push-ups. He would do this until he had done push-ups in front of every cell in his cell block. His rep speed was not fast or slow, but controlled up and down (very smooth, like a piston in a car). Maybe two seconds up and two seconds down. The rest periods allowed him to get in a lot of volume.
Mike, you’re right that not eating enough could be the real issue. I dread gaining fat around my waist so i am probably not eating enough. I can fix that.
Reg. training, here is the problem. If I can do many small sets throughout the day, then it’d be great. But since I can only find 30 minutes per day, I need to complete everything within that time frame. That’s why the confusion whether failure or non failure is better.
When I go to non failure I feel there is more I can do, but since I only have 30 minutes I don’t do more. Suppose I had the whole day, then small non failure sets would add and volume will increase. That’s why I’ve done failure so far, and my strength has increased a lot. But since failure is so intense I don’t do many sets so volume comes down. So no size.
This is the conundrum, Mike. With failure, I have increased strength but no size. With non failure, I can increase volume (and thereby size) but I only have 30 minutes each day. How do I solve this?
My reply to your last post here is at the bottom of this page. I replied under Denis’ name by accident.
Dear Mike, thanks so much for the insights. I will do slightly wider than too wide, it makes sense.
Two doubts. When u say u dont exceed 12 reps, does that mean u failed at 12 or u simply stopped at 12 even though u could do more?
Second, u explained partials/static holds before, but I find it hard to visualize. Like u said u normally did 6 reps, once 6th rep was over u would do partials and then hang at the bottom. I find it hard to understand. Also working on last negative rep…
I haven’t so far incorporated partials/statics because I couldnt even do many pullups. But now I can do at least 10 chins/5 wide pullups, so I am wondering how to implement partial/hold technique.
thanks so much, Mike. May God bless you.
Al, You’re welcome.
Remember (I stated in this thread), way back (and I do mean “way back”) in the mid 1960s when I was into my first transformation, I didn’t know what a rep or set was. I’d never heard of the terms. So when I trained I was always influenced by the “feel” of the specific exercise I was doing. Numbers didn’t matter to me.
Yes, I could have done more than 12 pull-ups, but increasing my numbers wasn’t on my mind at all. I was “addicted” to the feel of the partials reps and static holds (even though I had never heard of those terms, either).
After a few months of training, I started slowing down the “speed” of my reps (both pulling and lowering) so that they would be very slow. Going slower hastened my fatigue to the point that by about the sixth rep, I was ready to really work the last rep negative with partials and static holds.
In my second transformation (my late 30s and early 40s), I would often do only three or four reps…all very slow. I got to where I would even do partials and static holds on the positive portion of each rep…not just the last rep. And then I would dead-hang and stretch. Stretching really felt good. And today, some of the science attributes “stretching” to increased muscle size.
Pull-up partial reps and static holds explained:
Let’s say that you’ve completed a few reps and that you’ve pulled yourself to the top of the bar, and you know that you couldn’t get another full rep. You would then drop down to the mid-point of the rep and pull yourself back to the top. That would be a partial rep. You would do this for as many times as you could. When you would get to the point where you knew that you could no longer do a full 1/2 partial rep from the mid-point, you would continue by doing 1/4 partial reps. This means that you would drop down from the top of the bar to just half of what you had been doing and pull yourself back up. You would do these 1/4 partial reps as long as you could.
And once you were no longer able to do 1/4 reps you would start your static hold. You would lower yourself a few inches from the top (about 1/4 of the way down) and try to hold that position. Eventually, you would not be able to remain in that exact position. You would slowly fatigue and slowly descend to the bottom. And once you descended to the bottom, you would dead-hang and stretch. During my static hold descents, I often resist the gravity pull to the point of shaking.
By-the-way, partials and static holds strengthen your wrists and grip, too.
Mike, thanks again so much for sharing ur knowledge. Two questions. I am clear about how and when to do partials/holds but is it somewhat like training to failure? U said we should be fresh but will partials and holds produce similar effect to failure?
Also I know u said u don’t count sets but how many sets u think will be optimal if I include partials and holds or do I just go by feeling? Like if I feel my muscles got enough work I should stop? Is this better than doing fixed sets or reps?
Longtime fan of oskar and Mike. I followed ur advice and now able to do many chins. But I can only do 5 wide grip pullups. How many wide grip pullups is enough to brag hey I am strong? How do I get there without following grease the groove technique? Is there any other technique?
I’m very glad (but not surprised) that you’ve made good progress with your pull-ups. Consistency and hard work always pay off.
Now anytime that I refer to “wide-grip” pull-ups, I’m “not” referring to “extra” wide pull-ups. My wide-grip pull-ups are “slightly” wider than my shoulders. Over the years, I’ve found two negatives with extra wide pull-ups: (1) they hurt my shoulders. Not terribly, but enough to be troublesome, and (2) the range of motion is very limited. Now this is not too big of a negative, because a lot of muscle can be built with a limited rep range.
Remember, in Oskar’s Q & A (this thread), I stated that I do not recall ever going beyond 12 reps on any set of pull-ups. Actually, 6 reps was about normal for me. But I would always work the last negative rep with partials and static holds — until I couldn’t hold on any longer.
However, if you want to be able to do “more” wide-grip pull-ups, I have two suggestions:
(1) Do your regular wide-grip pull-ups as usual. Rest about a minute and do a “negative” only rep…lowering yourself as slowly as possible. Try to hold on for 30 seconds…and eventually 90 seconds. This will be very tough. Your arms will begin to shake…as well as your whole body. Do this off and on for a couple of weeks and then REST from doing any pull-ups for a week. No pull-ups whatsoever! This is very important. After a week of rest, try your regular wide-grip pull-ups again and see if you’ve added another rep or two.
(2) Do several “parallel’ grip pull-ups just before you do your wide-grip pull-ups (taking a 30 second rest between the two sets). Do this for a few training sessions. On a day when you are “fresh,” try doing your regular wide-grip pull-ups again without doing the parallel-grip pull-ups beforehand. You should be able to do one or two more.
If I were you, I would start concentrating on doing “single-arm pull-ups” from a dead-hang position…instead of trying to add more extra wide pull-ups. There is probably not 1 in 100 gym rats (and I mean no offense by using that term) that can do a single-arm pull-up or chin-up. Actually, you want to start by working on single-arm “chin-ups” — with your palms facing you. You must start training for this feat by doing “negatives” only. You train the same way as I described above when trying to increase your wide-grip pull-ups…by descending slowly…30 seconds, etc. And then every once in awhile, try doing a full rep when you are fresh. Single arm chin-ups will will set you apart from the crowd…and really show your strength!
Do NOT rush any of this. Patience and practice pays off.
P.S. Train both arms, not just one.
You’ve made an interesting observation from my photos. I do have large wrists. As a matter of fact, for years I kept breaking watch bands and had to get them repaired. I eventually bought an extra large band.
I don’t know what my wrist size was in my 20’s (during my 1st transformation – 200+ pounds), nor in my late 30s – early 40’s (during my 2nd transformation – 220+ pounds), because I never took measurements. It just didn’t occur to me or even interest me. However, right now at 71, my wrist measurement is just under 7.75 inches…and I’m in a cutting phase and have eliminated several pounds.
And your observation regarding the skinny-fat dilemma of slow progress (due to smaller bones, etc.) morphing into a lack of motivation and interest, and then eventually into multiple missed workouts (and everything else that may hinder progress) is quite accurate.
What helped me to continue training during my 1st transformation in my 20s was the fact that my training sessions were brief and I always felt fresh after completing them. Eventually, my brief training sessions became a habit. A habit so intense that I exercised drunk or sober (which was not a good idea at times). My eventual success came though consistency and trial and error. Although I did the same exercises, I constantly changed the way I did my reps (speed, etc.), body angles, etc. Those modifications made my sessions interesting…and more challenging, but not to the point of discouraging me in any way (unless I went to positive failure, which I learned not to do). Later on in life I realized that “slow progress is usually lasting progress.” And once a person has built a good physique, “muscle memory” makes it so much easier to rebuild what has been lost – even when you are much older.
The popular quote by Lao Tsu (“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”) is true, but I never once thought of my physique transformation journey as being 1000 miles. I never looked that far down the road. I simply saw my journey as “stepping into the next day” and briefly doing what I loved – training.
What I’d like to know, is the circumference of Mikes wrist, as they seem quite, let’s say, big.
Bigger wrist, bigger frame, better genetics for growth and less prone for joint damage.
As for the true skinny fats, with tiny bones, all of this training wrecs havoc to their CNS, joints, sleeping disorders if things aren’t taken slow. So slow, that progress isn’t made or visible. Therefore many people loose interest in working out. Sexual drive also is naturally low in many of those people, to make it count for motivation.
The biggest obstacle is to persuade them to start weight exercises just for the sake of exercising, and not thinking of getting bigger and stronger, as actually this won’t happen for quite a long time.
Well, you do get stronger some, but is’t a small base, that is quickly lost, if wourkouts are skipped and skipped again.
So really, like Oskar said, consistency and not getting injured in process is the best bet.
Everyone intelligent enough, will modify it’s own workouts to make them more challenging for him as it is a natural process of a human, who likes to impose physical challenges on himself, but first you have to start working out, then continue working out, up to the point, that you cant do without working out. And only then, the journey begins.
Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer
Great insights from years of experience Denis. How’s your transformation going?
I’m glad you like Oskar’s article. And yes, over the years I’ve learned a lot. And I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned (the good and the not so good).
By-the-way, you are at a good age to train. I made some of my best gains in my 30’s and 40s. And my experience has shown me that although proper training and sleep are needed (of course), “nutrition” is the primary part of building strength and building muscle. And you do NOT need to drink a gallon of milk a day to build strength or muscle mass (like I did in the 1960s). You can add a lot of calories to your diet (if necessary) by making a shake of 1 quart of milk, 1 or two tablespoons of virgin olive oil (120 – 240 calories), 1 or 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter (100 – 200 calories), 2 or 3 scoops of protein powder, etc. (Do NOT add “Powdered Milk!” It’s worse than drinking the heavily processed milk available today.) Drink a shake similar to this once a day, five or six times a week and you’ve “easily” added a lot of calories. If you have trouble gaining muscle, this will help. But if you gain weight easily, you will get fat. (Protein powder is not necessary. When I went from 175 pounds to over 220 pounds, I didn’t use an ounce of protein powder…or any other supplement. I just ate whole food.)
Yes. I am familiar with the “old art of muscle control” (Maxick and Arco). You can gain a lot of good knowledge and strength by following their procedures.
But I have always used (my method of) “muscle control” when training…from the very beginning. I like to refer to it as my “muscle-mind connection.” It’s about being “focused” on (and literally “feeling”) each rep and set, and taking each set to negative partials for the pump and burn. I use my muscles to “manipulate” my body (weight). Lately, I’ve been doing multiple sets of reps from 6 to 30…with plenty of rest between sets. I like to do a static hold at the start of a set and partials at the end of the set. I do this for “muscle gains” (hypertrophy). If I train for strength, I position my body to make it heavier…and do less sets — of 5 reps or less. I incorporate all kinds of rep schemes into my training.
I agree with you. If you are not having any digestive problems, you can “probably” do without the probiotics. However, if you ever have to take any antibiotics, probiotics would help restore the good flora that you would lose due to the antibiotics.
Building strength and muscle mass are two different goals and require two different paths. Now, regarding the exercises that Coach Sommer promotes… If you are after “strength,” his instruction is excellent. But it’s going to require a lot of time and effort. If you commit to his type of training, I’m sure you will get great results. However, please understand, that it is NOT necessary to have to learn to do a lot of “different and difficult” exercises to build strength or for muscle mass gains.
Coach Sommer promotes “quality” of training over “quantity.” I agree. Although I may like to do 100 push-ups at a time, it’s not a regular procedure that I do. Actually, I do that less and less as the years go by.
I became very strong by doing (primarily) ONE upper body exercise (the wide-grip overhand pull-up). I know of others who have become very strong by doing nothing but push-ups, or dips. It’s a personal choice about how much time you want to invest.
Stan Van Hoecke
Thanks for answering. If you would have info on Maxick or Arco that isnt relevant to find i would appriciate it much if you could share it. I have alot of books about it (digital as well), so if you would be intrested dont hasitate to let me know ;-).
About mixing the rep and schemes up. I think that is just great, i read somewhere that without strnegth you cant get growth. So im eager to know how you plan your workouts in advance ( monthly basis, weekly basis, just by the feel, having periods of strenght and periods of building?)
Btw i read, and also feel, that the holds strenghten most of all the tendons and ligaments. I think that, since you begun doing that from the very beginning, you kept yourself injury proof and got alot of strenght out of that. How do you think about this yourself?
I like coach Sommers programming, i learn alot from it, and if u can keep up it builds indeed strenght. But you said that you dont need alot of excercices to build strenght or mass. I hear some prison wisdom comming up, so if you can and want to please clearify this one abit more. Also about the knowledge and expirience that you got from working in prison. Can you tell us abit more about it? Llike how they worked out mostly, did you encoutered guys who used steroids? ( im anti steroids btw) Or maybe any convincing great story that you saw in jail as a result of bodyweight training?
I would like to ask you if its possible to communicate in the future via e-mail. ( i dont feel like sharing my whole story all over the internet :-) ) As i think and feel u are a wisdom and motivation, a source/guidance that is intresting to listhen to. Its people like you that i take in high regards. As i always tell people that i want to get very old and healthy, physically active till i leave this earth. Not to say Sir, that you are old, you have many more years to come. But to call you a youngster i think would be abit of an ‘insult’. Yet we can all feel how young your spirit still is and how youthful your body still works and moves.
