Christopher Sommers

- Gym

The Bodyweight Conditioning Advantage

I’m a big believer in the superiority of bodyweight conditioning exercises to other forms of training, especially weight lifting and other man made inventions. I used to lift weights, but no more. I know focus almost exclusively on a combination of bodyweight exercises, yoga, and isometric training. Like the animals in nature, I’ve found that training with your own bodyweight is the quickest and easiest path to superior health.

Lately, I’ve been reading about other athletes who came to the same conclusions I have. One of them is Christopher Sommers. He is a former gymnast, current gymnastic coach, and author of the “Building the Gymnastic Body”. The other is an old time professional wrestler by the name of Karl Gotch. I saw old time as Karl Gotch was a real wrestler who wrestled real matches. He was a real athlete who was in superior shape, unlike the cartoon characters you see in the WWE every night. Regardless, they were both amazing athletes and they are both passionate advocates of bodyweight conditioning. Here are their stories.

Christopher Sommers practiced the sport of gymnastics for most of his life. When he decided to retire from the competitive life he started looking for other ways to train. He had been training using gymnastic bodyweight workouts his entire life. Maybe it was time for a change? This is why he decided to take up weight lifting. So, one day he walked into a gym and started lifting weights for the first time. To his amazement, he could lift weights like nobodies business! He was positively smoking all of the other, more experienced weightlifters in the gym. And he wasn’t even one of the strongest gymnasts on his gymnastic team! Here are some of the lifts he performed that day:

75 pushpus in 1 minute
wrist curls with 110% bodyweight
Run a mile in 5:37 seconds / 11:30 two-mile run
Ran 20 miles on the spur of the movement.
Double bodyweight dead lift
Military press with 110% bodyweight
Chins with 50% of his bodyweight for reps
Dips + 60% of his bodyweight for reps

Obviously, his previous gymnastic bodyweight conditioning routines had gotten him into superior shape. However, that’s not how HE saw it. Instead, he thought that if he were this strong now, what would happen if he started weight lifting like the pros? Who knows how much stronger he could get? This is how Mr. Summers took up weight lifting full time. And the result? Over a short period of time it seemed his natural athletic ability was just leeched out of him. He became sore, tired, stiff and slow. What was going on?

It took Chris awhile to figure it out, but eventually he came to the conclusion that natural, bodyweight exercises, such as the ones he had been practicing in gymnastics for years, was the best way to train. Not only did they make him stronger, but it gave him a natural endurance and flexibility that few possess. In his mind there was now no doubt. Bodyweight conditioning was the way to go.

This brings me now to Karl Gotch. Real wrestling, whether amateur or professional (again, not WWE), requires animal like strength, endurance, speed and flexibility. Throughout his career, Karl has this in spades. How did he get this way? Not by lifting traditional weights, that’s for sure. He concentrated on bodyweight exercises and bodyweight training. This is how he put it:

“I don’t like weight lifting for wrestling”, says Karl. “I believe you should do gymnastic type exercises that use your own bodyweight. Take a gymnast, for example. he is the only athlete, that, without weight training, when given his own body weight and asked to press it overhead, will go BANG and press it without any problem. You’ve got to look at the animals in the wild. That’s what I did. I watched how they moved around and figured out how to do similar movements. When I was growing up in Belgium, a doctor friend of mine took me to the zoo to observe the animals. He said that they were the ones who knew how to train. He was right. So I started to put together a way of training … but I don’t want to take credit for it. How can you take credit for exercises and ideas that are at least 3000 years old?”

The bodyweight exercises Karl is talking about are exercises like Hindu squats and Hindu Pushups. These are exercises that Indian wrestlers have been doing for thousands of years. He may also have been talking about some Yoga poses. Yoga is actually derived from wrestling, believe it or not.

Karl didn’t come to these conclusions by just reading about them. For a year, he lifted weights to see if there was any advantage in doing so. The result? He did get stronger when it came to lifting weights. At one point he could bench press 400 pounds and squat 700. However, he learned that his natural athletic ability left him. He was no longer as flexible and his strength would leave him after 10 minutes. In a real wrestling match this could prove to be a disaster. Karl went back to his natural bodyweight conditioning methods and never looked back.

Now, you may not be a wrestler or a gymnast, but these lessons above still apply. Think of the reasons you want to be fit. You probably want to lose weight, be stronger, look good and perform better in any sport you might play. If this is the case, you want the Conditoned strength that bodyweight exercises can give you. Weights can give you a certain look, but they will not give you the functional athletic ability that you most likely want. If you are interested in trying this, Hindu Pushups and Squats are two of the best exercises you can try. When you perform these bodyweight conditioning exercises, you’ll learn quickly why they are a superior way to train.