As I mentioned in a previous post, once you’ve established the “habit” of doing a daily bodyweight exercise, you will want to “tweak” the exercise routine in order to improve results.
Today, I am going to share with you my own daily bodyweight exercise routine and the tweaks that I have made over the past 15 weeks to improve results.
I look at this entire process as 2 distinct phases.
Phase 1: Establish The Habit Of Daily Bodyweight Exercise
In Phase 1, the ONLY thing we want to do is establish the habit of doing bodyweight exercise each day. That’s it.
We don’t care about how many sets, how many reps or even how effective the workout is. We just want to establish the habit of doing bodyweight exercise each day. That’s it.
This is SUPER important because if you don’t establish the habit first, chances are at some point, you will hit some kind of roadblock and miss a workout.
Typically, one missed workout leads to another missed workout and before you know it you’re not working out anymore.
But if the workout is a habit, then you just do it each day almost without any thought. It becomes part of your life.
Phase 2: Tweak The Routine To Produce Better Results
Once the daily bodyweight exercise routine becomes habit, you want to make a small weak to the routine to improve results.
Why a small tweak?
I don’t think it’s wise to make any major changes to the routine because a major change could potentially wreck the habit.
So with that said, I think the key is to make small tweaks along the way so you continue to make progress while keeping the habit firmly in place.
How I’ve Tweaked My Bodyweight Routine
If you want to improve the results you get from your bodyweight routine, you’ve got to find new ways to challenge your body. The human body is an incredible system that is designed to adapt to new stimulus.
So regularly changing the routine in order to confuse the body and force it to adapt (build stronger muscle, burn more fat) is necessary.
There are many ways to do this but here is how I did it.
Step 1. Increase The Number of Repetitions
In the beginning (Phase 1) it’s important to keep the exercise routine the same because in this phase, we are ONLY focusing on building the habit of daily bodyweight exercise.
We’re not concerned about making the body adapt and get stronger. For that reason, we want to keep the number of repetitions the same. During this phase, I only did 10 Repetitions of each exercise.
However, once the daily bodyweight routine became habit, I began to increase the reps.
Here’s what this looked like for the first several weeks:
Week 1: 10 Reps
Weeks 2-4: 15 Reps
Weeks 5-6: 20 Reps
Step 2: Add A New Exercise
After about 6 weeks, I wanted to add a new exercise to work more muscle groups. Pushups and Air Squats were a perfect fit for the beginning phase because they work the entire upper and lower body and I could do them anywhere. No equipment needed.
However, now that the routine was a habit, I knew I could get away with adding a new exercise. One of the best bodyweight exercises is the Pullup so I decided to add this to the routine.
However, I wanted to keep doing the routine each day in my bedroom before I got in the shower. This was an important piece in forming the daily bodyweight exercise habit which I discussed in a previous post here.
So what did I do? I did some Google searching to find the best pullup bar out there. I decided to buy the Perfect Pullup Bar.
So in week 7, I added Pullups to my daily routine.
Step 3: Split Workouts
In week 9 I decided to split my workout. So instead of doing pushups, pullups and air squats ever single day, I decided to use a 3 Day Cycle where I do Pushups on day 1, Air Squats on day 2 and Pullups on day 3 and then repeat.
This allows me to put more energy into each exercise and therefore, more stress on those muscles which in turn causes the muscles to adapt – become stronger.
Step 4: Change Positioning
Another way to put additional stress on the muscles is to change the positioning of the exercise.
As an example, instead of doing pushups with hands aligned with your shoulder, you can move them out so you are doing “wide” pushups or move them in closer so you are doing “narrow” pushups.
As you change the angle of an exercise, you change the emphasis on the muscles used to do the exercises. This again forces the body to adapt and become stronger.
So over the next several weeks, I added various position changes to my pushups, air squats and pullups to increase the stress on the muscles and force them to become stronger.
Step 5: Add Sets
When I started doing the 3 day split, I was doing 3 sets of each exercise on each day. However, after doing this for a few weeks, the 3 sets started to become too easy – I had adapted.
So in order to continue to get stronger, I added a 4th set to each exercises on each day.
