Where I achieve a long-standing fitness goal
Around the time I got married, I lost a lot of weight and, deep down, knew that I should be stronger than I was. So, I bought Pavel Tsatsouline’s The Naked Warrior book & DVD set. Soon after watching &
falling to the ground trying the exercises, though, I decided that the program was far too advanced for me; I started Kung Fu, and truly enjoyed myself with Kung Fu lessons until other priorities took that spot in my life.
The premise of the naked warrior is that you can build muscle using only bodyweight exercises – the two most prominent of which were the one-armed push-up and the pistol squat. When I first tried the exercises mentioned, though, I could barely do a regular, two-armed push-up. And, since that point in my life, there have been several times where my fitness level has been poor enough that I haven’t been able to complete a single push-up. Taking Kung Fu certainly made me stronger, while that time in my life lasted – but any attempt at those two main Naked Warrior exercises was futile. Utterly futile. I put them in the back of my brain with the “you will never do this” stuff.
Fast forward to my adopting my current fitness goals. I want to make myself stronger. Right now, I don’t want to lose weight (but I’m not, necessarily, looking to put weight on, either). I want to ensure that I can do the exercises I want whenever I want . . . this last bit has been difficult. For awhile, I was following the Strong Lifts program, and making good progress – but there were days that I would head to the gym and have to improvise an entire workout because I couldn’t get access to the squat rack. So, I started following Fitness 666 because that involves a bunch of bodyweight exercises, and I never have to worry about someone else using my body1.
If you follow any calisthenics program (Convict Conditioning, Start Bodyweight, Beast Skills, etc), you’ll find the pistol and the one-armed push-up in your training . . . these are two key milestones as you work toward the progressions defined.
For months, I’ve been doing one-armed push-ups on the Smith Machine, with the barbell slowly being re-positioned until it’s been at the lowest rung for the last month. I’ve been doing pistol squats with a counterweight (this is one exercise that is actually made easier holding weight – as long as you keep the weight out in front of you).
Today, during my lunch time workout, I finally ditched the crutches. After my warm-up, I first attempted unassisted one-legged pistols. My right leg is actually my weaker leg, and I fell, time and time again, trying to lower myself into the start position. But I kept trying. Finally, I managed to lower myself into a full, one-legged squat, somehow keeping my ass off the ground, my empty hands held in front of me. From there, I pressed. Next thing I knew, my body was standing, and then I was back down in a one-legged squat again, and then I was standing. Ultimately, I managed three repetitions on each leg.
But, if I was honest with myself, I know I could have done that sooner – the question has been balance more than strength — I know I have nice, strong legs.
What surprised me was the one-armed push-up. My hang-up has always been confidence in lowering myself to the ground. For whatever reason, I have a mental block and my body simply won’t allow the muscle to fail as I lower myself, so I end up with my upper body at some angle to the ground, my elbow only partially bent, and I get “stuck,” having to bend my knee to the ground in order to get out of the position. Today, I lowered myself to the ground (right arm first, as that’s the one that might give me problems, with the elbow being surgically repaired) without “getting stuck.” I marveled at that for just a moment, and then I pressed — completing the exercise was far easier than just getting past that damn first step. As with the no-counterweight pistol, I managed three repetitions on each side.
A little over 10 years ago, I told myself that I’d never be able to do these exercises. Today, I told that version of me that I was wrong.