Bodyweight Training Myths

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As someone who’s been fitness coaching well over decade it never ceases to amaze me the myths people believe. We live in a world where we want our information as soon a possible and in turn this causes a poor filter of what’s real. This transcends when you go to the gym and do what everyone else is doing so you “don’t look stupid” regardless if it’s not really beneficial for your fitness goals. Eventually, basic education always falls by the way side and this is how myths evolve.

All beginners usually start out with the basics of stretching, planks, push ups, and squats. While they are the best moves to start out with…they get horribly misconstrued into something completely different or to the point the exercise doing more harm than good to the body. So I’ll be showing you the best correctives with gymnastic rings to correct these bodyweight skills for a more effective workout.

“You Should Stretch Before a Workout”

The idea that stretching reduces low back pain is what makes people believe this myth is true. What causes low back pain more so is poor posture and sitting all day. This therefore makes your core and glutes weaker and these major muscle groups need to stay strong in order to reduce your chances of low back pain. Now do not get me wrong, stretching is beneficial AFTER a workout because it relaxes your muscles after and gets the heart rate back to a normal rate. In contrast however, strength is the ability to create the tension. The more muscles you contract the stronger the output. So stretching takes away performance more before a workout. So what should you do before a workout to warm up with? Understanding the difference between mobility and flexibility is really the key. Mobility drills are movements the prime the major joint systems with constant motion. Here are two solid examples that you can do with rings priming the shoulders and hips:

Then for a little more added research to back this up The Strength Continuum made a great post on this based on these findings in a 2014 study:

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“Hold Your Plank!”

This cue drives me insane because it encourages poor quality usually as the student stares at a clock counting down the seconds of a one to a five minute FLACCID plank with the hips sinking or piking up. Get your hips into a locked position with the entire body. Plank challenges give the wrong idea to “hold it” and the top left/right is always the poor result. Realistically, a 10-15 second plank ENGAGING every muscle group possible: lats packed, abs braced, glutes squeezed, toes rooted the ground and then rest for 30 sec (repeat for 5-6 sets).

“If you can’t do a push up…do a knee push ups”

These are also called “girl pushups” because of the mythical belief all women have poor upper body strength. Strength is about consistency and practicing the essential techniques until they look easy…it doesn't give a shit if you’re a man or woman. Condemning yourself as weak before you even start on a goal is the problem. So why are knee push ups ineffective then? They’re pointless because your toes cannot activate your glutes & quads to lock into the hips. It more so creates the opposite effect making you weaker with low back pain. They’re much better options like ring push ups:

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As you see above, if you cannot perform a solid pushup yet or have a chronic shoulder issue you can leverage your body weight with rings facing away from the anchor to build your push up skills with all the same strength standards. As you get stronger you can take steps back to add more load on your body. This in turn will build your strength in the plank position with full body tension. For more push up tips you can watch this video here breaking it down:

“Don’t squats cause knee pain?”

I really try not to eye roll when someone asks me this, but at the same I understand because pain killers, pointless knee braces, and torn ACL surgeries are at a all time high. So the likely hood of me training someone new with knee issues is very high. Now while I could write a whole other article on this — let’s cut to the chase what really causes knee pain with squats:

  • Performing TOO many reps: 100 rep “squat challenges” are usually the culprit

  • Poor technique: spine flexes up & down putting more strain on knees

  • Squatting in running shoes: they have elevated heels and cause the hips to dump forward

  • Knees crash inward (valgus): the knees should push OUT as you squat

  • Poor ankle mobility: the body works as one piece — it’s not just the knees.

  • “Ass to grass” squats: horrible cue that causes strain on the patellar tendon

So squats do NOT cause knee pain — more so it’s the lack of education. This is why I made this tutorial breaking down how to use the rings to help better fix up your squat pattern into different levels to make them stronger overtime.

So I hope I gave some clarity on these common bodyweight training techniques and have another article on Why Your Pull Up Sucks if you’d like to see more. If you liked what you saw be sure to check out my ebook Reinventing the Steel Mace for Bodyweight Strength Training. Features how to utilize the rings and many other bodyweight skills with the steel mace into 40 workouts (divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels). It also has education chapters breaking down each foundational movement for both modalities — to purchase click HERE:

Ian Vaughn