By Bret Contreras
Pages: Approx. 200
Illustrations: Approx. 334
Available: October 2013
Leading strength and conditioning expert outlines the advantages and benefits of bodyweight training in new book
Expensive gym memberships tend to make fitness enthusiasts overly dependent on machines and free weights to work their muscles. But as noted strength and conditioning specialist Bret Contreras points out, many people are embracing the prospect of training efficiently in the comfort of their own homes through bodyweight training. By bodyweight training, these people can save thousands of dollars on gym membership fees—without compromising the quality of their workout.
In his forthcoming new book, Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy, Contreras explains how bodyweight training is, without a doubt, the most convenient type of resistance training. “All you need is your own physical being. You’ll never be without equipment or a facility, and you’ll never need a spotter,” he says. “In other words, if you learn to use your body as a barbell, then you’ll always have the ability to obtain a great workout.”
Contreras, a regular contributor to several magazines, including Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Oxygen, and MuscleMag, notes that a person can gain tremendous functional fitness in terms of strength, power, balance, and endurance from progressive bodyweight training. Meanwhile, recent research shows that flexibility can be enhanced to the same or even a greater degree through resistance training than from a stretching routine.
Through bodyweight training, Contreras stresses, you will also never fear having subpar training sessions while on vacation because you will be able to perform effective workouts from your hotel room. “You’ll realize that you don’t need barbells, dumbbells, or elastic resistance bands,” he says. “With sound knowledge of the biomechanics of bodyweight training, you can learn to create just as much force in the muscles as if performing heavy resistance training.” In addition, he notes that the money you save from not going to a gym can be used for healthier food choices, helping you realize even better results from your training.
While Contreras believes all strength trainees should master their own bodyweight as a form of resistance training before moving on to free weights and other training systems, he is adamant that a person can maintain muscularity and fitness solely by performing bodyweight exercises. “As you progress to more difficult variations and increase the number of repetitions you perform with the various exercises, you will continuously challenge your neuromuscular system,” he explains. “Your body will respond by synthesizing more protein and laying down more muscle tissue. In essence, your body adapts by building a bigger engine.”
Featuring drawings, instructions, and descriptions of 156 innovative and unique exercises, along with a rating system to help you determine the level of difficulty of each exercise, Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy goes far beyond standard pull-ups, push-ups, and squats to work every muscle in the body. Contreras, who maintains a popular blog at BretContreras.com, also has instructions on creating a customized, equipment-free workout program for building a stronger, more toned physique.
"Bret Contreras is hands down one of the top fitness professionals. If you want to learn the science and art of bodyweight training, there is no better resource than Bret’s book, Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy."
—Brad Schoenfeld, MSc, CSCS, CSPS
Author of The MAX Muscle Plan
“Bret Contreras is extremely knowledgeable about biomechanics, and Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy is a tremendous resource for anyone wanting a better understanding of performing bodyweight exercises.”
—Joe Dowdell, CSCS
Founder and Owner of Peak Performance, New York City
Bret Contreras, MS, CSCS, has become known in the strength and conditioning industry as The Glute Guy because of his expertise in helping clients develop strong, shapely glutes. He is currently pursuing a PhD in sport science at the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, where he has studied under biomechanics expert John Cronin. Contreras has conducted numerous electromyography experiments in his research.
As the former owner of Lifts Studio in Scottsdale, Arizona, Contreras worked closely with hundreds of clients ranging from sedentary people to elite athletes, and he invented a glute-strengthening machine called the Skorcher. He currently trains figure competitors, writes programs for clients from all over the world, and consults for various professional sport teams.
Contreras is a distinguished lecturer in strength and conditioning, presenting at many conferences throughout the United States, including the 2013 NSCA Personal Trainer Conference. He is a peer-reviewed author and regular contributor to well-known industry publications including Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Oxygen, and MuscleMag. Oxygen magazine voted him the Glute Expert in their 2010 glutes edition. Contreras maintains The Strength of Evidence Podcast, where he discusses important topics in strength and conditioning, and a popular blog at www.BretContreras.com.
Chapter 1 The Bodyweight Challenge
Chapter 2 Arms
Chapter 3 Neck and Shoulders
Chapter 4 Chest
Chapter 5 Core
Chapter 6 Back
Chapter 7 Thighs
Chapter 8 Glutes
Chapter 9 Calves
Chapter 10 Whole Body
Chapter 11 Planning Your Program
- Correct performance of bodyweight exercises requires a precise blend of mobility, stability, and motor control.
- Bodyweight training is highly skewed toward pushing over pulling. Although pressing exercises are highly effective, programs must devote equal attention to pulling movements, otherwise structural imbalances are bound to result.
- Quadriceps dominance and knee pain, rounded shoulders and shoulder pain, and anterior (forward) pelvic tilt and lower-back pain are just some of the negative effects that someone could experience after following a poorly designed program.
- Progressive bodyweight training can help a person gain tremendous functional fitness in terms of strength, power, balance, and endurance. Recent research also shows that flexibility can be enhanced to the same or even greater degree through resistance training than from a stretching routine.
- The arms are worked heavily during upper-body exercises that involve the movement of two or more joints at a time. All types of pull-up and rowing motions will sufficiently work the elbow flexors, and all types of push-up and dipping motions will sufficiently work the elbow extensors. For this reason, every time you train your chest, shoulders, and back you’ll necessarily be working your arms.
