There are thousands of incredibly difficult strength and muscle building moves that are going unused, sitting on shelf collecting dust. And the thing is that you can build big, strong, functional muscle without even touching a dumbbell, barbell or weight machine.
You can get ripped in your living room or basement or the park and it doesn't have to cost you a dime. By mastering your own bodyweight you can build the body you want long term with the added benefit of not just looking strong, but actually being strong. The key is that you keep challenging yourself and challenging your body. Again, that doesn't just mean that you load a couple more 45-pound plates the bar.
Closed Chain Exercises
Closed chain exercises are exercise where one part of your body is fixed to stationary surface. Pull-ups, where your hands are fixed to the bar; squats, where your feet remain on the floor and push-ups (hands), are all closed chain exercises. A movement like an overhead dumbbell press is an example of an open chain exercise, because you’re moving your body — in this case your arms — through space.
Closed chain exercises are generally superior because of their ability to recruit more muscle fibers, but are often overlooked because they are “too easy”. If a guy can bench press 185 pounds for 10 reps, chances are he’ll be able to do more than 25 pushups. That same guy, when trying to build his chest, will then always go to the bench press. A) because it’s harder and B) because it looks awesome.
However, bodyweight movements are numerous and variable, and can be easily made harder or easier. For example, a standard pushup can be made harder by adding a weight vest, doing a single arm variation like an archer pushup, or adding a power element, like a clapping pushup.
A friend of mine worked as a strength and conditioning coach at a Division II college. He pulled a male gymnast out of practice one day and brought him into the weight room. This gymnast had never lifted before but topped out at a 605-pound deadlift and managed to do a pull-up with 115lbs hanging from a weight belt.
You might not want a 600-pound deadlift, but the point is the same. By becoming so strong and efficient at moving his own body around, this gymnast was able to move extremely heavy weights and make it look easy without having ever lifted weights before.
This is a result having an incredibly high strength-to-weight ratio. Why is this is important to you? It means the better you get at bodyweight movements, the less body fat you’ll have.
Read that again, but slower this time.
The fact that these closed chain movements require less body fat in order to be efficient, without sacrificing functional muscle is the perfect set up for building a strong physique long term. That means that you don’t have to spend as much time watching the scale. How many pull-ups, pike-ups and pistol squats you can do is a much better predictor of how close you are to your ideal body.
So let’s start adding to your routine. Here are a few overlooked bodyweight movements that you can add to your workout today.
Thai Crunch: This exercise is a sneaky full body move that works the glutes, core, and shoulders like crazy while working on full-body coordination. They look simple until you try to get a set of 20. These also hit-the-hard to work serratus muscle — the muscle that runs from your pecs to your shoulder blades. Also known as the “Do you have abs on your sides?” beach muscle.