When it comes to strength training, the most common way to make progress is to just keep adding weight. However, what if you are limited to a fixed barbell or don’t have any equipment at all? How does one get stronger this way? This is the real challenge.
Getting stronger with a weight you already can easily handle or no weight is difficult but manageable. I am always impressed by gymnasts and how they are able to gain tons of strength and size with just bodyweight training.
There is proof that you can get stronger without weights, but the question is still how? Well there are basically two different ways you can approach bodyweight strength.
One is by simply increasing your reps and the other is through advanced movements. One way to get stronger is to simply increase your volume.
So being able to perform more reps than you could previously before. Now, you could simply just keep adding reps each workout, but eventually there will come a point where you will have do 500 reps each day. A lot of people may not have time for that many reps.
A better way to add more volume to your training is by using a ladder method. In a ladder you start with say 1 rep, then 2 reps, then 3 reps, then 4 reps, then 5 reps, and then start back over at 1 rep. That is 15 reps in a short amount of time and minimal effort.
There are several ladder rep methods you can use such as 2,4,6,8,10 or 1,2,3,5,6,7,8,9,10 or 2,3,5 or even 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20. There are endless rep variations you can use with these.
The ladder method is an easy way to get more reps in a short amount time than say doing 30 reps straight.
Start off by doing 3 sets of say 1,2,3,4,5 reps and then each training session try to keep increasing the number of sets. Then once the sets start to increase you can always go back and change up the rep combo.
It is also good to have a balance of strength and endurance reps. Don’t always limit your reps to 3-5 reps or 10 reps and under.
You still want to test yourself and see how far you reach with higher reps such as 30, 50 , or even 100 reps. If you were only able to do 12 push ups when you start your program and can now do 25 reps, you have gotten stronger.
The other method to get stronger with minimal or no weights is by using advanced movements. For instance, if regular push-ups are too easy, try changing the level and put your feet on a box instead. Or, try doing a more challenging push-up such as a tiger bend.
Changing the difficulty of the exercise is going to recruit more muscles and fire up your brain activity because you are learning to master a new skill. You will get stronger as you are able to conquer a new movement.
Think of your body as levers. The closer your arms and legs are to your body, the easier the movement. The farther away they are, the more challenging the movement. A classic example would be holding yourself in a flexed arm position on the rings verse an iron cross.
You can even challenge yourself by slowing down the movement. Let’s keep using the example of the push-up in the up position you could hold for 5 seconds then lower down and hold again for 5 seconds, you just keep repeating as long as you can maintain good form.
Another way to slow it down is by slowly lowering down in the push-up from the up position, pause for a second or at the bottom, and then explode back up.
These are called negatives and they work well for increasing strength gains. The reason these slow controlled movements work so well is a little thing called “TUT” (Time Under Tension). TUT is defined as the more time one can last in a movement, the stronger that person will get.
An example would be going from only being able to do 30 seconds of push-ups to doing 2 minutes of push-ups. Going for time instead of reps has its rewards. It increases your strength and your endurance. You will get leaner and increase mental toughness.
I’ve now shown you a couple ways one can get stronger with minimal weights or no equipment at all. For everyone that is short on time, space, and equipment, these methods will work wonders.
Just remember to always maintain proper form in your movements and to stay consistent in your training. Those two things go a long way in getting the results you want.
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