Step 6: Add Weight
After a couple of weeks of doing 4 sets of each exercise, I again became stronger and was able to do more and more reps. This presented me with a new challenge – how do I continue to challenge my body but keep my entire workout to 5 minutes or less?
The only logical next step was to add weight. The best way to do this is with a weighted vest, which I don’t have right now.
So I decided to throw some old ankle weights into a backpack and use that as my additional weight. It’s not as ideal as a weighted vest (the weight is all on the back and it slides around) but it’s working for the time being. Plus, I kind of like to force myself to be resourceful and find a way to meet my current need by being creative.
I’d really like to keep my entire workout to 5 minutes each and every single day because I believe it is totally possible for anyone to get in incredible shape by doing a 5 minute bodyweight workout each day.
The trick is finding ways to continuously challenge the body so it adapts and becomes stronger, builds more muscle and burns more fat.
So what about you? Do you think you can squeeze in 5 minutes each day? Do you think you could get in great shape by only exercising 5 minute per day? Let me know in the comments below!
Yesterday, I listened to Tim Ferriss interview Tony Robbins about his new book “Money Master The Game: 7 Simple Steps To Financial Freedom.” Excellent interview and I highly recommend you check it out. (Link at the bottom of this post)
In the interview, Tony talks about the primary principle that the smartest investors in the world use to make money. Long story short, they all have different strategies but the one thing they have in common is that they focus on risk first – they are obsessed about not losing money.
This is contrary to how the average person invests their money. Many of us get seduced by the high potential return of riskier stocks or mutual funds without giving much thought to the risk.
As I listened to the interview I couldn’t help but think how this applies to fitness as well. So many of us focus on trying to get the most results in the shortest amount of time, without giving too much thought to the risk involved.
For example, most of us men turn to weight lifting when we want to get in better shape. And that makes sense. The right weight lifting program will help to build lean muscle and burn fat better than any other type of exercise. High intensity resistance training has been demonstrated to burn fat and build lean muscle faster than other methods.
However, there is high risk involved in weight training. Even if you do every single rep with perfect form (which most people do NOT do), the risk of injury is pretty high.
What happens when you get injured or lose money in the stock market?
You get set back. You may not be able to workout for weeks or months or in the case of investing, you have to achieve substantially high earnings just to get you back to the amount you had when you started investing.
So what’s the exercise equivalent of an investment that provides maximum progress with the least amount of risk?
I can’t believe I’m saying that because I’ve always been a believer that bodyweight exercises don’t really get you into great shape like weights do.
I’m now changing my mind on that one. I think it is possible to keep making gains with bodyweight exercises. You have to be more creative and it’s a slower process, but it’s definitely possible. Especially if you make a few tweaks.
Why am I so sure? Because I’m seeing the results myself. I started doing 5 minutes of bodyweight exercises 15 weeks ago after reading some of James Clear’s material on Changing Habits. You can read about that here.
Anyway, I do 5 minutes of bodyweight exercise each day and that’s it. I’m not going to get all “infomercial” on you and tell you I’ve made the biggest gains I’ve ever seen. No, it’s been slow and there have been days where I feel like it’s not really doing much.
But my numbers (reps) keep going up. Proof I’m at least getting stronger. And I can see and feel the difference. Plus my younger brother Dan just asked me the other day if I’ve been working out. So, I’ll take that as proof the visual results are showing up.
So, if you’ve ever been a doubter of bodyweight exercises, stop doubting. They work. You can build muscle and get more cut with bodyweight exercises. And you know what, I think it’s even easier. I mean seriously, how hard is it do do 5 minutes of pushups each day?
Will you make progress as quickly with bodyweight exercises as you would with weights? No, I don’t think so. But if you do it every day or even a few days a week, you will make progress.
And I guarantee you will be a hell of a lot safer doing bodyweight exercises which will allow you to be more consistent and reap the reward of marginal gains as James Clear discusses here. It’s the idea that small gains lead to remarkable improvement.
So, just like smart financial investing, compounding (interest or reps) over the long-term with minimal loss is the key to big returns.
Plus, bodyweight exercises offer so many other advantages.
For example, bodyweight exercise allows you to:
* Save Money on Equipment: No equipment to buy!
* Save Money on Gas: You don’t need to drive anywhere to do bodyweight exercises!
