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How to use Bodyweight Training for Athletic Power

You all know I love bodyweight training. There’s something special about moving freely powerfully and unheeded by anything external. It’s just you against gravity.

When you train with bodyweight movements it brings about a superior level of body awareness, a level of athleticism and an aspect of playfulness that you just don’t get with other training formats. Of course, I use kettlebells and barbells, but no matter what I’m working on, or what my clients are working on, there is always a good deal of bodyweight training in our programs.

Considering most of my guys are involved in contact sports, be that the array of martial artists I train, the rugby players or the GAA lads, it’s clear that strength, power, and agility would be priorities. But also my triathletes and runners seriously benefit from the increased agility, core strength and body awareness brought about by moving their own bodies through space in a variety of patterns.

The problem with bodyweight lies in loading. How do we recruit the high threshold muscle fibres, how do we develop real strength and power as opposed to simply doing endless sets of push ups and crunches a la most bodyweight programs?

Well the answer lies in changing the leverage of the body to both increase the workload on the target muscles and also boost the intramuscular coordination as the body struggles even harder to stabilise itself.

Check out this video of an upper body strength set I recently performed after a Kettlebell Pressing set. In it I use a very tough variation of the one arm push up, starting from the bottom position, each hand change I add an extra rep. Here I do a ladder of 1L/R, 2L/R, 3L/R. That was enough! In between I do some Lever lifts, a powerful drill for core strength, proprioception, the lats, the serratus and much more.

Here’s the clip:

One arm push ups are a standard for all my fighters. Take another look at my body position during the push up. The slight lateral curve of the spine the drive from the hip, though the torso finishing in a powerful extension of the shoulder and arm. Visualise the same movement but stood up, it’s a punch. A big right cross.

But what about the legs? How do we develop explosive power through the lower body? Well, my go to drill for this is the Knee Jump, or as we call them, the “Monica” after one of our members (long story..)

The “Monica” starts from a dead stop and relies on a very powerful explosive contraction from our hips to propel us upwards from a kneeling position to our feet. You cannot perform this drill slowly, only genuinely explosive power will get the drill done. And for a contact athlete, thats a vital skill to have. In this video I show the Monica and how we increase it’s effectiveness by combining it with other jumping and plyometric drills.

Watch the clip below:

None of these drills are easy, they don’t suit beginners, but if you train hard and need to bring your athletic performance to the next level, add these in.

I’ll be teaching these and much more during the Bodyweight Training Workshop this Sunday 2nd December. Places on the workshop are limited, so be absolutely sure to book your place asap:

Event: Bodyweight Workshop – Equipment free strength & fitness from the martial arts and more. Location: Wild Geese, Magennis Place, Pearse St, D2 Times: 1000 – 1600 Cost: €50pp To Book: email



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