Neal Winkler

Martin Berkhan: Bodyweight training is worse for hypertrophy

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Eddie Stelling

I'm on the fence with this issue as well. I love the strength gains but I am unsure that doing gymnastics alone will make me look how I want to. It's important to me and this is why I still do crossfit (which already made me lose 10 lbs when I switched from bodybuilding). Its sometimes hard for me to believe that men like this only use body weight:

He is huge. I have been trying to do both Crossfit and gymnastics the best I can, (always putting the gymnastics first), because I want to stay lean and keep building muscle. But I am not sure if I am being smart about it or that it works. My work capacity is through the roof but hypertrophy not so much. Strength gains pretty good. Any opinions on the guy in the video?? Also, Demus is huge guy that is on these forums. Maybe he can talk about what he does??

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Philip Chubb

I would think maybe he didn't realize that certain bodyweight exercises produce a different kind of muscle growth. Such as a planche with your hands turned backwards or an iron cross. When I implemented both of these, my arms became huge. But not just huge. The muscle seemed to grow all the way down to my forearm. In all my years of weight training, nothing like that ever happened. I used to think bodyweight was not great for building muscle either but I believe done correctly, and with a great diet, you can build even more.

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AlexX

Why is this even still a discussion? First of all your muscles have no idea what you are lifting they just contract, the stronger a muscle can contract the stronger it is. There are literally countless examples of people getting substantial hypertrophy from just body weight exercises, search around youtube for people like hannibal and the other bar guys who all train for hypertrophy with bodyweight stuff. Just because gymnasts today are 5'5 and 140 doesn't mean that larger guys aren't going to get bigger than that. The average height/weight of gymnast in the 60s and 70s was 5'7 and 160-170 (very lean) I would guess that's about what Etcho (the guy in the video) is. If you aren't getting bigger from bodyweight exercises it doesn't mean that if you switch to weights that you'll suddenly blow up.There are no shortcuts here, you need to invest the time in getting strong which is a long road.

Weights aren't magical in making you bigger they are just the most popular option because of availability. Just look at how much information there is on weight lifting and how little on serious bodyweight strength training and it's easy to see why most think only weights work. Increasing hypertrophy is a simple formula: strength+volume+calories. The strength part in that formula is where people have a hard time with, most are just too weak to get bigger. I've never run into a person that could squat more than 2x his bodyweight or deadlift more than 2.5 times saying gaining weight is hard, they are either already big or specifically worked with lower volume to not increase weight.

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Joshua Naterman

Confusion here is understandable, but let's break this down into manageable bits of information.

Bodyweight work is mostly closed chain, and weightlifting is mostly open chain. Open chain means that a load is moving around a relatively fixed body position. Closed chain means that the body is moving around a relatively fixed position in space. Snatches and cleans are the only lifts that combine elements of these two, and they are a bit more closed chain than open.

Closed chain work, when the body is moving through space, allows you to be in a position of low leverage for many of the harder positions because you have a fixed point of loading (the hands, for example, while lowering from a HS to a Planche). This does change which muscles work the hardest. Prime movers are forced to also act as stabilizers, and the force increases are very hard to control because they are different and escalating with every added degree of motion. This makes progressive loading, which is the best tool for increasing muscle size, very difficult to do. It is hard to only add one lb of weight and it is impossible to do such a fine adjustment through the entire range of motion. The rapidly increasing stresses as you get further into the ROM are also potentially dangerous for the joints which is why we tend to use a steady state cycle for the low leverage movements and positions. Progressive micro-loading is not possible for these positions, and so we do something else.

Most open chain work demands that you be in a position of high leverage. For example, you can not bench press at the same arm angles as you can do a planche push up with. To protect the joints (and to protect you from dropping something heavy on yourself), your body forces you to use the most mechanically advantageous position, which involves lots of right angles. The advantage here is that you can microload the entire range of motion in a progressive fashion because the angles and moment arms involved do not dramatically increase the forces acting on the muscle with each pound of additional resistance, at least when compared to the sister closed chain movement the planche push up.

