Friday, December 21, 2007

KISS Your Old Routines Good-bye

In all of my composition classes, I stress to my students to remember the KISS principle in their writings. Well, at least my take on this acronym because I tell them that KISS stands for Keep It Sweet & Simple since I really don't like calling people stupid.

It's funny because I've been teaching this for over 10 years and never really applied it to my own life until a couple of years ago. I started reading more about how it's better to learn fewer things well than many things half-assed, which I got from the strength and conditioning authors I've studied. I've tried complex split routines that you'll find in most bodybuilding magazines; however, they were so complex and had so many sets to perform that I would simply give up on them especially since my main goal was weight loss and not becoming part of the sport of bodybuilding.

I think back to the days of being the largest guy in the gym trying to look like the personal trainers who worked there. I would work my ass off just to continue looking like a walrus. What really discouraged me was that I always wanted to be able to do unassisted dips, but I couldn't press my own bodyweight. Man, my buddy would have to spot me, and I felt sorry for him because I was giving him a workout by just trying to help me. Our workouts would mainly consist of high reps of isolation exercises. Basically, we did the staples that you'll see most guys doing in the average 24 Hour Fitness or LA Fitness: bench press, preacher curls, seated military press, etc.

Well, I've now been training long enough to have worked out with machines, free weights, kettlebells, resistance bands, and bodyweight. What I've found is that using free weights causes you to fully understand how your body needs to operate as one unit. I've found that using machines, especially those that focus on isolation movements, tend to cause you to not focus on how our muscles are all connected and work together. To get the best workout, you need to focus on exercises that cause you to use more than one muscle group at a time. This will not only give you more of a calorie burn, but it will also put you well on your way to being able to control your own bodyweight, which should be one of your ultimate goals.

I use to be one of those guys that was easily impressed with how much some dude could bench press, but not anymore because I'm not into competitive bench pressing. Also, my ultimate goal is to be able to master some of the most challenging bodyweight exercises out there. For instance, I definitely respect guys that can bench upwards of 400lbs, but to see Steve Cotter do a pistol squat holding two 88lb kettlebells with perfect form is unreal. Don't believe me, check out this youtube video.

Look, if you still have a lot of body fat, why not use that extra weight to your advantage? You don't need to buy one piece of equipment because that's going to be your fat stores role for the next month and a half. Even if you have weights, I suggest that you periodically take a break and use bodyweight exercises to break up the routine or even be cycled in to your current routine. The mistake most people think is that bodyweight exercises are inferior to weighted exercises. Well, for the guys reading my blog, this does not apply to you. We'll let the athletes, martial artists, gymnasts, strength trainers, and bodybuilders continue to debate that one. For purposes of weight loss and getting lean, you can start with bodyweight exercises only!

Yes, when you do lat pull-downs, you are working your lats, but it's a totally different sensation when you are pulling/holding your own bodyweight on a chin-up bar or doing a bodyweight row. There is a difference and it is one that you need to experiment with to fully appreciate. The same goes for overhead pressing movements. If you are doing seated dumbbell military presses, try doing them standing up. You don't have to worry about hurting your lower back if you lock out your knees by pulling your knee caps up, squeezing your glutes, and tensing your abs as if you're bracing for a blow in the gut. These muscles will help you to be tight enough to form a natural corset protecting your lower back. Also, why sit on your ass when you can use it to help save your lower back?

For more about bodyweight routines or getting strong and ripped without using weights, you should check out the following author's sites:

  • Power by Pavel (check for the Naked Warrior book)
  • Ross Training (He just came out with a new DVD and training manual. This guy is incredible!)
  • Mike Mahler (Mike is not only one of the strongest vegans you'll meet, he also has various articles on his site about bodyweight training.)
  • Steve Cotter (This guys is just unreal. His Encylopedia of Kettlebell exercises 1&2 are hands down two of the top KB videos out on the market. Also, he has a series on bodyweight exercises that is just as good.)
  • Steve Maxwell (Steve's new website is under construction, but you can pick up his new Pullup DVD here.)
  • John Peterson (one of the major modern day promoters of isometrics and be sure to visit his transfometrics site too)
  • Bodyweight Culture (I think the name speaks for itself. Great website!)
  • Bodyweight Basics (Another great site for bodyweight exercises)


Eva Maryam said...

I have to say that I love this article. I have searched for many weeks to find an article about this topic. This blog has been so simple and has a lot more features than other blog articles. The layout and design is great. I will continue to come back here for every articles. Thanks...

Eva Maryam

Mr. LowBodyFat said...

Eva, thanks sooo much for your kind words! Please keep coming back and letting me know not only what you like about my blog, but also how I can improve it too. Take care . . .

Ryan said...

Hey Muata. You could also add John Peterson's sites to your list:

Bronze Bow Publishing


and Transformetrics


Mr. LowBodyFat said...

Ryan, thanks for the reminder and you're right! I think people really underestimate the power of isometrics. Thanks again bro.