- The involvement of the arm musculature during multijoint movements is particularly important from a bodyweight training perspective. This isn’t to say that it’s not a good idea to try to target the arms with single-joint movements, but it is critical to understand that multijoint movements are the most productive in terms of total muscular output.
- When people work at a desk and sit for much of the day slumped over computers, posture erodes, which compromises lifting mechanics. For this reason beginners should stretch the upper body and progress gradually through the exercises to ensure that shoulder mobility and stability are developed in tandem. In particular, the upper spine should be able to extend and rotate properly and the shoulders should possess adequate mobility in all directions. Balanced strength and flexibility across the upper-body joints will keep the shoulders healthy and functioning properly throughout a lifetime.
- While most male exercisers are consumed with building the upper, middle, and lower areas of the pectorals to their potential, women tend to be less concerned with chest development. However, given that multijoint chest exercises also can serve as great triceps builders, it makes sense for women to incorporate pectoral movements into their routines.
- Bodyweight training is well suited for chest training, but it’s essential that you pay attention to feeling the pectoral muscles working during multijoint pressing movements. Otherwise, the triceps and front deltoids can take over and rob the pecs of their neural activity. Bodybuilders refer to this as developing a mind–muscle connection, and it’s one of the most important techniques you can use to enhance muscle development.
- Gymnasts are often able to perform a bench press with twice their body weight despite the fact that they never bench press; their extremely strong upper bodies are developed through frequent push-up and dip exercises and gruelling event practice. For optimal sport performance training, explosive pressing exercises are easy to perform through push-up movements that lend themselves to clapping and plyometric (repeated explosive movements) variations.
- There has been a shift in the way fitness professionals have approached core programming over the years. We’ve gone from sit-ups to crunches to planks to now realizing that all types of core training can be beneficial, depending on the goals and abilities of the exerciser. Despite the fact that companies have made a killing through infomercials selling nifty abdominal exercise devices, research has consistently shown that all you need for a great core workout is your own body and a floor to lie on. Most infomercial products not only fail to outperform bodyweight movements in muscle activation, but they also are generally flimsy and awkward to use.
- Effective upper-body training with just body weight is intuitive for many lifters because most exercisers are well aware of push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups, but most don’t have the slightest clue how to work the legs effectively with just their body weight. The good news is that it’s easy to develop impressive lower-body musculature using just the weight of one’s own body for resistance.
- Lower-body training isn’t just for developing shape. Because these exercises target the most muscle mass, they require a considerable amount of energy to perform and therefore are terrific for shedding body fat. In fact, a hardcore leg workout does more for bringing out the abs than traditional core exercises.
- Many athletes are considered quad dominant because their quadriceps overpower their hamstrings. Athletes with overpowered quadriceps in relation to the hamstrings typically fail to move ideally when jumping, running, landing, and cutting, thereby predisposing themselves to injury. For this reason it’s important to develop strong hamstrings. Possessing strong quadriceps is important for sports, but you should also possess strong hamstrings as both hip extensors and knee flexors.
- Because of today’s sedentary lifestyle, many people possess weak and underdeveloped glutes. They need to understand that the gluteus maximus is responsible for several joint actions. Not only are the glutes the powerhouse of the human body, they’re also the keystone muscles that keep everything else in line. Strong gluteals are critical for a properly functioning body. Weak glutes have been associated with myriad dysfunctional movement patterns.
- If you think of walking as a short-range bodyweight calf raise, then you’ll realize how acclimated the calves are to low-intensity training. A typical American takes an average of 7,000 steps per day (compared to 18,000 steps per day in the Amish population). To get the calves to grow, you need to use strategies that place maximum tension on the calf muscles because they’re already quite accustomed to activities of lower intensity.
Source: Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy (Human Kinetics, 2013)
*How do bodyweight exercises lay the foundation for future training success?
*Why must equal attention be devoted to pulling movements as to pressing exercises?
*Why is program design so important? What are some of the negative effects that someone could experience after following a poorly designed program?
*In what ways can progressive bodyweight training help a person gain tremendous functional fitness?
*Why is the involvement of the arm musculature during multijoint movements so important from a bodyweight training perspective?
*How are lifting mechanics compromised by having to work at a desk and sit for much of the day? What can people do to ensure that shoulder mobility and stability are developed in tandem?
*Why does it make sense for women to incorporate pectoral movements into their routines?
*What does it mean to develop a “mind–muscle connection,” and why is this connection one of the most important techniques a person can use to enhance muscle development?
*Why are gymnasts often able to perform a bench press with twice their body weight despite the fact that they never bench press? Why do explosive pressing exercises lead to optimal sport performance training?
*Why do most abdominal exercise devices fail to outperform bodyweight movements in regards to core muscle activation?
*How do hardcore leg workouts do more for bringing out the abs than traditional core exercises?
*Why are strong gluteals critical for a properly functioning body? Why have weak glutes been associated with myriad dysfunctional movement patterns?
*Why is it important to use strategies that place maximum tension on the calf muscles in order to get the calves to grow?
To schedule an interview with Bret Contreras, contact Maurey Williamson at 1-800-747-4457, ext. 7890, or firstname.lastname@example.org.