This difference can be dealt with by using high leverage closed chain bodyweight work like weighted push ups, handstand push ups (full ROM assisted at first and then later weighted), dips, pull ups, etc. If you are trying to get big fast you will always do better with high leverage movements because you can constantly challenge the muscles without pushing the connective tissues or smaller stabilizing muscles past their safe limits. You can not do this with low leverage movements. Of course, if you do not include low leverage work you will never build the connective tissue strength (or strength in the small muscles that do not work very hard during high leverage work) that is required to actually make progress in something like the planche without hurting yourself.

If you want to get big at the same pace as a weightlifter you can do so with bodyweight work, but you are going to have to add weight and use high leverage movements for the majority of your work. If you expect to also be able to do cool stuf like planche, FL, BL, front pulls, etc you will have to practice that as well and work on the pre-requisites for those. The advantage of that work will be development that is perhaps not possible without low leverage work.

Now, as far as not being able to create a balanced program with bodyweight exercises... that's ridiculous. Complete hogwash, as Harry Potter would say. If you don't know how to accomplish this that's a matter of lacking knowledge, but it is really simple and requires much less equipment than doing the same with weights.

To have big legs most people are going to have to put some time in under the bar. There are some who are predisposed to big glutes and legs, but most people are not. Even those people will be bigger when they start adding weight and get under (or grip) a barbell.

Finally, Like AlexX has said, it takes time to get big. Not everyone does so at the same pace, and the bigger you get the slower future gains come.

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Razz

A little analogy: Here in Qatar many of my friends would lift weights. I was always as strong or stronger than them, despite not lifting many weights. Now We've all been around the world for 6 months to our respective places for college. Meeting up here again this winter break I was the only one who had gotten noticeably buffer, without training weights that is, and every single friend that I met commented on my 'large muscle growth'. So clearly the hypertrophy I've had from just gymnastics is pretty damn good because it's enough that all my friends who already used to think I was buff, now still notices that I got "even buffer". Of course it's something to do with dedication and this and that but it still proves a good point I think. Not trying to show off or anything, just proving a point. (which many people here on the forum already have proved themselves)

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Eddie Stelling

Thank you very much for your time and effort into your posts fellas! I appreciate the breakdown slizz. I didn't mean to aggrevate anyone by getting this discussion going again, I just didn't fully understand. I have just noticed my traps and chest have shrunk and wanted a better understanding on this issue because I have thoroughly enjoyed this style of training and don't want to quit due to muscle loss. The guy in the video I posted is what I am shooting for! Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.

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AlexX
Thank you very much for your time and effort into your posts fellas! I appreciate the breakdown slizz. I didn't mean to aggrevate anyone by getting this discussion going again, I just didn't fully understand. I have just noticed my traps and chest have shrunk and wanted a better understanding on this issue because I have thoroughly enjoyed this style of training and don't want to quit due to muscle loss. The guy in the video I posted is what I am shooting for! Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.

I don't think anyone was aggravated, it's a legitimate question. My comment "why is this still a discussion" wasn't made to be taken too seriously or directly at anyone, especially not here. It was meant more as in with all these evidence that hypertrophy is achievable why does this myth still persist, I realize that my choice of wording wasn't the best :(

But on the note of the chest and traps shrinking, have you been doing handstand work? My traps have had substantial hypertrophy from handstand work such as wallruns, handstand presses, working on the one arm handstand and so on. Sometimes I do handstand pressing with handstand work and finish with wallruns and that activates them to the point of cramping (only happened once). As for the chest, dips and planche pushup variations should help or at least help prevent atrophy in your chest.

If you have a passion for weights and bodyweight exercises you can always do both as they compliment each other quite well. Don't think that you have to commit to just one.

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Joshua Naterman

I totally agree with Alex. There are a lot of body weight variations that are very hard on the traps, but if you can't do them there then by all means go do some barbell or dumbbell shrugs! If you're worried about chest size, do a set or two of weighted dips before or after the WODs with dips in them, like ring strength.

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Razz

Traps are like #1 muscle in gymnastics. Press HS, malteses, planches (anything with a hollow position!), HS..and many more :D

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Eddie Stelling

Thanks for the tips fellas! Alex, I work a good bit of handstands but not nearly as much as I used to. I am going to get back on the ball with it starting today, because I do feel lots of work in the traps when doing handstand work and wall runs. I will definitely start throwing in some weighted dips and more planche pushup variations for my chest. This is where I lost the most so I am just going to have to make point to work in some extra stuff. Thanks again guys!

