You’ve got movement goals. They could be doing a handstand, cranking out pull-ups like they’re nothing, losing weight, or getting rid of annoying aches and pains.
Mastering movements and achieving goals comes down to having a specific plan you can follow that lets progress happen naturally and efficiently.
Obviously, you want things to happen as quickly as possible, but there are good ways and bad ways to go about it. You could knock a hole in the wall by banging your head against it but it’d be much easier with a big ole hammer.
Your head and the hammer gets the job done but one is much more effective than the other, and way less painful.
💡 Linear Progress is Not Always Practical
One of the hardest things to do is measure progress with bodyweight training. When using weights and machines, you have a clear indication of whether or not progress was made. You either add weight to your lift, or you do more reps than you did last session.
And in a perfect world, you would add weight and reps ad infinitum to the point you’re lifting all the weight in the gym. But because our bodies are naturally limited in strength and ability, this process cannot last forever.
But measuring your progress with bodyweight training doesn’t afford you this luxury of turning your brain off and simply adding more weight.
When you’re working on making progress with your movement practice, you’re going to reach major plateaus in your training. It might take you months of training before you can do your first pull-up. And then it gets even harder. How do you do 2 pull-ups in a row? What about 10?
So how can you approach progression using only bodyweight training?
How The Body Adapts With Bodyweight Training
Since you can’t rely on a metric like adding more weight or doing more reps, it’s important to consider three variables:
- Exercise progress
- Physique changes
- Performance improvements
Exercise Progress Over Time
When you start practicing an exercise that you’re not very good at, you’re going to notice a lack of strength, control, and coordination. Let’s take push-ups for example.
You may not have the strength to do a full push-up. So you would start by doing a modified version with your knees on the floor and you’d lower yourself as far as you can under control and then return to the starting position.
Your first try might feel very hard. Your hands and wrists hurt, arms are shaking, and you really feel the weight of your own body. But in time, it’ll get easier and eventually you’ll be doing multiple push-ups in a set.
The next thing you’re going to notice is physical changes. This will be more apparent if you’re out of shape, but most everyone will see changes in their body when you start pushing toward physical goals.
Many people start to notice changes in their arms and legs when they start challenging themselves with push-ups, squats, and pull-ups. Another thing you might notice is your clothes fitting differently.
They might start getting looser in the thighs and waist as your body composition changes, because it’s not uncommon to notice some fat loss over time.
By the way, if you have a goal of improving your body composition, check out our Eating Skills program.
This is where this whole process gets fun. When we think of our programs as a whole, of course we want to move better while exercising but it must transfer to everyday life.
But what is performance improvement, really? It’s the process where you begin to notice any activity or movement that was once hard getting much easier, sometimes in a short period of time.
Our clients tend to tell us about the things they can now do as a result of going through our programs.
Maybe your goal is to not feel any pain in your hips, knees, and ankles when you squat down to pick up your kids or haul in the groceries. So the training you do must support that goal. And as you carry on with everyday life, you’ll start to see whether or not the training is having an impact (it will).
If you start to notice that you don’t brace yourself when you have to pick up your dog to put him in the tub, it’ll be a sign your training is paying off.
The Good Enough Principle
Let’s say you want to crush a big goal, like a one-legged squat (shrimps are my fav), or pull-ups from a dead hang. If you haven’t ever been strong enough to do either of these, you’re going to have your work cut out for yourself.
So instead of setting your sights on the end goal and only that, we want you to focus on getting ‘good enough’ for the time being.
Being good enough means you aim to make progress, no matter how big or small, and only focus on getting to that next step. Once you hit that checkpoint, you can focus on the next one.
Let’s say your big goal is to perform a pistol squat. These are tough. And many things have to happen before you have the strength and coordination to squat down on only one leg.
For example, can you squat well already? If not, why not? You probably have something that restricts your movement. Almost everyone does.
It could be your ankles, knees, hips, or you might lack some balance. Regardless, of what it is, you need to start where you are… and now we’ll give you the exact steps to go about reaching this big goal you’ve set for yourself.
The You-Can’t-Fail Framework for Mastering Any Movement
For our example, we’ll keep the big goal of a pistol squat in mind. We approach movement master using the acronym, AAA, and it consists of 3 steps.
Because sometimes, life is easier when you got a map.
- Assess your current abilities in light of your goal (a single leg squat).
- Address whatever’s holding you back using the most efficient approach.
