As I said in my last body weight exercise post, the recent push of emails for the Shape Shifter Workout Program has re-kindled my interest in body weight exercises.
On the one hand, I love body weight training because it just feels right. On the other, I do not think you can build as much mass with body weight training as you can with traditional weight training – but of course this is just my opinion.
I’ve done a quick lit review and was unable to find any direct comparisons between body weight exercises and weighted exercises, so we’re really left to ‘logic’ are way though this process.
So logically – I see no reason why a muscle would react differently to different sources of resistance.
Acceleration is Acceleration, Force is Force and Work is Work, these classic definitions don’t change just because we’ve changed the source of the resistance.
So based on this it seems fair to say that the only thing limiting the muscle building potential of body weight exercises is your creativity.
Yet, I remain skeptical.
I asked for their feedback on my blog and this is what people said about body weight training:
“Nothing beats body weight in terms of convenience/ cost/ time.”
“I worry about potential joint issues concerning lifting really heavy weight”
“You can’t use your body weight to build legs or hips equal to what you can get with weight training.”
“there is little knowledge of how to use body weight training for real muscle and strength gains.”
“I like to perform a mix of body weight training and weight lifting. I think there is a place for both in a well-rounded strength routine.”
“And since gymnasts have absolutely no need for any more leg size than necessary for jumping and landing, you can at least be pretty sure they don’t engage in the power lifts.”
These are all extremely valid points that made me question my beliefs, so I had to dig a little further.
I know from the size principle that ANYTHING can be used to stimulate muscle growth as long as the effort is sufficient.
The size principle states that motor units of our muscles are recruited in an orderly manner from the smaller (lower threshold) to the larger (higher threshold) motor units, and that the recruitment is dependent on the EFFORT of the activity.
Because greater motor unit activity produces a greater force output, it is mistakenly believed that a greater force (very heavy resistance) is required for maximal motor unit activation, but this is not the case. Effort, not Weight, determine how many motor units will be recruited.
I also know that much of the research used to ‘prove’ that heavy weight training is best is at the least misleading and at the worst, down right incorrect.
Regardless of the weight, ANY exercise that you can complete between 3 and 20 reps with a high amount of effort will recruit the motor units of your muscle, and stress them enough to cause the signals that start muscle growth. Regardless of speed of those repetitions, the rest period in between them etc.
So really, any exercise program that is challenging enough that you can only complete between 3 and 20 reps with good form, in a manner that you feel stresses the muscle that you want to encourage to
grow is an EFFECTIVE workout, regardless of weather or not you are using any external weight.
However, this does come with one caveat – the reason you have to stop must be fatigue of the muscle that you are trying to grow. If you have to stop because the exercise involved a great deal of balance or stability, or because support muscles fatigued first then this is NOT a stimulus for growth. So even though we’re talking body weight training it still has to be HIGHLY targeted (AKA specific).
Which brings me right back to the Shape Shifter Workout Program.
Based on my findings I have no choices but to rethink my previous concerns about body weight training – if the program is challenging enough you will grow.
And since the Shape Shifter Workout Program is heavily influenced by the principles of the Adonis and Venus Index (They even quote John Barban’s Golden Ratio), it becomes a program that I can stand behind as a method to redesign your body.
I still don’t think following the Shape Shifter Workout Program will get you on the cover of Muscle Insider anytime soon (it’s not going to make you look like a body builder), but it will do a lot to help you create a very appealing body.
I’m not saying the product is perfect, and they’re will probably be pieces here or there that go against what we know to be true, but in general it’s a well thought out approach to body weight training.
Both John and I have sent Adam chapters covering Hunger and Fasting, in a hopes of influencing the nutrition chapter enough that it meets your expectations.
So I won’t go so far as to say this is the Official Adonis / Venus Index body weight training program, but I will say that since neither John nor I have any intention of writing a body weight program in the near future, this is as good as it’s going to get for at least the next couple years.
Bottom line – after reviewing the available research I am much less skeptical about the muscle building abilities of body weight training, and can stand behind the Shape Shifter Workout Program based on it’s use of John Barban’s Golden Index as a guide to help shape your body.
You can check it out here ==> The Shape Shifter Workout