Tag Archives: bodyweight exercise

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, wildgeesema.com/ultimate




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



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


Sweep the leg. Do you have a problem with that?

It’s on TV now, I’m sat here mucking around online while the missus is sat flicking through TV channels, guess what she found, hang on it’s the final……..

……………Go on Danny Laruso!! That’s right, The Karate Kid!

Anyway back to the point, 21 years ago I was sat on the sofa, aged 10 watching this same film. Within the month I was training. I had joined the local karate school (St Martins Jnr Karate Club, under Sensei Jack Parker) and finally started something.

This had a major effect me. Karate was one of the few things I really stuck at as a kid. As I grew up, all the other lads grew out, I was a beanpole. While I cycled everywhere, I wasn’t strong. Around the time I was 16/17, Jack turned to me and said that if I wanted to continue improving to black belt standard and to stand a chance in the tournaments.

As a result I asked my mates on the school rowing squad if I could join their gym sessions, they asked their coach and a new era started.

We had two gym sessions per week, the lads obviously had other sessions out on the water, I ran and practiced karate. Plus we’d meet once or twice a week for a session on the ergo’s (what we called the concept 2 rowers, still my machine of choice)
One session was “light day” consisting of Pyramids, the other session was “Heavy day” using 3×10. The exercises were always:
Leg Press, Bench Pull, Power Cleans and bench press. I think that was all, there were certainly no isolation’s!

It’s the warm ups i really liked though. A 20 minute circuit that would make Steve Maxwell blanch, then onto the weights.

Now, I realise it wasn’t the most scientific training we could have done, but we got results!
I put on a little weight, but got much much stronger with conditioning to match, got my black belt and fought for my country. The rowing squad were in the top 15 in the country.

When I need to train up for something these days, I always look back to those days, my first gym experience. Although I know much more now, it was the heart and soul we put into the training, it was the basic exercise selection, it was the high intensity circuits.

I look around the Gym I work in and see the girlie boys spending over an hour trying to get from a b cup to a c cup while I’m in and out in less than an hour, full body done, heavy weights moved and heart in the mouth intense cardio ( I like to finish with a 4 minute tabata after a strength workout). I could never get my head around bodybuilding.

I got into training to improve my martial arts, I continue training to improve not only my martial arts but everything else I do. If strength isn’t functional can it truly be called strength?

Fuck it, the sun’s shining, the Karate Kid won his fight and I’m in the mood to get out into the garden and do some training of my own. Bodyweight only, cos I took my Kettlebells to the gym.

Lets go


Wild Geese
any cause but our own

3 Best Bodyweight Exercises

By: Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

Here are 3 kick-butt bodyweight exercises you can do anytime, anywhere to burn fat, stay energized, and avoid overeating.

Bodyweight exercises help you burn fat shockingly fast, without any fancy equipment.

1) Any Single-Leg ExerciseThe pistol (single-leg squat to the floor) is the most advanced1-leg exercise. But you can also do assisted single-leg squats with a band, or onto a bench, or even with a Stability Ball between your back and the wall.
If you aren’t ready for single-leg squats, you can use BulgarianSplit Squats, Reverse Lunges, regular split squats, or lying 1-leg hip bridges if you are a beginner.

2) Decline Push-ups These are harder than normal pushups, thanks to your elevated feet. And in this position, you can still use a close-grip to fatigueyour triceps, a “piked-hip position” to build your shoulders, oreven the Spiderman leg motion to work on your abs.

3) Bodyweight Inverted RowsI choose these over chinups and pullups because bodyweight rows let your chest rest, while your back is strengthened. It’s the perfect compliment to a pushup.
Do 8-12 repetitions per exercise. Don’t rest between exercises. Go through the circuit up to 3 times, resting 1 minute after each circuit.

For a once-per-month challenge, do each exercise to failure in your final round through the circuit.

Get in shape fast with Turbulence Training,
Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Author, Turbulence Training

About the Author
Craig Ballantyne is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and writes for Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Maximum Fitness, Muscle and Fitness Hers, and Oxygen magazines.
His trademarked Turbulence Training fat loss workouts have been featured multiple times in Men’s Fitness and Maximum Fitness magazines, and have helped thousands of men and women around the world lose fat, gain muscle, and get lean in less than 45 minutes three times per week.
For more information on the Turbulence Training workouts that will help you burn fat without long, slow cardio sessions or fancy equipment, visit www.TurbulenceTraining.com

Wild Geese
any cause but our own