* Save Money on the Gym Membership: The world is your gym! No need to pay for a membership to workout in your home!
* Save Time: How much time does it take to commute to and from the gym? You can do bodyweight exercsies anywhere. No commuting necessary.
* Save Time: No waiting for someone else to be finished with the equipment you want to use!
* Avoid Other People’s Germs: You don’t have to touch equipment that someone else just got all sweaty.
* Avoid Awkward Locker Room Moments: Nobody likes to walk into the locker room and see grandpa toweling off his junk for the world to see.
So as you can see, bodyweight exercises make a lot of sense! And hey, maybe you can use some of that saved money to do some smart investing? Double whammy!
Oh and one thing I didn’t mention, if you are a parent like me, you may be thinking about the next phase of life – how to age well.
I don’t know about you, but I’d like to be able to move as pain free as possible when I get into my 60’s, 70’s and beyond.
Maybe you could throw around some heavy weight when you were in your 20’s and not get injured. But the stakes get higher as we get older. We just don’t heal as well as we used to.
So if the thought of injury right now doesn’t bother you, think about how an injury now could impact you down the road. How long would it take you to heal from a bad shoulder or knee injury? And how would that affect you later in life?
Don’t get me wrong, I still love weight lifting and I plan to get back to it at some point. But this daily 5 minute bodyweight workout is everything I need right now. It’s fast, convenient, simple and producing results with very little risk of injury.
So what are you waiting for? You can start your bodyweight exercise program right this second. Just stand up and do 5 Air Squats right now. Then congratulate yourself, you just did your first day of your new bodyweight exercise program.
Need some help getting started on the Air Squat? Click Here for a great video from Mark Sisson demonstrating various types of Air Squats that you can do no matter what fitness level you are at right now.
I’ll be sharing more details on my own program and tips on how you can create your program in the coming weeks so check back soon.
Below is the link to the Tim Ferriss interview with Tony Robbins. There is a TON of great info in there. You should definitely check it out!
Tim Ferriss’ Interview with Tony Robbins: http://fourhourworkweek.com/2014/10/15/money-master-the-game/
Creating a very simple version of your new habit is extremely important to creating a habit that sticks.
But at some point, if you keep doing the exact same thing the exact same way, it will become boring and the results will mostly likely come to a halt.
My goal a few months ago was to re-establish the habit of exercising.
Here is the process I used to do that:
I wrote previously about the Habit Change Formula and the Seinfeld Method and about how important those 2 steps are in the Habit Change process.
Today I’m going to talk about the 3rd part – “Tweak The Habit To Produce Better Results.”
To understand how to tweak an exercise habit, it’s important to understand the criteria used to create the habit.
I wanted to keep things as simple as possible so I came up with the following criteria for my exercise habit:
- Bodyweight Only
- Upper Body and Lower Body
- Able to do anywhere
- 5 Minutes Or Less
- No Equipment
Again, the first goal was to create the habit of exercise, NOT the most incredible fat burning workout. That happens later.
So the solution given the criteria above was: 10 Perfect Pushups & 10 Perfect Air Squats as these two exercises address all the criteria above.
And to keep things really simple, I decided to do 10 of each. Fast, easy and simple. All the key ingredients to creating the new habit.
However, after a few weeks the routine became boring and I wasn’t seeing new results. So I decided to tweak the exercise.
There are many ways to tweak an exercise routine to make it more effective but some of the most common ways are:
- Add More Reps
- Add More Sets
- Add More Exercises
- Change the Angle/Position of Exercise
- Reduce Rest Time
- Add Weight
So over the past 12 weeks I’ve done all of the above.
- Add More Reps: In the beginning I was doing 10 Pushups and Air Squats, now I do 40.
- Add More Sets: I was only doing 1 set of each exercise. Now I do 4 sets of each exercise.
- Add More Exercises: I’ve added pullups & chinups to the routine.
- Change the Angle/Position of Exercise: I change the angle of each exercise from wide to narrow.
- Reduce Rest Time: Since I’m doing more reps, I need to rest less between sets to stay within my 5 minute window.
- Add Weight: To stay within my 5 minute window and continue to make progress, I need to work harder during those 5 minutes. Adding weight makes each rep harder so I can do less reps but achieve greater results.
