T Nation

Real Strength

In High school I lettered in basketball, tennis and cross-country. I felt very fit, but of course could never put on an ounce of muscle because I was far too active. I graduated two years ago and started lifting hard; doing mostly Waterbury programs, and went from 145 to 170 lbs. In order to gain weight I limited my cardio to well… None. I literally walk slower in order to burn fewer calories.

I am fairly strong for my size benching around 300 and squatting close to 400. Recently a personal trainer at the gym invited me to go to one of her classes which involved military style training (lots of wall sits, pushups, lunges, bear crawls, exc.) I went into this class feeling like I would conquer it. Never, have I had a worse experience. Men and women twice my age kicked my ass. I looked next to me and my junior high history teacher could hold an isometric pushup three times as long as I. I felt so completely unfit, and now I wonder what I can do to get better at this type of bodyweight style training, because I will not fail. I will not be mocked by baby boomers. I am going to the class next week to prove that I do not back down easily, but I know that if I want to improve that I must supplement something into my training.

Any suggestions on what I can do? Thanks.

Bodyweight calisthenics.

Be careful what you wish for. After spending 5 yrs in the Marines, I could do 20 “dead hang” pullups, do pushups all day long and run 3 miles in 20 minutes. However, once I got out and started lifting again, I found that I didn’t have a Type IIB fiber left in my body. After two years of heavy training, I’m still not where I was (strength wise) before I went in the Corps. Bottom line—You can’t have both.
However, if you want to build muscular endurance just start doing bodyweight stuff three or four days a week. Pullups, pushups, walking lunges, bodywt squats, etc. You’ll find that your Type IIB muscle fibers switch over to Type IIA (and Type I) pretty damn quick. You’ll be a “bodyweight stud” before you know it. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to swtich back to Type IIB very easily, so beware. Good luck, just be forewarned.


First of all, congrats on your progress.

Now, what you expirienced is not uncommon, since you haven’t done any type of that activity in a long time. Fitness is relative to the type of the activity, so you shouldn’t feel bad about yourself. Do you think that someone from that class can actually walk out 400 pounds let alone squat it?

In your current condition, you have the potential to really own that program, because maximal strength is foundational to all other strength qualities. Doing that same bodyweight drills of off days, but for medium reps far from failure - that’s something to get you started. The added benefit will be raising your work capacity, which will actually help in the gym. But, start conservatively.

Also, read up on GPP (General Physical Preparation) here and on elitefts and you should get more ideas.

I had the same experience when I returned to kickboxing after 5 years. It’s important not to confuse strength with fitness, however there is no reason why you can’t be both. If you were competing on the elite level of powerlifting or bodybuilding you’d probably have to minimize your cardio, but I belive this approach builds weakness and not strength.

What I did was to include more bodyweight excercises, the first 10 days I did nothing but theese but then I mixed them with my regular program when I had adapted. This happened quite fast but felt unnatural in the beginning.

Also, pair antagonist muscles when working out to keep your heart working, and don’t rest between sets. If you are following waterburys programs you are probably doing this to some extent.
A perfect pairing would be chins/dips for several sets. You should also impliment excercises from your class, in the same rep range.

You should also run. You can not expect to have good cardiovascular health if you walk slowly on purpose all the time. You are training your heart to be lazy. 2 times a week, 30 minutes each time, maybe a bit more in the beginning. This will also be uncomfortable in the immediate beginning, 2 weeks later it will be the most natural thing in the world.

After you adapt to this, your numbers will start increasing again and you will probably find that your work capacity has increased.

Screw it, man! Just get big!

I think the bottom line(s) is: It’s great to be well-rounded. However, you can only really focus on one aspect at a time. You can’t expect to get big and be extremely proficient at military type training at the same time. Sure, you could do well at both at the same time, but I think to really excel you need to pick the one you want the most and follow it. Set a goal. Once you reach that goal, move on to something else.

Great job so far, man. I’m sure you’ve been working your ass off!


Yeah, sounds like you just need some GPP training added into your routine. It will help your lifts anyway. Check out GPP ASAP:


Why don’t you make up a circuit routine that involves bodyweight exercises and do a time trial a few hours after your primary workout? Just be careful when doing any new workout.

These obstacle course tests can be fun and will definitely add some aerobic work into your routine.
I’m sure your body will adjust to this varied type of strength training. Remember that there are many defintions of strength according to Michael Yessis.