- Apply your new abilities to daily life, higher level training goals, whatever you want.
Here’s how it works in real life:
First, you have to assess where you are with a basic bodyweight squat. The right assessment will help you determine what’s holding you back. For me personally, I’ve dealt with tight hips from too much sitting over the years, and one of my ankles was restricted from multiple high ankle sprains.
So, when I did my initial assessment, I realized my hips and right ankle were in the way of doing a great bodyweight squat without pain or restriction.
The next step is to address what’s holding you back. For me, it meant taking the time to improve my hip mobility and actively working on my feet and ankle flexibility. Now, this took some time, but it was well worth it.
Once you’re aware and have begun addressing any issues, you then apply what you’ve gained to daily life and other training goals. For example, I love to train at the gym, so I would take what I learned while improving my hip and ankle mobility and apply it to my barbell squats.
🎯 Honing in on the Main Goal of Doing a Pistol Squat
Once you master the bodyweight squat, you’ve unlocked a lot of what is necessary to be ready for working on this movement. For instance, you’ve improved your strength, balance, and flexibility, all of which are a must for any single leg work.
But there’s a chance you might also have other goals you want to work on. And now we must look at this from a practical point of view.
Goal Cycling and Periodization
You’ve probably heard the old saying that the person who chases two 🐰 rabbits 🐰 catches none. While it’s an old proverb, the cliché is true.
It’s probable that you have multiple goals you want to work on. And that’s great. Join the club. But if you try to do too many things at once, your performance and recovery is going to suffer.
Think about it for a second.
If you train really hard and try to master a single leg squat, 10 strict pull-ups, handstand push-ups, and a front lever all at once, you’re going to get burnt out and you won’t make much progress toward any of them.
The reason for this is because to acquire a skill, you need a certain level of focus, practice and volume. Once you learn a skill, maintaining it is much easier than the work it takes to achieve it.
You don’t want to get hung up in that area of ‘wasted effort’ for no reason.
Once you’ve reached your goal, maintaining it takes much less effort. But if you try to do too much at once, you’ll spend a lot of time in this weird area of putting forth a lot of energy, but only wasting effort.
This is why we are big believers in putting your focus one goal at a time. Two goals, max. An example would be to pick one upper body goal and a lower body goal, nothing more.
When you approach things this way, you’re going to have much more fun as you make faster progress, and you’ll be able to transfer the strength, flexibility, and control you gain over that time period to your next goal.
Practical Goal Cycling
For example, let’s say you start with the goal of doing a strict pull-up, but you can barely hang onto the bar for longer than 2 seconds without losing your grip.
The first thing you’ll want to practice is dead hangs, which improves your grip. And once you’re able to grip the bar and hold yourself up more easily, you’ll move to the next thing, which could be engaging your lats and retracting your shoulder blades.
Here’s GMB Lead Trainer Eduardo demonstrating the early stages of building enough strength to do a pull-up:
Now, you’ll want to keep building on this for 3-4 weeks and continue making progress. Let’s say you can jump up to the bar and lower yourself under control at the end of week 4.
You could take 2-3 weeks away from working on your pull-ups and focus on a pressing movement you want to do well, like inverted push-ups.
And when you come back to practicing your upper body pulling again, you could do a variation. So instead of jumping back into the same pull-up practice you could do ring rows, or work on nothing but chin-up negatives. Eventually, you’ll have the strength and control to do pull-ups, and then it’ll be time to work on increasing your reps. 😉
This concept is called periodization and it enables you to reach your goals and keep your body balanced at the same time. This way, you cycle through different training phases, and they all build on each other.
So every time you come back to the goal you start with, you’re stronger and have more ability than when you started.
Now, let’s get into the specific examples of how certain people could approach their goals. Pick the following scenario that sounds most like you:
🏁 Start Your Journey:
Beginners: Here’s How to Get Started 👇
Starting out, it’s important that you build a foundation in the basics. Those basics are a combination of:
- Full body control
We recommend beginners start with Elements because it takes you through 4 distinct movements that help you address and build on the basics.
The movements are:
- The Bear, which helps you develop strength and stability through your shoulders and arms. You’ll also get a good hamstring and calf stretch as well.
- The Monkey, which helps you open up the hips and improves your balance and control. This move forms the basis for tumbling skills like the cartwheel.
- The Frogger, which helps you get comfortable in the squat position, strengthens your core, and helps build the upper body strength you need for inverted push-ups and handstands.