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Deft-Mastery
Confusion here is understandable, but let's break this down into manageable bits of information.

Bodyweight work is mostly closed chain, and weightlifting is mostly open chain. Open chain means that a load is moving around a relatively fixed body position. Closed chain means that the body is moving around a relatively fixed position in space. Snatches and cleans are the only lifts that combine elements of these two, and they are a bit more closed chain than open.

Closed chain work, when the body is moving through space, allows you to be in a position of low leverage for many of the harder positions because you have a fixed point of loading (the hands, for example, while lowering from a HS to a Planche). This does change which muscles work the hardest. Prime movers are forced to also act as stabilizers, and the force increases are very hard to control because they are different and escalating with every added degree of motion. This makes progressive loading, which is the best tool for increasing muscle size, very difficult to do. It is hard to only add one lb of weight and it is impossible to do such a fine adjustment through the entire range of motion. The rapidly increasing stresses as you get further into the ROM are also potentially dangerous for the joints which is why we tend to use a steady state cycle for the low leverage movements and positions. Progressive micro-loading is not possible for these positions, and so we do something else.

Most open chain work demands that you be in a position of high leverage. For example, you can not bench press at the same arm angles as you can do a planche push up with. To protect the joints (and to protect you from dropping something heavy on yourself), your body forces you to use the most mechanically advantageous position, which involves lots of right angles. The advantage here is that you can microload the entire range of motion in a progressive fashion because the angles and moment arms involved do not dramatically increase the forces acting on the muscle with each pound of additional resistance, at least when compared to the sister closed chain movement the planche push up.

This difference can be dealt with by using high leverage closed chain bodyweight work like weighted push ups, handstand push ups (full ROM assisted at first and then later weighted), dips, pull ups, etc. If you are trying to get big fast you will always do better with high leverage movements because you can constantly challenge the muscles without pushing the connective tissues or smaller stabilizing muscles past their safe limits. You can not do this with low leverage movements. Of course, if you do not include low leverage work you will never build the connective tissue strength (or strength in the small muscles that do not work very hard during high leverage work) that is required to actually make progress in something like the planche without hurting yourself.

If you want to get big at the same pace as a weightlifter you can do so with bodyweight work, but you are going to have to add weight and use high leverage movements for the majority of your work. If you expect to also be able to do cool stuf like planche, FL, BL, front pulls, etc you will have to practice that as well and work on the pre-requisites for those. The advantage of that work will be development that is perhaps not possible without low leverage work.

Now, as far as not being able to create a balanced program with bodyweight exercises... that's ridiculous. Complete hogwash, as Harry Potter would say. If you don't know how to accomplish this that's a matter of lacking knowledge, but it is really simple and requires much less equipment than doing the same with weights.

To have big legs most people are going to have to put some time in under the bar. There are some who are predisposed to big glutes and legs, but most people are not. Even those people will be bigger when they start adding weight and get under (or grip) a barbell.

Finally, Like AlexX has said, it takes time to get big. Not everyone does so at the same pace, and the bigger you get the slower future gains come.

Epic and very informative post!

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Animalonfire

So, do you agree? Does gymnastic training result in less hypertrophy per unit of time? I've never seen a ring specialist in person, are they smaller than they appear in photos and youtube?

I have. Absolute monster who surely eats elephants whole and is possibly ridden by more enterprising horses. Mass is probably not that of a weightlifter of the same standard because of legs(the horse comment refers only to hand running :wink: )

I've had some pretty considerable gains too

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Warrior'sSuite

Hey there. I'd like to train for hypertrophy but I'm a little unsure as to how much sets I should do. Is 5 sets per exercise enough? Or is it too little? For example 5 sets of pushups, pullups etc.

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Joshua Naterman

You have to eat big, like 300-500 calories above maintenance. That is going to be the single most important part of getting bigger... if you eat for the same weight you're currently at you are going to have a hard time getting bigger.

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Warrior'sSuite
You have to eat big, like 300-500 calories above maintenance. That is going to be the single most important part of getting bigger... if you eat for the same weight you're currently at you are going to have a hard time getting bigger.

