We’ve created the “perfect” bodyweight strength training program.
…Just kidding! There’s no such thing. But our new program, Integral Strength, is pretty damn close 😉
In this episode, Andy and Ryan discuss our new program, what differentiates one strength training program from another, and how to find what will work best for you.
Here’s a snippet of what Andy had to say:
“What we’re really trying to get with this… is skill-based strength, the strength that makes it easier to do various skills.”
Here’s what we’ll cover in this episode…
- (00:50) “If you don’t have biceps on day two, you don’t want it bad enough.”
- (02:26) Today will be about how a program can take the same exercises and accomplish different things depending on how it’s set up.
- (03:49) Why do so many people use the set/rep measure?
- (15:27) “Milk all the juice out of that exercise by obeying the rules of good technique for that exercise.”
- (16:47) Quality does not mean looking like the model.
- (26:44) Bodyweight exercise isn’t just a simulation of weighted exercises without weights. For us, it’s about building skills.
Ryan: And we’re in, we’re rolling.
Andy: All right, breaker, one-niner. That’s the vintage intro. You remember that? It has been a while since I’ve done that.
Ryan: It has been a long time since I heard that.
Andy: Yeah, get your ears on for the GMB Show where for the next 20 minutes plus or minus, we’re going to be talking about how to build the perfect body weight strength training program because we believe in perfection and if anyone can tell you about how to do it right and perfectly, it would be gurus like us.
Ryan: It would be us. Yeah. First off, number one, it has to be hard core.
Andy: Yes. Number two, if you don’t get biceps on day two, you don’t want it bad enough.
Ryan: That’s right. It’s all about the biceps because that equates to strength. That’s how you build strength, biceps, bicep curls. Hey, I’m not against bicep curls. I just got to let you know man.
Andy: No. I’m not either actually.
Ryan: I love them. So yeah, let’s actually get serious and bring it down for a minute and …
Andy: Yeah, I will go on and I will pop the seal on this. So I will blow our announcement load right here and just go on and say that we – by the time this goes live, we will be on the verge of releasing the perfect – OK, a pretty damn good body weight strength training program.
Ryan: Pretty damn good.
Andy: If we’re honest, I think it’s pretty damn good. It has done really well with our trainers who have tested it and we’ve really put a lot into this, a lot of kind of under the radar, behind-the-scenes secret ingredient kind of features into this program that I think differentiate it from some of the – from what you can see from the list of exercises let’s say and I think that’s really the important features of this program but also these are some of the things that make programs that may look similar work differently.
So that’s kind of the things that I think I would like to talk about today is not really about why our program is so great but about some of the things that can take the same list of exercises maybe and make them either more or less effective for the person who’s actually practicing them.
Ryan: Absolutely, absolutely. I think one of the first things that we can go ahead and start off with is the sets and reps and how we actually don’t do that in this program and why. So yeah, like I just said, in this program, you’re not going to find the sets and rep, schematic set you might find in other programs.
One of the big reasons for that is like we talk about in GMB all the time is looking at the quality of the movement that we’re performing and sometimes a lot of times when you just focus on that set and rep protocol, you’re only concerned about getting that particular number instead of really focusing on making each and every repetition count. So that quality of movement is really one of the biggest reasons that we kind of got away from the sets and reps idea, that protocol programming, and this time instead focus on time-based protocols.
Andy: Yeah. So I think maybe we should also kind of contrast that with why people generally do use set and rep ranges and there are a couple of reasons. One is that well, they’re really, really easy to quantify.
Andy: If you can look at – I did this many sets of this many repetitions at this weight, you have a very easy measure of how much you’re doing and it’s very easy to see that you’re progressing over time and so in strength training, progressive overload means that over time, you increase the difficulty of the – that you subject your muscles to, right?
If you’re talking about building strength, you increase the load, the difficulty, the strain that you put your muscles under over time so that they continually get stronger, right? So sets and reps make that super easy.
But the other reason is that we also kind of have a traditional idea that certain rep ranges are good for developing certain attributes like one to three reps are great for building maximal strength. Five to eight reps are a good – I’m sorry. One to three reps are max strength and power. Five to eight reps are general strength. A little bit of muscular size. Around 10 to 12 reps, there’s hypertrophy and anything above like 15 reps in a set is more stamina, right?
