• Mat Harvey

5 Principles of Strength Training

Bodyweight strength training is a noble pursuit, it requires patience, understanding of your own body and mental fortitude. It’s a pursuit with no end, many moments of frustration and anguish and many moments of achievement and fulfillment.






Many cultures throughout history - The Ancient Greek spartan warriors, the Roman gladiators, Mongolian horse warriors, Indian club swingers and Kung fu monks and now - you. (among many others) - all use bodyweight strength training to better themselves physically, emotionally and mentally.


I want to tell you about my experience with bodyweight training.







When I first started my fitness journey my goals were simple:


  • I wanted to build muscle, prevent injury and be generally more fit and able.

  • I needed exercises that were easy to perform without equipment as I had no access to a gym

  • I wanted to understand what movements I was doing and what exactly was their purpose

After some research I discovered a set of core movements that I still follow:

  • upper body push and pull

  • a lower body squat

  • back bends

  • handstands

  • leg raises


Each movement can be scaled to suit your current level and ability, not sure how? Hit up your favorite coach. This is just the start - there is much more to strength training than just knowing which exercises to do and when and how much to do them, which is why I’ve decided to share my experience in strength training.


5 Principles of Strength Training

  1. Generalise before you specify

  2. Keep some in the tank

  3. Do the exercises you suck at

  4. Keep it full range

  5. Be adaptable

Generalise before you specify


Before you start getting to the cool stuff you’ve got to work the basics. Every house needs a good foundation before it gets a roof, wall or a chandelier. The purpose of functional training after all - to improve the function of your entire body. The athlete who generalises first has a better base to work from and is going to be more resilient as a whole.


Work the larger groups of muscles before doing exercises based on specific body parts.

Compound movements such as: pull ups, rows, push ups, handstands, squats and strong core exercises.


Keep some in the tank

Pay attention to how much energy you have left during your workouts, developing awareness is hugely important to strength training. It’s okay to push yourself but it’s usually not a good idea to exhaust yourself after every session.


Making sure you execute every repetition as cleanly with as much quality as you can is absolutely key to strength training. If you need to adapt a session midway to complete a set - do it!


Your not only training your body when you workout, you train your mind to learn movement patterns, how are you gonna learn good form when you’re exhausting yourself, you won’t... plain and simple.


Things are different in competition of course, you train and train but in an event you can push yourself, this is what all your training is leading to after all. However remember pushing your body to its limit and beyond can incur a price- haven’t you wondered why high level athletes are always getting injured?


Do the exercise you suck at


You love a certain type of exercise, when you do it it feels good, you get a pump when you do it and your proud of yourself when you do a good session. That’s great! Good for you! But there are going to be areas that well... frankly you suck at.


Everyone has a weakness. However there’s probably a reason your not good at certain things, and maybe by avoiding these exercises altogether your doing yourself a major disservice. As long as you feel no pain in your joints and your goal is functional fitness maybe that exercise you hate is the one you should absolutely be doing! This is one of the purposes of functional strength training- Gaining full body strength, turning

weaknesses into strengths! I’m not saying to stop doing exercises you love, just keep at the ones you don’t, eventually you might love them. You may not ever love them but hey! There’s an exercise right there in not complaining and just getting the work in.


Keep it full range

Whatever the exercise may be- from pushups to squats to sit-ups, if you can’t execute the movement in full range you have progressed too fast. Step it back! There’s no shame here. The muscles you’re working should be worked along the entire length of the muscle to get the most benefit. This can be experienced throughout the entire spectrum of exercises.


If you work your whole range of movement you will be getting the most out of every set of every workout.


Be adaptable


Sometimes things are gonna go awry, it’s the nature of life. You might have a watertight exercise program with daily routines and meal plans, it can be all beautifully laid out and colour coded with post it notes. Your dedication is admirable, motivation is high- that’s awesome!


Life doesn’t really care about your plan.


You might get sick or exhausted, you might have your mums birthday you forgot to put down. What happens when you put too much pressure on yourself and something falls through?

You need to be able to adapt. Take a break if you need one, maybe do a different exercise if you feel like it. Maybe you today you just feel like having a play! I’m telling you do it.

Eat when your hungry, sleep when your tired. Being adaptable is about being able to listen to your body and giving it what it needs. Adapt, adjust and take the form you need to at the required time.







Final thoughts


The limitations of your strength are only made by the ones you decide to create! The only absolutely necessary aspect of strength training is action, so get out there and do some exercise!


See you in Class,

Coach Oscar - Calisthenics Coach


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