With Physical and Healthy Greets
PS: I hope al this questioning doesnt make you feel annoyed
I’ve asked Oskar to send me your email address so I can answer your questions privately.
Thanks for your comments, and I’m glad you like Oskar’s article.
It is a fact that some men train simply to improve strength, functional fitness, and health. However, I believe that the majority of men (whether they want to admit it or not) do (indeed) train to “look better” to attract good looking women. To me, that’s not a novel idea at all. It’s a natural desire (hidden, maybe, but real). And I believe that most women train to attract good looking men.
Now that I’m in my 70s (a Christian, happily married for 39 years and a father and grandfather), I train mostly for health…but I still like to look good for my age.
P.S. My wife thinks that my hormones need to retire. Not a chance…yet.
Stan Van Hoecke
First of, like everyone here, ALOT OF RESPECT FOR SHARING YOUR KNOWLEDGE TROUGH YEAAAAAARS of REAL LIFETIME EXPIRIENCE.
I read al the way down, and picked up ALOT of good info to use in my workouts. Ur story inspires me to go on with my quest. I never ate enough and now that im 31, i start to take in more calories, going for the caloriesurplus of 3000 – 3500 calories according how i feel that day ( altho i dont exaggerate, cause i kno that my organs need to work optimal for still along time to come, overworking them is killing yourself in the long run, dont you think?).
Now i have 4 questions for u sir:
– Do u know about the old art of Muscle Control? And if so do u do it or incorporate it in ir workouts? Or What are your thaughts/expirience about/with it?
– How about digestion? i dont want to use much priobiotics since im only 31. Still it could that you picked up some intresting things allong the way as well? Cause like i said before, if i can digest and absorbe every little calorie and nutrient to the max, than i dont need to overeat and still have the gains that i want.
– Since u speak alot about muscle gains, i wanted to kno how you work specifically at your strenght? Cause im working to have a body that is as strong as it looks. ( i was thinking/i am trying to keep the reps low enough, but build up the sets.)
– What do u think about Gymnastics, and about the Coach Christopher Sommer of Gymnastic Bodies? Cause those moves, like handstand push ups, Planche ( stradlle or not) push ups, front and back lever pull ups, v-ups and such seems to me to be EXXCELENT to build tons of strenght.
Im very pleased to know you are writing a book, and im sorry for the loss of data cause of the computer crash. I will be delighted to read ur book.
Btw love if u would have more info about the prisoninmates.
I wish you and ur famely a HAPPY HEALTHY, LOVINGFULL, GENEROUS NEW YEAR, full of WEALTH and ALOT MORE TRAININGYEARS TO COME
With Physical Greets
PS: my appologies for gramatical or vocabulary faults, Englisch is not my native language
I LOVE this article! Mike Joplin is a very inspiring man.
I really don’t get why guys knock getting aesthetic to look better to the opposite sex. Men should have a healthy appetite for women and sex, hence why men have more testosterone, and furthermore testosterone in men drives the desire for sex (sexual energy) and therefore procreation and the preservation of the species, so it’s just natural to want to look good.
Guys shouldn’t be ashamed of this. Admit you want women. Admit you want money. Admit you want power. Admit you want respect. Don’t be afraid to be a man.
Sexual energy is one of the most powerful things on this planet, and every man needs to learn how to harness it and use it their advantage.
Anyways, I like the site, And keep up the good work, bro!
Mike ~ Wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas along with a Healthy – Happy New Year !!
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year.
As you have noted, I’ve said several times (in this thread, and on other websites) that I do not recall ever doing more than 12 “continuous pull-up reps” in a set. (There are times that I “may” have gone over 12 reps, but I don’t recall – and it doesn’t matter at all.) That’s simply a statement that I’ve made in an attempt to explain that “THE NUMBER OF CONTINUOUS REPS IN A SET is NOT what I focus on. The reason that I emphasis this fact is that “I DO NOT LIMIT MYSELF to any “specific NUMBER of CONTINUOUS reps” — regardless of the exercise (pull-ups, push-ups, inverted rows, etc.).
(Yes. I have counted reps at times, and tempo…but I discovered that by doing that, I lose focus on the thing that really matters: Intensity of Effort!)
“My goal in every set” that I do is to FEEL my muscles work; to FEEL the PUMP; to FOCUS on the “INTENSITY OF EFFORT” at the “END” of a set. Throughout a set, I may do 5 full range of motion reps, 5 partials at the top range (or bottom, or both), a static hold in the middle range, followed by a rest-pause series…until I reach “negative failure.” I use fast rep speeds and slow. I use them together in a set, also. I may do 30 reps in a set, or at times even 100 (push-ups, for example). No one set that I do is like the other. I do the same basic body-weight exercises every session, but I constantly change all the other variables to reach that “intensity of effort” at the end of each set. And at the end of each set (regardless of the exercise) I like to “stretch” those muscles that I worked for a few seconds.
Dear Mike Joplin, if you’re still reading this I have a question based on what you said many times, that u never exceeded 12 reps in a row on your pullups. My question is: r u saying that by the time we reach 12 in a row we’d have a decent physique? For diamond pushups or chest dips usually the criterion is by the time u reach 20 reps there is no way ur body could be skinnyfat or fat, it will be fit. So if 20 is the magic number for pushups/dips, is it 12 for pullups?
Most of my “practical examples” (successes) are due to my many “impracticable” (unworkable) attempts of trying something new. It always comes down to “simplicity.”
Thank you once again Mike for your Inspiring and Practical examples. Recently used your 5 seconds pushups or pullups, then 5 seconds rest, etc. Wow, after only a few days can see and feel a difference !
Also, thanks again for great recipes too.
I do (indeed) advocate high frequency, especially when it refers to body-weight training. My training sessions now usually last less than 20 minutes (that’s one reason that I can do high frequency), but I do a lot in that 20 minutes – all “effort based.”
I do not (usually) follow “traditional rep/set schemes.” I usually follow an “effort based” training routine. If I do follow a traditional rep/set scheme, and if my goal is to do one set of 10 reps, and while doing the set if I feel like I can continue with additional reps…I do. I don’t just stop because I made it to that particular number. And, as I have mentioned several times, I include partial reps and static holds in the “last negative rep” of most sets.
I also do “pyramids,” but not full pyramids. In other words, I “don’t” do (regarding reps) 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5. Instead I will do “one” of the following, and then keep repeating the pyramid until I can’t complete the pyramid. Here’s an example of one of my push-up routines: 5 reps, rest 5 seconds; 6 reps, rest 6 seconds; 7 reps, rest 7 seconds; 8 reps, rest 8 seconds; 9 reps, rest 9 seconds; 10 reps, rest 10 seconds. And then I repeat the series immediately after I do the 10 reps & 10 second rest…starting at 5 reps… I find that I can do more volume this way, because by starting at the lower rep number 5 (even though the number of seconds rest is also short), I can continue with less fatigue. I’ll keep doing the pyramid series until I can’t do 5 reps.
Eventually, I’ll increase the reps like this: instead of starting with 5 reps and ending with 10 reps, I’ll start with 6 reps and end with 11 reps. And when that gets too easy, I’ll either increase the reps again, or make the exercise more difficult by changing my hands or feet position, body position/leverage, etc.
With pull-ups, it’s similar, but the reps are far lower. I’ll count one rep, then count 10 seconds rest (the “1” in the number 10 reminds me that I have just completed one rep). Then I’ll do two reps, followed by counting to 20 seconds (rest). And then 3 reps, followed by a 30 second rest. And then I’ll go back and start over with the one rep and 10 second rest…etc. When I can’t complete a single rep, I stop.
Sometimes I’ll do a set of push-ups, followed by a set of pull-ups…and keep repeating the series for “x” number of rounds.
I’ve made some of my best gains by taking each set to negative failure (w/ partials and static holds). I have also made good gains (and maintained muscle) by doing reverse pyramids.
P.S. Occasionally, I like to set a timer on my computer (for ten, 15 second time periods). And I will do three reps each time slot. I will repeat the full 10 time periods continually “until” I can’t do one (good form) rep (creating cumulative fatigue). This is just an example, because I can do this many different ways.
How many rounds do you did you usually get to when you did circuits?
To accurately answer your question, I must first state that “it depends.” It depends on how many exercises I’m doing, how many reps I’m doing for each exercise, if I am working on a lagging muscle group (body part), how many exercises I may have in a circuit, and on-and-on. There are many variables to consider when setting-up a circuit. .
If you’ve read through this thread, you know that I don’t like long training sessions. So most of my circuits are geared for getting in and out of a training session rather quickly. Depending on what I want to accomplish, I may do a circuit of 10 rounds with a series of reps like 4-5-6. Or I may do only 3 rounds with a series of reps like 10-11-12. And I may use several rep clusters in a series.
Here is one of my (current) favorite circuits where I use three rep clusters in a series:
(Rounds: 1-2-3) (Reps: (4-5-6) (7-8-9) (10-11-12)
1. Pike Presses (for shoulders)
2. Chin-ups (for biceps & lats) (parallel-grip or regular close-grip…& maybe alternated)
3. Decline Diamond Pushups (for triceps and upper chest)
4. Inverted Rows (for back) (shoulder width grip and alternated
overhanded and underhanded)
Whatever the rep number is, I’ll rest double that number. For example, when I do 4 reps, I’ll rest for 8 seconds. Then when I do 5 reps, I’ll rest for 10 seconds, and for 6 reps, I’ll rest for 12 seconds.
I’ll position myself to make the easier exercises more difficult and the more difficult exercises easier. This balances out the flow as I go through the circuit.
I’ll do three rounds of the first level of reps (4-5-6). When this gets too easy, I’ll go to the next level of reps (7-8-9)…and eventually to the last rep cluster (10-11-12). This could be during the same training session, or on different days. It would depend on how strong I felt and on what I was trying to accomplish.
When the last rep cluster gets easy, I may start slowing down my rep speed. Or I may add partials and static holds at certain areas of the rep range. The variations are almost endless. It keeps training fresh and exciting. And I learn a lot by keeping and reviewing notes.
Here is a circuit for two lagging body parts – the upper chest and abs:
(Rounds: 1-2-3) (Pushup Reps: Slow…) (Other Exercise Reps: Fast…but controlled) (Sometimes, I may reverse the speeds and do faster pushups and slower ab exercises.)
1. Decline Pushups (Reps: 10)
2. Hanging Leg Raises (Reps: 10)
3. Decline Pushups (Reps: 10)
4. Incline Crunches (Reps: 10)
Before I add more rounds or reps, I’ll try to make the exercises more difficult. I can do that by changing the leverage of the exercise and/or by adding partial reps and a static hold at the end (or start) of each set.
My rest periods will be double the rep number. So 10 reps = a 20 seconds rest. This way it’s easy to keep track of the reps and rest periods.
Because there are so many different ways to change things up, I do the same few body-weight exercises over and over. There’s no need to learn dozens of different exercises. I recommend that you just become skilled at doing a few compound exercises. Because that all it takes to build a great physique.
Just a couple of questions, out of curiosity. Do you advocate high frequency training like Oskar does?
Second, do you believe that pyramid style training is better than traditional rep/set scheme for muscle gain etc.? By pyramid, I mean doing 1 rep, wait, do 2 reps, rest a little, do 3, and so on, and then do it in the descending order as well. This accumulates a lot of volume quickly.
In my reply to your first post, I stated the following: “Along with nutrition, I credit the partials (“pump”), static holds, and stretching (making room for more muscle) to most of my muscle gains.”
The fact that my forearms and elbows were pressed against an open door frame also played a big part in my (LATS) muscle gains…maybe more than anything else. Read my first reply again to see what I mean.
Also, in “The Naked Warrior” (p. 188), Pavel Tsatsouline describes how former American professional kick-boxer Bill Wallace used a “door” (not a door frame, like I did) to activate his lats for strength and growth. Either way works!! (If you use a door, you will need to put a wedge under the door.)
Most of my partial reps were in the top-range (“usually” on the last negative rep). Most of my static holds (for strength) were at a 90 degree angle, or mid-range (on the last negative rep). And, of course, my stretch was at the bottom range. (Remember, I’m talking about the “pull-up” here, not other exercises.)
At the time I was training like this (mid-1960s), I had no idea of these benefits. I had no mentor, no books or articles, no gym, nothing but a door frame. This type of training (pull-up/lat training) just felt right to me, and I was almost always ready to do more later on…because I remained fresh after doing a set. Going to positive failure was always a physiological downer for me.
Al, don’t worry bout what “People say….” One of my favorite quotes is by Franco Columbu: “If it works, it works, no matter what anybody says.”
P.S. After years of training, I think that “mid-range” partials are best. But it’s easier to start with top-range partials.
Agree, have used partials, static holds, and stretching for pullups and pushups as a tool while enjoying the progress. As you mention, nutrition is the key that makes adds to them. Also, a journal has been like “Golden Wisdom” in many ways.
Thank you for sharing and helping Mike ~ Truly appreciated !! :)
To me, chin-ups are when my palms are facing me, and pull-ups are when my palms are facing away from me. Some people don’t make that distinction.
Although chin-ups are a great mass building exercise, I haven’t included very many in my routines. But when I have done them, I have tried to drive my elbows down and keep them close to my rib cage. Chin-up partial reps and static holds have never caused me any discomfort.
Now, if you are referring to “pull-ups,” I can give you more information on that.
