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Can You Build Muscle & Strength With No Equipment?

An interview with Forest Vance…

Hello Critical Bench Nation!

Head Strength Coach Chris here and I’m excited to have Mr. Forest Vance (former Pro Football Player) here w/ me today to answer some questions about his Body Weight Strong 2.0 system.

With the kind of background that Forest has in terms of performance and strength, I’m sure all of us are curious about what makes his NEW system different from the burpees, push-ups and squats we’ve done before….and can Body Weight Strong 2.0 really add pounds of muscle to our bodies?

So enough w/ the chatter, let’s get right down to it…..

Question #1: There are several body weight programs in the fitness industry today and a majority of them focus on calorie burning and fat loss.  Your program tackles (you like that) STRENGTH…is that really possible w/ body weight only exercises?


Forest Vance: Yes most definitely gaining strength is possible with bodyweight only exercises!

You have to take a little bit different approach though, than you would if you were using bodyweight training for fat loss and conditioning etc.A couple of things to start with would be using more advanced exercises – and this of course depends on the individual and their level of strength fitness etc.

And also you have to work in lower rep ranges.So if you can do, say, 50 regular push-ups, is going to be fine for endurance and conditioning, but it won’t work for building strength.We would need you to do more challenging exercises for you, and that would be maybe something like a foot elevated push-up, or a one armed push-up. These are the type of progressions we cover in Body Weight Strong 2.0.

And this way, we can make the exercise more challenging, get it to where you are challenging yourself and reaching failure in a much lower rep range.

Question #2: Your program isn’t purely body weight….meaning it does include some suspension training, kettlebell etc….What can someone do if they’re interested in the program but they don’t have access to that kind of equipment?

Forest Vance: Well I designed the program using bodyweight as the primary means of resistance … Probably the major piece of equipment you would need to really get the most out of it would be a pull-up bar.

Now if you don’t have a pull-up bar we can certainly be resourceful – we can find a pull-up bar somewhere in local park, heck, they can even nail a 2 x 4 to 3 in their backyard and use that as a pull-up bar.I’m all about being resourceful, and telling my clients and athletes that I work with with not make excuses and just get it done! 🙂

Question #3: Most times a workout w/ body weight is higher rep and you work  towards failure and/or hypertrophy.  That’s not necessarily the case w/ your program based on what I’ve seen.  Can you explain your approach more in depth?

Forest Vance: Yes for sure, if you’re training for strength you’re going to take a different approach than if you’re training for conditioning or fat loss or hypertrophy.

Let’s take something like a handstand push-up for example. The best way to work up to exercise like this is to:

1 – practice it frequently, not going to failure, but rather learning the skill2 – not go to failure and totally burn yourself out like you would if you were going for fat loss or conditioning, but more working at a lower rep range not going to failure …

This way you can train your nervous system and get stronger and make consistent progress and practice it more frequently so you make progress faster.

Question #4: Is a program like this going to ‘take away’ or STEAL strength from traditional weight lifting that most guys still want to do in the gym?

Forest Vance: No not at all … I would say it’s a great compliment.

I personally cycle through and do heavy training with kettlebells and barbells probably 50% of the time, and then I come back to work on my bodyweight training stuff the rest of the time.I went for years of doing just heavy type training, and I’m a big guy so I’m definitely not built for this crazy calisthenic type stuff people are doing these days … so if I can do it, anybody can!

Question #5: Will Body Weight Strong help improve range of motion, flexibility and mobility? Can we expect to feel “better” throughout our body especially when it comes to soreness and stiffness in the joints?

Forest Vance: Absolutely bodyweight strong will help improve all of these things. When you train with your own bodyweight you develop such superior body control, body awareness, ability to contract muscles that you never even thought you had!

Then when you come back to doing your more traditional weight training, you get a lot of this transfer – a good example is once you learn to develop full body tension when you having a do something like a one armed push-up or a pistol squat, you can then use these techniques and body awareness etc. to apply to your more traditional weight training stuff you’re doing before.

Question #6: If I’m a beginner level lifter w/ less than a year of lifting experience, is this program too challenging, too advanced for me?

Forest Vance: I really tried to put this program together so that anyone of any fitness level could do it and benefit from it.

We rely heavily on the progressions – so for example if I’m just starting off doing a split squat – which is like a lunge variation – might be pretty challenging if I’m doing it slow with the control tempo and feeling the muscle work etc.

Maybe doing a inverted row where I had my feet on the ground I’m doing a pull-up type of motion but I’m lifting a lot less percentage of my body weight, is also challenging enough for me if I’m doing it perfectly with good form etc. to get close to failure.

If this is you this would work great to get you stronger and get you making progress.