So that’s what we tend to say and that’s true but also the reasons for that is it assumes a certain tempo which is like how long the concentric, the pause, the transition and the eccentric movement take. But what it’s really getting to is what Ryan alluded to as time under tension that the muscle is contracted and the amount of time that the muscle is contracted, that also – that’s really what these rep ranges are trying to approximate.
The force of the contraction and the time that it’s tense and what we’ve really found is that – so yes, it’s easier to measure things this way and it’s traditional to use these numbers. But by using time sets actually, we’re able to get the same kind of time under tension and we are able to focus on the technique rather than the counting.
Ryan: And that’s the big thing right there I think it’s changing that focus and bringing the focus back into what you’re doing, so being in the moment of what’s going on.
Now I’m not saying that you can’t do that when you’re focusing on reps and things like that but when there is a number in there, subconsciously you’re going to be just focusing on that number. So by taking that away, it allows you to be fully in that movement at that time and then hopefully that means that the quality, your form and everything is going to be better. Therefore it’s going to make you stronger for the particular things that we’re after in our body weight practice.
Now, something else we need to discuss is that what – well, big difference between what we’re trying to do in our strength program and other strength programs. We’re not saying that this is the all-in strength program for any activity that you’re after. If you’re an athlete, if you are a track and field athlete, and you’re a sprinter and you need a particular strength enhancement –and I’m not talking juice or steroids here. I’m talking about your need to go into the weight room to perform a particular task. Then you need to be focusing on that task whether it be …
Andy: Single leg bounce.
Ryan: Yes, I was just going to say single leg bounce. It could also be any – you know, Bulgarian-weighted squats. It could be whatever. What we’re after is looking at the things that come after and what particular skills that we might be after. Let’s say for example we want to increase our strength to be able to perform tumbling a little bit better whether that be aerials or flips or what not.
So this program, we’re looking at, “OK, what are some of the things that are necessary and how do we need to focus on training this strength in order to be able to get better at those particular skills?”
So that’s kind of the difference between what we’re doing here in this strength program and other strength programs because I know people out there are going to say, “Well, hey man, if you really want to get strong, then you need to load up that barbell.” Yes, and I agree. I mean if you’re after just getting strong as you can, like lifting as much weight as you possibly can, get under the bar. Get under the bar man. Squat. That’s great. But that’s not really where we’re going with this strength program.
Andy: Yeah. The thing is, is then where does that take you and this is something – there is nothing wrong with it if that’s what you want to pursue but getting under the bar and squatting and squatting more and squatting more, well, where that eventually leads you is to squatting more and trying to squat more and still trying to squat more.
So what we’re really trying to do with this – and I think by phrasing it as – by building a great body weight strength training program, I think people already are beginning to understand, well, you’ve already chosen body weight movements and that you’re after something that’s not just lifting more weight.
So what we’re really talking about is skill-based strength training movements, right? And what that means is that it’s a strength that produces skill, the strength that makes it easier to execute various skills, various feats, various movements, and the strength that is applicable to all the things that people are coming to us for.
Ryan: Yeah. So looking at – I don’t want to say particular exercises but looking at it in a broad sense. I’m saying what is necessary. What kind of strength do we need in order to perform the skills that is what got us to create this program? So there are things in here that you might have seen before and in fact everything in here you’ve seen before.
Andy: It’s 100 percent guaranteed zero new exercises.
Ryan: It’s just simply the protocol, the programming that we use for this. That makes it different from other things and makes it the most perfect program out there in the world.
Andy: So let’s talk a little bit more about that. So we just mentioned there are no new exercises in this and I think that’s one of the really important things. When people talk about body weight exercises, a lot of times we get stuck on what tricks and how do I get this trick and how do I get this trick and I think it’s great. Like, now there are calisthenics competitions and people are doing some incredibly cool shit.
Ryan: Really cool stuff, yeah.
Andy: But also to be able to do that, they’ve built a ton of strength and endurance in much lower level stuff, right? So before you can get to that conversation about these things, you have to build the strength here and so what we’ve really done is we focus on very basic exercises that everyone has seen before and yes, we take some of those to a very high level of difficulty and of competence.
