Muscles don’t think, they just react. Despite their amazing ability perform amazing feats, muscles can only do two things – tension and stretch. The other thing is, they can’t differentiate between tension or stretches.
Tension and Resistance
As far as weightlifters are concerned, muscle tension comes when you place resistance on the muscles. It doesn’t matter what form that resistance takes. As far as the muscles are concerned, resistance is just resistance. The muscles have no idea what form the resistance takes, whether it is a barbell, dumbbell, resistance band, machine or just your body weight.
What is the Best Resistance?
We know that free weights are superior to machines when it comes to building strength because free weights require you to stabilize the load in three planes, however, the weight on the muscles is not any different.
In fact, the reason you use an external load is because you feel that your bodyweight is no longer enough resistance. This is the point where you make exercises harder by adding an external load because the muscles are capable of handling their own bodyweight and no longer need to adapt to perform that particular function.
Is Bodyweight Resistance enough?
Now, I’m sure some of you are convinced that your body weight is not enough for you to get a ‘good workout.’ You believe you’re strong and you’re probably right… if you’re an Olympic gymnast, that is.
Remember that most gymnasts use primarily their body weight in their conditioning programs, and they have no problems developing great physiques and great strength levels. I’d go as far as to say that most gymnasts have better physiques than most weight trainers. And these guys train exclusively for performance – not for mass or aesthetics. The key to effective body weight exercises is the same as with any exercise – time and tension. We need to select exercises that load the muscles effectively through the entire range of motion, and select a speed of movement that eliminates all momentum.
Bodyweight exercises are a great addition to your training. If you’re good at dips and have been adding extra weight, try doing dips on rings. Try the rings with just your own bodyweight first because I know you’ll be shocked. It’s really hard and very humbling! Not so strong after all, are you?
This is a great example of how bodyweight exercises can be used to enhance your training. Pullups with rings is another great variation to what you currently do. Be careful when you try these new things as the potential for injury is great, but as you adapt the strength gains will be massive!