In my 20’s, I did my pull-ups in an “open door frame” in my navy barracks. Actually, the door frame was “office partitions or panels” about six and a half feet high, and a little bit wider than my shoulders. So when I did my pull-ups, my “elbows” (at least 90% of my forearms) were always pressed against the partitions/panels. This kept me from swinging back and forth, and it transferred the majority of my power to my “lats.” So my “elbows” had almost zero leverage. Therefore, I experienced absolutely “no elbow pain” doing full-range pull-ups, partials, or static holds. (The tops of the wall partitions/panels were rounded, so I had a comfortable grip also.)
I always started my “door frame” pull-ups from a dead-hang. Although I hardly ever counted reps, I,’m certain that I never did more than twelve reps. And I usually started doing my partials and static holds on the last “negative” rep.
Now, for anyone who performs pull-ups with their elbows “free,” full-range pull-ups, partials, or static holds CAN cause elbow problems. Why? Because the elbow flexors are fully engaged on every rep. And if you do any jerking movements or kipping movements (leg twisting and swinging), your elbows and shoulders can take a beating.
I always started my pull-ups “deep” (from a dead-hang), with my shoulders set. My shoulders moved down and back. My elbows did not move until after my shoulders engage. Never! Once I was into my set, I usually didn’t lockout at the top or descend to a full dead-hang. I keep tension throughout the entire set. And when I was done with my set (including the last rep “good form” partials and static hold), I would sink all the way to the bottom and dead-hang until my grip got uncomfortable. This “stretching” felt great, and it very likely helped in mass/hypertrophy. Sometimes I would dead-hang with one arm at a time, alternating them.
A long with nutrition, I credit the partials (“pump”), static holds, and stretching (making room for more muscle) to most of my muscle gains.
Thanks so much, Mike. You said you credit partials among others to your gains. Just curious, do u mean partial as in bottom to midrange or midrange to top. Also people say without full range lat muscles wont be activated, is that true?
Always look forward to learning from you Mike. Just as you have shown, it is in keeping it simple, effective, along with your wisdom from the journey, that reminds us we are always learning, but no need to reinvent the wheel.
Big Thanks Mike for you sharing your knowledge and looking forward to more (and your book too ! :)
“The journey…” always has ups and downs, just like a good melody. Without high notes (good days) and low notes (difficult days), there is no true melody.
P.S. Hopefully the book will be finished next years (late). I lost all of my research (years of work) and all completed chapters — due to a computer crash and no backup (my fault). That was one of those difficult days…
True, “The journey ..” with its ups and downs have always considered a part of the Learning and Growth journey as well. Really like your melody analogy.
P.S. Am sure that difficult day will bring, as does wind and rain to a plants growth, renewed inspiration. When the book does come out, sure the melody of it will be as Inspirational as informative Mike. :)
Some people say that partial reps (midrange to top as well as bottom to midrange) are better than full range (deadhang) chins because it takes pressure off the elbows. I have found this to be true – whenever I go deep down and try to pull myself up, I experience elbow problems. But will partial reps being half that of a full range of motion result in any mass or hypertrophy?
The question is for Mike, but others with experience can also chip in.
It all depends…
I usually workout six days a week. But sometimes I workout twice a day.
Although I change it now and then, this is how I ‘usually’ do it (when I’m training ONCE a day):
1. Go to bed b/t 9:30 – 10:00 pm.
2. Get up b/t 4:30 – 5:00 am.
3. I immediately drink a home-made juice drink (mostly veggies with a little
bit of fruit). Plus I add (legal) “pump” ingredients.
4. After my workout, I drink another home-made drink (similar…but yet
somewhat different to my pre-workout drink).
5. Throughout the remainder of the morning (and into the afternoon), I eat
“small amounts” of beef jerky, pickled eggs (or just boiled eggs), organic
(sea salted) nuts, hard-high-fat cheese, olives, and fruit. I MUST do this
or I get hungry and start to binge! But when I snack on the above
mentioned food, I do just fine.
6. I will usually start eating “meals” (not snacks) after 5:00 pm (sometimes
as early as 2:00 pm). I eat one or two meals. If I eat too close to my
bedtime, I don’t sleep well. Sometimes one meal is enough, and
sometimes I will eat two meals. It all depends on the day and how I feel.
So my “feeding window” will be from 5:00 pm until about 8:00 pm, or from
2:00 pm until about 8:00 pm. For a person wanting to gain weight, this
“window” may not be enough. So starting to eat meals at 12:00 (noon)
may be best.
Note: If I workout ‘twice’ a day (early morning and late afternoon), I will drink another juice (veggie/fruit) drink or smoothie about 30 minutes before I workout. And then I eat a pretty big meal right after my workout, and then maybe another one later in the evening.
Anyway, that’s how I do it. And it works great UNLESS I fail to have my veggies/fruit and snacks prepared (and ready to go) the night before. My days are almost always busy from the time I get up until I go to bed. So “the night before preparation” is a must for me. When I do that, I keep my fat percentage down and I maintain and build muscle.
Thanks Mike for the details. I will try IF for a few weeks/months and see what happens. I’ve tried it before and I don’t recall it being effective at keeping body-fat % down, but, it’s been a while. I essentially skip breakfast so my last meal of the day is around 1900~2000 and then my next meal is usually 1300~1400 so it’s about 16 hours of fasting per day. The only thing I have during the fast is some fish oil in the morning along with a big tablespoon of resistant starch and coffee. I also don’t worry too much about what I eat at those two big meals of the day between 1400~2000 but I avoid being silly. After years of a low-carb paleo like diet I find I have to make sure I am getting enough carbs instead of too much.
Mike, out of curiosity how long do you normally fast per day?
Thanks Mike for your diet advice.
Wonderful scripture to remind us just as in His wonderful creation, that Gives before receiving.
Your story is an Inspiring lesson in how our goals grow and change as we do.
Always appreciate your insight – Thanks Mike !!
“Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” Proverbs 11:25
P.S. My physique transformation journey started out as a way to improve my “appearance,” but at 70 it is now a journey to stay healthy.
What a great and appropriate scripture quote. Have a good one Mike.
For sure, Dr. Young played a big part in my early physique transformation. I did several exercises from Dr. Young’s “Big Arms” course. (The course was just a few pages – a pamphlet). The one exercise that I did the most often was what I called “The Side Lateral Row.” I did it a little bit different than how Dr. Young described it in his course. I made it more difficult. It can be seen here: http://www.focusedmusculartension.com/apps/blog/show/12660041-charles-atlas-and-pullups. This is at my good friend Greg Newton’s website.
I usually did this one exercise to pre-exhaust my pullups or inverted rows. It worked great. For example, I would do 5 reps on each arm (alternating), then 6 reps…up to 15 reps per arm. Then I would start over at 5 reps to 15 reps…for three or four rounds. There were a number of ways that I used this one (FRY) exercise. Sometimes, I would use the side lateral row “after” I did my pullups or inverted rows.
Actually, I credit Dr. Young’s “arm” exercise (after I changed it a bit) shown in the pictures (mentioned above) to some of my shoulder development and back width.
Hi there Mike,
Always enjoy learning more from you. Your health journey is amazing as well as Inspiring.
Best to You !!
I just want to thank you for the inspiration and for taking the time to share your experience. I remember your posts in another site about the Frank Rudolph Young arm building course. I did get the course after that. Can you please tell us how you incorporated the course in your daily routine and your experiences with it? Thank you very much.
I’ve lot a lot going on. I’ll send you an email soon.
We must catch up my friend, a lot of stuff has been happening.
Take good care,
I know all about energy-draining jobs. I used to work as an underground coal miner, as a Mississippi River barge deckhand, and as a roofer. Most of the time, after working at those jobs, I didn’t have a lot of energy left to train, either.
I suggest that you invest in a “Pullup-Assisted-Band” device. Start out using as many bands as necessary (probably three), and do as many s-l-o-w (controlled – no bouncing) reps as possible. Once you can do about 10 – 12 full-range reps, then remove one band. Then work on doing 10 – 12 reps with two bands. Once you accomplish that goal, go down to one band. With one band, I suggest that you do the following: do as many slow reps (controlled and no band “bouncing”) as possible, and then rest for about three minutes. Repeat two more times, meaning do as many reps as possible for two more sets (with rest between sets). Once you can complete about 30 reps in three sets with one band, then do the following: take a day or two off. And then try to do as many pullups as possible (avoiding positive failure) “without” any bands. Then follow up with two more sets “with” bands – as many reps as possible without fatigue. Eventually, once you can do a complete set of 12 full-range pullups without any bands…you can start using partials and static holds on the last rep. Then work backwards. By that I mean, do partials and static holds on the last “two” reps, and then on the last “three” reps, etc., etc. One set might (eventually) take you 90 seconds or more.
Here is a link for the assisted pullup band device. Shop around for different types and prices. You may find something better.
P.S. After you no longer need the bands, you might want to power-up on the positive part of each rep and then slow down on the eccentric part of each rep (on the first few reps in a set).
Thanks, Mike. It’s been very helpful interacting with you. I will put your advice to good use and see how it goes. Thanks again.
Remember… Keep it simple and be persistent.
Here’s what I suggest you do to increase your pullup numbers. Once you can do one pullup, every time you walk by your pullup bar (wherever that might be in your home)…do one rep. By doing this, you will NOT fatigue yourself – and you will quickly increase the number of reps you can do.
After you build up your pullup numbers doing one pullup at a time several times a day, start trying to do two pullups at a time when you walk by your pullup bar. However, do NOT fatigue yourself. Stay fresh throughout the day.
Throughout the day, once you get to the point where you “can’t” do two pullups at a time, drop back to one pullup until the next day. Then eventually, work up to three pullups at a time, etc., etc…. During the day, when you can’t do three pullups, drop back to two and then one. Eventually, you will (with little effort) be doing 15, 20, 30 (or more) pullups a day…and still have energy left.
Now this type of training requires consistency and frequent practice, but it doesn’t require a lot of effort (but the rewards are great). I’ve done this many times with a door gym in my living room.
P.S. Once you can do several pullups at a time, then you can add partials and static holds on the last rep.
Thanks again, Mike. The problem is, I work outside most of the time, so I have to set up specific times for my workout. After working outside most of the time, I wont have the energy to come back home and do a pullup every hour or so.
That’s why I am currently focusing on negatives – at least they can be done within a certain period rather than throughout the day. But I do not know if they’ll be as effective (since I can only do 7 or 8 negatives consecutively).
It’s my pleasure to help you. Here’s what you need to know and do.
First, please understand that it’s not necessary to do a lot of continuous pullups to get strong and build muscle mass. In all the years that I’ve trained, I’ve never done more than 12 in any set. But as I’ve said several times in this thread, I would always work that last rep (with partials and static holds) until I couldn’t work it any more. And I got to where I could do partials and static holds on every rep of a multi-rep set. I even got to where I could do partials and static holds with “one arm” at a time (using the other arm for guidance and balance).
Second, don’t worry about whether or not you are doing partials and static holds “exactly right.” Because there is no exactly right. Every person is different. Mix it up: some training sessions you can do partials at the top of the rep range, some at the bottom, and some at the middle. Or you can do them all in the same set. You can do 15 second static holds in any position of the rep range (or several positions), and then try to increase them to 30 seconds, etc. You should simply use the negative part of the rep “to get stronger.” The muscle mass will follow later… I had no specific routine that I followed. But here is the most important thing that I did; I was faithful to my training. I was consistent. And finally one day I did my first pullup. That was exciting…and it was the real beginning of my bodybuilding journey.
Third, every day try to do a full pullup during your first training session and first set. Your mind must be on completing that pullup, and nothing else. If you feel like you are not progressing, take a day off now and then.
Remember, you can do pull-ups in three primary ways (I’ve listed them from easiest to difficult):
Parallel (w/ knuckles facing each other)
Underhand (w/ knuckles facing you)
Overhand (w/ knuckles facing away from you)
Fourth, you can also do “Inverted Rows” (also known as Australian pullups). This is where you lie on your back (with your feet on the ground or a bench or whatever) and pull yourself up to a bar. I’ve used a broom or bar and the tops of two chairs. Inverted Rows can help you increase your strength, too…and can (eventually) make the “vertical” pullup easier to do.
By-the-way, “if” you are carrying any “excess fat” on your body, pullups will be much more difficult. So the quicker you lose the fat (if you have excess fat), the quicker you will complete your first pullup.
I hope this helps…
Thanks so much, Mike. Very enlightening. I have one question, if you dont mind. If a person can do one pullup, then some ppl say keep doing that one pullup over and over (grease the groove). Does this really work? Others say negatives are far better since they add more strength and that strength will add to the pullup number later on. In your experience, did u ever try GTG or was it only partials/negatives, as you’ve mentioned earlier?
Dear Mike Joplin, thanks for sharing your wisdom with us, it is amazing that you accomplished all this without complicated stuff. I wish I had a body like yours.
If you’re still reading, can I ask you something about chins? Right now I can only do partials and negatives. But can u pls tell me if what i am doing is the correct partial? I grab the bar and hang at mid range position where my upper arm is parallel to the ground, then from that position I lift myself up and reach the top of the bar (chin above bar). Is this the correct way of doing partial?
If so, I do this 4 or 5 times every day along with 4 or 5 negatives (taking 5 seconds to descend from the top). So basically, 5 negatives plus 5 partials each day. 10 reps – that’s my entire pullup workout, but I do them every day or at least 5 or 6 days a week.
Is this enough? Do u think this will help me eventually to do a full pullup later? My goal is to become strong enough to do many pullups someday. But doing partials/negatives is all I can think of at the moment, since I can’t do a real pullup. Will these help? I know 10 reps seem low, but I do feel the burn with these 10 reps and I dont wanna risk injuring myself by overdoing it.
