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Thread: Reps versus high weights - bodyweight approach versus barbell approach page

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    tfarny's Avatar
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    Reps versus high weights - bodyweight approach versus barbell approach

    OK, so I don't really want to re-hash the basics here, I would like to ask a specific question:
    The barbell approach (Rippetoe etc) values heaviest weights and low reps (5 or so), yet the bodyweight approach (simplefit, Mark's PB fitness, 100 pushup challenge, etc) tends to often value very high reps as a measure of strength & fitness. I'm thinking of Al's 65 pushups video, Mark's recommendation that you be able to do 50 regular pushups before doing weighted pushups, endless air squats, etc.
    There is no question that the low-rep high-weight approach is yielding strength gains for me, faster than anything I've done before. Yesterday I did 20 pushups with a 25 lb weight in my backpack, then added 10 more lb and did two more sets to failure (only 7, alas). That felt much better than standard pushups. I'm sure that if I did 50 rep squats with just the bar, I'd be secretly mocked by the actually fit guys at the gym, yet Mark recommends 50 air squats.

    SO: Why does the bodyweight approach value the high reps so much? Do you think it's just tradition - like, the army PT test, being able to do your age in situps, etc.? Or is there a reason why bodyweight exercises should be done for reps yet barbell exercises be done for weight?

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    TheFastCat's Avatar
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    I think that glycogen has something to do with the argument. But I don't remember what exactly :/

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    I'm having this internal debate somewhat. I love stronglifts 5x5 (Even though I took a month and a half off after my wedding, so I'm basically starting from scratch), but I am contemplating adding in one day of BW work as well.

    I just don't get the same feeling doing BW that I do from Stronglifts... it's that "ok I just lifted a bunch of weight, I feel like a freakin beast and I can't wait to eat a huge steak when I get home." With bodyweight, I just don't "feel it."

    Not the exercise, I do feel the burn. I just don't feel as primal I guess? I love Stronglifts 5x5 and feel like it helps deliver those results for me. Add in sprinting 1x per week, and I think it makes for a pretty solid workout.

    As an aside, I think it has more to do with preference and goals... muscle endurance vs. brute strength, but I'm not 100% sure on that?

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    I think it's got something to do with muscle endurance vs raw strength, I like to mix both.

    Nah, there's plenty of strictly bodyweight stuff that mere mortals can't yet touch. To name a few:

    - One arm chins
    - Planche // planche push ups -- even if you can bench more than your body weight, I guess due to the element of balance but also learning how to tighten up your whole body
    - pistol squats, though these are more easily attainable.
    - free standing handstand // handstand push ups

    Some of these I guess are more feats than exercises (handstand) but the notion that doing strictly bodyweight work means NOT lifting heavy weight is wrong. Very very wrong.

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    Low vs high rep is a matter of max strength vs strength endurance. Both are good qualities of strength to possess.

    Now barbells vs "bodyweight" is seperate from high rep/low rep... you can train both qualities with either.

    Heavy low rep bench and weighted pushups both work max strength... high rep bench and standard pushups work endurance.

    I find it easier to train max strength with barbells and endurance with bodyweight... however i threw my vest on this weekend and knocked out a killer "bodyweight" strength training circuit. 5 pullups, 10 incline pushups, 15 alternating lunges per leg nonstop for 20 min with a 45 pound vest on. Brutal.

    Is it really bodywieght though once you add weight?
    Last edited by arthurb999; 11-15-2010 at 11:39 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arthurb999 View Post
    Low vs high rep is a matter of max strength vs strength endurance. Both are good qualities of strength to possess.

    Now barbells vs "bodyweight" is seperate from high rep/low rep... you can train both qualities with either.
    Good point - I agree completely.

    Tfarny: There is no one best way to train. There are certainly some methods that are more effective than others, but it need not be a question of "reps vs. weights" as the two are not at odds with each other as far as I can tell. In the world of bodyweight training, the same people are usually good at both. Take me for example - I can do a one arm pull-up for one rep strength (or two reps on a good day!) AND I can also do a crapload of regular two arm pull-ups. What does that tell you?

    Final thought: Stop worrying about finding the "holy grail" workout plan and just focus on training hard and training consistently. I discuss this idea in more detail in my book.
    "In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they couldn't be more different."

    "You can have anything you want, but you can't have everything you want."

    My blog: http://www.AlKavadlo.com


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    chronyx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by workinhard View Post
    I'm having this internal debate somewhat. I love stronglifts 5x5 (Even though I took a month and a half off after my wedding, so I'm basically starting from scratch), but I am contemplating adding in one day of BW work as well.

    I just don't get the same feeling doing BW that I do from Stronglifts... it's that "ok I just lifted a bunch of weight, I feel like a freakin beast and I can't wait to eat a huge steak when I get home." With bodyweight, I just don't "feel it."

    Not the exercise, I do feel the burn. I just don't feel as primal I guess? I love Stronglifts 5x5 and feel like it helps deliver those results for me. Add in sprinting 1x per week, and I think it makes for a pretty solid workout.

    As an aside, I think it has more to do with preference and goals... muscle endurance vs. brute strength, but I'm not 100% sure on that?
    YES!

    That sums up my feelings nicely. I enjoy going to the gym for compound lifts, and find push-ups boring without some sort of added bonus; feet up, or back-pack on.

    Exactly as you said, not much can beat the feeling of nailing that hard set of squats you were nervous about before!

    Luckily where I work out we'll do compound lifts followed by a metabolic-conditioning exercise usually involving pull/push-ups, squats, burpees, that you can scale as you wish, with a weights vest, feet up, bands, etc.

    They are both very good, but in very different ways. I don't get that high from finally nailing 40 press-ups in a row, though.

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    Quote Originally Posted by workinhard View Post
    I just don't get the same feeling doing BW that I do from Stronglifts... it's that "ok I just lifted a bunch of weight, I feel like a freakin beast and I can't wait to eat a huge steak when I get home." With bodyweight, I just don't "feel it."
    Quote Originally Posted by chronyx View Post
    I don't get that high from finally nailing 40 press-ups in a row, though.
    My first muscle-up, back lever and one arm pull-up felt every bit as good as setting a pr on sqauts, deads, etc.

    On the other hand, doing 30 consecutive chin-ups or squatting my bodyweight 20 times gives me that satisfaction too.

    I guess I just really like to work out!
    "In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they couldn't be more different."

    "You can have anything you want, but you can't have everything you want."

    My blog: http://www.AlKavadlo.com


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    iniQuity's Avatar
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    I'm also thinking that bodyweight carries with it an aura of ease. We're all used to our bodies, and there isn't a person alive today that hasn't tried some bodyweight exercise. It seems very "safe" to over-commit on bodyweight work (high reps) because injury isn't a direct threat...

    maybe?

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    Good point about injury. It's tough to have bad form on a pullup and lead to an injury

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