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Welcome to Day 13 of the BWF Primer Community Workout!
Hey folks! Nick-E here.
Wow, last workout of the Build-up to the full Primer routine! Pretty exciting stuff. Now that you’re about to leave the nest
Today we’ll be doing:
– Some reading on the limits and possibilities of “bodyweight only” training.
– Another workout!
Today’s Learning: The Possibilities and Limits of BWF Training
There is a lot that you can achieve with BWF. Many enthusiasts and fans on BWF-only training may say that the scope for progression with bodyweight fitness is endless, and pretty much anything you can achieve with other modes of training (e.g. weight training) can also be achieved with BWF. This, like many wide, sweeping statements of its kind, is a sort of half-truth. BWF is an extremely useful and fun way of training.
One of the big questions people often have is: “Can I get strong with BWF? Can I build muscle?”.
The answer is of course, yes. Ultimately, resistance is resistance. Your body cannot tell whether the hard thing you are making it do is coming from an external weight, or your own body. All you need to do to prove this is to look at the endless number of people on the /r/bodyweightfitness subreddit, on Youtube, and on Instagram that train purely (or at least mostly) with bodyweight that are very strong and have great physiques. Not only that, but for a modest gain in strength and muscle that most people will be looking for, BWF is more than enough.
However, BWF will never be exactly as good as weight training for getting stronger and gaining muscle, which will be relevant to those who have somewhat loftier strength and muscle gain related goals, purely because of a few reasons:
Limit #1: The Convenience of Incremental Progressive Overload
With weight training, you can incrementally adjust the difficulty of an exercise by very small amounts (down to the difference of 1kg or even 0.5kg in some cases) which makes it much easier to progressively overload, and tailor the intensity of exercises specifically to exactly what you want.
With bodyweight training, the jumps in difficulty between different exercises are much larger and so can’t be individually micromanaged as well, and a great deal of rep progression must occur in order to bridge the gap between progressions. This is, generally speaking, a ‘clumsier’ way of going about it.
Limit #2: Training with Leverages
We’ve established that you only weigh so much, and the way you get around that is by playing with leverages. Well that’s a great workaround for a time, but once you advance to a certain level of strength, continuing to manipulate leverages any further begins to create a more than proportional strain on the passive connective tissues in most cases. This means that the ceiling/limiter to your progress will not be your muscular strength or size, but rather the integrity and strength of your tendons. This means after a certain level of strength, in order to keep progressing, your body won’t really need more muscle, it will need stronger tendons. And that will slow your progress considerably because tendons take about (this is an estimate from memory, someone give me a citation on this!) 6-12 times longer to heal/build up than muscle does.
Limit #3: Not as much scope for isolations in BWF
Isolation training refers to exercises that only work one joint/muscle at a time. Compound exercises are exercises that work multiple joints/muscles at a time. Every exercise you currently do in this program is a compound exercise, and relatively few isolation exercises exist in BWF. Of those that do exist, they suffer from the same issues outlined in #1 and #2 above, but perhaps moreso.
In weight training programs, Isolations usually go at the end of a workout once you have already significantly worked yourself with compounds, to add extra stimulus to the muscles without as much fatigue and wear on the body as adding more compounds would do. You can think of isolations as the frosting on the cake. Cake is still good on its own, but with frosting its a lot better.
While you can obviously get stronger, and build muscle without isolations, many would say you are seriously missing out by not including them.–All 3 limits above considered, you will find that if you have lofty goals for strength and muscle gain, at some point you will have to move on from pure-BWF in order to keep going up. That does not mean abandoning BWF completely, it just means you will have to start using weights as well, at the very least. Whether that means using weights to make your BWF exercises harder, or starting to do more traditional dumbbell and/or barbell exercises, that will be up to you, and you can cross that bridge when you come to it.
Not-Limit #4: The above limits probably don’t matter for most of you reading!