But I think it’s really important that when you’re trying to create general strength that’s going to allow you to do as many things as possible, that you don’t try to get too crazy and too specialized with the strength exercises you choose, which is why we’ve chosen and why we recommend if you create your own program, we recommend that you choose very general, very basic exercises at least for the starting point of any kind of strength program that you undertake.
Ryan: Absolutely. And by focusing on those, you’re going to be able to perform those for the duration of the time safely and be able to focus on the form instead of things breaking down. If you just try and go into a higher progression or even a different variation that’s beyond your age. So – and just like what Andy said, it’s about looking at the basics and that’s all we’ve done here is we’re focusing on the movements that really any person who comes in to be able to do this will be able to do it. You will be able to start and progress and get stronger for whatever you need to do.
So looking at this, something else to – the best thing I – well, not the best thing but one of the cool things about this program that I like is the fact – I didn’t do anything in the program. I didn’t do any of the exercises. I have two – two of our trainers came in and helped me film it and the cool thing is, is to show you that there are different ways to do things. So in this program, you will see them performing different – I won’t say variations but their own version of each exercise which is cool and I think this is a good thing too to understand that when you’re performing these movements and doing these things, it’s all about you. It’s not about comparing yourself to other people and thinking you need to be as strong as this particular person.
No, you just need to be as strong as you need to be. So by focusing and going through the program the way that we have it laid out, it’s going to get you stronger and you will eventually be able to be a better you and that’s really all that matters.
Andy: Yeah, and again this is not just about this particular program that we’ve made but even – in any program you do, I think that that’s really important is you have to understand that any teacher or any tutorial you look at, you’ve got a different person that’s at a different level doing the exercise and you’re – if you’re probably learning from a model or from some explanation, you have to understand where that model or explanation is coming from and how that’s different from where you’re at.
So it’s important whatever program you’re working on to look at different people performing those movements at different levels because that’s the way that you’re going to be able to see that at whatever level you’re at, yes, that’s – one, that’s all right because that’s your level. But what is the difference between a good performance at a low level and a bad performance at a medium level?
That can be really hard to see and that’s actually one of the things that we take very seriously in our tutorials but I think that we’re starting to see more and more people do this is instead of saying this is how you do it, then here’s how you do the next hardest one, instead we’re talking about when you do this exercise whether it’s at the very basic level or the next level or the highest level, the important points are always to focus on the technique and here’s one, two, three technical points that you need to focus on it whatever level you’re doing.
So whatever program you are working on, don’t just look at the form, at the shape of how the different stages go. But look at those technical details that describe quality at every form and you can’t always for example make your pull-up look like Ryan’s pull-up. But you can make your pull-up obey the same rules of good technique that Ryan’s pull-up obeys and that’s how at whatever level, at whatever level you’re at, at whatever level of technique you’re working at, you’re going to be able to milk the juice out of that exercise.
Ryan: And it comes out and it comes out.
Andy: I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to use my new favorite mixed metaphor. But to milk all the juice out of that exercise by obeying the rules of good technique for that exercise.
Ryan: Oh, I love it. I’ve been waiting for that all day. Yeah. No, just got to milk the juice out of it man and – but yeah, it’s what it’s about. Again, there are sparkly cool progressions, variations out there that people do but it comes down to what can you do right now. What’s your level that you can perform with quality and ease? And that’s where it’s at. I mean we want to make sure that you can continue to keep a particular tempo and focus on that technique throughout the duration of the time instead of – once again, as we mentioned in the very beginning, just think about cranking out one to three, five to eight, or ten to twelve reps of a particular exercise depending on what place you are in your strength building.
Andy: So you mentioned just a second ago quality and ease and I think that’s something that we need to discuss because I think quality is pretty obvious. I just kind of alluded to it, right? Quality does not mean looking like the model. Quality means obeying the rules of good technique. So I mean that’s one thing but then you have to be at ease.
Now we used to talk about effort and I think that in a lot of types of exercises, putting in the amount – the right amount of effort is really important and if you’re talking about intensity-based exercise or capacity-based exercise, measuring your effort is very important. But when we’re talking about strength training to build skill or to be able to excel at different skills, then effort is actually the wrong metric and it turns out it’s actually the opposite of effort because just putting in effort is not enough to make you good at things.
