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28 July 2015

You Don't Have to Train in a Gym to Be a Jacked Badass- Bodyweight Training of the Experts

In the dark, misty depths of history, when men were violent, bloodthirsty killing machines and women were slightly less prone to fomenting a bloodbath, access to gyms was essentially limited to Sparta, Greece and India.  While neither of those nations are known for producing hulking mounds of sinewy muscle in the modern era, they were the only two places in the ancient world that boasted gyms.  The Spartan version, called the agoge, was likely so nightmarish that one would prefer to have sex with a broken-glass-filled-vagina'd Rosie O'Donnell.  Beginning at the age of seven, Spartan boys were underfed, underclothed, overworked, beaten, and taught to be fucking hard.  They were regularly forced to fight to death in an über, super fucking brutal version of MMA called pankration, in which fish hooking and eye gouging were encouraged.  Though they were gyms, they had no weights to lift- instead the students of the agoge regularly lifted and carried stones and logs for distance as if they were in the modern World's Strongest Man.

The Spartans also did a lot of group-oriented calisthenics which, interestingly, led Xerxes to think that they were weaker than a twink with AIDS.  After sending spies to watch the Spartans train, Xerxes discovered that the Spartans exercised in unison with rhythmic movements, which the Persians misinterpreted (hilariously) as dancing.  Thus, they thought they could just roll the apparently light-of-heel Spartans up, and then unknowingly walked right into the teeth of a well-oiled, incredibly strong war machine (Kagkelidou).


 Frankly, this is the closest thing to Greek Calisthenics you'll see unless you go to a Greek Calisthenics revivalist school, find a Crossfitter obsessed to death with calisthenics, or build a fucking time machine and haul your happy ass back to the 2nd Century BC.

The Greek gymnasium was basically Curves for Women in comparison to the more-brutal-than-the-end-of-A-Serbian-Film agoge.  In a gymnasium, Athenian men over 18 received all manner of physical instruction, the basis of which were calisthenics. For those of you (like myself) who are slobbering history and archeology nerds, the word calisthenics is actually ancient Greek and derives from the word kallos, which means beauty and strength.   The system of calisthenics was essentially a system of bodyweight exercises that combined the goals of hypertrophy, balance, strength, and endurance (with a healthy dose of philosophy thrown in on top, because the Greeks were awesome like that).  Thus, it wasn't so much a sport as it was a training system in a cool-ass community center designed to make people awesome.
 
Somebody had to have modeled for this, so I'd say calisthenics are pretty fucking effective.

Greek calisthenics have been revived and popularized in urban areas, more or less, by teams like Barstarzz or other street performers.  The system as the Greeks originally conceived, consisted of ground work like pushups, ultra wide grip static hold pushups, handstands, handstand pushups, situps, leg raises, lunges combined with a sort of Thai push kick, pistol squats, leaping front kicks, high knees, and the like.  They also did bar and ring work for the upper body, much as you'd see modern gymnasts do- varieties of pullups and muscleups and static holds.  No one died (probably) but given the state of the physiques on Greek statues, they were some ripped motherfuckers.        

It appears you can get a jacked-ass upper body with nothing more than a set of monkeybars on a public playground.  

Modern street calisthenics, as it's known, mostly consists of work on pullup bars, dip bars, and jungle gyms.  It seems to build some incredible upper body hypertrophy and strength, as well as seriously ripped physiques.  Beyond that, it seems to have become a bit of a performance art, so like the calisthenics of the Spartans, it could almost be construed as dance at times.  In reality, however, it's simply a rhythmic demonstration of incredible strength and muscular control, which is after all, pretty fucking cool.  There seems to be no real set program for street calisthenics- the goal is to just get strong and work on body control.  Thus, a heavy dose of dips, pullups, planks, and squats are encouraged at the start.  Then, you basically just play- try shit and see if you can do it.  Then, get stronger and try again.  For those of you looking for linear periodization, you won't find it here... because linear periodization sucks, and we're not fucking robots.

Pretty serious hypertrophy.  These guys are Lee, Ranjit, and Sai of Recession Proof Body (a cool fucking moniker).