- The Crab, which helps you get stronger in the supine position, allowing for more control and coordination, and transfers over to build advanced skills like the L-sit.
🤔 How Much Progress Can You Make?
If you’re healthy and injury free, you can expect to squat more easily, be more comfortable balancing your body on all fours, and have more control over your movement within a few months.
Over the course of a year, you can expect to achieve at least one of the following improvements:
- Improved physique (less fat, more muscle)
- Better balance and confidence moving more athletically
- Noticeable progress toward a skill like a handstand
- Better posture, more energy, improved mobility
Start On The Right Foot With a Foundation in the Basics
With Elements, you’ll build a foundation of strength, flexibility, and control over 8 weeks, setting yourself up for a successful lifetime of staying fit and active.
Out of Shape? It’s Time to Get Focused! 👇
What makes you out of shape? Are you overweight? Do you sit too much and not get enough movement throughout the day? Do you have some aches and pains from being too sedentary?
The first thing to think about is establishing a movement routine. We think getting out for some regular walking is a good start. But pushing yourself and moving your body in all directions is ideal.
For that, we suggest you start with Elements. When you go through this program, you’ll start to notice that you move easier throughout the days and have less aches and pains.
If you’re overweight, our Eating Skills course is a must because it’s unlike all the typical diet advice on the internet. Instead of telling you to eat this and not that, we teach you how to make your diet work for you, no matter what your food preferences are.
Getting in shape feels hard at first, but it’s really worth the effort to take charge.
🤔 What Could You Do in A Year?
Probably a lot more than you think. Within a year’s time, you can expect to work toward a more comfortable squat, and be able to move your body in various directions more easily. Your hips, knees, ankles, shoulders and back will feel better, especially if you have a history of sitting for long periods.
If you have some weight to lose, you’ll definitely see some improvements there. And toward the end of the year, you’ll be able to look back at the progress you made with pride.
Ready to Level-Up with a New Bag of Tricks? 👇
You’re already pretty fit, but you want to take your skills a bit further. You likely already have a decent strength base and know how to move your body pretty efficiently.
🤔 But What Could You Do in a Year?
Within a few months of work, you’ll notice less restriction in your movements and after a year, you can expect one or more of:
- A strength skill like a muscle-up, or handstand push-ups
- Faster recovery between sessions
- A reduction in pesky aches and pains
- Greater speed and power
Injuries Suck. Here’s How to Get Your Mojo Back 👇
Getting hurt is the worst. If you’ve injured yourself, we know how hard it can be both physically and mentally. The first thing you need to know is that you can recover, and many times be back to your previous abilities. All of us here at GMB have had our own experiences with injuries and the road to recovery.
Now, where you’re at with your injury will determine your starting point.
🤕 Immediately Post-Injury
If you just got injured, you’ll want to give yourself time to relax and recover. We created some guidelines you can implement post-injury, and they’ll help you keep your body moving, doing what you can. This will help get the recovery process going, and it will prevent you from stiffening up.
Obviously, you should take caution and not overdo it. And lean on your doctor’s advice if the injury is severe.
😫 Recovered but Afraid of Pushing It
If you’ve recovered from an injury but are afraid of pushing yourself, you’ll want to be mindful of what you can do safely. But that doesn’t mean babying your former injury and never pushing yourself. We want you to get back to your former flexible and strong self, so we made you a guide on how to push yourself safely after recovering an injury.
🤨 Training with Chronic Pain or Limitations
You might have some lingering pain or sensitivity from an old injury, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make great improvements… However, you’ll want to keep in mind that training through lots of pain is not ideal. But experiencing some pain is likely to happen as you work through certain ranges of motion. Here’s some advice on how to train through limitations and chronic pain.
🤔 What Could You Do in a Year?
Making progress when you’re recovering from an injury can be slow and frustrating. But it’s worth the effort.
Ammar was able to go from injury-prone to bulletproof using Integral Strength. Michelle overcame injuries and became her strongest self at 39. Dana used Vitamin to overcome some mobility limitations from MS.
In a year, you can expect to gain strength and flexibility in the injured area. You’ll gain more freedom and control with your movement, and with enough time, you might be able to regain all of it back.
If you’re not sure where to begin, Elements is a good place to start as it’ll help you build strength, flexibility, and gain more control over your body. Also, we built in modifications for each exercise in the case you’re unable to get into certain positions due to sensitivity or movement limitations.