As I’m sure you’ve picked up in the wording of many of the above points, these limitations only really apply at the higher level of progression, once you’ve been doing it for probably a couple of years if you still happen to have ambitions to continue getting bigger and stronger than you have already achieved by that point.For most people who just want to be generally fit and strong, none of the above limits are barriers to you really at all! Its just important for me to outline them so as to set up some healthy expectations.—–Ok now that I’ve seriously bummed you out by telling you all the ways that BWF might not be the best thing in the whole universe, now let’s go over all the reasons BWF is actually great anyway!
Benefit #1: It can be done anywhere
This is a huge draw for a lot of people. With such minimal equipment requirements, the number of places you can work out expands massively from “the gym” to “anywhere I can hang some gymnastics rings to do my pull-ups and rows!”. From big trees in the park, a swingset in your back yard, some scaffolding, a children’s playpark, or (most popularly) inside your house, BWF is super versatile in this way!
Benefit #2: It’s great for beginners
Building off the back of the last point, being able to work out at home can be really nice for beginners who may find the gym intimidating. Being able to learn things in your room is great if you happen to have anxiety about these things, because there’s no feeling ‘out of place’ or like you’re being watched as is sometime common among newcomers to the gym.
Benefit #3: It can be really cheap! (Or even free)
Outside of the initial costs required to buy a pull-up bar, maybe some gymnastics rings, BWF requires no gym membership! Those saved dollars add up month by month, especially if the only gyms around you have very high membership fees.
Benefit #4: It can save you time!
If you’re training from home, when you’re done with your workout, it takes you 0 minutes and 0 seconds to get home after your workout! Compared to a potentially long commute to and from the gym, depending on where you live and how close one is to you, this can be a huge time saver. For people with very busy schedules, that can be make or break when it comes to being able to work-out at all.
Benefit #5: It can be a more fun, varied and novel way of training!
The system of different exercise progressions as you get stronger ensures that you’re not always doing the same exercises forever, adding slightly more weight every session, week, or month until the day you die. BWF will involve you learning loads of different exercises over time as you get stronger. Discovering new skills, mobility, and balance that your body has/can develop is super enjoyable and motivating. For those that like to have variety in their workouts, this will be a huge benefit to keep things interesting.
Benefit #6: It can be a cool in-road to different physical hobbies!
The basic skillsets you learn by doing BWF often lead into other interests! Gymnastics, Circus skills, tricking, yoga, acro-yoga, parkour and much more are much easier to get into when you have a solid foundation of bodyweight strength. Especially if you’ve already started learning relevant skills! (Hint hint, Point #5).—–Hopefully this has given you a balanced account of the limits and possibilities of BWF. One of the reasons for explaining this to you is to provide some context about the other 4 programs to which the Primer leads into.
Within the scope of training in BWF without approaching the more specialised and niche levels of progression with leverages as mentioned in Limit #2, is this program, The BWF Primer, and it’s intended next step, The BWF Strength Foundation Routine. (More about all this in the initial announcement last year, if you missed it.)
Upon graduation from BWF Strength Foundations, you will note that the possible way forward diverges into three paths:
- The Gymnastic Strength Training (GST) Specialisation Routine
- The Weighted BWF Routine
- The BWF/Gym Hybrid Routine.
These three programs all work around the above listed limitations to allow for continued progression.
The first program dives head first into the more advanced leverage related skills at the pinnacle of BWF, shifting the goal from simply improving strength and muscle growth, to a more specialised and niche skill based approach. This will be for individuals looking to learn skills and tricks, or perhaps improve their performance in areas like street workout, gymnastics, circus, dance, etc.
The other two are necessary adaptations to include weight training so as to continue a more purely strength and/or muscle gain goal based approach.
This is a bit of a look ahead for you now, as you are only just now starting the full BWF Primer routine as of the start of next week, but its good to be informed!
|Static Birddog Hold||3x10s||60s|
|Static Deadbug Hold||3x15s||60s|
|Rows (Or Reverse Push-ups)||2×12||60s|
Ok, I did it!
If you want to chat about your experience so far, I’ve set up a new ‘beginners zone’ in the /r/bodyweightfitness discord server, so you can come chat with other new exercisers in a friendly environment, with friendly helpers with experience with exercise that have volunteered to answer any questions you may have!