Category Archives: Bodyweight training

Getting that First Pull Up

On Saturday I answered a couple of questions regarding bodyweight training and certain bodyweight exercises.

We’re going to continue on this theme by talking about the Pull Up.

The majority of the clients here at Wild Geese are male, but over the last year we’ve had a growing number of female members joining the team. I can only assume that these women have become bored with being treated like fools and sold garbage training programs and ridiculous diets, but that’s another post for another day.

The thing that has seriously impressed me about almost all the women that train here for any length of time is that very quickly they become almost obsessed with the Pull Up bar. Many is the time I’ve stepped onto the training floor and watched a crowd of girls pushing and encouraging each other to get that first, second or third rep while the lads are over holding up the wall.

But for so many people the Pull Up seems an insurmountable challenge, how can you get that first elusive rep?
There are a number of ways of getting this, here’s a progression that has yet to fail, workout which stage you need to start at and get to work.
Actually, I nearly forgot, a shoulder width grip with the palms facing you is slightly easier than a palms out grip just wider than shoulder width. If you splashed out and your bar has a parallel grip, this your strongest position and a good place to start. 

  • Stage 1 – Get a pull up bar for your home.
    There are many variants you can get, the cheapest is a telescopic bar that goes across the doorway, better ones clip around the door frame and allow more variety. Have a look around and see what suits you and your needs best.
  • Stage 2 – Hang About
    Sometimes just holding onto the bar can be a challenge. Practice hanging until you can comfortable dangle there for at least 30 seconds. This also a great chance to allow the spine to relax and stretch, if you wiggle your legs around, lifting the knees etc, you challenge the grip further and also get a great ab workout.
  • Stage 3 – 90⁰ Lockout
    I learned this from a rock climber friend many years ago. He would hang from the pull up bar with his elbow bent at 90⁰, his biceps would be bursting out of his skin. Now he did it with one arm, you’re not a semi pro rock climber, so you get to do it with both hands! Aside from the bent arm position, it’s just a repeat of stage 2, build to at least 30seconds.
  • Stage 4 – Be Negative
    Here’s the main stage, many people can start right here. Grab a step or a chair, whatever, and use it to give you a boost up to the top of the pull up, chin over the bar. You will now lower yourself under control all the way to a dead hang (arms straight). Get up on the box again and repeat. Do this until you can no longer maintain control. Aim for 5 sets of 3 reps or a 30 second descent.
  • Stage 5 – Pull your weight
    You now ought to be ready to do your first pull up. Grab the bar, take a deep breath, look up, tighten the whole core and try to pull your elbows down to your hips.

Congratulations, you’ve just done your first pull up. The first one is the hardest, now that’s out the way let’s have some more……

Let me know how you get on.
For other bodyweight training exercises and tips, please have a look here at our Anniversary edition eBook special offer,




I’ve a Couple of Questions on Bodyweight Training…..

So said one of my Lunchtime training regulars the other day.

He wanted to know about the Hindu Push up, the One arm Push Up and the Pistol Squat.
He was asking what they were and how useful they are for his training goals.

But first what are his training goals. Graham is a Triathlete with a preference for swimming. He needs to be strong, coordinated and athletic, and he needs to maintain this for time.

So are the bodyweight drills above good for him?
Hell Yes!

First lets take the Hindu and 1 arm push ups and look at how they can help.
They are both upper body pushing actions, but come from opposite ends of the spectrum. The Hindu is fantastic but relatively easy and so suits high repetitions, it will open the chest, build massive endurance through the entire upper body and loosen up the hip flexors, hamstrings and spine, particularly the thoracic (area that your ribs attach to) which are all trouble spots for any endurance athlete.
The One arm push up is painfully hard, demanding massive amounts of stabilisation through the core and the shoulder joint. Swimming can be very hard on an athletes shoulders, the One Arm Push Up forces the serratus anterior and lats to work together to keep the shoulder stable, while the core has to be absolutely rigid to prevent the body twisting. Plus as a swimmer he pulls himself through the water with one arm at a time, it’s a good idea to train the arms unilaterally from time to time.
By combining the two into a training program, Graham can develop strength through the 1 arms and endurance from the hindu’s. A sample workout may look like this:

1A: One Arm Push Up Ladder (1 l/r, 2 l/r, 3 l/r) x 3-5 with 2-3 minute rests between series.
1B: Hindu Push Up 1 x max repetitions

In this manner he would build strength and stability first before moving to endurance and mobility.