Clearly, none of the above is mind-melting or ground breaking, but people rarely think of it in terms of strength building.  I can personally attest, however, to the fact that I am far stronger when I include a couple of 20 minute sessions of bodyweight work every week.  In fact, when I was in college, a buddy and I used to "play cards" a couple of times a week, and that kept us ripped in spite of the fact we were facing a couple of Blizzards from Dairy Queen every day like we were college girls sticking their faces under the frozen yogurt machine every day in the caf.  You know- chasing the freshman 15 (which I guess due to inflation seems to have become the freshman 25, because I'm seeing a lot of livestock wearing college sorority t-shirts lately).  When we played cards we'd watch either Rocky 3 or Rocky 4 and place a deck of cards between us.  We'd take turns drawing cards, and would do either pushups (black) or abs (red).  Black diamonds were diamond pushups, and red diamonds were double the situps.  We'd go through the deck a couple of times, and kept me as ripped as a phone book at a strongman competition and ready as an evangelical Christian dude on his wedding night. In other words, "playing cards" was awesome addition to my 5-6 days a week of training.  These days, I simply do dips and pullups, which I find to be more useful.  If I can find a tall stack of mats, I might do high jumps in between supersets of pullups and dips, or maybe ab wheel.

As this random Russian shows us, it's all about the muthafuckin' pullups. 

The third group I mentioned at the outset were the Indians, who actually predated the Greeks and Spartans in terms of having a codified system of exercise. There are extensive historical texts from early antiquity regarding exercise, wrestling, and the sport that was eventually bastardized by hippies in the 1970s called "yoga".  Physical fitness was prized among the Indians, and every village had a gym in which villagers trained and wrestled.  The calisthenics regime followed by the Indians is what led to them being the most dominant wrestlers in the world for centuries, and it's more brutal than an Al Qaeda execution video.

 Body built entirely by milk, veggies, almonds, chickpeas, and clarified butter, plus bodyweight exercises. 

The program Indian wrestlers use arose out of this millennia-old system of training do over 2000 dands (dive bomber pushups) a day, and can do 1500 of them an hour, and the upper body specialists in India do over 5000 a day.  Additionally, they do two to three thousand bethaks (free squats standing on their toes) a day, and the fewest a wrestler will do in a day is 500.  On top of that, they do tons of somersaults to build flexibility and core strength, wrestler's bridges for their necks, and headstands.  Though they're now considered weightlifting implements, another feature of their training that could be replicated without spending a single dime was club swinging, which could be replicated simply by swinging a heavy tree branch or log.  Again, they had no program for training- they'd just bust their asses harder than a slave coal miner in Scotland on the same exercises every day because they wanted to be better than the next man.


Across the Pacific Ocean, thousands of blood-crazed, heavily tattooed, hulking monsters of men, screaming hakas and wielding weapons made of bone, wood, and sharks teeth built their massive bodies not with calisthenics, but with the manliest of leisure pursuits- stone lifting, tug-of-war, wrestling, and boxing.  The Hawaiians were, at the time of their discovery, considered to be some of the most physically striking people in the world.  It's not hard to imagine Captain James Cook fawning all over the Hawaiians like a preteen over the Jonas Brothers because he basically landed on an island filled with clones of The Rock.  Additionally, their strength was considered unparalleled in the Western world, even at a time when weightlifting and strongman were physically one of the most, striking native races in the world (Aipa).


Just as in India and Greece, physical excellence was prized above all in Hawaiian culture for men.  The most famous king in the history of Hawaii, Kamehameha, was as famous for his strength as he was for his military prowess.  As the 14 year old gripped a stone no other man on the island could flip, the 2.5 ton “Pöhaku Naha,” he screamed:
“Naha Stone art thou:
And by Naha Prince only may thy, sacredness be broken.
Now behold, I am Kamehameha, a Niau-pio
A spreading mist of the forest.”
Badass that he was, he strained so fucking hard that blood shot out of his eyes like he was a superheavy squatting in the WPO, and with blood dripping from his fingers, he flipped that motherfucker to the amazement of everyone in attendance (Aipa, Monster). 