Right. I did a little search on calories and turns out it may be easier than I thought to come up with the extra 300-500 calories (just to clarify, we're talking about kcal right? Kilo-calories? I've never dealt with this! Hahaha), if I understood it right that is.

At present, I have no idea how much calories I consume each day, with lunch, dinner, and everything in between (I rarely have "breakfast", virtually never; just water, orange juice and a glass of milk probably and I'm all set. For some reason I just don't get hungry in the morning.). I just eat normal I guess, I don't know. I'm not fat nor skinny, but I'm not buff either lol. But I do have a little more muscle than the regular guy because I've been working out a bit for some time, but it's nothing impressive.

Well, turns out that, just to spitball a bit here, milk (it seems we buy 3%, that's what my dad says, the bag doesn't indicate :shock: ) has 150kcal for every 250ml. So does that mean that, if I consume an extra 750-1000ml of milk each day, for example, I'll have 450-600 extra calories? Would that do the trick?

I've heard some people talking about eating as much as 6 meals a day to get bigger, that's just not gonna happen with me; the cook only makes lunch and dinner and besides I doubt I could eat that much even if I wanted to anyway. But I could definitely consume more milk and things like eggs, rice, bananas, etc., that's not a problem.

So would drinking an extra Lt of milk each day plus things like bananas, eggs and rice be enough and an option?

By the way, does it matter when you consume all this? Like, does it matter if you consume it during the whole day, after working out, etc.?

Oh yeah yeah so what do you think about the sets?

Thanks man.

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Joshua Naterman
Well, turns out that, just to spitball a bit here, milk (it seems we buy 3%, that's what my dad says, the bag doesn't indicate ) has 150kcal for every 250ml. So does that mean that, if I consume an extra 750-1000ml of milk each day, for example, I'll have 450-600 extra calories? Would that do the trick?

ABSOLUTELY!

You want to have as many of your calories as you can during the 2 hours after the workout. So if you can work out and immediately get lunch or dinner that would be ideal. This is the time to add the extra calories.

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Warrior'sSuite
ABSOLUTELY!

You want to have as many of your calories as you can during the 2 hours after the workout. So if you can work out and immediately get lunch or dinner that would be ideal. This is the time to add the extra calories.

Awesome, that's what I'll do then.

I actually do 3-4 workouts during the day, spaced out with like at least 2 hours or an hour and a half, so I always make sure to workout before both lunch and dinner.

Looks like we got the nutrition part down. But what about what I asked you about the sets? I'm actually doing 10 sets right now taking only 1 minute rest on my 2 main workouts. I tried doing only 5 sets some days ago but it just felt kinda easy so I kept doing 10.

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Joshua Naterman

I have absolutely no idea what your workouts look like, what your ability level is, or anything. That makes it impossible to help you. Set up a new thread in Digital Coaching and link to it from here so that I know where to find it and we can get into more detail.

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Warrior'sSuite
I have absolutely no idea what your workouts look like, what your ability level is, or anything. That makes it impossible to help you. Set up a new thread in Digital Coaching and link to it from here so that I know where to find it and we can get into more detail.

Alright,

well here's the link: viewtopic.php?f=7&t=5819

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cccp22
Confusion here is understandable, but let's break this down into manageable bits of information.

Bodyweight work is mostly closed chain, and weightlifting is mostly open chain. Open chain means that a load is moving around a relatively fixed body position. Closed chain means that the body is moving around a relatively fixed position in space. Snatches and cleans are the only lifts that combine elements of these two, and they are a bit more closed chain than open.

Closed chain work, when the body is moving through space, allows you to be in a position of low leverage for many of the harder positions because you have a fixed point of loading (the hands, for example, while lowering from a HS to a Planche). This does change which muscles work the hardest. Prime movers are forced to also act as stabilizers, and the force increases are very hard to control because they are different and escalating with every added degree of motion. This makes progressive loading, which is the best tool for increasing muscle size, very difficult to do. It is hard to only add one lb of weight and it is impossible to do such a fine adjustment through the entire range of motion. The rapidly increasing stresses as you get further into the ROM are also potentially dangerous for the joints which is why we tend to use a steady state cycle for the low leverage movements and positions. Progressive micro-loading is not possible for these positions, and so we do something else.