Your advice and insights will be very valuable for me, Mike.
Mike based on all of your expertise,
I am planning to lean down and try a grease the groove method to building muscle.
Is it really possible to gain say 5-10 lbs of muscle mass through bodyweight like you did in the navy? I am 20 so I guess I am at an “advantage” also what tips would you have that would be useful for this?
I didn’t build my physique (in my 20’s or at any time later on) performing the Grease the Groove (GTG). I did it mostly by really working the negative part of my reps (usually the last rep of a set) with partials and static holds. I never did more than 12 reps per set of pullups; it was usually about 6 – 8 reps per set…but I would really work that last negative rep.
GTG builds “strength” – not muscle mass. However, if you are just starting your body building journey, you can build “some” mass using GTG.
During a GTG session, “time under tension” is very limited during each set. However, your “recovery” between sets is extensive (high). That is the exact opposite of what causes muscle mass.
During a GTG session, you always avoid training to failure. But when I trained, I trained to “near” failure, but only on the last negative rep of a set. I always felt fresh after a set. I think that complete muscle failure is actually harmful. This is the only element of the GTG that was similar in my training (staying fresh!).
Because I never trained to “positive” failure, I was able to perform the same exercises again and again throughout the day…every day if I desired to do so. Many of my training sessions were 10 minutes or less. I could do a couple of sets of 6 – 8 reps (working the last negative rep hard…but not to exhaustion) one hour, and then do it again an hour or two later… It was fun and easy. If I had time and the motivation, I could do that all day long.
When I was your age, I KNOW (for myself) that the most important thing that I did for building muscle mass was that I made “eating an occupation.” I was naturally skinny. I absolutely had to be in a calorie surplus to build muscle. Eating well plus training several times a day for a few minutes at at time was what changed my life. Period. I was consistent in both things: nutrition and brief training sessions.
Anthony, One of the best training systems for gaining muscle mass with body-weight exercises is NOT GTG, it’s “Time – Volume Training.”
This type of training is “similar” to what one of my inmate students did to build some powerful (huge) arms. He would do a certain number of pushups in front of one cell and then walk (slowly – 10 seconds) to another cell and then perform the same number of pushups (5 for example, maybe less – I can’t remember). He would do this until he had done pushups in front of every cell in his cell house (and there were a lot of them — two stories). If he got to where he couldn’t do 5 pushups (for example), he would either extend the rest time a few seconds or do one less pushup (or both)…etc. Actually, you can go online to either of the following website and set a timer for 10 minutes (and eventually 15 minutes) with 10 or 15 second intervals, and do what he did.
Also, there’s nothing wrong with doing 20 – 100 pushups at a time (occasionally – once or twice a week). You could even mix in some GTG now and then.
P.S. Yes. You can build 10 to 15 pounds of muscle. You are at the prime age for building muscle. And if you are a true beginner, in six months or less, you will be surprised at your results — if you are consistent with your training and nutrition..
I’ve enjoyed reading your training insights here and on other sites. On another forum, you mentioned a bodyweight exercise using an inexpensive and portable exercise device that blasts the medial or side deltoid. Would you please describe that exercise?
You can find the device at any of the following Amazon pages:
These are a bit expensive, but they work. They are mostly for “abs,” but you can use them also to build your lateral deltoids. You just step away from a smooth wall (sideways to the wall), make sure your feet will not slip, hold one of the wheels against the wall (knuckles toward the wall), and raise your arm. Start with partials, and then increase your range.
P.S. Actually face-pulls (with a human trainer) and pike deltoid presses with your feet on a chair (or wall deltoid presses) will build great shoulders without the need of any device.
Also, many years ago, I developed a great exercise for the lateral deltoids (as well as the biceps). It’s called “The Side Leverage Row.” You can read about it here and see it as well. http://transformetrics.com/forum/showthread.php?t=8293&highlight=Joplin
Once gain Mike you present Super tips for us to progress with that are creative as well as result producing. Thank you !!!
My pleasure, Bill.
Although I have over 300 books in my library on general health, training, nutrition, and supplements, most of my advice comes from my 50 years of experience and from observing inmates train (10 years)…as well as talking with hundreds of inmates about “body-weight” training.
Always feel fortunate to learn from someone who has gained their knowledge and shares it from their journey.
Know one can learn some from books, but nothing trumps real world experiences. Feel inmates are some of the most adaptive and creative as far as exercise goes. So please share more on your observations and talking with inmates when possible.
Enjoy a Fantastic week Mike !!
I can research just about any training, nutrition, or supplement topic (via my library or the Internet) and find “studies” that contradict. It can get very confusing, very quick.
I’ve taken “studies” to the prison with me and discussed them with my inmate students…studies that say “this or that” won’t work for muscle gains or fat loss, etc., when all along the inmates are actually doing “this or that” and making great progress. Granted, there ARE some good studies regarding training, nutrition, and supplements. But it’s always important to know “who” did the study, and whether he or she has any financial interest in the results of the study.
One very interesting thing that I noticed about the inmates who trained at the prison that I worked at is that they could NOT take a pencil and paper to the “yard” where they trained. So I learned very quickly that their training systems were “simple” (easy to remember), but very productive.
Can tell you’ve learned a lot from your inmate students. Sure they too have learned much as well as been inspired by you.
Feel they truly show that simple along with the basics worked well will Greatly Reward.
Thank you for sharing from your experiences and looking forward to more.
Best Always, Bill
My pleasure, Bill. I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned personally and what I’ve learned from those behind bars.
I find it interesting and humorous when I read articles by fitness writers (who have never been inside a prison) talk about how convicts get to sleep all day and night…and that’s one reason they have such great physiques – they get a lot of rest. Well, the truth is…that those cell blocks are LOUD – all day long and into the evening! And if there is a “John Wayne” officer (one who allows the position of authority to go to his/her head) in the “pod” (where the controls and communication center is), it can be unbearable…as he or she is always on the speaker. Yes, convicts can buy “ear plugs” at the prison commissary, but wearing ear plugs can put them at risk of missing important calls for appointments like clothing, medical, court, work details, etc.
And as far as training goes and keeping things “basic,” most convicts know that training often without over-training means more volume – and that means more muscle.
And when it come to nutrition, well prison food is “usually” pathetic. ( I know, because I ate it for 10 years.) But convicts know the importance that food plays in building a great physique. “Some of them” (a small percentage) will actually use their “toilet” as a refrigerator…because the water in the bowl is cool. Imagine picking an apple out our your toilet and chowing down. Yum. Yum.
They will also use their toilet as an “air conditioner.” They will lie on their back on the concrete floor and place their feet in the toilet. Cool feet helps cool the whole body during a hot summer in a hot cell. They will flush every so often to keep the water cool.
Convicts are the most creative group of people that I have ever met. (They do – indeed – have the “time” to be creative.) I learned a lot from them and they learned from me as well. Teaching at a prison was one of the most fulfilling jobs that I have ever had – including working as an underground coal miner and Mississippi River boat (barge) deckhand.
Wow, I’m always amazed just how creative inmates are for the conditions they live in.
Find it amusing how some will claim “jail house” training and such, and can tell what is Real and what is “Dust in the Wind”.
Continue to appreciate the ingenious ways they make the best use of what they got, and learn creativity goes a long way.
Find look forward to hearing more of your experiences, tips, and inspirations.
Always Appreciate you sharing and Best to you and family !!
Thank you for your reply. I’m looking forward to getting those wheels to try that exercise.
I do use the side leverage row which I find also works the biceps really good. I also like pike presses for the shoulders.
Keep going strong and I hope I do as well as you are doing when I get into my 70s. I’m 50 and I find bodyweight exercises work best for me both for strength and physique.
You’re welcome and thank you.
The “wheels” are great for chest flyes also! Start doing them on your knees, and then work up to doing them on your toes (that will take awhile). Do this before you do your pushups, and you will find that pushups will not be so easy. (You could also do them on a wall, if it’s too difficult on your knees. Just make sure that your feet don’t slip.)
Once you build the physique that pleases you, all you have to do to keep what you’ve built is to train 3 to 4 times a week, 30 – 45 minutes each time. BUT the older you get, the more you have to watch your nutrition. I personally like to train 6 days a week. I don’t have to do that, it’s just a preference.
Body-weight training has never been difficult for me. But the older I get, the easier it is for me to gain fat. Intermittent Fasting (especially The Warrior Diet by Ori Hofmekler) has worked great for me. I have also found that drinking two smoothies (with protein) a day (during the day) and then eating a good meal in the evening works great. I eat as much protein food as I can first, and then carbs last. I like to snack during the day (in moderation) on any of the following: hard-boiled (pickled) eggs, jerky, nuts, whole fruit, and whole fat cheese.
Thanks for the chest flyes exercise with the wheels. Using that movement before with dumbbells, I know how well it works the chest. I also appreciate your diet suggestions. Fat around the middle is one areas that I’m having trouble with and I do like snacking on potato chips and dark chocolate Reeses miniature cups. Along with bodyweight exercises, I have been walking more and I’m going to start adding sprints in as well. But I’ve got to dial in on my diet more, so thank you for your advice.
Mike, you mentioned before about working on a book describing your workout throughout the years as well as your inmate students exercise experiences. Are you still working on that project? I hope so, because you have a lot to offer and I would like to read more.
Sprints are great. However, be sure to rest thoroughly between sprints, and don’t over do it. About 15 – 20 minutes per session is plenty.
Yes. I’ve been working on a book for several years. I had a lot of it completed about 18 months ago (approximately), but my computer crashed and I lost just about everything (all the chapters but one, all my research – hundreds of websites, studies, and articles, etc.). My wife kept telling me that I should have my book “backed-up,” but I didn’t listen. So I’m more careful now. Lesson learned. I’m taking my time with it though. I want to be as accurate as possible.
Hi Mike, nice to know about your insights and experiences. It is very enlightening. I know I am late to this thread, but if you’re following could u please tell me if you ever used weights for your bodyweight training? Or was most of your training pure bodyweight only? Thanks.
I “never” used weights when I built my physique in my 20’s (Puerto Rico). And when I was in my late 30’s and early 40’s, when I built my physique to over 220 pounds, I “never” used weights then either.
Both times it was all body-weight exercises, primarily overhand pullups. However, during my late 30’s and early 40’s, I also did as many pushups and Australian pullups (where I would pull my self up on a metal bar braced on top of the backs of two chairs) as I did pullups.
When I was in my mid to late 50’s and later on in my early 60’s, I did hack squats with an Olympic set. Both times I over did it. I pulled a muscle in my back both times.
And now at 70, I do one set of three (reps) dead-lifts on Saturday mornings, just to lift something heavy once a week. It does nothing for my physique. I just do it. Every exercise I do now for my physique is body-weight only.
Hi Mike, thanks so much for your reply. You did pull-ups for your back, biceps etc. but what about your chest, triceps – did u build them doing only push-ups (without backpack or some resistance).
The reason I am asking is, pull-ups is so tough that even without weights it Builds the body. But push-ups etc. are not that tough so how did u manage to build pushing muscles like chest without weights? I am a little curious.
If you find pushups easy I would say you are
A) not doing them right – strict pushups are hard, or
B) you’ve mastered them and jus not doing enough.
When I was in the Navy (Puerto Rico), I did a lot of pullups (never more than 12 a set – and usually only 6 to 8 a set). But on the last rep, I always did partials and static holds until I couldn’t hold on any longer.
I did very few pushups. I don’t remember doing more than one set a week, if that. Occasionally, I did inverted rows and the Side Lateral Row.
You really don’t have to do a lot of pushups to make progress. You can do the following: do 10 pushups and do a 10 second static hold at the mid-point (halfway down/up). Then do 9 pushups with a 9 second static hold at the same position. And continue on down until you finish the set. When you get to the last rep, do as many partials as you can at the mid-point or bottom range. If this becomes too easy, raise the set to 11 reps, etc. You can also start doing one arm pushups in the same way.
Thanks again, Mike, for the suggestion on pushups. Very useful. In that picture, you have a well defined chest, so i am surprised to learn you didn’t do any pushing type exercise, only pullups. I thought pullups only developed back, biceps etc., and that some form of pushing (like bench, pushup etc.) was required to develop chest.
The (overhand) pullup is a compound exercise, and it works more than one muscle group. I also attribute the Side Lateral Row to some of my chest development.
Woody Strode (a black actor of many years ago) developed his upper body with only pushups. He did 1000 a day. He not only had a great chest, but also a great back, wide shoulders, and muscular arms.
So both of these examples show that it takes very few “compound” exercises to build the upper body.
Thanks again, Mike. When you couldn’t do one pullup, you said you started by doing negatives. Did u do them every day or sparingly? Because when I try negatives, they are hard and make my muscles sore for at least two days, so I am wondering if you pushed through that soreness every day.
In the beginning, I didn’t exercise every day. So I don’t really remember having any soreness. But once I could do a single pullup without assistance from my feet touching the floor, I started working out everyday.
Now I will tell you this…with body-weight training, I don’t see any reason not to work through your soreness. But if you come to the point where you don’t want to workout, then you need to back off and rest a day or two. It’s a personal thing. It’s different with everybody.
“Working” (partials and static holds) the negative side of the rep will almost always produce more soreness.
Yes, you can gain muscle with a GTG routine…IF you use other training methods with it.
Also, you must understand that (because you are a woman) you will not be able to gain a lot of muscle – and that’s a good thing (unless you want a “masculine” look achieved by anabolic drugs). But my guess is that you want the “athletic” look – a look with all the “curves” in the right places.