What about the Pistol squat, how could that be of benefit?
Like the one arm push up, the pistol, or one legged squat, is demonically difficult. It will never develop huge bodybuilder legs, but it will certainly build strong legs.
As you perform this standing on one leg, the stabilisation and balance issues are huge. The foot must be strong, the knee must track perfectly, the hip must be mobile enough to allow the movement to happen, but stong enough to prevent the body tipping and the core is, as always, watching and correcting any wobble.
This is a beast of an exercise, and one that took me personally a long time to get the hang of!
However, our subject is a Triathlete, would this benefit him?
Yes, the extra brute strength, the greater stabilisation through the joints and the improved body control will undoubtedly help him running and cycling.
After all in both events only one leg at a time is producing force. I have improved many an athletes time by introducing them to single leg work (Pistol variants, Split Squats, 1 leg Deadlifts etc..)

He could use the same progression as listed above for the upper body drills, and combine the pistol squat with a higher repetition hindu or standard squat for endurance work. I recommend alternating Upper and lower body days, something like this:
Monday: Upper Body – Hard
Tues: Lower Body – Hard
Wed: Off
Thurs: Upper Body – Easy
Friday: Lower Body – Easy
Sat & Sun: Off

The whole workout should be done in less that 40 minutes and ought to leave enough in the tank for the other training activities involved in his sport.
But what if you’re not a triathlete?
Well, you’d still make great gains from bodyweight only training, aside from strength you’ll develop the balance, grace and poise of a wild animal. Coordinated, flowing powerful movements.
Sound good?

If so these drills are all featured in No Equipment, No Excuses, currently on offer as part of our Wild Geese anniversary eBook package, available here.

That article I promised on the best Kettlebell Lift for Fighters, well Paul, the other half of Wild Geese asked if I could put it over on the Martial Arts blog instead. So if you want to find out, please head over here

Light ≠ Easy

 I stepped onto the training floor the other day where my advanced group were milling about getting ready to begin. Ray, one of my top lads pipes up “Eoghan’s just back from holiday, so he asked if we could do a light session today”
I had planned to do heavy front squats to a low box, but how could I refuse such a request.

We kept it light the whole session opening up with bodyweight squats, static squats, push ups, hindu push ups, alligator holds (hold the bottom of a push up). We continued with a relatively light double Kettlebell clean and jerk set, for 5 minutes. This was followed by one arm clean & jerk for 2 min per arm only slightly heavier.
Back to the lighter doubles then for Sissy squats x 50 and single leg Romanian deadlifts x 25 each leg.

We had time to spare so I took the gang through a light conditioning session: 5 reps each of Swing, Burpee and Hindu Push Up. We did this on the top of the minute for 10 minutes.
Nothing heavy, just bodyweight drills and swings.

By the end of the session they were all cursing Eoghan, of course it wasn’t his fault, Ray was just blaming him. But the point remains, just because you’re not lifting huge amounts of Iron, it doesn’t mean you’re not working hard. Static strength, as in the squat and alligators, is a skill often ignored, but very challenging to practice and essential to contact sports. Kettle bell lifts, even with light bells, are taxing due to the explosive nature, the fact that every lift is done at maximal speed.
And then there’s that finisher, only 5 reps of each? Bodyweight? I know 5 swings, 5 burpees and 5 hindu push us is hardly a challenge. But try to do them as fast as possible so you get the longest rest, then do it again, and again.
The last set as the buzzer goes off signalling the 10th minute is a killer.

As usual the gang pushed and worked extremely hard. Everyone put in a huge effort. A light workout certainly did not equal an easy workout. Perhaps Ray will choose his words more carefully next time….

We also held the Level 3 Kettlebell Workshop over the weekend.
Level 3 is the most detailed of all the workshops as it covers the classical lifts, Snatch and Jerk. I wish to thank all participants for not only taking part but also for their insights, questions and comments.
Every time I teach a workshop I learn something from the attendees, this time was no different. And judging from the feedback at then end of the workshop, the group all learned something as well.
The Snatch and Jerk are two lifts that take a long time to master (I’ve been snatching for over  6 years now and it’s still not perfect!)  so a two hour workshop is only enough time to get the framework, now the guys have to go away and perform hundreds, even thousands of repetitions before mastery of these two incredible lifts can be gained.

If you wish to learn the art of kettlebell lifting, for home use, for increasing your knowledge as an instructor or just for interest, have a look at the side bar for upcoming dates.
I’m also available to come to your gym and run a bespoke kettlebell workshop specific to the needs of your group. Give me a shout for further details.