As you can see, the habit starts out very simple but if you continue each day and make slight modifications, you can quickly accelerate progress.
So if you’d like to create the habit of exercise, I encourage you to give this formula a try.
Step 1: Pick 1 simple exercises to do each day.
Step 2: Make it a goal to do just 1 rep of 1 exercise.
Step 3: Do the 1 rep (or more) and then mark an X on your calendar (Seinfeld Method).
Step 4: Continue doing that each day and if you start to get bored or feel like progress is not happening, make a slight tweak to make it harder.
Step 5: Track the changes and progress. This helps on the days that you really don’t feel like doing the workout. When you see your calendar full of X’s, you won’t want to break the change.
As always, if you have feedback or questions, feel free to reach out in the comments section below or send me a note through the contact form.
I wrote last week about The Seinfeld Method, one part of a two part strategy that has helped me to stick to a daily workout schedule for the past 11 weeks in a row after 2 years of not working out.
Today I want to share with you the other half of the strategy – the Habit Change Formula.
The habit change formula goes like this: Cue – Habit – Reward
The Cue is the event or thing that triggers the habit.
The Habit is the thing you do right after the Cue.
The Reward is the benefit you get from doing the Habit.
All habits follow this formula.
So if we want to change our habits, then we need to understand the Cues because we are going to drop the new habit in right after the Cue so it replaces the old habit.
For 2 years I was stuck in the habit of “not” exercising. I couldn’t figure out how to fit it into my schedule.
But using the habit change formula in conjunction with the Seinfeld Method, I was able to not only workout again, but workout every single day for the past 11 weeks straight.
Step 1: Find The Cue
The first step was to figure out what my daily routines or habits are and then look at what “cues” are the precursors to those habits.
I also wanted to make sure I am consistent with this so I wanted to find a consistent cue and habit.
The most consistent part of my day is in the morning before I leave for work. What happens after I walk out the door can vary quite a bit.
So I looked at my morning routine and realized that the first thing I do after I have my coffee and the kids are all taken care of and ready for school, I head upstairs to jump in the shower.
I figured I could spare about 5 minutes right before getting into the shower to do my new workout routine so I decided my shower would be the cue for my new routine.
Step 2: Replace The Old Habit With The New Habit
The old habit was to just go upstairs and get into the shower. Now, I decided to replace my old habit of getting right into the shower with a very quick workout.
To be completely honest, I was really shocked at how well this process works.
The first few days it felt a little weird because I had to actually think about doing my workout before getting in the shower.
However, after about a week or so, I stepped into the shower and immediately I felt like something wasn’t right.
This is what happens when our brains create a habit loop. The brain expects things to go a certain way and when they don’t, it sends a message that something is wrong or out of order.
Try doing things out of order in the morning and you’ll see what I mean. Things just feel out of whack.
This is because the brain likes things to happen in an expected pattern because when things happen in a repetitive way, the brain can kind of run on cruise control and conserve energy.
It’s our body’s way of making sure it is efficiently allocating resources (energy).
So when you tell your brain your making a change, it has to use more energy to figure out what’s going on.
That has actually happened a couple of times and there have been days when I consciously decide not to do my workout before the shower and something else really cool happens.
It’s almost subconscious but as the day goes on, I remember at random moments that I need to do my workout.
But the coolest thing is, it’s not a stressful kind of reminder. It’s actually something I look forward to now, even if I’m really tired.
That to me is proof that this Cue, Habit, Reward thing and The Seinfeld Method really work. I have literally created a new habit that is actually exciting to do, regardless of how good or bad I feel.
Step 3: Create A Reward For Doing The New Habit
I couldn’t think of a reward but I didn’t want that to hold me back so I just started this without any “planned” reward.
However, as I’ve come to realize, there are several intrinsic rewards that come as a result of doing the new habit.
The first is the satisfaction of putting that little “X” on the calendar after I complete my workout. It’s really quite shocking how good that feels.
Putting that X on the calendar sends a message to my brain that I am focused and consistent.
It’s like the ultimate affirmation.
I have struggled throughout my entire life with focus and consistency and I think it’s done some damage to my confidence and belief that I can achieve what I set out to achieve.