The reason that you (or any woman) can not gain as much muscle as a man is because a woman’s hormonal profiles are quite different – especially regarding testosterone and estrogen. So your genetic potential will be quite a bit less than that of a man. However, you can (indeed) build a sexy feminine physique with just a few months of consistent effort, the correct exercises and methods, and a targeted nutrition strategy.
One of the most important things that you need to know is that your nutrition and lifestyle are just as important as training.
Now, regarding GTG… You will gain more “strength” than muscle mass. That’s not a bad thing initially. Now some gurus will tell you that muscle gains will always follow if you simply continue doing strength exercises. I disagree. For muscle gains, you will need to train specifically for muscle gain.
In my interview with Oskar, notice that my exercises were “not based on a true” GTG routine. Most of my gains were due to my focusing on the negative part of the reps…by doing partials and static holds.
Hey Mike. I have known GTG for about 2 years but I have never done it because I though it wasn’t suitable for muscle gain. After reading your history I think I’m going to give it a try. And I’m going to GTG sets of 10 close grip pull ups during the day. Do you think it’s going to help me building muscle?
Congratulations Mike! Continued health, happiness and success!!
Thanks, Ron. I appreciate your encouragement…
My computer has been in the shop for an entire week for repairs and upgrades. It’s good to be back online again.
Thank you for your comment. I agree with you completely. Make it simple and enjoyable. Be consistent and adjust when necessary. Make your training sessions challenging, but not to the point of exhaustion.
Great article Oskar & Mike!
It’s always inspiring to read about someone who trained without too many questions. We are too careful these days. We want to know what’s right and wrong and is this enough or do I need more? What happened to listening to your body?
I started Calisthenics when a friend introduced me to it and we just did 5 pull-ups, 5 dips and 5 push-ups for 5 rounds! We felt good and that was it!
Train until you are satisfied and because you like it and stop trying to follow too many rules and that is what I feel this article communicated to me in one sense!
/ Nico Collu
Thank you to Oskar and Mike for sharing this Inspiring and Motivating story. Hope Mike will consider writing a book on his journey along with inspiration and tips from his wisdom gained.
You’re welcome Bill, when Mike decides to release a book, I will promote it to the newsletter.
Thanks Oskar – will be at the front of the line to get Mike’s book !
Great post !!
Enjoyed learning more about the Power of Bodyweight exercising.
Wondering if it’s possible you put me in touch with Mike Joplin?
By the way, Mike is truly motivating for us “Young-Older” guys to Enjoy Life & Health at ANY age.
I’ve asked Oskar to give you my email address.
Thanks Mike and looking forward to learning more.
First of all Thanks for the article…reading things like that helps keep me motivated.
I’m 28 6’3 and about 190lbs and have the ‘skinny fat’ look. I have been weightlifting for many years with little progress in strength or muscle gains. I have started focusing on bodyweight exercises after reading Oskars articles. As well as his nutrition articles (i just started the steak and eggs diet to try and lose the excess fat in my stomach and chest)
I currently can do 3 chin ups and about 25 push ups. I have been doin 5 sets of each but the reps go down due to fatigue by my 5th set of chin ups i can barely do 1.
Do you recomend a beginner workout routine for body weight exercises?
The “steak and eggs” diet will help you drop the fat quickly. The first three or four days are the hardest (as you have probably already discovered)!!!
I suggest two meals a day. Exactly “when” you eat the two meals is entirely up to you. But when you do eat, eat all of the steak and eggs you can handle. And use a lot of “butter” when cooking your meals, too. Take one day a week to eat all you want: low fat and high carb. There is all kinds of different ingredients you can add to your steak, and you can cook eggs in dozens of ways (no pun intended).
The fact that you’ve been weightlifting for years with no progress doesn’t surprise me. I see it all the time. And there are countless reasons those who train for long periods do not progress. Too many reasons to cover here…
Yes, I do have a beginner’s bodyweight program for pushups and chinups.
Here’s what I suggest you do…
Purchase a “P90X Chin-up Max – Pull-up Assist Band” for about $50.00 (from Amazon). (I do NOT recommend the P90X program!!!)
When using the assistant band, power up and slow down. And do not bounce at the bottom of the rep. Otherwise you will “spring” up. And you will not be building any strength or mass – just more reps by cheating.
In the beginning, use ALL the bands. And once you can do 12 “good form” reps, remove one band and start over. Your rep number will (of course) drop. Repeat until you can do 12 reps without the use of the bands.
Start out with “parallel” chinups (knuckles facing each other). After you are able to do 12 good form “parallel” chinups, then go to the underhand chinups, and then finally to the overhand pull-ups. (If you don’t have parallel bars available, start with the underhand).
The acronym “AMRAP” means: “As Many Reps As Possible”
Do your “pushups” like this: 1 pushup, rest 1 second; 2 pushups, rest 2 seconds; three pushups, rest 3 seconds; 4 pushups, rest 4 seconds. You do this with EACH pushup series.
* Your training session should be less than 30 minutes.
Parallel Chinups: AMRAP (Do NOT go to failure! Stay Fresh!)
Rest 30 seconds
Pushups: 1+2+3+4 = 10 reps
Rest 1 minute
Parallel Chinups: AMRAP (Do NOT go to failure! Stay Fresh!)
Rest 30 seconds
Pushups: 2+3+4+5 = 14 reps
Rest 1 minute
Parallel Chinups: AMRAP (Do NOT go to failure! Stay Fresh!)
Rest 30 seconds
Pushups: 3+4+5+6 = 18 reps
Rest 1 minute
Parallel Chinups: AMRAP (Do NOT go to failure! Stay Fresh!)
Rest 30 seconds
Pushups: 4+5+6+7 = 22 reps
Rest 1 minute
Parallel Chinups: AMRAP (Do NOT go to failure! Stay Fresh!)
Rest 30 seconds
Pushups: 5+6+7+8 = 26 reps
Rest 30 seconds
Pushups: 10 reps
TOTAL PUSHUPS = 100
TOTAL CHINUPS = This will vary…
Continue working on your chinup/pullup reps for volume and good form.
However, once your pushups become easy, increase your “pushup” volume as follows: (Remember that you will be doing pull-ups between each pushup series.)
6+7+8+9 = 30 reps
7+8+9+10 = 34 reps
8+9+10+11 = 38 reps
9+10+11+12 = 42 reps
10+11+12+13 = 46 reps
10 = 10 reps
Total Pushup Reps: = 200 reps
Remember, for each number of pushups you do, rest for the same amount as the number. (6 pushups, rest 6 seconds, 7 pushups, rest 7 seconds, etc…)
Also, eventually you should eliminate all 1 minute rest periods, or reduce them to 15 seconds or so.
If you do not want to purchase a pullup assist band, just do as many chinups as you can (for each chinup/pushup series) without going to failure. As you progress through each training session, you will do less and less chinups as the session nears the end. However, eventually you will be able to more and more…
You can exercise every day or every other day. If you start feeling tired or not wanting to train, then train one day and rest two days. It’s all up to you.
And finally, please notice the following pushup series (as an example). I want you to notice something interesting. Let’s take the following series of pushups: 4+5+6+7 = 22 reps. Now when we go to the next level, we will drop the 4 and add the 7: 5+6+7+8 = 26 reps. Although the “mind” sees only 1 rep increase in the series of numbers (5 is “one” more than 4, and 8 is “one” more than 7, you are actually doing FOUR more reps, not two.
That should “drop the 4 and add the 8.”
I cant thank you enough for taking the time to respond! Im on my 5th day of steak and eggs and the first 3 were brutal!
The beginners push up/pull up routine sounds awesome! I can definently see myself progressing following that routine. I will be starting tommorow and I will be ordering the assistance bands(wish i would have seen that a while ago).
I have one question about the push up sets…when I rest between reps, do i rest in the push up position or on my knees?
Thank you again
No problem. My pleasure.
When you are on the 1+2+3+4 series, it really doesn’t mater — because your rest periods are so brief. You can rest with your chest on the floor, or with your arms extended. On the floor is a bit easier.
Once you are in the 4+5+6+7 series (and beyond), you may feel more rested on your knees.
Sometimes I will “rest” on my “forehead and toes” (with my arms stretched out to my sides for balance, if necessary) — strengthening my neck and my core. But don’t worry about doing that now. You just need to increase your pushup and chinup volume.
Once you advance to (and get comfortable with) the 10+11+12+13 series, I will show you what to do to increase the intensity of your pushups without having to do more pushups (unless that’s what you would want).
Please update here when you get to thatching too please :)
“That point”. Not thatching. Autocorrect. Grr.
Will do! You as well.
Sounds great, makes sense!
I dont know how long you will be following comments on this page but I look forward to sharing my progress and speaking with you again.
Thanks to you and Oskar for spending your free time helping us with our health and fitness.
You’re welcome Dan.
Commit to the routine for 3 or 4 weeks, and I think you’ll be surprised.
Mike, I like the pushup routine. It adds volume quickly.
FYI I have been following your advice for pullups/pushups and in the last two weeks I have managed to get to 4 sets of pushups of 14 reps each compounded with pull-ups which have gone from .5 to 2, 2, 1, 1. So getting there.
I’m glad you’re making progress. However, if you stop progressing, take a day or two rest…and then go again.
Just wanted to come back and say that I have been following this routine five days a week since Feb. Though I have not been able to do the pull-ups consistently (I am boarding and don’t have a pull-up bar at home, so only do it when I am at the gym – 2 to 3 times a week) I have been faithful with the pushups. I am still not hitting the 100 pushups yet (99 is my best and I average about 90) I am getting there.
Three months of pushups has given me more bulk and definition then 5 years of strength training. I have certainly lost some strength but I look more muscular now as opposed to being strong (squatting almost 300kg) but still looking like a teddy bear.
Thanks Mike J for sharing and thanks Oskar for this whole site.
I’m glad to hear about your progress. If you want some variety (alternate days, for example), you can do what I described to Oscar.
Also, once you make it to 100 reps, you could do several partials in the upper range before you do your 100 reps.
You could also try to work up to 100 reps in just the middle range. That would create constant tension…and a great pump.
I think I’ll try that, thanks for the suggestion.
Speaking of nutrition, I am still unable to trim my mid-section. When you do the warrior diet do you only eat one meal a day? I can handle skipping breakfast for example and doing IF for about 16 hours. Not sure I could just eat one meal a day.
I can’t break 20% body fat barrier at the moment and I think a lot of it is age and perhaps lipton resistance. Thats about the only explanation I can find for it.
When I was in my 20’s, 30’s, and even 40’s, I had very little trouble keeping a trim midsection. However, once I hit my 50’s, things changed. It seemed like I could gain weight (FAT!) just by looking at carbs (sweets!).
You do NOT have to eat only one meal a day doing IF. You can eat two or three, if you can fit them into that feeding window. And you can make your feeding window longer if necessary. And if you learn to eat all the protein food (meat, for example) “first,” before you eat your carbs, you will have little room for carbs. And if you eat mostly “fibrous” carbs, it gets even easier. Carbs are not the enemy, you just have to eat the right kind at the right times.
And by-the-way, my “smoothies” are about 90% “veggies” and 10% “fruit.” The only fruit that I put in my smoothies are apples, or lemons, or limes, or grapefruit – and sometimes cherries.
I have gotten to the point following your push-up regime that I can regularly hit 98~100. I can also knock-out the 10, 14, 18 and sometimes 22 in one go – no rest. So this has got me thinking of what do next :
1. Is it OK to knock out the sets in one go or is there a reason to stick to the same cadence even if I can do the sets in one go now?
2. This question kind of depends on the first one. Is it advisable to start moving towards sets of 20×4 now, then increase the sets until I can do 100 in one go?
Thanks for your help. Your pushup regime has been a great boon for me personally.
There’s nothing magical about reaching 100 pushup reps (or 100 reps of any exercise). Although it can be a confidence builder, especially if you started out unable to do very few reps. I still do 100 reps on some exercises…
Also, performing high reps (in this case 100) of any exercise increases the capillaries to whatever muscle group you are working so that more blood flow (with needed nutrients) can get to the muscles that have been broken down. In addition, high reps increase endurance and muscle mass (depending on the muscle group being worked).
You can continue to do a set of high rep pushups, and then after a short rest follow the high rep set with additional sets of pushups.
For example, you could do a set of 21’s. There is more than one way to do them. Do 7 partial reps at the bottom position, 7 reps at the top position, and then 7 full reps. Then you could switch the order around each training session. What you must remember to do on these sets (that follow the high rep set) is to give the sets all you’ve got at the end. If you’ve completed 7, 7, and you’re on your last 7 reps, keep going beyond 7 if you can. You should not stop just because you made it to 7 (or whatever number you may be attempting to reach). It’s the effort at the last of a set that counts.
Also, after you’ve done your high rep set (if you decide to continue doing them), you could also do 1-1/4 reps in a set until you go to “negative” failure. Do a full rep, and then at the bottom…pushup only about 6 inches and then go back down, and then immediately go to the top. Repeat until negative failure.
I personally like to do all of my pushups with my feet elevated in a chair or on a bench, as this makes the exercise harder and works my upper chest. However, if I’m doing “drop-set” pushups, I move in and out of several positions.
One of the best chest builder exercises that I have ever done is where I do pushups (a bit wider than shoulder width) between two small wooden stools (about 8 – 12 inches high). I do NOT go all the way to the top. I only go about 2/3’s to the top to keep tension on my muscles. So I get a stretch at the bottom of the pushup and keep constant tension throughout the set.