Question #7: Explosiveness is HUGE when it comes to getting stronger and gaining muscle mass.  Will this kind of training help deliver more explosive force to my lifting?

Forest Vance: For sure. Another thing that we can relate to, we come back to the body awareness, is that for explosiveness and running and jumping and sprinting etc., the ability accelerate your body fast is just as important as the ability to decelerate your body fast.  For maximum efficiency of movement but also just being safe.

And that’s a big thing that you get out of this program.  We teach you how to move properly first and formost.

Question #8: For the older dudes (hahaha…I’m almost 40:) in the 40-60 age range, is this type of training too hard on our joints?  In other words, do the risks outweigh the benefits for more mature guys?

Forest Vance: I would say that this type of training is actually the best type of training that “older guys” should be doing.

I can tell you that I feel way better then back in the day when I used to lift heavy and do back squats and deadlifts and military presses and bench presses on a daily basis.

Now I am cycling through and still including some of the stuff, but also including a lot of the bodyweight stuff, and it has decreased my pain increased my range of motion baby much more flexible and supple and everything other things you can imagine.

Question #9: Does this program really apply to higher level athletes?  Is someone in the 18-25 age range really going to benefit from training like this when barbells, dumbbells, prowlers and 40 yard dashes seem to be more important?

Forest Vance: You know honestly it does truly depend on a person’s goals and what type of sport involved in.

For people who are really trying to get gigantic and huge and swole, I would recommend including barbell work at some stage in their training.That being said, like we already mentioned, doing the bodyweight stuff is also super important to learn how to do movements properly – like for example you would want to make sure that you can do a perfect bodyweight squat and a perfect push-up before you squat and bench.

We train some kids – and when I say that I mean high school kids – at my gym, and what we see a lot of times is that they are doing things like back squat and bench presses when they can’t even do a bodyweight squat or lung or even do a handstand hold against the wall … and this is such a mistake.

We back them up and have them perfect the body weight stuff and typically see their lifts go through the roof.

Question #10: Share with us what you feel are the TOP 3 most valuable elements of your Body Weight Strong 2.0 system?  Why are these 3 things so crucial to the success of this 12 week program and gaining real strength?

Forest Vance: Number one is the ability to get a fantastic strength workout almost anywhere with very minimal equipment.

Once you learn how to use your body properly and do some these advanced bodyweight movements, you can really get a strength training workout at home in your garage on the hotel room wherever – which for most people probably wasn’t possible before. I know for me personally, before I learn these techniques I’d have to go to the gym to get a great workout and I don’t anymore.

Number two is that if people like heavy training and they like training for strength and muscle, this is such a great break for their body and out and it will make them feel better and refresh and also it’ll improve their left when I do come back to doing the regular training.

Number three is it makes you such a more balanced athlete if you have control and ability to do all these basic bodyweight movements like full below parallel squats, perfect push-ups, all different types of one variations, handstand hold against the wall, etc. this is the type of training that once you can do this and ALSO be strong in the more traditional lifts … it makes you a true beast at the end of the day!

Amazing!!! Thank you so much Forest for your insights, passion and overall knowledge. Without question, this approach to strength training will yield phenomenal results and benefit a ton of guys (& gals) out there looking to drive their performance to a NEW level.

Many Thanks and Stay Strong my Friend!

Coach Chris

Triple Your Strength and Build 7-10 Pounds of Muscle

How to do More Push Ups – Instantly!

How to Do More Push Ups – Instantly!
by Forest Vance, author, Body Weight Strong 2.0

Today I’m going to share a little-known method you can use to do more push ups, INSTANTLY.

Last year after a charity event at my training center, we went out to a meal to celebrate.  After the meal, several guys got to talking about how many push ups they could do … and before you know it, two by two, we’re squaring off face-to-face and doing push up contests right there on the floor of the restaurant!

I got paired up with a guy that I was really closely matched with, strength-wise.  I ended up squeaking out the victory (I think we ended up doing 80 or so) … using the same technique during the last few reps that I am going to share with you in today’s article.

So whether you have a push up contest to get ready for, or you’re just looking to get stronger in your push ups (and other body weight strength training in general) (link to program here!), try this technique:

How to Do More Push Ups – Instantly!

Here’s a Video of Me Performing This Exercise…

Here’s a Pic of Me Performing This Exercise

* important to note – this technique will be frowned upon by medical professionals and could be potentially dangerous – so make sure to check with your doctor before doing it!

— Before you drop down into the bottom of your push up, take a deep inhalation to ‘load up’ your muscles.  Get as tight as you can – upper body, legs, core, everything.

— Drop into your push up without letting your breath out. Maintain tension in your abdominals and throughout your entire body. Do NOT exhale or let tension ‘escape’ in any way!

— Exhale as you press through your sticking point in the push up or after you finish the move. This will also help you keep tension throughout.

