Many times when talking to a potential client and trying to get a sense for what they can do, I will often ask what bodyweight exercises they are currently able to perform:
A full push-up? A strict pull-up? A squat?
All too often in their responses the focus is on what they CAN’T do. What is NOT possible. What they could never even imagine attempting. “Oh no, I could NEVER do that,” they’ll scoff. But this way of thinking is all wrong. It’s backwards. It’s bananas!
The thought process always seems to be “Well, I’ll never be able to perform a perfect strict full pull-up, so why even try?” My answer to that question is: Why not?Why not reach for the stars, or shoot for the moon, or take a flying leap towards outer space? There are dozens of places you can start on your way to accomplishing your new lofty goals, and it’s much simpler than we tend to make it. You just have to decide that you WANT to pursue the goal and then shift your focus to what you CAN do, right now, this instant, that’s going to help get you there.And then do it!
Why is bodyweight training different?
One thing that I believe really differentiates bodyweight training (or calisthenics) from other types of exercise are the varying levels of progress you are able to make within each individual exercise or movement. With most weight lifting modalities, sure, you’re able to increase weight, but the movement itself will always remain the same. Making real progress towards a full push-up or a full pull-up carries within it an entire spectrum of progress.
What’s neat is that the process is already individualized towards a person’s own particular needs. It’s like a staircase. Some people have the strength or skill to be able to skip steps. Others have to use every single step along the way (and sometimes maybe even the hand railing along the side). Regardless, every new step you are able to accomplish along your very own very personal journey is progress, no matter how tiny the step. You are still always moving forward. And so you always win.
Doesn’t that feel good?
Let’s use the full pull-up as an example. Maybe you’ve got the Low Row down with strength to spare.
The problem now might be that you’re having difficulty transitioning from this movement to the pull-up itself. It’s a difficult gap to bridge. Trying to jump from one to the other can make that bridge feel like one of those rickety Indiana Jones rope bridges. You feel like if you try to make the jump and miss, injury might be waiting for you down at the bottom… with alligators.
“What can I do to bridge the gap?” you ask, voice trembling. “Calm down,” I reply, “this is just a hypothetical.” I would then recommend you try the following progressions for the Assisted Pull-Up. Check out the video demo HERE. It’s a great way to more solidly fill in the missing pieces between pulling horizontally and gaining the strength to start pulling your body weight vertically. There we go! Now we’ve reinforced your rope bridge with a little steel.
Those Sankara Stones are nearly yours!
Hilarious archaeological movie jokes aside, your options really come down to two things. You can either not pursue the goal and stay right where you are, or you can set your sights on the loftiest bodyweight goal your beautiful brain can possibly imagine and get started. Even if you never quite reach that goal you’ll still be a lot further along than you were when you started, and progress is progress, right?
So what are you waiting for?