There are countless things you can do to complement your one set (or more if you so desire) of 100 reps. And every set (regardless of what technique you use – as described above) should end with all the “effort” you have on the last “negative” rep. If you are doing sets of 10, 14, 18, 22 (or whatever), work that last set and final rep with every bit of effort you can muster.
Always learning from your wisdom Mike – Thank you !!
What do you think of my plan where working more upper chest my feet are on a table (slightly higher than hands) with hands on stools doing slightly wider than shoulder width pushups?
Also, what do you think of doing pike pushups for shoulders with this same technique as well ?
Mike, you should start a blog with Wisdom Tips from the Trenches with all your experience I’m sure many would be interested.
Enjoy a Great summer along with Fantastic Fourth of July too Mike !!! :)
My “wisdom” (you’re very generous) comes from 50+ years of experimentation (mostly mistakes), and from consistent reading of general health, fitness, nutrition, and supplement books, reports and studies. I currently have over 400 pages on my hard-drive of various body-weight routines. Granted, some of the pages only have one or two changes, but that’s how you know if something works or doesn’t work (by making only one or two changes at a time).
Your hands on stools (slightly beyond shoulder width) and your feet on a table (slightly higher than your hands) does indeed work the upper chest and is great for stretching. Unless I’m doing pushup drop sets, my feet are always higher than my chest/head.
I love pike presses. They are a great primer for shoulder presses against the wall. Once you can do several (15 – 20) “bi-lateral” pike presses, move on to unilateral pike presses. And then go to your shoulder presses against a wall.
If you are still unable to do a single wall shoulder press, get you some books and/or magazines and place them directly under your head. Make the pile high enough to where you only drop down a few inches. As you get stronger and more confident, remove a book or magazine and continue doing the presses. Eventually, and without too much difficulty, you will be able to do full ROM wall shoulder presses (without magazines or books – “training wheels”).
I have thought about starting a blog a few times, but I already have too much going on. It seems that the older I get, the more I have to do (like babysitting my four year old granddaughter – Bella – who has an adult appetite and endless energy!).
Back at you: have a great summer.
Reminds me of reading if we learn from our mistakes it’s a lesson. Thankful for you sharing these “mistakes” lessons with us. :)
Really like your suggestions on progressing from pike presses unilateral, to bilateral. Also, great idea increasing ROM with books or other stable objects. Know from experience this really helps.
Great to hear get to spend Quality time with family.
Hope you and family enjoyed a great 4th of July. Thank you for your service that we may enjoy our Independence and Freedom.
Best to you Mike !!
P.S. Perhaps you can consider a newsletter sent out every so often. :)
I’m just now “recovering” from my July 4th “vacation.” After being with my two eldest sons and their families, two dogs, two cats, neighborhood block party, and the Atlanta, Georgia “traffic,” it’s good to be back home to my small hometown of 7,000.
For years I allowed my “perfectionism” to beat-me-up (so-to-speak) when I made mistakes of any kind. It took me a long time to realize that mistakes are part of life (training included)…and progress.
Regarding the “unilateral” pike presses: it’s necessary for “me” to use the non-load-bearing arm/hand for balance.
As far as my military service, it was a pleasure. What a country: USA! Go Navy…Marines…Army…Air Force.
Once I get my book (“Bodyweight Built”)completed (next year maybe, maybe not), I’ll use my time to answer questions from those who buy the book. It’s not going to be one of those $30, 40, 50, 60, 70, etc., books. It’s not about the $.
In process of getting settled in after moving home / office to the scenic mountains.
Glad to hear you enjoyed a wonderful holiday…same here with friends and family. Always feel family time is Golden Time.
Amazing, how for myself, come to realize we learn as much (sometimes more) from our mistakes as we do our successes.
Have found can get the “feel” of a my muscles during a particular movement if focus first on form. So for the “unilateral” pike press, also usually use the non-load-bearing arm or hand for balance.
Have known many forge life-time friendships from the military, along with the unique / amazing experiences too. Yes..Go – Go Navy…Marines…Army…Air Force !
Looking forward to your book “Bodyweight Built”.
Best of Success on it and wish you a Fantastic Summer Mike !!
My brother used to live in Sevierville, TN (the Great Smoky Mountains). Beautiful! You’re blessed.
My book has been a long time in the making. I had a lot of it done and lost all but one chapter (due to a computer crash and no backup). Since I’m having to redo almost everything, and since I am meticulous about accuracy, it won ‘t be done for quite for a while.
Last year I went to a Navy (Corpsman/Medic) reunion in Arkansas: there were four of us (Bill: Arkansas, Chas: Arizona, and Tony: New York City) who were aboard the USS Randolph (a carrier) CVS-15/ASW. We hadn’t seen each other since June of 1967. We had a great time. They remembered a lot more about me than I waned them to remember (when I was young and foolish).
Back at you: have a great summer…
Thanks Mike! I missed this reply for some reason. 100 is magical for me in the sense that I’ve never really done more than 20 ever. I am also really surprised at the bulk and definition it has given my upper body and arms. All my work shirts don’t fit anymore due to muscle increase. Which is a pleasant change from “they don’t fit because I got fat and/or skinny!” :)
I’m very glad to hear of your success. A lot of fitness gurus and “studies” will tell you that doing 100 consecutive reps of any exercise will not work.
But one of my favorite quotes to combat this argument is by Franco Columbu: “If it works, it works, no matter what anybody says.”
P.S. I remember the first time that my arms filled-out my shirt sleeves. It was invigorating, to say the least.
Hey Mike, I did some pushups with my feet elevated today, much harder. Following your original routine I was able to crack out 90 though. How high do you normally have your feet? I had a short kids stool (from Ikea, kids use them to reach the sink to wash their hands) so maybe a foot high.
For the first time since I started doing the pushups I decided to weigh myself, the last time I weighed myself was before I started the pushup routine in Feb. So back then I weighed about 87~89 KG with 23% body-fat. I was kind of surprised (pleasantly) that I now weigh 100kg and have the same body-fat – 23%. It must be the pushups as I have significantly cut back weightlifting. And I am not doing the pull-up routine either – just pushups. So there is room to grow I imagine.
Though 23% is supposed to be healthy for my age/height I still think its too high, but the price to get it to 20% for me means going on a pretty extreme diet so I don’t bother. I essentially follow SCD 80%.
Thanks again Mike for all your wisdom. I only wish I had known about how effective body exercise are when I weighed 78kg and had 18% body-fat back in 2009! Or better yet when I was 18 and weighed 100kg and had 12% body-fat. Can’t complain, glad to know it now – better late than never!
Have a good weekend.
Unless I’m doing pushup drop sets, I do all of my pushups with my feet elevated. I do this to build or maintain my ‘upper’ chest muscles.
Yes. A foot high is fine. However, you might want to work up to ‘about’ 18 inches (chair height). Any higher than that and you will be working your frontal deltoids as much as your chest.
Yes, of course. It IS the pushups, along with your food intake, metabolism, etc. And there is (indeed) room for improvement (growth). By-the-way, I know of men who have done ‘nothing but’ pushups and have built an amazing upper body. Remember, I did almost all pullups to transform my body.
Michael, I don’t know (you may have told me) how old you are, but if you are old enough to have been “dieting” (via various diets) on and off for ‘years,’ it’s very likely that it’s your “metabolism” that’s causing your 23% body fat…and making it difficult to drop fat. And going on a “pretty extreme diet” is THE LAST THING you need to do. Yes, you will drop fat fairly quickly on just about any diet (and probably muscle, too), but you will likely regain all your fat weight back…and maybe more.
I am 43 this year. Here is a brief diet history for context:
· Been weightlifting since I was 16. Mostly bodybuilding but with big chunks of strength training. These days I do weightlifting just as a wellness exercise (and maybe out of habit). I just think it’s good to lift heavy things once or twice a week.
· I’ve always been thin/low body fat until my daughter was born in 2003 where I slowly got to 110kg with 30% body fat.
· In 2009 I said enough was enough and after some analysis went on a very-low carb diet. This worked wonders. I stripped down to 78kg and <15% body fat.
· However as time has gone by I have slowly gained weight and, more worryingly, I was seeing some negative health side effects on a very low or low carb diet. So I switched it up a bit 6 months ago and went on the SCD. SCD was effective at getting me from 23% to 20% but I couldn’t get lower. And considering how much food I cut out on the SCD on a day-to-day basis I couldn’t justify 3% gain vs the relatively strict diet. In fact I went on SCD after you mentioned using it in these comments.
· I have had similar results on an intermittent fasting diet. Can’t seem to break the 20% barrier, and just getting to it is too much work.
My feeling is that I am Lipton resistant after years of abuse – first with eating to excess, and then being too strict in my diet – as my fat set-point seems to be 22~23%. Now I am on an 80% SCD diet. I pretty much follow that diet for 2 to 3 meals a day but I may have the odd chocolate bar or cheesecake or grain based meal during the week instead of keeping it all on my cheat day. Though my cheat day isn’t as extreme as it would otherwise be. I still stick to mostly clean meal for breakfast and lunch.
The only thing that matters when it come to “diets” is this: the diet you choose must be one that you will actually enjoy doing…and that will show results. If a diet is too restrictive, most people will not continue with it.
The SCD diet is very ‘restrictive.’ For example, it doesn’t allow for one of the best foods available for bodybuilders, and that is the simple ‘potato.’ Yes, it’s a ‘starch,’ but a potato is fairly low in calories. And it has fiber, potassium, vitamin C, zinc, and B vitamins. So it has a good amino acid profile. In addition, it’s at the top of the Satiety Index, which means it’s great for weight control because it keeps you satisfied…slowing hunger pains.
I’ve tried almost every diet that has been promoted, but I finally realized that the best nutrition ‘system’ for me is a form (my form, the form that works for “me”) of Intermittent Fasting.
I start my day off with an eight-ounce (or more) pre-workout juice (that I make at home). I add BCAA’s to the juice (90% veggies & 10% fruit), and take fish oil and other supplements (for the “pump”) with it. I also follow my training with another post-workout concoction. And then throughout the day, I eat one or more of the following foods: small portions of beef jerky, boiled or pickled eggs, hard cheese, sea salted nuts, small salads, etc. Then I eat one or two good sized meals in the evening (meat, rice, veggies, green tea, etc.). If I’m not training on a specific day, I’ll eat breakfast sometimes: bacon and eggs with hash brown potatoes, or meat and nuts, etc.
I also use coconut or almond flour, dark chocolate and/or fruit with the following synthetic sweeteners for desserts: Stevia (NOT Stevia in the Raw) or Xylitol or Erythritol.
Anyway, this all works for “me.”
So remember, everyone is different. The only thing that matters when it comes to “diets” is this: the diet you choose must be one that you will actually enjoy doing…and that will show results. A diet (nutrition plan) that you enjoy and that shows results will become a “lifestyle.”
Al, u r really very fat.250lbs is too much weight for your height.focus on weight loss for now till you reach at least 200lbs by following intermittent fasting and paleo diet
Thanks Prabh. That’s exactly what I’ll do. That combo of IF and Paleo will hopefully get me to where I want to be. By the time I get to 200lb I should be able hit the pull up bar a little easier.
After reading this article I must say that you have me motivated to transform my body into what I have always wanted it to be. I have always like the idea of focusing on bodyweight exercises. I like the simplicity of it all. I especially like the idea of viewing one exercise like the pull-up as a skill. My ultimate goal, besides working out like you until I die, is to master a few exercises. I would love to master the various forms of the pull-up and to master dips as well.
Here is my current dilemma. I am 29, 5’10 and weight 250lb. Now I obviously have a ton of fat to lose and an overweight body like mine does not gel well with bodyweight exercises. But I have a plan am going to follow your instructions. I am going on a Paleo Diet to strip the fat while starting on my road to pull-up mastery by starting with static holds and negatives. Hopefully I can perform my first full pull-up and go from there into a more designed program like you recommended.
I just wanted to say thank you for inspiring me to turn my body and thus my life around. I can’t wait to get started. If you have any other newbie advice for a fat guy trying to get into the pull-up game please let me know.
I’m happy to hear that my story has motivated you to transform yourself.
The first thing you need to understand on your transformation journey (and it will be a journey) is that “motivation” is sort of like “Jell-o.” It’s shaky and soft.
However, if you will commit to following a nutrition plan and exercise plan that you “enjoy,” your journey will continue from day-to-day, and it will be a lot easier. And you will reach your goals much quicker. It’s doing the little things (habitually) everyday that produce big results.
The fact that you are quite heavy for your height means that you will probably have a difficult time doing “some” bodyweight exercises. However, you can do just about any bodyweight exercise by changing the angle of your body, hand grip or placement, feet placement, etc.
You can Google or Bing various bodyweight exercises to see examples of how to progress from easy to difficult. It’s worth the effort and time to do this. Remember, when I started training, all I had was a doorway, a couple of chairs and a bar to place over the tops of the chairs, and similar items in my navy barracks. You don’t “need” expensive equipment or a gym membership.
Now, with that being said…I don’t know what country you are from, or your financial status, but here is my recommendation regarding exercise. If you can afford it, I would purchase “The Human Trainer Suspension Gym” at their homepage (http://www.astonefitness.com/the-human-trainer), or via Amazon. (The above link is NOT an affiliate link. I get nothing for recommending this product.)
It’s expensive, but it’s the best “suspension training system” available. And it works for anyone, regardless of your weight or current physical condition. You can go from exercise to exercise quickly, and from easy to difficult quickly.
