Bodyweight Efficiency

Bodyweight Efficiency For The Big Man

We’ve all heard the pound for pound stories. “Well maybe you lift “x” amount, but I only weigh half as much, but I can lift two thirds as much as you, therefore my coefficient factored in Euclidean geometry-based, pseudo-scientifically USDA approved formula says I’m stronger than you pound for pound. Blah, blah, blah-blah, blah-blah.” We all also know somebody who weighs 135lbs on a heavy day after a six-week Creatine binge and a Lumber Jack breakfast who can do chin-ups or push-ups all day. Might not be able to quarter squat 400lbs, but they can do almost unending reps of “efficiency exercises.”

I don’t generally even touch on the subject of pound for pound strength or what have you in my writing, but I do have a few things to say about it. And a few suggestions for minimum strength standards for bodyweight exercises for the big man. I can speak as a big man because evidently once I got over 350lbs I have been permanently classified as a big man even with repeated attempts at being reinstated in the pound for pound union.

First I’d like to say that there’s not much point in worrying about this business especially if you are over 200lbs or so. Powerlifting has established multiple “co-efficient” formulas that supposedly equal things out on a pound for pound basis. If you’re spending a lot of time worrying about this, then you have too much time on your hands. Get a hobby. Possibly crochet. The one thing that’s generally not taken into account when figuring in pound for pound strength is that the larger lifter is expected to perform as though he is literally TWO of a smaller lifter.

Let’s see if you can follow me through this little percentage based crap I’m going to tell you now and then we’re forever going to drop this subject.

Say you’re small and I’m big and we’re competing. You lift 700lbs, I lift 1,000. Under basic pound for pound standard I would have to lift 1,400lbs to keep up with you. Now let’s say for instance that my bodyweight is actually double yours. The factor that’s forgotten here is that although my bodyweight may be double yours, I will not literally have double the muscle, tendon, ligament, bone and nerves regardless of how much smaller you are than me. The same goes for bodyweight exercise efficiency. Generally a larger lifter simply carries so much more mass, that it is close to impossible to duplicate the performance of a well-trained smaller man. Why? Because again, just because a lifter is double his size, does not mean that he possesses double the strength producing factors listed above to be able to stay exactly in line in efficiency with his smaller comrade. This is not in anyway a justification, this is just a statement about this subject and really is a rabbit that I’m chasing in the context of this article.

That all being said I think it is a great idea for a big man to attempt to maintain his bodyweight efficiency as much as possible as well as maintaining his athleticism. In fact maintaining his strength in a few key bodyweight exercises will help to keep him in athletic shape. This also goes along the entire idea behind this site, and the idea of training that I espouse. That is to be good at everything. To be a Renaissance Man, especially as it applies to strength. For the smaller man to create outstanding pure strength and the larger man to create solid efficiency even with a larger size.

That being said, here are some semi-guidelines or thoughts you may want to test yourself on to see that you at least have basic strength efficiency if you are a normal sized man and what I would consider good strength efficiency for a large man.

One Legged Squat
One Legged Squat

1. The Pistol or One Legged Squat

This is a one legged squat with the other leg held out forward. Holding the leg out forward entirely changes the leverage of the movement and makes it extremely difficult. In comparison to other styles of one leg squat. I think for our purposes and because of the extreme balance and flexibility necessary to do regular pistols that it is acceptable to do them on a box as long as you are below parallel. For the basics you out to be shooting for at least one to two reps per leg and more advanced or stronger leg guys, 5 and 10 reps per leg. Seriously advanced or smaller guys, even more.

2. The One Arm Push-up

Most of you are already going to know what this is. It’s a push-up done by placing one hand on the ground and the other behind your back, widening your legs to form a sort of tripod so you can balance and then lowering your chest close to the ground and pushing back up. By the way, the definitive text on performing both the one-legged squat and the one arm push with excellent detailed tips on progressing and form and muscle sequencing was written by Pavel Tsatsouline in his book, “The Naked Warrior.” Basics for big guys is one or two reps per arm and more advanced is 5+ reps per arm and more for the smaller guy.


3. The Chin Up

Again, most everybody is going to know what this is. There are many styles of chin up all in regard to how you hold the bar, etc. I’m going to let you pick what you like. It’s very simple, you grab an overhead bar or set of handles and pull your body up till your chin is over the bar. Basics for really big guys, 300lbs or so, is one to two reps. At that bodyweight five or better is pretty advanced and pretty good even down into the middle 200s. Lighter than that you should shoot for more reps. Remember these are just basic tests for efficiency. If you’re specializing that’s different.

4. The Dip

Again, a common exercise. Start by holding your body up on a pair of parallel bars, lower your body down by bending your arms until your upper arm bone hits a minimum of parallel to the floor and push back up. I think you really ought to be shooting for more than 20 of these regardless of your bodyweight.


5. The Push Up

Again, not going to bother to explain this one. It’s a basic of bodyweight exercise done by every culture around the living room. I think regardless of bodyweight you should be able to do at least 50 non-stop. You may not do sets of 50 all the time in training, but 50 reps non-stop if you’re testing.

6. The Bodyweight Squat

Again a basic exercise, many times called the Hindu squat. Actually Hindu Squats are a specific variation of bodyweight squats. I don’t care what kind you do, just go below parallel. With the push up, bodyweight squat and sit up, I like the idea of a military type testing for efficiency. As many as you can do in two minutes. Shoot for 80 to 100 regardless of bodyweight.

7. The Basic Sit up

Again, a basic exercise that doesn’t really need explanation and has lots of varieties. I like the same set up as push ups and squats for testing it. Shoot for 50 non-stop or 80 in two minutes. For a big guy this may take some training.

Wrestlers Bridge
Wrestlers Bridge

8. Bridges

This can include forward and backward wrestler’s bridges (head and feet on the floor), or gymnastic bridges (backward with only hand and feet touching), or headstand and can include a moving or static bridge. I say shoot for being able to hold all of these positions minimally one minute. Remember that none of these standards are meant to make you the greatest bodyweight exerciser that ever lived. They’re meant to make you keep your efficiency and concentrate on whatever other physical aspect you may wish to build such as limit strength, kettlebell lifting, etc.

9. The Handstand Push Up

For this I just like the basic type even though I know that the gymnasts may not consider it a “full” movement. Stand about three feet from a wall, bend down, place your hands about 18 or so inches (you’ll have to find the right spacing for yourself), away from the wall on the floor, now lean forward and kick over till your feet touch the wall. You’ll then be in a handstand (remember this is just a very basic sketch of this exercise), from there lower yourself down till your head touches the floor and push back up. Over 300lbs – one to two reps is good. More than that is pretty advanced or longer range is pretty advanced. Lighter guys again shoot for more.

Well there you go. Now I’m not suggesting these as the ultimate test, but they are good indicators of well-rounded strength efficiency and the standards are set for a big man. If you could do all of these I would say that big man or not, it’s going to put you ahead of 90% of the population regardless of size, which is exactly what we’re shooting for.

Individual differences in people may have difficulty with certain standards and individual strengths will apply here. For instance, some of you may be radically good at certain exercises. Jesse Marunde for example can do ridiculously crazy chin ups at a bodyweight of 300lbs. I do pretty good at pistols and dips at a bodyweight of 350+. So what’s the way to go here? Max out what you’re great at, and improve at what you’re not so that you’re thoroughly well rounded and efficient in every form of strength.

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