So we actually in this program – and in some other things we’re starting to look at things this way as well. But we actually think that for skill development, you should actually be looking at how easy was it for you to perform an exercise. So Ryan, what are some of the characteristics of an easy rep?
Ryan: Absolutely. This is good. So when you’re performing a movement for the very first time, it’s going to be quite challenging obviously depending on where you’re coming into it and so if your movement is at – if a particular exercise is at a point where it’s just too challenging for you, and your quality starts to break down as well, then you’re not good to go for that particular movement. So that means you’re not going to be able to continue doing it.
So what you need to do is actually look at particular levels if that’s the way to say it maybe of ease. So figuring out when you’re doing this movement, is it extremely challenging to the point where you can hardly do it or is it easy? And looking at in between that and getting a better feel for what’s going on. Instead of putting a number – once again for example looking at the perceived rate of effort and looking at that on a scale from either one to five or one to ten depending on where you come from. Instead of putting a number to it, bring it back to the feeling. What are you feeling when you’re doing this movement?
Now the cool thing about looking at it in the feeling way is every single day is going to be different. You might perform this movement one day and it could be – I just don’t even know. It could be challenging that day. Not really just so tough you can’t do it but challenging and you can still do it. But the next day, it might feel very, very easy. Well hey, you know what? That’s a good thing because that means you’re improving.
But the opposite can also happen and let’s say, I don’t know, the night before you just – you’re up all night with your daughter or something like that. You don’t have a lot of sleep and so what you might have thought easy one day, the next day could be quite challenging.
Now a lot of other factors can come into play with that again depending on quality of movement. Maybe you’re sore from a different workout or something like that. But basically, getting us to start feeling what’s going on instead of just focusing on OK, this particular number of effort and just doing the work and thinking you just jump in and do it. Instead what’s going on? Am I really focusing on the quality of the movement? When I do that, how easy is it for me?
So by doing that, and again time and attention, focusing on a specific amount of time, it’s going to allow you to go deeper into that movement, learn more about it and therefore hopefully get stronger because you’re paying more attention to it.
Andy: Yeah, and also for example, in the same 30-second set of doing exercises, as you dial things in and as you – as it gets easier for you, and your form becomes maybe kind of snappy and your breathing is very relaxed at that point, right? Well then that allows you to actually in that same span of time to perform more reps and it’s actually almost like an escalating density kind of protocol at that point where in the same amount of time, you’re doing more work but because it’s easier for you, you’re able to do it without your form breaking down.
Andy: And so this is actually how we like to – this is how we like to decide when it’s time to progress in an exercise. It’s not about a certain magic threshold that you get to. But when you’re able to perform with high technique at a certain level of ease for whatever duration, then that’s the time where your density begins to increase in that period and it’s time to begin adding a little more time. Then up to a certain point, your time under tension gets to become kind of long and wieldy and so then we will increase the difficulty with a shorter amount of time again.
So that’s what we’ve been doing with our – well, with our trainer candidates and apprentices and which is the closest thing we do anymore to private coaching, what we’ve been doing with them, and it has been working really well. It’s what – we’ve been experimenting with a lot of things but we found that this is a lot more effective than having the magic number threshold because what happens with the magic number threshold is you have level A and then level B and when you reach the magic threshold at level A, then you jump to level B, right? But you can maybe only do like a little bit at level B and then well, time to give up.
Andy: But no, because what we can now do is we can see that it’s not just a pop-up. It’s a continuum that rises and that also allows us to say, well, let’s look at now mechanical drop sets in the same amount of time when you notice – let’s say you increase that duration from 30 seconds to a minute and you start out at the highest level you can perform but you notice that your technique is starting to suffer. Well, do you just keep going?
No, you can actually drop the level of complexity of the movement down, finish the set and keeping your overall, technical – the rules of quality, keeping within those so your technique remains high even though you reduce the complexity of the movement.
So there’s a lot of different ideas in how this example kind of plays out here but what it’s really doing is instead of saying, “Well, you do this and then you can do this and then if you can’t do it though, you’re screwed,” it’s giving you a lot of ways to experience the transition through that continuum from here to here.