I don’t recommend long training sessions for a beginner. Short bursts (intense) sessions of 10 – 20 minutes are just fine. You can do these several times a day, if you have the time. Later on, you can increase the length of your training sessions if you wish.
Regarding nutrition, I have found that Paleo meals and snacks work great. It’s a medium to high fat, moderate protein, and low carb “way of life.” It’s easy to follow, and the food is delicious! You can find a lot of great Paleo meals online or at your local library. (Or you can “buy” the books, like I did. But that gets expensive really fast.) Just find two or three breakfast meals, two or three lunch meals, two or three dinner meals, and a few snacks, and you are on your way. (You can add additional meals and snacks later on.)
And one last tip: all of your tomorrows start the night before. Make sure you have the ingredients for tomorrow’s meals and snacks before you go to bed. Because if you don’t, you’re going to grab and eat anything that’s handy – food that will get you off track and keep you fat. (Been there, done that!!) And choose meals and snacks that are easy and quick to prepare and store.
Thanks a bunch. I checked out the Human Trainer and it looks like it is right up my alley. I actually have a power station in my home (pull-up bar, dip bar, etc.) and another cheap pull-up set up I bought WalMart, but like you said I am too have to use any of those. How advanced can one get on the Human Trainer? It for beginners and the advanced correct?
The Human Trainer is for beginners, intermediates, and advanced. And I agree with you; the basic kit is all you need. If you discover that you need any accessories, you can get them later…
After you get used to using The Human Trainer, you will be able to go from one exercise to another very quickly (and in full control). And you will learn what hand positions and feet positions work best for beginner, intermediate and advanced.
Eventually (once you lose enough weight and get stronger), you can include your pull-up bar and dip bar in your routines.
I just read the FAQ on the site, it answered all the questions I had. I think I’ll purchase it ( the $190 basic kit). Again, thanks for everything
Did you ever add additional load to the exercises (like a weighted belt for pull-ups) or was it always just bodyweight? I understand that your bodyweight itself was increasing over time for you which increased the load in itself from just lifting bodyweight anyway, but was there ever a point where you had to load up because you could do 20-30 reps and wasn’t getting that same stimulus anymore?
Say for example, someone was still only around 160-165lbs but could do 20+ pushups and pullups but still were not that muscular. What method would you use then?
No. I’ve never added weight. Now with that said, I have nothing against that. I know of two guys who have done that and have made tremendous gains.
If you want to add weight, do so after you can do (for example) 6 to12 reps. When you add weight (depending on how much), your reps will naturally drop. If they drop down to 3 or 4 reps, then you will gain strength, and not so much mass – and that’s fine. Don’t add any more weight until you work your way back up to 6, 8, 10, or 12 reps, and then add more weight…and keep repeating.
However, there’s an even better way to do pull-ups with added weight, and that’s with “reverse pyramids.” If you are not familiar with reverse pyramids, you can Google or Bing it.
Although I never added weight to my pull-up routines, I am always able to make them more difficult. And there are many ways that I do this.
For example, I will do one pull-up with both hands, and then lower myself with just the right hand – using my left hand for balance. Then I will do another two-handed pull-up and lower myself with just the left hand. I can repeat this until I can no longer do a positive rep…one or two reps short of failure. And even if I can’t do another positive rep, I can jump up and grab the bar…and then lower myself again and again.
Here’s another example. Let’s say that I have just done 10 full pull-up reps. On my “last rep” I will do as many partials as I can at the top. Then I will drop down to the middle position of that last rep and do more partials. And finally, at the low end of the rep (arms stretched out) , I will just do a static hold for as long as I can.
Again, as I said earlier, there are many ways to make your pull-ups more difficult – to where you do not have to add weight. It’s up to you. I will tell you this, it definitely works for me. And I don’t have to take the time to mess with weights.
The solution to your second question is: EAT MORE! :)
Sorry about that. I meant Leighan.
Mike, another question, as you said you got fat at one stage. How did you lose weight? Losing my spare tyre has been the most difficult problem for me.
I would like to ask the same question. I am following Oskar advise for diet and his beginners workout atm (only three weeks in) and need to lose the spare tyre also. Would like to know the fastest way to achieve this.
When I was young, I never once thought that I would ever get FAT. But I did, often (in my 50’s and 60’s). For years I would go from fat to fit, fat to fit, fat to fit… And it’s one of the major regrets of my life, because once you get fit – staying fit is so easy.
In Oskar’s article, he listed several methods that I have used to lose fat and maintain muscle. Maintaining muscle is very important, because the more muscle you have the better and faster the fat loss.
The following systems are (in my experience) the best, because they were easier for me to follow. And that’s a big deal, because if something is difficult to do, people usually quit doing it.
Even though the following systems of eating are called diets, they are not really “diets” (in my opinion), but healthy nutritional “ways of life.” You can actually eat the way the authors suggest for the rest of your life – and remain lean and muscular (resistance training required – with cardio optional).
1. Intermittent Fasting: Martin Berkhan & Ori Hofmekler (The warrior Diet). Because of my busy life, this is the nutrition plan that I have used with great success. I started with Berkhan, but found that Hofmekler was easier “for me” to follow.
2. Paleo: I purchased several Paleo cookbooks. (You can go to the library, it’s cheaper!) Mark Sisson’s “Quick & Easy Meals” is one of my favorites. I selected a few meals that I thought I would like from all the books. These are high-fat, medium-protein, low-carb meals, but they are filling. This is effortless fat loss, and delicious!
3. Tim Ferriss’ “Slow Carb Diet.” To me, this is also effortless fat loss. On page 71 of Tim’s book (The 4-Hour Body) he says this: “The Slow-Carb Diet – Better Fat-Loss Through Simplicity.” It’s true! On page 75, Tim lists five simple rules to follow. One of them is to “not eat fruit.” But I broke that rule every day with no problem. You can eat grapefruit and cherries every day if you want and still lose fat like crazy. I also broke another rule: “avoid ‘white’ carbohydrates…” I ate garlic, onions, cauliflower, mushrooms, apples, and coconut oil all the time.
Now, remember, you must include resistance training with these nutrition programs. I did circuits and super-sets (plus some rope jumping and heavy bag pounding), and I kept my muscle, built muscle, and lost fat.
Thanks for the info mike, will do some research into everything you recommended.
Can I get a bit more information on what you did when you started to get back into working out. The programs you have listed in this article seem abit advanced for a beginner (supersets,ect). can you give an example of what types of programs a beginner should do. I am doing Oskars beginners work out which is 3 – 4 sets of push-ups – pullups – bodyweight squats with about 3 minutes rest between sets(to focus on strengh).
I tryied a modified version of one of your work outs and was sore(just doing pushup,pull ups and squats but doing more sets using a “drop-set” format and stoping before failure). I know I will adapt to that workout eventually, but dont mind the extra work. Just wanted to get some clarifcation and maybe I could implent both methods together to maximize results faster.
You are making the same mistakes that guys all over the world are making every day. You have what I call “Routine Jumpitis.” You have a desire to get fit fast (which is normal; I’ve been there and done that), so any program that you may be doing doesn’t seem to be getting you to your goals quick enough. So you start looking for another program, and another program, and so on. You “jump” from program to program and accomplish very little for all your effort and time. Listen, you’re thinking too far ahead.
Bodybuilding (or getting fit) happens in small steps – sort of like “bursts.” You need to start small, and continue to make (what I call) “Small-Step-Progress). Eventually, and before you know it, you will be reaping Big Results. When I first developed my physique (as a skinny young man in my 20’s), other people started noticing my improvements before I did. I didn’t go from program to program because, back in the 19 60’s, I couldn’t find any to follow. There was no “information overload.” And in hind-sight, that was a blessing.
Then and now, I had a “minimum” of what I would do each day (regarding exercises). By simply focusing on what I should do every day (and just doing the minimum, if that’s all I could do), got me the big results that I was striving for – and faster than I had ever imagined! Many times I was prepared to do the minimum, but ended up doing a lot more.
If I were you, I would (faithfully) continue with Oskar’s program, and then once you complete that, go from there. Again, it’s the daily commitment (the small steps) that will get you to where you want to go.
See my comment to Dwayne.
Thanks Mike. When I lost my initial 30kg in 2009 I essentially did paler without realizing it. But even at my thinnest I have always had a spare tyre which is 2+ inches (or more) thicker than my waist. For example when my waist/hips dropped to 36″ my belly around the belly button was 38″ and it was all on the side/back – my tummy is actually flat.
I then did paleo proper and still do today. I have also done IF with little effect on my spare. I’ll check out the other resources you mentioned though.
In my opinion and long experience with being fat off-and-on (side/love-handles on my waist as well as a fat belly), I could always trace my inability to drop the fat to my “nutrition.” Yes, training is important, but when it comes to having difficulty loosing fat, I can assure you that it is (usually) a nutrition problem. (Also, if you do too much “cardio,” or drop your calorie intake too low, you can lose muscle…which makes losing fat even more of a challenge.)
Any of the nutrition programs listed in Oskar’s article will work, but some are really restrictive. And that means that you may have a hard time staying with them. Do one of the most restrictive for a few days, and then find one that “you” enjoy and stick with it. You can continue to alternate the nutrition plans if it work for you.
Also, it’s not only “what” you eat, or the “amount” you eat, but the “when” (time) you eat that counts.
Thanks Mike. Your wisdom as both a bodybuilder and older man is invaluable. And I mean they in the most positive way possible.
I have grabbed and started reading 4HB. I also had s look at the Warrior Diet. But I think if did that my wife would end up force feeding me :)
The little wisdom that I do have is the result of my mistakes and successes – and learning from them. And one of the most important lessons that I have learned is that “simple” is always better. To me, Ferriss’ Slow Carb Diet is simple and it works. And Paleo is even simpler, and it works also.
I used the Warrior Diet for several months before the “back photo” was taken of me. But I can understand that your wife would be a bit concerned. It’s a diet that is very unconventional. If my wife wouldn’t have been a bit “forceful” with me at times, I probably wouldn’t be here now.
Anyway, stay focused on the diet while reading the 4HB book, or you could get distracted.
Noted, see how I go after a month. I started eating breakfast again as 4HB talks about and my waist has slimmed an inch. Impressive for not really doing anything except eating :)
Most of my training (from my 20’s to my 70’s) has been body-weight. There were a couple of times in my 50’s and early 60’s when I tried squats with an Olympic bar and plates. At 6’-1”, I had a difficult time performing regular squats (with the bar resting on my back/shoulders) – even with a plate under my heels. So I tried hack squats, and did a little better…until I pulled a muscle in my back (twice). At my advanced age, it took me a long time to heal. And that’s one of the times that I got FAT, because I wasn’t able to train. Not good.
Body-weight squats (regular deep knee bends) are safer for me at my age, but I have to pre-exhaust my leg muscles to maintain what I have already built or to build any additional muscle. I will do Wall Squats (static holds) for 30 seconds, 60 seconds, etc. These are killers! And I will follow that with regular body- weight squats doing partial reps in the low position or middle position. And then I will start my full range body-weight squats. Then I’ll rest and repeat. (I also work my glutes on leg day, usually.)
If you don’t pre-exhaust your legs before you do the regular squats, they will be more of an endurance exercise (because you can do a lot of them). But there’s nothing wrong with endurance. It has its place in fitness.
The wall squats can be done with a ball or without. And you can use both feet, or you can place one foot on the floor and hold the other foot in the air – like you are marching.
I do sissy squats also, even though they are uncomfortable and awkward. They work your legs pretty good, especially after you’ve done the regular body-weight squats. I use a rope or straps to do my sissy squats.
I do some cardio, and when I do it’s usually 20 – 30 seconds of work with 10 – 15 seconds of rest. The number of rounds depends on how I feel. I never do cardio before I train. I either do it in between sets of resistance or after I complete my training session. I usually jump rope or hit my heavy bag (or both, alternating them).
Great article Mike, thank you, I have a question, do you do anything for cardio and also are your squats, bw squats, thanks for any answers, Dean.
oh sorry,Not john..its mike.actually im frm india.
my ques was 4 oskar but Thnx for explaining.if u dont mind then i want 2 ask 1 ques to u too john.what were your measurements when you were young and now..like chest,thighs,arms,wrists,forearm,waist etc
When I was in Puerto Rico as a young man, I never took any measurements — not when I was a skinny 155 pounds, not at 185 pounds, nor at 200 pounds. It never crossed my mind to do it.
When I was middle-aged (late 30’s early 40’s) and weighed 220 pounds, I didn’t take any measurements then either.
And I still don’t take measurements. I’m a “perfectionist,” and that’s not a good thing. Measurements get me overanalyzing things. (I measured my midsection one time when I was out-of-shape, and it was 46.” And I have taken other measurements over the years, but “rarely.”) I don’t even like to weigh myself, but I do.
I simply look in the mirror (or take photos now and then) and try to keep my neck, upper arms and calves about the same. And I can easily tell if I need to drop some fat from my midsection — simply by the way my pants fit.
The Internet has a lot of different formulas for determining muscle group measurements. It’s easy to Google or Bing.
I remember one such formula that I read about years ago. You measure both of your wrists, and add those two numbers. You double the total and that should be the size of your neck (arms and calves). You double the size of your neck, and that should be the size of your midsection. And of course, there’s a formula for the shoulder-midsection ratio, as well as for the legs and chest.
Nice story..his back is as huge as yours…btw i want 2 ask u that u emphasized chinups and close grip chinups more than pullup.i have red the word pullup very less than chinup in your articles except this one….and 1 more ques..how can i chat wid u..like on fb or anywhere else
First of all, I don’t know if you’re asking your questions for me to respond or for Oskar.