Till next time



Bodyweight for Upper Body Strength

Just finished my early morning clients, which included a lad named Mike. 

Mike is looking to get stronger, he’s a runner and soccer player and asked for some upper body strength.
Currently he’s on an Escalating Density Training (EDT) program to shift a bit of fat while building some muscle. EDT is a great method that I’ve used on myself and with clients, it never fails to get results, but more on that later.

Right now, I’m more interested in talking about the two drills we used:

  • Bodyweight Row
  • Push Up

Mike had been given his program  couple of weeks ago and I hadn’t seen him since. When I saw his log sheets from the workouts performed in my absence, I was impressed by his totals, so much so that I asked him to demonstrate his form in the two drills.

Aahhhhh! It all became clear.
Done right, these two drills can form a great upper body workout, far better than their equivalent machine based drills. In my opinion, by adding weight to the body, they are more valuable than even free weight exercises for most people.

A bodyweight exercise forces you to activate the core, it ensures the whole body works as a unit. And any time you perform an exercise that moves your body through space, you activate more muscle fibres than if the body was stationary and the weight moved.

So how should they be performed?

The set up is almost identical in both exercises:

  • Spine in neutral, this includes the head, don’t let it hang or twist it into an unnatural position.
  • Shoulders back and down
  • Chest lifted
  • Core tight

The legs may be bent or straight depending on your strength levels. You may also change the angle of the body, starting parallel to the floor may be too challenging in either drill, you may change the height at the hands or feet accordingly.

They say a picture speaks a thousand words, so here’s a couple of moving pictures that show the official version of these two great drills:
The Body Weight Row
The Push Up

If you train at home or outdoors, these two drills must be in your routine somewhere.
For more great bodyweight training drills and ideas please check this out.

And for more on EDT, get over to Charles Staley’s site



Are you up to the Challenge?

My old mate over at Simple Strength, Rannoch Donald has issued a challenge.

At first look it’s a relatively simple task, but with everything Rannoch espouses, it’s simplicity hides a deeper truth.

What he’s asking is that every day, 7 days a week, you do 100 reps of whatever exercise drill you choose.

It could be one exercise, it could be many different exercises. It could be done in a single workout or spread through the day into mini workouts. How you get your daily 100 is up to you.
The “how” isn’t important, the challenge is about the “why”

The why is simple, Rannoch’s home country of Scotland (which is also my home land, although it’s rare I get back these days) now rates number 2 in the Obesity chart. The only country with a greater proportion of obesity is the USA. Although, when I walk around the streets of Dublin, I’m pretty sure we’re not far behind.

The reasons for this alarming rise in the levels of obesity in the population are twofold:

  1. Poor diet.
    Eating processed, prepacked garbage. Snacking on sugary food, which by the way includes your “low fat” yogurt and breakfast cereals. The modern idea of convenience food has created a generation who can no longer cook, who no longer recognise a vegetable and are addicted to sugar.
  2. Lack of Exercise.
    We used to encourage our kids outside to play. They’d come home covered in mud, bumps and bruises, they’d be tired and ravenous, ready for a plate of meat and veg at the kitchen table. These days kids “play” while slumped on a sofa. A football is controlled by a joystick, whereas my generation controlled a ball with our feet.Your granddad, his dad, and his dad before him, they would go to work and actually do some work. You? I’ll bet you sit at a desk for 8 or so hours. While work used to involve lifting and carrying, modern health & safety laws no longer allow us to lift anything heavier than your handbag. As for the modern exercise methods….well they’re a load of crap, imagine a bicycle that’s bolted to the floor? A machine that allows you to lift weights while sitting down, comfortably? C’mon

So Rannoch came to an epiphany. He jumped out of his bathtub and ran naked down the street shouting “eureka!” (He didn’t, but if you met him, you wouldn’t put it past him!)

He came up with the idea that if you did 100 reps of something, as an extra to your regular workouts, it might replace the lost manual labour. It might balance the sedentary nature of your work. It might stretch the muscles, lubricate the joints, release the good hormones and keep the bad ones in check.

The movement will become your medicine.

Right now, as you read this, Rannoch is collecting workout ideas from top trainers and coaches around the UK and Ireland. I’ve contributed a few already, and can’t wait to see what the others add to the mix. After all, we all have differing styles of training, different backgrounds and experiences. But we all are submitting bodyweight only routines that have a total of 100 reps.
When he has collected them all in, he will put these routines together into a free PDF that will be downloadable from his site.