— Once finished with the push up, pause at the top and take a breath or two.  Either lower back down to the ground and repeat, or rest.

Power breathing is one technique you can use to tap into additional strength reserves and boost your strength and power instantly.  You can use this not only for push ups but for other advanced body weight moves – like pull ups, pistol squats, etc. – and also when lifting heavy weights.  Try the technique outlined in this article and you just might surprise yourself!

Train hard, and talk soon –

Forest Vance, author, Body Weight Strong 2.0

PS – For more little-known body weight strength secrets like the one in this article – and a full 12 week program that will take you from whereEVER you are now, to body weight STRONG, check out this program:

=> Body Weight Strong 2.0


How to Triple Your Strength, Save Your Joints and Build 7-10 Pounds of Lean Muscle in Just 12 Weeks Using Your Bodyweight

Ben Tatar 2014 Arnold Interview

Ben Tatar 2014 Arnold Interview
By Anthony Alayon

1) Anthony Alayon: How is the Arnold different from the Olympia?

Ben Tatar: The Arnold has more of everything. It has more athletic events, top athletes, supplement booths, celebrities and fans. There is nothing else like it. The Arnold has more competitors than the Olympics. You can’t get an experience like the Arnold anywhere else.

2) Anthony Alayon: How many people attend the Arnold?

Ben Tatar: Over 175,000 people attend the Arnold Sports Festival as 40,000 attend the Olympia weekend.

3) Anthony Alayon: How was this year’s Arnold different from other Arnold’s?

Ben Tatar: There were more events. The Arnold added swimming and tennis. There are people from over 80 different countries who compete in the Arnold. For me, this year was different because I got to compete in the Arnold table tennis competition against the best in the world.

4) Anthony Alayon: How was the 2014 Arnold bigger than the Olympics?

Ben Tatar: The Arnold Sports Festival has over 50 events where as the 2014 Olympic games only had 15 events. The 2012 Summer Olympics in London had 40 events, where as the Arnold has over fifty events.

5) Anthony Alayon: That’s interesting: What celebrities did you see at the Arnold?

Ben Tatar: I saw Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham (famous action movie stars.) Larry Fitzgerald (one of the best NFL receivers,) and Marcus Lattimore from the 49ers. Many other NFL stars were there, such as MVP running back Jamal Lewis and the great Lynn Swan from the 70s Steelers.

UFC champions, Jon Bones Jones, Chris Weidman and Cain Velesquez were all there. All the Mr. Olympia and Arnold champions, including Jay Cutler, Phil Heath, Ronnie Coleman, Branch Warren, Dennis Wolf and the rest of the pros were there.

Some of my old heroes like Mark, “The Hammer” Coleman and Don Frye were in attendance. The bench press champions, Tiny Meeker and other world record holders in powerlifting, along with the World’s strongest man competitors were competing or working.

I also saw Buster Douglas who beat Mike Tyson. Other UFC fighters included Ryan Bader, Frankie Edgar “The Dragon,” Lyoto Machida, Bobby Lashley and many WWE wrestlers were there. I got to see all of them.

photo (6)

6) Anthony Alayon: How was the Arnold night life?

Ben Tatar: The Arnold night life was really good. My good friend, Alexis Young won the Rockstar Bikini Contest on Thursday Night. On Friday Night, I went to the “Make It Fit” event which was a great fundraiser for Autism. Phil Heath and Jay Cutler were there.

The 1000+ pound squatter, Ed Russ, his pro strongman brother Mathew and many great spirited people made it a fun event. Saturday Night, I went to the Mega Party event. Every single celebrity was at the Mega Party and there weren’t a lot of fans there since it was for workers/celebrities. It was great getting to party with everyone.

7) Anthony Alayon: Who gets the freak award?

Ben Tatar: For size, it’s Ed Russ. Anytime anyone sees him, he is instantly remembered forever.(laughs).

8) Anthony Alayon: What was the biggest surprise at this year’s Arnold?

Ben Tatar: The biggest surprise was running into Oxygen Magazine Cover Model, Natalie Hunt at the MegaParty. I haven’t seen her in over five years and I presumed she was done with the fitness industry.

Then for entertainment, she put me in the sharpshooter (a WWE wrestling submission move by Bret Hart,) like she did at the 2008 Arnold which can be read here: Wow- times goes by fast!

9) Anthony Alayon: Tell us about the record you set at the Arnold!

Ben Tatar: There was a contest to see who could do the most pull-ups with a 50lbs perky jerky vest. Of the hundreds and thousands of people who tried, I set the record as I did 40. I set the pullup record at the Olympia in Vegas before, but this one was better since I did 40 pullups with a 50lbs perky jerky vest.