It's pretty awesome that the greatest king in Hawaiian history was as famous for his strength as he was for his conquests, but it's unsurprising- pretty much every leisure activity the Hawaiians participated in showcased physical dexterity or sheer muscle power.  Basically, the Hawaii of yore was like an island filled with hot, strong women and ultra-tan Hafthór Júlíus Björnssons.  Boxing, wrestling, stone lifting, and tug-of-war were all that were needed- no gym required (Games).



Then jumping to the mainland were the native peoples of the Americas.  Obviously, they were a very diverse group of people, but from North America to South America there was a culture of exercise.  Unfortunately, there isn't much written about any of their specific exercises, but there are anecdotes.  Both the Apache and Iroquois were known for their extreme endurance and toughness.  They were rugged and incredibly strong, according to explorers like Oglethrope expedition member Edward Kimber.  He commented on the appearance of the Seminoles, stating, “As to their figure, ‘tis generally of the largest size, well proportion’d, and robust, as you can imagine Persons nurs’d up in manly Exercises can be" (AIHDP).  Likewise, South Americans were equally strong and tough, and participated in crazy ass strength and conditioning sports that were so tough they'd kill Rich Froning- shit like the favorite pastime of the Ge Indians of South America- log relays, where participants would carry short logs weighting as much as 200 lbs over courses as long as several hundred yards (Crego 189).  As I said, there is only anecdotal evidence of how they trained, but I found a video of a Native American warmup that shows that the Native American warmup is extremely similar to the manner in which the Ancient Greeks trained.

Not a bodybuilder, but the 54 year old world record holder in the pullup.  

In summary, if you think bodyweight exercise is bullshit, you're wrong.  Enough hard training in bodyweight work should, if done right, turn you into a bona-fide badass.  And for those of you who think you can't build big, stong legs with bodyweight work, consider this- Indian strongman Monohar Aich had a 660 squat at 159lbs mostly from doing thousands upon thousands of free squats in prison.  Most pehlwani have tree trunk legs despite eating a meatless diet, all from free squats, and if you look at Grecian statues, all of the models for those statues had good to great legs, without weighted squats.  Thus, you might want to add in some bodyweight work if you want to achieve your potential, because it certainly won't hurt, and it will almost definitely help.

Now, go do some fucking pullups.  Then do some more.

Sources:
AIHDP.  History of Indigenous Activity.  American Indian Health and Diet Project.  Web.  28 Jul 2015.  http://www.aihd.ku.edu/exercise/history_indigenous_activity.html

Aipa, Daniel. Is Weightlifting a Hawaiian Practice?  The Ku Project.  16 Mar 2015.  Web.  27 Jul 2015.  http://www.thekuproject.com/hawaiian-weightlifting/

Crego, Robert.  Sports and Games of the 18th and 19th Centuries.  Westport: Greenwood Press, 2003.

Games of physical strength.  Hawaii History.  Web.  27 Jul 2017.  http://www.hawaiihistory.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=ig.page&PageID=519

Kagkelidou, Evangelia.  Calisthenics, the Yoga of Greeks.  Greek Reporter.  9 Oct 2013.  Web.  27 Jul 2015.  http://greece.greekreporter.com/2013/10/09/calisthenics-the-yoga-of-greeks/#sthash.m2aeWySn.dpufhttp://greece.greekreporter.com/2013/10/09/calisthenics-the-yoga-of-greeks/#sthash.m2aeWySn.dpuf

Monster, Higa.  Lifting Stones.  AnimalPak.  Web.  27 Jul 2017.  http://animalpak.com/html/article_details.cfm?ID=451

42 comments :

  1. Greetings from Brasil! Very nice article, as always! You should think to writing a book about the history of strenght, or something alike!

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    1. I've actually considered it, but I'm actually working on something a little more insane at the moment- I won't give it away, but it's actually going to be fully illustrated, in a custom font, and in print.

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  2. Stealing that card game idea brosef...genius.

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    1. Thanks man! I don't think I came up with it, though. We learned about that game in high school- it used to be really popular. It works for pullups and dips as well.

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    2. We used to 'play cards' for morning PT in the Army (In my light infantry unit, not some fatbody sit-down unit). Each suit was a different exercise; push-ups, squats, burpees, mountain climbers, etc.

      Wickedly versatile system.