This video is just one of the routines I contributed:

I’ll be posting more videos with other 100 rep ideas shortly.


Dave Hedges
author: No Equipment, No Excuses – Bodyweight Training for the Home, the Office & on the Road
email /
+353 87 672 6090

Why I’ve been quiet and the Saturday Session

I’ve not been posting much recently, but rest assured I’m not slacking!

I wouldn’t leave you alone without a good reason. One reason is the weekend away I just had with ESTS, another are the two projects I’m working on for you.

One is a series of Kettlebell workshops running from level 1 through to level 5. As I grew up in the martial arts, these levels will be assigned a colour, as in the coloured belts I grew up trying to achieve.
By the time a student has completed all 5 levels he, or she will have attained Black Belt, or in other words, Mastery of the Basics.
I will also be working on a further level after the black belt whereby the student receives the right to teach under the Wild Geese banner.

The other project is simpler, an eBook, a sister book No Equipment, No Excuses that answers a question I’m often asked.

“Whats the best exercise for burning fat?”

I always answer with a question myself “Just one?”

This book is to answer that.

But lets change the subject and talk about this saturday.

For the saturday session I’m limited in what I can do due to injured shoulder. So we are going to do something a little different to usual.

We are going for a run. I haven’t decided if we’ll do endurance or sprints but if you come down to Ringsend Park, the entrance beside Rope Walk Pl and Parkview Pl, you’ll be sure to find out.

See you Sat at 12 noon.


No Money? No Gym? No Problem!

I’m sure most of you reading this blog are aware of the other side of the Wild Geese.
We’re not just about strength, conditioning and general fitness, no, we are also involved in the overlapping worlds of Security and Martial Arts.


Yes. You see the Wild Geese founding members both grew up practicing martial arts, this led them to learn about conditioning training to be better able to compete. And then both instructors found themselves working in the security field, where again having strength and endurance can be life saving.

Our boy in Africa is no different.
Wild Geese founder, Paul Cox, met Samir (Sam for short) in the Gambia when Paul was away working. The two became friends and it turned out that Sam was as passionate about the martial arts as Paul is.
Over the course of a few years, Paul would travel over and stay with Sam and they would train. Eventually Sam earned the title of Wild Geese Representative. A coveted honour that has only be handed out to 4 people in the world, and we took it back from one of them.

Well it seems Sam has been doing well for himself. He’s training many of the Gambian security forces in unarmed combat, but now they want him to train them to be stronger and tactically fit.

You can imaging that in Africa, Gyms are hard to come by.

So Sam got on the phone and called up Paul’s for help. Paul came to me. We sat and had a think, here’s what we thunk:

We have already sent Sam a copy of No Equipment, No Excuses, the Bodyweight Manual. But this failed to impress the Gambians as they want all the shiny gear that they see on the telly.
So we have to do something else.

We sent over links to some other peoples sites, people like Josh Henkin and Ross Enamait. People that like ourselves, use basic equipment, and they both strongly advocate the use of the sandbag.

The sandbag is the ideal substitute for a gym. It’s easy to change the weight, but it always feels heavier than the equivalent weight on a barbell. Plus it offers movements that are just not possible with a bar, moves that for a tactical or combat athlete are vital.

So Sam convinced his boys this was the way to go. Over the next few weeks Paul and myself will be creating a program based on the Sandbag and Bodyweight drills to turn the locals into unstoppable warriors.

We’re giving you guys the opportunity to follow along, all the resources we send over to Sam will be made available, via or shop page.
Plus there will be plenty of information posted right here for no charge.

In fact heres a favorite session of mine right now:

Based on a Density style program, set a timer for ten minutes. You will perform as many sets fo 3 reps as possible in that 10 minutes. Record the total number of reps and attempt to beat it next time by adjusting the reps and rest.

Here’s the workout:
1A – Hindu Press Up x 10 mins
Rest 3-5 mins
2A – Sandbag Clean & Press x 10 mins
Rest 3-5 mins
3A – Sandbag Zercher Squat
Total training time including rest periods and warm ups should be no more than 45 mins.

Here’s the Sandbag Clean & Press in action:



Can’t Stop, Didn’t Stop

It’s a cold afternoon in Dublin, there’s a fog coming in from the sea, wouldn’t want to be hanging about today.

So we didn’t.

For today’s saturday session I was joined by hard charging Wild Geese member, Ray. He’s an IT type, a computer geek with a penchant for mountain bikes, snowboards and anything that’ll push him to his far reaching limits.

