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Are body weight exercises enough?

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  • Are body weight exercises enough?

    While listening to the Paleo Solution Podcast by Robb Wolf, I found that Robb seems to strongly advocate weightlifting exercises like the snatch, clean and jerk, dead lift, etc. I am a pretty lean guy 5'8" and 135-140 lbs around 8-11% body fat. I want to be ripped but I don't know if weightlifting will help me.
    I've heard rumors that gains from bodyweight exercises tend to level off extremely quickly.
    I tend to do mostly bodyweight exercises like Bulgarian Squats, Burpees, Spiderman pushups etc.... But after a few weeks of doing these, they've become fairly easy and the only thing I can do for my workout is increase the volume.
    I also think that since these exercises are so repetitive, they will at some point stop giving me results.... Any help? Are bodyweight exercises actually great and I'm just worrying for no reason?

  • #2
    Thousands of different opinions on this one but bottom line is: you can only go so far with body weight exercises. If your goal is to build some mass and serious definition, you'll have to pick the weights up. Just remember to stay with the basics; squats, bench, barbell row, overhead press, and dead lifts. Don't get lured into doing the small pussy exercises where you isolate a single muscle group, it's pretty much a waste of time. If you reach a competition level physique, those exercises will crank out the last 1% of your definition, but until you're there you need to establish the foundation of your body work with the basics. And more so, you'll never get ripped if you slack on your nutrition quality. Stick with a stellar nutrition plan, or all your effort with the weights will only get you so far.
    "It's true, you are a good woman. Then again, you may be the antichrist."

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    • #3
      Check out Rippetoe's Starting Strength. Just do it.

      It will transform your body, without question.
      Travel, eat well, and learn about life - three things I love to do

      Curious about what YOU should pack next time you're on the road? Check out my Definitive Guide to Backpacking Nutrition

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      • #4
        You won't build as much volume with bodyweight workouts, but you can get far more out of it than you currently are, I'm sure. You need a structured, progressive plan to consistently attempt and work on more difficult exercises. You probably just don't know what those more difficult exercises are. Check out Al Kavadlo, BarStarz, or Building the Gymnastic Body for more.

        That being said, Starting Strength or Stronglifts will be awesome for you. Lifting programs are far easier to structure and maintain consistent progress, as you do the same thing every week but with a little more weight. Bodyweight you have to plan a little more to know what your next exercise will be.

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        • #5
          Robb has some excellent recommendations for lifts, but don't go jumping into those. Snatch, Clean and Jerk, etc. take a lot of traininging, experience and practice to perform properly. They are awesome exercises but unfortunately are also some of the easiest to hurt yourself on

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          • #6
            well..what are your goals?

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            • #7
              I would agree with what's been said above. The ability to gain sheer mass is eventually going to limit out if one does bodyweight training alone, but a person can progress far down the road of strength and lean mass gains by using classic bodyweight exercise.

              The trick with bodyweight is to come up with a progression that leads to increasing difficulty. For example...
              pushups -> pushups with 1 leg raised -> partial 1-arm pushups -> full 1-arm pushups
              (nevermind the other varieties of pushups that a person could add in along the way)

              The _careful_ addition of weight to some bodyweight moves can further enhance your progress (who says Grok never had to climb to safety with a child clinging to his back? Weighted pull-ups to the rescue)

              The books / authors / programs mentioned above are a good start that can help you come up with those types of progressions. I would add You Are Your Own Gym by Mark Lauren and Convict Conditioning by Paul Wade into that mix. Convict Conditioning, in particular, gives a nice progression of bodyweight exercises for most of the major muscle groups.

              As also said above, it starts with determining your goals. Want to be Mr. Olympia? You'll need to hit the weights. Want to put on 15-20 pounds of lean muscle? You can probably get there with body weight.