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  3. Great stuff. Any chance we'll get a Matt Kroc article anytime soon?

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    1. I've considered writing about him just because s(he) finally transitioned to a woman, but I thought it might be too inflammatory. Good on her for doing that though. And if you didn't know, her name is Janae Marie Kroc now. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/matt-kroczaleski-world-champion-powerlifter-6153378

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  4. Great read as always Jamie.
    Up the frequency of writing more please. I know that you are very busy but its a humble request.

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  5. It seems like what a lot of Indian wrestlers do is less like a divebomber pushups and more like a cheat pushup
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1oVKNeknvA

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    1. Interesting. According to the texts and explanations I've read, they're doing those entirely incorrectly.

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    2. About to start TRT so I guess the SARMS range is fine without alpha? Also which makes a good all rounder for a fella on TRT?

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    4. they do divebomber pushups ( in thousands ),also known as Hindu pushups, the pushups in the video is another variant the Hindu wrestlers frequently do at 'gyms' called Akharas. another variant is called a 'dohra dand',it is basically a pushup with an added squat that wrestlers in Bharat do

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  6. If any of you fucker care I wrestled a few locals in Sri Lanka and they were strong as all hell. I got a few of them pinned but most of them threw me around like a ragdoll and this was after 7-8 fights before me

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    1. Tamil Tigers fucked you up, eh? :P

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    2. You could say that ;D liked your article btw, my training has always focused on bodyweight with a few heavy iron sessions dotted around.

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  7. Living in Hawai'i I can attest to the fact that polynesians are jacked to the hilt. Every gym has a handful of guys that basically f*ck around, train sporadically, follow no specified diet and can still incline 315 for reps without a spot.....

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  8. kamehameha must be the most badass name ever, period.

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  9. Nice one Jamie. Ever considered starting a series on how the hell inmates are getting all kinds of jacked in prison? Would make an interesting read cuz those motherfuckers are getting 20 inch arms and 500lb benchs on candy, boiled eggs and pull-ups day long.

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    1. I don't have any idea how they're doing that. Tano contributed to a nutrition article I did to that regard, but as to how they get so big, I've no clue.

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    2. I looked up into it after I posted the comment. Josh Bryant (guy who trains Branch Warren/Johnny Jackson) apparently went around prisons and talked to a few ex-cons (including Tookie William's right hand man) trying to figure out how this dudes are getting big.

      He ended up concluding that prison is a "spartan enviroment", drawing an indirect parallel with the Agoge. Apparently, this highly competitive and hostile enviroment stimulates the body to respond accordingly, increasing testosterone in order to improve the chances of survival when met with violence. Basically, the need creates a way

      In contrast, he also explains how prison will also provide an excellent enviroment for recovery. Inmates are devoid of stress factores (except avoiding gang rape and beating), thus there is little cortisol release. And these guys get about 10-12 hours of sleep a day, which is also a big factor.

      Anyway, he has released a book on this called "Jailhouse Strong", but he wrote plentifully about it on the internet. Check it out if you want some reading material. Apparently inmates from 50 years ago also came up with shit trainers today are getting credit for, like rest-pauses and modern calisthenics.

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    3. Ignore the retarded grammar. Iphones are shit for typing.

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  11. Hi C&P people.
    My comment/question is only vaguely related to the article but I thought it best to stick it on something current.
    Anyway, I got it into my head, as I do most summers to get lean and this year I went a bit further than most. At 5'7'' and usually carrying approx 90k I am now down to 83k.
    Diet has been steak and eggs gironda style punctuated with massive binges every 3 to 7 days where everything was on the menu.
    the monotony of the diet got to me and I decided to do a simple calorie controlled zig zag. Day 1 2500 cals, (low fat hi carb) day 2 1 500 cals.(low carb) always high protein.
    Training - a metric ton of High intensity cardio - bodycombat, bodypump, treadmill, bike, crosstrainer a little, concept 2 a little kettlebell complexes and a moderatre amount of barbell and gym machine work.
    So finally, I wonder if you would say that the gerneral C&P style is best suited to those periods when strength and muscle gain is a priority, and when fat burning is a prioritythe balance can go more towards the metabolic end which can include more prolonged bodyweight/kettlebell/HIIT and even LISS. A combo of HIT followed by something like 75% of Max heart rate for 30 mins is very doable.
    All sources suggest that the heavy lifting needs to be in the mix, but its a question of balance, priority etc.
    Calorific deficit plus daily pounding on massive weights is doable, but it may not be the best option.
    Dan John says losing fat is an all out war. Concentrate on that with the metabolic stuff and whilst not ditching the weights, reduce volume a lot. Get the fat down or get into the desired weight category then return the balance more to the heavy barbell work.
    I'm not saying that is necessary, but I think it is efficient. Why kill oneself on the barbells whilst restricting the calories, nothing much is happening on the strength front and I believe the hard cardio activities are a better fat burning solution.