However, here’s my answers…
For me a chin-up is underhand and a pull-up is overhand. To some people, a chin-up represents both. And to some people, a pull-up represents both.
In one of my comments here, I emphasized close grip (parallel) pull-ups and underhand chin-ups over the overhand pull-ups for those who have difficulty doing overhand pull-ups. I like to do all three (as each one has specific benefits), but it was the overhand pull-up that was the foundation of my back development as a young man.
(By-the-way, the parallel pull-up will work the outer part of your deltoids, too — not just the back/lats. And, for example, a handstand press will work your triceps, and not just your deltoids.)
If you want to communicate with me, then Oskar can give you my email address. I no longer have an FB account. It required too much of my time. I couldn’t keep up with it.
Thank you Prabh.
You can email me through the contact form – I don’t use chat for my website since I get a lot of messages everyday so using chat would have me work 24/7 on responding to messages.
I emphasize chin ups because they are slightly easier but the truth is that you can do either. If you wanna do pull ups, do pull ups. Both exercises will work your lats and biceps.
My message is (indeed): Things don’t need to be complex to work!
My training, nutrition, and supplementation encompass three things primarily: simplicity, adjustability and consistency. (Simplicity and adjustability means that I have to actually “like” what I’m doing or I won’t be consistent – I’ll quit.)
I built my upper body on one primary exercise – the overhand shoulder-width, pull-up.
For ten years I was a teacher at a prison in Southern Illinois. I taught math and other subjects. I was able to speak with hundreds on inmates about training, nutrition, and supplements. I was also able to observe their training habits, etc.
I know of one inmate who built his upper body with primarily push-ups.
I know of another guy who built his upper body with just two exercises: dips and pull-ups.
At the prison that I worked at, inmates were not allowed to take pen and paper onto the (exercise) yard. So their training routines had to be simple — logged in their brain. And if you have ever watched a prison documentary, or if you’ve ever been inside a prison, you know that some of those dudes are extremely strong and have great physiques.
For several years I was stuck on the “analysis paralysis” treadmill. It was self-defeating. And as a “perfectionist,” it was like a rocking chair. I was moving (analyzing), but all I was doing was wasting time, getting nowhere, and making ruts.
Thanks to you both for a great article. I think the best thing about it is the overall message it highlights; things don’t need to be complex to work.
The fact that Mike didn’t even know what reps or sets were portrays a strong message. These days all you see is people debating ‘is 5×5 better than 3×10’ etc etc when the fact is, if people just exercised rather than debating and overthinking it, it wouldn’t make one hell of a difference. The part that people get stuck on (and I’ve certainly been guilty in the past, too) is they spend so long trying to decide what routine to use and what will ‘be the best method’ they never actually get around to doing anything anyway. And as we know, doing something that’s not ‘optimal’ consistently is better than doing nothing, or the ‘optimal’ method but half-a$$ing it or not sticking to it.
And of course, not focusing your life around fitness is often one of the most important aspects (it always leads me personally to over analyse everything). What a great article!
Mike is a perfect example that age is not a limiting factor when it comes to building the physique of your dreams.
And what’s even more awesome is that Mike looks more badass at 70 years old than most people look at 20-something. :)
Thanks for your comment. Here is one of my favorite quotes: “Those who say something cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” — George Bernard Shaw
Good article as always.
Also it’s ridiculous how people will almost always tell you that training to have better chances with attractive women is somehow a “wrong” reson, because “you should train for yourself, not to be accepted by others”. Well, I think it pretty much means training for myself if the consequence is higher confidence and a better sex life.
Although my initial motivation was avoiding the “pain” of always being called “skinny,” and the fact that I liked the company of beautiful women (but not always succeeding), my motivation eventually turned into a “daily habit.” It just became automatic…like breathing
At 70, my motivation now is still to look good, but it’s also to be as healthy a I can.
Those are some very impressive gains for such a short period of time and especially with those limited resources. It’s also interesting how one trigger can cause someone to put in all that effort, and very inspiring.
Greatly appreciate the article, and it’s nice to get varying perspectives on training like this.
That single trigger (the pain of embarrassment) turned me into a problem solver. I made do with what I had available: an open doorway (actually a “cubicle” doorway that was approximately 6” taller than I was), two chairs and a pole, the edge of my bed for decline push-ups, and a hill to run sprints (nature at its best). I’m proof that expensive training equipment is not necessary.
My trigger was motivation based. But motivation can only go so far. That’s where “will power” kicks in. Then will power will take you to the next level: a habit.
There is a great book that can help anyone “start” an exercise program, and then continue it “permanently.” It’s a book by Stephen Guise: “Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results.”
Great read! So thin out first before doing any push-ups/pull ups?
You want to train as you drop fat. That way, you will be able to keep most of the muscle that you already have…and you can actually build some muscle in the process.
P.S. Because of my busy schedule (at 70), I like the IF nutrition plan. But when things are not so hectic, I’ll use Paleo, and any of the other diet plans mentioned in Oskar’s article.
Thanks Mike J.
In 2009 I stripped 30kg in 3 months dropping from 110 to 70 kg. Spent 2010/11 faffing about the gym not getting anywhere. Then I did starting strength. I gained 20+ kg, got very strong but still looked like a cream puff. Started doing push-ups late last year and for the first time since my 20s I actually have a semblance of a good body composition. So plan on continuing with the push-ups. I do try pull-ups but I find them devilishly hard so far managing two at best. I still also have a thick waist (though it’s mostly camouflaged these days by big arms, shoulders and chest). I would still like to trim down but at age 42 I thought it was too late. So your story is pretty hopeful for me.
Here is the solution to overcoming your difficulty of doing pull-ups.
1. You can do pull-ups in three primary ways:
Parallel (w/ knuckles facing each other)
Underhand (w/ knuckles facing you)
Overhand (w/ knuckles facing away from you)
I’ve listed these from easiest to most difficult.
2. Do either super-sets or mini-circuits: Repeat for “x” number of rounds…
1 set of a “pushing” exercise of your choice (upper
or lower body)
Mini-circuit example: Repeat for “x” number of rounds…
1 set of a “pushing” exercise of your choice (upper
or lower body)
1 set of a “pushing” exercise of your choice
(different than the first one)
In the beginning, if you have to rest between exercises, go ahead and do it…but make the rest periods brief…and then eventually eliminate them.
Start with the easiest type of pull-up, and slowly increase the number of (good form) pull-ups to 2, then 3, etc. Once you get to a specified number of pull-up reps (6 – 12), then start doing the underhand pull-up. Repeat this process until you can do the overhand pull-ups in the same manner. Once you reach that level, then you can drop the super-sets and mini-sets and start doing single sets of (6 – 12) pull-ups…and adding partials and static holds on your “last” negative rep.
For abs, in additional to what is in this article, I recommend “bicycle crunches” and “V-ups.” Actually, you can use one or more abs exercises in your pull-up routines. And for leg raises, you can start on the floor, move to a captain’s chair, and then to a high bar. If I’m not doing a super-set or a mini-circuit, I will do a yoga cobra pose (for about 60 seconds or so) after an abs exercise.
P.S. As this article states, when I was a young man in Puerto Rico, I couldn’t do a single pull-up at first. So I concentrated on my negatives with partial reps and static holds. I would do that for awhile, and then every now-and-then, I would test myself to see if I could increase my number of pull-ups without any partial reps or static holds on the negative reps. This always worked for me. So, you could do this, or follow the routines above.
Brillant. Thanks Mike. Started doing that this morning and it worked well. Do you still stick to doing only 5 days a week? I essentially do pushups 6 days a week and actual gym work (weightlifting) 3 times a week.
I’m glad to hear that the pull-up routines are working for you. Stick with it and you will be amazed at what you can do in just a matter of weeks. I used to have a pull-up bar in a doorway of my living room (my wife hated it), and every time I would pass by the bar, I did a pull-up…then two…three…etc. Depending on the day, I could do 25 – 50 reps…all without burning-out.
The only reason I worked out 5 days a week when I was in the service is because I was usually doing silly things off-base on the weekends. However, on the weekends that I had to work, I did train on those days – even Sundays. But my sessions were always very brief (10 minutes, maybe), and frequent throughout the day.
Currently, and for the past few years, I like to train 6 days a week, simply because I like to train. Right now I do the following: Monday and Tuesday quads, hams and glutes – light: 20 – 30 minutes (with abs optional); Wednesdays and Thursdays, upper body – light: 20 – 30 minutes (with abs optional); Friday, quads, hams and glutes – heavy (no abs); Saturday, upper body – heavy (no abs); Sunday, rest.
Most gurus and experts will tell you not to train the same muscle groups two days in a row. But with body-weight training (and going just short of failure on the exercises), you can. Actually, for a long time I did push-ups 6 days a week. And I will go back to that shortly. I’ve even trained the same muscle groups twice a day (heavy in the morning and then light in the afternoon/evening). Regarding push-ups, if you really want to add mass to your chest…do your pullups in a “drop-set” format.
Since I do the same exercises (upper body: vertical pull, vertical push, horizontal pull, horizontal push; lower body push and pull; and the same abs exercises), I manipulate my training days (4 – 6) a week, heavy and light training sessions, exercise speed and angles, volume, rest periods, etc. I never get bored…
And on any given day, if I know that I’m not going to have time to do a full routine, I’ll always have a “minimum” that I will do…to stay in the game (so-to-speak).
Thanks Mike. What’s your daily push-up target out of interest?
First-of-all, if I am not doing push-up drop-sets, all of my push-ups are done with my feet elevated…to stress my upper chest more than my lower chest.
My push-up target changes from week-to-week.
But here is what I like to do:
A couple of days a week I emphasize one or more sets of push-ups with a speed of 30 seconds down and 30 seconds up. Or I may do the following: 15 pushups, rest 15 seconds; 14 push-ups, rest 14 seconds, etc. Or I may do the following: 10 push-ups with a 10 second static hold in the middle or bottom position; then 9 push-ups with a 9 second static hold at the middle or bottom position. Or I might do the following: 30 partial reps in the bottom position, followed immediately by 30 partials in the middle range, followed by 15 full range push-ups. Over the years I have designed dozens of these variations. I’ll also “pre-fatigue” ( to a point) by doing a quick set of ring flyes.
Now, if I decide to do a high volume of push-ups (which I often like to do), I’ll do the following: I’ll do a set of push-ups (power up and control down…2 – 3 seconds) until my “speed changes” (so I don’t go to failure). When my speed slows down noticeably, I stop. I’ll rest for about 15 seconds or so and then do another set, this time, maybe 25 reps. I’ll do that until I get to 100 or more. Next, I’ll do another exercise unrelated to my chest (for the most part), like an abs exercise. Then I repeat my pull-up set regime. Then, I’ll do another exercise (mostly) unrelated to the chest – like chin-ups: I’ll do 1 chin-up (a pulling exercise), rest 10 seconds, do 2 chin-ups, rest, and then go back to 1 pull-up, then 2, and repeat for x number of rounds. By the time I am done with the unrelated exercises, my chest muscles are ready to be challenged again. I might do as many as 10 super-sets – with only one or two minutes of rest between sets. I can also turn the super-sets into mini-circuits. You can work-up to doing hundreds of push-ups this way…and still finish your workout fairly fresh.
You are not only getting a high volume of push-ups completed, but you are also building “strength” in your other muscle groups. It’s a win-win situation.
“Then I repeat my pull-up set regime.” This should be “PUSH-up” regime.
Thanks Mike for the explanations (and taking the time to write it all up too)
“irst-of-all, if I am not doing push-up drop-sets, all of my push-ups are done with my feet elevated…to stress my upper chest more than my lower chest.”
Hi Mike, I switched to doing elevated then switched back to doing normal push-ups. My upper chest got bigger with the elevated (as you mention) but when I switched back to the normal push-ups my triceps, biceps and upper back muscle were a little sore.
Which implies that the elevated doesn’t work those muscles as well as the straight push-ups. Sound right?
It not only “sounds right,” it IS right. And that’s OK. Because listening to your body is a good thing. Always write down what you learn (feel) when you train.
Keeping a journal about how you feel before, during, and after training is like having your own personal gold mine of information that you can constantly learn from!
I’m always experimenting with push-ups (especially) and with other exercises, too. If an exercise gets too “easy,” I’ll adjust and make it harder (hand/feet positions, body leverage, full range of motion plus partials, static holds, rep speed variances, plyometrics, uni-laterals, etc.). You can mix and match these adjustments for almost limitless routine variations.
But since I have difficulty keeping my upper chest mass, I always work that area first, and then (and only then) do I experiment…with a goal of keeping things simple.
I’m glad to hear that the feet elevated push-ups are working for you.
And just for my own interest how did you and Oskar meetup and it then lead to this article?
Mike saw my video “Can you build wide lats with chin ups” and he explained that “YES, you can build wide lats with chin ups” and went on to tell me about how he did it. I was VERY impressed by his story, and asked him questions about his training, nutrition and life in general. After asking him a number of questions, I figured that many of you would be interested in hearing Mike’s story, so I wrote it.
Great. You were right this is a great article. Thanks.
Thank you, I really enjoyed writing this since I learned a lot of new things!
Michael M – I’m 43, only started weightlifting 2.5 years ago. I couldn’t do a single pull up and <3 push ups. Today, I did 4×7 pull ups. I started on the parallel pull up and still do them as I find it easier on the wrists. I have an expectation that strength and muscle gains will take more time at my age. But stick with it and you will make progress.
Thanks for the encouragement Rich!