Tag 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, wildgeesema.com/ultimate




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