Bodyweight Minimum Standards, How Do You Measure Up?

What a weekend!

Saturday just gone I was over in Galway teaching the Bodyweight Workshop.
Sunday I was with Wild Geese Martial Arts founder, Paul Cox where we presented at the Filipino Martial Arts Exchange, then when I got home, the wife and I took a rare night out together at the movies where we saw Mama.
The Missus spent most of the movie clinging onto me with one hand and shielding here eyes with the other hand. Big scaredy cat!


But anyhow, back to the workshops..

Galway was cool.
I’ve run the bodyweight workshop in a few gyms now and always been blown away but the response I got from the attendees. In each workshop, at least half the attendance are instructors and coaches in their own right, and still they leave blown away by the possibilities of training with zero equipment.

Duckwalks - feeling the buuuurn!

Duckwalks – feeling the buuuurn!

Now I’ll admit, we did digress once or twice and grabbed the odd bit of kit to illustrate a point or show how to progress a movement by adding external resistance, but the majority of the work requires nothing more than your body and few feet of floor space.
The best thing is that when I created the workshop I actually wasn’t that confident that the first half would stand up to scrutiny, after all, how long can we talk about a simple Push Up and a Bodyweight Squat?

Well? How long?

An entire hour on each movement is how long. And that’s not even going into mad variations. We take the movement and dissect it, we strip it back to its absolute foundations, look at regressions, common errors and then progressions. The progression we build to are the unilateral versions, the Pistol squat and One Arm Push Up.

What makes the day workshop special is that it seems this level of technical detail in these simple exercises is largely missing, or possibly more accurately, it’s forgotten.
Very few people give these movements their due.

And that is a problem.

Each time I run the course, I have some very experienced gym goers and athletes humbled by these exercises that are considered basic.
Watching a person doing a Push Up or doing a Squat can tell a story. It shows limitations, structural imbalances and body awareness. It gives an idea of how well a person can move athletically.

So here’s a few minimum standards for these bodyweight exercises, see if you can pass them. Remember, quality is key here, I won’t accept half reps, poor quality reps, so neither should you. Accept nothing less than perfection.

And before you go on, no, I’m not perfect, some of these I struggle to meet:

Elbow Plank – Minimum acceptable standard: 2 minutes

Push Up – 50 real reps (25 for women), chest will touch the floor between the hands and the arms will come straight on each and every rep. Keep the spine in neutral throughout, that means no sagging heads or backs. (I rarely do high rep push ups, so don’t know if I can still do this. I’ll check this week..)

Bodyweight Squats – 500 reps, full range ie hamstrings meet the calves on each rep. Keep the feet flat, although 500 Hindu squats is also good.

Wrestlers Bridge – Weight on the forehead, for 1 minute. (This one gets me!)

Single leg bridge – 50 reps per leg, from floor to full hip hyperextension.

Pull Ups – overhand grip for 15 (5 for women) full reps. I give slight rider on these, I don’t expect guys to relax into a dead hang at the bottom, as that messes with my shoulder so I don’t like it as a technique. Keep the shoulders retracted the whole time.

Once you have these, try then the following:

One Arm Push Ups x 10 each hand.
Pistol Squats x 20 each leg

20 of these per leg please.

20 of these per leg please.

Just to reiterate, quality must come before quantity.
Do your bodyweight numbers add up?

Next week I’m up in Crossfit Causeway teaching Kettlebell Technique. That’s going to be a blast!

See you there!



Drop and Give Me…..!

Drop and give me 50!

This was going to be a post about Press Ups, and I’ll get to them, but as the title of this post came to me it triggered an entirely different thought process.

First lets take the press up. It is possibly the quintessential bodyweight exercise, we’ve all done them and some of us continue to do them, fewer do them right.

While there are hundreds of variations on the theme, the simple push up as also one of the best upper body and core strength exercise available, and for beaten up old fighters like myself they’re the closest I get to a bench press without reigniting old shoulder issues.

“But how do we do the push up then, and what’s this other thought you had?”

Ok, I hear you, get to the point.

Point 1 – How to do a push up, well if picture is worth a thousand words, a moving picture is worth many times that. In other words, here’s a video:

Point 2 – Drop and give me….how many?
I’ve seen “MMA coaches” insist that their trainees nock out sets of 50 reps. I’ve seen their students then perform any possible variation on the theme in order to hit this magic number. I’ve also heard many of them complaining of sore shoulders, necks and backs in the changing rooms.

The point I’m meandering towards is simple, focus on quality not quantity.

The students mentioned above, simply weren’t ready for such high reps and as such they let form slip, their shoulders raised and their head dropped, the lower back sagged as the abs gave way, all resulting in poor movement patterns and severly increasing the injury risk.
had they been told to AIM for 50 proper push ups, but to stop as soon as form slipped, i’m 100% positive every one of them would have gotten stronger, faster and been much less sore.

So rather than doing one set of 50 before you’re good and ready, why not break it down. Here’s a density program that I’ve mentioned before and laid out in the eBook, “One exercise fat loss & conditioning“, but tailored down for 50 push ups.

Workout 1: 10 sets of 5 reps = 50
Workout 2: 9 sets of 6 reps = 54
Workout 3: 8 sets of 7 = 56
Workout 4: 5 sets of 10 = 50
Workout 5: 4 sets of 12 = 48
Workout 6: 3 sets of 15 = 45
Workout 7: 3 sets of 17 = 51
Workout 8: 2 x 20, 1x 10 = 60
Workout 9: 2 sets of 25 = 50
Workout 10: 1 set of 50

Of course thats just an example, it may take more or less than 10 workouts, repeat a particular workout as many times as it takes to nail it, add in further steps between 9 and 10 if needed.
But always, always terminate a set the moment form slips. Master the movement and master your own body.



Next Kettlebell Workshop:
17th October – Level 3, Snatch & Jerk

Next Boot Camp commences 11th October

Email for more details (