I’ve probably failed at 90% of the goals I’ve set for myself over the years.
There are countless books, projects and ideas that I’ve started and never finished.
No matter how much excitement and determination I’ve had, I almost always have failed to stay focused and finish the things I start.
It’s actually kind of embarrassing to admit that.
But that is changing now.
Each day that I mark that calendar with an X sends the belief that I am someone who is consistent. I am someone who follows through with what I set out to do and I can achieve the things I really want in life.
I know that sounds very Tony Robbins-ish but it’s the truth and it feels incredible and that reward is greater than any external reward I could have conceived.
When you prove to yourself that you are not broken and you can change your results, you can change the course of your life with just some simple changes, the benefits are immeasurable.
So please do yourself a favor. Try this formula out for yourself. Just freaking try it.
Print out a calendar (I use a Google Calendar).
Find a “Cue” in your daily routine.
Add a new Habit after that Cue.
And then just start.
Start right now.
Do the new habit.
Mark the X on the calendar and go about your day.
Then do it tomorrow.
I promise you will be amazed at what you discover about yourself.
And as always, if you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you.
You can ask below in the comments section or CLICK HERE to send me an email through the Contact Form.
Now go print your calendar!
Next Article In This Series: What To Do When The New Habit Becomes Boring
I share this with you not to brag or boast but to share with you a really powerful strategy that helped me completely reverse my workout habit…or lack thereof.
A little over 2 years ago Jodie and I had our second little girl Lily.
Now this was our second child so some things, well a lot of things actually, came much easier.
However, we had our share of new challenges as well.
Long story short, I only exercised 4 times in the past 2 years. Yep that’s right – only 4 times in 2 years.
Well, that all changed 10 weeks ago today after I read a couple excellent (and completely free) eBooks and this blog post by James Clear. (Go here -> http://jamesclear.com/habits to get the free ebooks)
The eBooks are about how to change habits and the blog post is about a very powerful strategy called “The Seinfeld Method.”
As you may have guessed, the Seinfeld Method is named that after the famous comedian Jerry Seinfeld.
Rumor has it that Jerry shared this method with a young comic by the name of Brad Isaac back in the day when Jerry was still touring around doing his standup routines.
You can read the whole story here but the gist of the story is that Brad asked Jerry for some advice.
Here’s what Jerry said according to Brad….
He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day. He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.” “Don’t break the chain,” he said again for emphasis.
I loved the simplicity of this method and figured I’d put it to the test myself.
As James Clear had suggested in his eBooks, I decided I would start with something ridiculously small and not focus on the “performance” but focus on the “process.”
In other words, the key is to just focus on actually doing a workout (no matter how small) instead of trying to have a really kick ass workout – which is what I have always strived for in the past.
So I set a goal of doing 10 perfect pushups and 10 perfect air squats each day. That’s it.
Once I did those 10 perfect pushups and air squats, I’d check off the day on the calendar and go about my day.
This was perfect because I have struggle to find more than 10-15 minutes each day that I can spend doing something I “want” to do rather than something I “have” to do. Something I’m sure most parents can relate to.
Now, in addition to the Seinfeld Method, I used a little formula that James shares in his eBook on how to create new habits which originally came from the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
The formula goes like this: Cue – Habit – Reward
The Cue is the thing that kicks off the Habit and the Reward is what you get for doing the habit.
In order to change a habit, it’s a good idea to figure out your daily “Cues” and then replace an old or bad habit with a new one.
When I looked at my day, I couldn’t identify too much “habit” once I left the house in the morning.
But my morning are fairly routine and always include a shower before leaving the house for work.
So my “Cue” would be taking a shower.
The next day, before I got into the shower, I made myself do my 10 perfect pushups.
Then I checked off that day on the calendar and went about my day.
This was something really easy I could fit into my morning schedule since it required zero equipment, barely any time and I could do it anywhere.
So that’s what I did 10 weeks ago today.
Below is a picture of my “Seinfeld Method” calendar:
I am now applying the Seinfeld Method to other aspects of my life – like writing a new blog post each Saturday to create the habit of writing on a regular basis.
Next Article In This Series: The Simple System For Creating New & Better Habits