If you subscribe to the monthly Wild Geese newsletter, you may remeber this short peice he wrote:
You Cant Stop, You Wont Stop

So I knew I could have a bit of fun.

Here’s what today consisted of:

A short jog to warm up. Of course it’s never that simple, the part of the park we were in has sevaral small hills in sequence, we jogged over all of them untill we came to a set of Rugby posts that weren’t being used.

Then we got cracking:

5x Burpees with a pull up
25 meter sprint

Walk back to the posts and repeat for 5 rounds.

Then jog over to one of the hills for 3 rounds of:

Backwards running uphill
Spiderman Crawl downhill

The whole thing took around 25 minutes and we were both feeling the pain and breathing hard.

You don’t need to train for hours at a time, unless your sport calls for hours of work. Which unless you’re a triathlete or runner is unlikely.

Short sharp shock workouts ought to leave you feeling like you’re ready to take on the world, not wasted for hours (like I used to feel when I trained for the marathon a while back)

Shorter workouts take less time to recover from, they take less time from your day, less time away from your family, so you can do them more often
2 x 2 hour workouts can be split into 4 x half hour workouts. You’d be able to go harder, get a higher boost to the metabolism and really turn your fitness up to the next level.

Try it

You won’t be dissapointed


When You go down to the….

Bushy Park on a Saturday morning, you’re sure for a big surprise!!

This weeks “Saturday Session” was in Bushy Park, a place where I’ve often been to do my own conditioning work, but never on a Saturday morning. Boy was I missing out!

The park was heaving.

There were:
A Running Club
A Bootcamp

A Football Team

and a huge amount of Dog Walkers.

And I have to say, with the exception of the dog walkers, everyone was, well, jogging.

What’s wrong with that?, you may ask…
And my answer would be, nothing at all. Unless, you’re training for fat loss or any sport other than distance running.

I could go into what each group was doing, or should have been doing, but that would be unfair. They were all out getting exercise and fresh air, and fair play to them.
The running group would most likely be the only group to achieve their goals (better running times), the rest, well, keep trying.

I was there for my Saturday Session. This is for me a deload, no pressures of teaching and instructing, no heavy weights to lift, or bags to hit, just me, my body, the fresh air and maybe a bit of your company.
Today I was joined by a long time client of mine, who also helps out with some of the boring paperwork jobs at Wild Geese, Nicola.

So after watching the “Bootcampers” scurry about like a herd of sheep, admired the work ethic of some of the runners and spoke to a few of the Dogs, we got to work.

We started at the bottom of the hill, looking up at the kids playground, a distance of maybe 25-30 meters, of wet grass and mud. Sweeet..

I set my countdown timer for 15 minutes, we then knocked out as many rounds as possible of the following workout:

1. Single Leg Deadlift (or Airborne Lunge) x 5 L/R

2. Sprint to the top of the hill

3. Press up, any variation x 10
(learn more about these exercises by clicking here)
Jog down and repeat until the buzzer goes.

Short, brutal and effective. We both had shaky legs and were gasping for air at the finish.

Too warm down we wandered into the wooded area and practiced a little Chi Gung. Nicola is a keen student of Tai Chi and I believe that Chi gung is one of the fastest ways to recover after a hard session. My legs were feeling fresh again and I felt energised and ready for anything.

If you wish to join the fun next Saturday, make sure to check in on my Twitter and Facebook pages for updates.

Till then, keep working hard


You Are Cordially Invited

Last summer I started to send out Tweets (which also appear on my facebook) inviting people to come and join me for an open air workout on the Saturday afternoon.
I called it my Saturday session.

I let this slide due to some issues at home and never really started again.

Well here’s the good news, From this sat (the 16th jan) I’ll be inviting anyone that’s interested to coma and train with me.
Just to clarify what is involved:

You are training with me, not being trained by me
I will be doing an outdoor conditioning workout – dress appropriately
You are responsible for your safety, I am not
There is no charge, as I am not acting as a coach
The times and places will be announced by the evening of the Thursday before, and are subject to change.
If I fail to arrive, don’t wait, get on with it. I wouldn’t wait for you….
This IS NOT one of them Military bootcamp things, I’m not in the military so don’t train that way….

Most of the sessions will be centred around Dublin city, although there may be forays into the Dublin Mountains or down to the beach. Just depend what I feel like on any given day.

The aim of the Saturday session is simple – Get out, refresh the blood, get some fresh air into the lungs and come home smiling.

It’s an open invite, sign up to my Twitter and/or facebook and I’ll maybe see you next weekend..


+353 87 672 6090