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              • #8
                I would say look into doing moderate weights at high reps, in addition to the body weight/ gymnastics movements. And if you can do OLY lifting movements, then go for it.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by ilovesteak View Post
                  Thousands of different opinions on this one but bottom line is: you can only go so far with body weight exercises. If your goal is to build some mass and serious definition, you'll have to pick the weights up. Just remember to stay with the basics; squats, bench, barbell row, overhead press, and dead lifts. Don't get lured into doing the small pussy exercises where you isolate a single muscle group, it's pretty much a waste of time. If you reach a competition level physique, those exercises will crank out the last 1% of your definition, but until you're there you need to establish the foundation of your body work with the basics. And more so, you'll never get ripped if you slack on your nutrition quality. Stick with a stellar nutrition plan, or all your effort with the weights will only get you so far.
                  I concur with the idea of a few, big exercises. The one I would add to this list is narrow grip lat pulldowns which get your lats, biceps and forearms. The other thing that has worked well for me is doing the 5x5 type low rep routines as promoted by Strong lifts and others.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by miata View Post
                    I concur with the idea of a few, big exercises. The one I would add to this list is narrow grip lat pulldowns which get your lats, biceps and forearms. The other thing that has worked well for me is doing the 5x5 type low rep routines as promoted by Strong lifts and others.
                    You do narrow grip lat pulldowns on a machine at a gym? Do you do these instead of or in addition to pullups? In what way do you see them as superior to narrow grip pullups?

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by eKatherine View Post
                      You do narrow grip lat pulldowns on a machine at a gym? Do you do these instead of or in addition to pullups? In what way do you see them as superior to narrow grip pullups?
                      I didn't see pull-ups on the other list -- but different strokes for different folks. I just like the motion of cables or machines. Maybe when I get stronger I'll play with bodyweight pull ups.

                      I do a weight machine pull-downs at the work gym "Body by Design" style -- very slow on Mondays and normal speed cable pulls at home on Thursdays. I can't imagine doing body pull-ups slowly and don;t have a pull-up bar at home.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by miata View Post
                        I didn't see pull-ups on the other list -- but different strokes for different folks. I just like the motion of cables or machines. Maybe when I get stronger I'll play with bodyweight pull ups.

                        I do a weight machine pull-downs at the work gym "Body by Design" style -- very slow on Mondays and normal speed cable pulls at home on Thursdays. I can't imagine doing body pull-ups slowly and don;t have a pull-up bar at home.
                        I don't belong to a gym, and I do have a pullup bar at home. Back when I did belong to a gym a decade or more back, I used to do heavy pulldowns, but never felt like I was getting much out of them.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by eKatherine View Post
                          I don't belong to a gym, and I do have a pullup bar at home. Back when I did belong to a gym a decade or more back, I used to do heavy pulldowns, but never felt like I was getting much out of them.
                          I've tried various machines, cable pulls and body pull-downs and they are each a little different. Different strokes.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by JonOhJay View Post
                            I've heard rumors that gains from bodyweight exercises tend to level off extremely quickly.
                            Thats only true if all you are doing are things like the standard push up. Initially you'll make strength gains but eventually they will level off and if all you do is the same exercise but just add reps you'll be building more endurance than strength. The key to building strength with bodyweight exercises is to increase the difficulty which most people don't seem to know how to do so they just add reps and then conclude that "You can only go so far with body weight exercises."

                            Go look at Overcoming Gravity by Steven Low and then try to say that you can't build some serious strength with bodyweight exercises.

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                            • #15
                              I do a weight machine pull-downs at the work gym "Body by Design" style -- very slow on Mondays and normal speed cable pulls at home on Thursdays. I can't imagine doing body pull-ups slowly and don;t have a pull-up bar at home.
                              just to comment on this. i do narrow grip lat pulldowns to warm up for doing chin ups. they feel to me to be a different exercise almost. i dont have a pull up bar at home but i use things i find on my travels like soccer goals where i pick the kids up from school, bars in the kids playground, a beam in the roof of my lean to, tree branches etc.

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