It’s not just pop or no, not really. It goes up at your level as your level increases and it’s organic. So on days where you have to auto regulate down and we’ve talked about this before, before when you have to auto regulate down, you can just come right back here and then keep going.
You know, working that range and you get a little higher, working that range, a little higher and we found that this is a lot more organic style of growth. It takes a little bit of self-reflection which some people think is too difficult but I like to think that anyone watching this is very good-looking and intelligent. So it takes a little bit of self-reflection and honesty but it allows you to really understand and organically grow and progress your exercise rather than just trying to pop to a new level.
Ryan: And also rather than us saying that you need to perform something for a specific period of time before you’re ready to move on. Because you know what? We don’t know. Only you really know if you’re ready to progress or not and a lot of people will be like, “What? What did you just say?” But I mean everyone is coming into this at a different level and you might be able to jump up to another level or perform a different variation of an exercise before you even might think you’re ready, which is a very cool thing.
So this allows you to auto regulate and like Andy said, you have to do a little bit of soul-searching, put the ego to the side and really look at what’s going on that day and each and every day. But you know what? That’s also a cool thing. Because you’re doing that, you’re going to have a better understanding of your body so that when you try and do other stuff, it’s probably going to come faster.
So I’m not trying to say that this is a hack to get you to be able to progress faster to a particular level. But on a certain level of sense, it is because the better that you can understand your body, know where you are, know where you’re starting, then you’re going to be able to progress at a level that is good for you and that’s going to be easier for you to understand how to do it.
So that’s why we came up with this particular way of looking at the quality and the ease of movement rather than just focusing on technique and effort.
Andy: Yeah. Yeah. So like we said, we’ve been thinking about this a lot because we’re about to release this new program and I will go on and tell you. It’s called Integral Strength which is because it integrates a lot of these different ideas that we’ve talked about and it also integrates strength training back again like we’re saying with the goal of improving skill. Not strength for its own sake but it integrates that with skill development and development of your physical autonomy. So integral strength is going to be coming up soon and we will have information on how you can learn more about that on the website. But the point being that all of these ideas are – they run a little counter to how most people seem to think about body weight strength development and that’s not because they don’t work. It’s just because I think we’ve been looking traditionally – as an industry, as coaches, we’ve looked at body weight exercises as a simulation of weighted exercises without the weights.
This is why most people get started. I don’t want to pay for a gym. I want to work out at home. I don’t have weights. Well, that’s a really limited view and when we take this and flip it around and say, “Well, really we just want to get more skillful,” and we remove those habits from weighted exercises and we can look at it from the other perspective, right? So that’s really the whole point of this and so I think to wrap up Ryan, we had this seminar very recently in Vancouver and Ryan was talking about exactly the definitive number of reps we should always do of every exercise.
So maybe this is – maybe the best thing – even if you – on any program you’re doing whether it’s body weight or weighted or whatever, I think there’s only one right number for this.
Ryan: Yeah, there is and you just said it. Only one right number and so what I like to say is I don’t care how many reps you can do. I only want to see you do one repetition as perfectly as you can and then do it again. And so how many is that? I don’t know. How many can you perform with very, very high quality and with ease? That’s where we’re after and that’s what we want. So on any given day could be – it could be ten. It could be two. So just focus on that quality. Focus on the ease of the movement and hey, you will be progressing. That’s where it’s at.
Andy: Yeah. I mean Jack Black said it best. When you’re talking …
Ryan: You only need one.
Andy: You only need one.
Ryan: That’s right.
Andy: So that’s our advice. Whether you use our program or someone else’s program or make up your own program, it doesn’t matter. But do one right and then maybe do it again and I think if you at least get that, maybe the rest of these ideas are more or less useful to you, but at least get your rep range right.
Ryan: That’s right. All right. All right. Thanks for listening everybody. Hopefully we can do another one of these soon. The program will be coming out soon. Look for it in all the major bookstores across the United – oh, wait.
Andy: Oh, wait. We don’t make books.
Ryan: That’s right! We’re online. I always forget about that. You know where to find us. Check out programs coming out soon. Looking forward to having you tell us how perfect it is. Thanks for listening everybody. Until next time, bye-bye.
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