10) Anthony Alayon: Who inspired you the most at the Arnold? What was the best advice you got?

Ben Tatar: I’m not sure because I’m not looking for advice like I use to. It’s mostly about insightful conversations, love and entertainment. However, I want to thank the GLC2000 booth for being really good to me. I also am inspired by Mark Coleman because he is such a great human being.

He’s not just loved by people who don’t know him, he is also really valued by people who have known him forever.

11) Anthony Alayon: What are some of the exciting attractions in the expo and around the convention?

Ben Tatar: When you leave the expo, you walk around halls and in each hall is a huge room with a different exciting competitions. Then when you go in the Expo, the booths feature different celebrities or activities that attendees can try. The MHP booth is always fun and so is the animal cage since the best lifters in the world are always doing feats of strength.

Then you have the main stage where the “World’s Strongest Man competition,” or another big competition is going on. There is really so much going on everywhere and it’s amazing how many people you run into who you haven’t seen in years. For example, I ran into Steve “KONO” Konopka unexpectedly.

I’m running into fans who I don’t know and people I have interviewed who I haven’t met. There are lots of exciting stuff going on all the time.

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12) Anthony Alayon: Sounds like a total blast. In closing is there anything else you would like to say?

Ben Tatar: Special thanks to Critical Bench for the press pass. Special thanks to the GLC2000 booth for their VIP treatment. Anthony, thanks for the interview. I had a great time at the Arnold and it was a spectacular event. I really went hard, sacrificing meals and sleep! It was a true rush from start to finish!

Time-Saving CALORIE BLASTING Muscle Building Tips


By Chris Wilson

In today’s world, “time” has become a very valuable thing.  It’s the ONE thing that money just cannot buy.  Many of us wish we had more of it in the day but sadly besides tricks like daylight savings time (DST), it’s just not possible.  Work, family, bills and errands all rob us of our valuable time and pull us in multiple directions.  And because of this “lack of time” issue, our bodies have a tendency to get neglected.  That means soft, mushy, and weak.

Enough with the depressing news…let’s talk about getting leaner, more muscular and burning off unwanted fat.  Yeah, that’s better!

How can this be done effectively from home in just a few minutes per day???

It’s actually much easier than you think.

chris wilson

Calorie burning, muscle gains and fat loss ALL happen at the same time, regardless of what you’ve read in the past.  Our bodies can do LOTS of things at once…without us even having to think about them.  Our bodies are so adaptive and so intelligent that we just never give them the credit they deserve.  Talk about a TRUE multi-tasker.  In as little as 5-10 minutes every day, you can have lingering effects on your metabolism, muscle building capabilities and fat burning processes.  That’s the TRUTH!


By doing a series of Continuous Anaerobic Movements (CAM) you can have a HUGE impact on all the muscles in your body allowing you to burn some serious calories in very short bursts.  The bonus is that this method has an aerobic element even though you’re not on a boring treadmill, uncomfortable bike or in an over-chlorinated pool at the local “Y.”

Aerobic activity is simply defined as your bodies need to consume oxygen more rapidly due to the physical nature of what you’re doing.  Thus, you breathe heavily when jogging or doing sprints versus walking slowly at the grocery store.  By forcing your body to move nonstop with resistance exercises, you create this perfect blend of anaerobic and aerobic activity which not only impacts the muscles but also the heart, lungs and circulatory system.

Whenever you mention the heart, lungs and circulatory system you are talking about CARDIOVASCULAR exercise which is NOT what you’re actually doing.  That’s the amazing side effect of C.A.M.  Getting the heart to pump and work hard is a result of your bodies demand to get oxygen to the muscles which also places great stress on the respiratory system.  This is a “healthy stress.”

Much like a well-oiled race car, the body is a machine doing several things at once.  It WANTS to move, it LONGS to perform.  Age should not be the reason for laziness and living a sedentary life.  No matter what your age, there are exercises that can be done daily to enhance your body’s ability to slash fat, build muscles and devour calories.

Here is a list of some of my favorite C.A.M. movements and how they can be used in a workout program:

High/Low Plank Drill

Push-ups (any variation)

Jump Squats

Jump Lunges

Mountain Climbers


Rotational Planks

Hip Bridges

Take any 4 of the exercises above and create a circuit workout.  The key is to either count reps or do them for time.  For example, you could do 10 reps of each OR do each movement for 30 seconds.  The reps and time amounts will vary and should become more challenging over time.  The other KEY element to this is rest period.  Rest should only come at the end of a round and try to only rest when you must.  Whether you can devote 5 or 10 minutes or somewhere in between, try to minimize rest and maximize movement. 

Just the 8 exercises listed above can yield tremendous results for the man or woman trying to slash annoying belly fat, add quality muscle tone and feel healthy and energetic!

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