Most open chain work demands that you be in a position of high leverage. For example, you can not bench press at the same arm angles as you can do a planche push up with. To protect the joints (and to protect you from dropping something heavy on yourself), your body forces you to use the most mechanically advantageous position, which involves lots of right angles. The advantage here is that you can microload the entire range of motion in a progressive fashion because the angles and moment arms involved do not dramatically increase the forces acting on the muscle with each pound of additional resistance, at least when compared to the sister closed chain movement the planche push up.

This difference can be dealt with by using high leverage closed chain bodyweight work like weighted push ups, handstand push ups (full ROM assisted at first and then later weighted), dips, pull ups, etc. If you are trying to get big fast you will always do better with high leverage movements because you can constantly challenge the muscles without pushing the connective tissues or smaller stabilizing muscles past their safe limits. You can not do this with low leverage movements. Of course, if you do not include low leverage work you will never build the connective tissue strength (or strength in the small muscles that do not work very hard during high leverage work) that is required to actually make progress in something like the planche without hurting yourself.

If you want to get big at the same pace as a weightlifter you can do so with bodyweight work, but you are going to have to add weight and use high leverage movements for the majority of your work. If you expect to also be able to do cool stuf like planche, FL, BL, front pulls, etc you will have to practice that as well and work on the pre-requisites for those. The advantage of that work will be development that is perhaps not possible without low leverage work.

Now, as far as not being able to create a balanced program with bodyweight exercises... that's ridiculous. Complete hogwash, as Harry Potter would say. If you don't know how to accomplish this that's a matter of lacking knowledge, but it is really simple and requires much less equipment than doing the same with weights.

To have big legs most people are going to have to put some time in under the bar. There are some who are predisposed to big glutes and legs, but most people are not. Even those people will be bigger when they start adding weight and get under (or grip) a barbell.

Finally, Like AlexX has said, it takes time to get big. Not everyone does so at the same pace, and the bigger you get the slower future gains come.

Epic and very informative post!

************** Fantastic!

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cccp22
You have to eat big, like 300-500 calories above maintenance. That is going to be the single most important part of getting bigger... if you eat for the same weight you're currently at you are going to have a hard time getting bigger.

************* Agreed. There is a theory that says that meso-endo's can lose fat and gain muscle quite awhile before having to concentrate on one or the other. What do you think?

Brandon Green

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Joshua Naterman

I think that applies to everyone. There are so many people that have had great success with Berkhan's Lean Gains protocol that I don't think it is accurate to limit that statement to one body type. Besides, I've seen my friends do that and we three actually represent the three archetypes perfectly. I'm pure meso, my buddy Bryan is pure endo, and Andrew is pure ecto. We weren't even doing a lean gains protocol, we didn't know about it at the time. If you are doing things right, anyone can lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. Up to what point that is possible I don't know and honestly for most people it doesn't matter. If you look at Poliquin's results with his athletes I think you could say that with the right protocol there is NEVER a time when both can't be accomplished.

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cccp22
I think that applies to everyone. There are so many people that have had great success with Berkhan's Lean Gains protocol that I don't think it is accurate to limit that statement to one body type. Besides, I've seen my friends do that and we three actually represent the three archetypes perfectly. I'm pure meso, my buddy Bryan is pure endo, and Andrew is pure ecto. We weren't even doing a lean gains protocol, we didn't know about it at the time. If you are doing things right, anyone can lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. Up to what point that is possible I don't know and honestly for most people it doesn't matter. If you look at Poliquin's results with his athletes I think you could say that with the right protocol there is NEVER a time when both can't be accomplished.

************** I recall reading from Poliquin that if you consume enough fats(the good kind of course) that both are

possible same time.

Brandon Green

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Razz

Poliquins protocol also includes 60g BCAA per day..intense stuff but I sure do wanna try it some time :P

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Joshua Naterman

Yea, I mean that's the kind of protocol that allows you to do things that just can't be done without the supplements. Right now I am going in the opposite direction and figuring out how far you can go without them, but at some point if you really want to be world champ or a sprinting world record holder or something you are probably going to have to go that route.

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