    Anyway, its vaguely related to the article in the sense that it questions the tools of heavy barbells for every task.

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    1. Blah blah blah blah, analysis paralysis.... train hard, run hard, eat hard, sleep hard.

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  12. Dunno if you expect some sort of bitter reply but I am in a good mood and will freely admit that you could well be right.

    I did travel the long bulk road to the point that I got a 40" waist at the peak. I was lifting fairly heavy, I got to 212/150/265 k.

    Today I did
    Cycle to gym, 1 mins
    Tabata intervals on bike 4 mins
    Kettlebell complexes mostly three exercises back to back, eg swing snatch front sq working up from a pair of 12ks to a pair of 24ks 45 mins
    10 mins of steady state on a crosstrainer

    I could be wrong but I guess as a fat burner that beat doing 40-50 reps of barbell lifting, but I COULD BE WRONG.


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    1. Don't worry about what Jamie thinks about going heavy all the time. Just do what's fun for you, if that's what your doing now and your seeing the results you want then carry on.

      1 rule in my eyes, if you bust your ass training you will get stronger/faster period.

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    2. Everything you're doing seems pretty gay.

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    3. Fucking homophobe, you make me sick.

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    4. Thank you, gay people should feel sick.

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  13. If you want to "do Chaos and Pain", asking me to program your workouts is obviously not the way to go about it. The entire point of this methodology is to find what works best for you and do it, and to throw off the strictures and shackles heaped upon you by a weak-minded and -bodied society to find your own way. It's to try new shit, push yourself harder and farther than everyone else, and transcend the mediocrity of the masses to achieve excellence. It's not about doing what I fucking tell you, because I'm not in the business of telling people what to fucking do. The very idea someone would want to be told what to do fucking disgusts me. For the love of all that's fucking holy, don't bend your knee to me- I neither want acolytes nor need them. I wish for nothing more than other people to get off their knees, stop sucking the cocks of supposed gurus because it's popular to do so and far easier than thinking for your fucking self, and do something epic.

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    1. You sound like an absolute fucking loser. I bet you've never had a girlfriend but have three world of warcraft accounts, live with your mom and dad and spend your spare time telling people on the Internet that your twelve inch biceps are actually seventeen. And I bet you can't keep your three inch cock hard even when wanking off to your favourite gay porn. Oh and you probably suck your dad off too. :-)

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  14. Hell fire,right or wrong I chased the goal of fat loss, pulled it off, and now I am going to work back into a daily squat/ bench modified bulgarian type regime.

    (Partly cos I just got banned by Lyle McDonald)

    Anyone who has read Greg Nuckols FREE e-book and Mathew Perryman's eyeopening Squat Everyday(sure you can find that free if you look) will be interested in reading Lyles' bag of shit remarks on the matter.
    http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/training/bulgarian-powerlifting-training.html/


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    1. Oh wow, you got banned by Lyle Mcdonald!!! You sound like a hell raiser dude, can I have your autograph? I already have a photo of your moms pussy, I could keep it with that.

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  15. Pelana

    I am going to bet this week's pocket money that Rant is either Jamie or one of his mates.


    Anyone looked into DUP? Seems compatible with C&P ideas. Maybe Jamie could study it up and do an article, its a bit choose your own adventure, a bit orderly, you decide, its not a set programme, just a general idea.


    Back to World of Warcraft.

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  16. the random russian is german by the way. Dennis Ratano of Baristi Workout.

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