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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

Interview with 2013 Super Bowl Champion Brendon Ayanbadejo

Interviewed by:  Ben Tatar
(Iron Man Magazine featured. )

Brendon Ayanbadejo has just achieved every NFL great’s dream; he has won the Super Bowl with the 2013 Baltimore Ravens. Not only has Brendon won the Super Bowl, but he has been one of the best defensive outside linebackers and special team players in the NFL during the last decade. IM Magazine presents to you, Super Bowl champion Brendon Ayanbadejo

Ben Tatar: This is Ben Tatar, and today I’m here with 2013 Super Bowl Champion Brendon Ayanbadejo. Brendon, tell about us about your motivation, training and nutrition that has allowed you to be dominate in the NFL during the past decade?

Brendon Ayanbadejo: Training is a lifestyle for me. It’s something I do daily and up to 14 training sessions in a six day period. With extreme training, I have extreme nutritional needs. So along with building my body and conditioning my body, I keep myself limber through vinyasa yoga.

I also eat a completely natural diet which means no preservatives, hormones, antibiotics, hydrogenated oils or fake sugars. I also eat as much organically as much as possible. I have an extreme supplementation program which includes injectable aminos and supplements that are individually designed for my body’s deficiencies. The combination of these factors make my 36 actual age more like a 25 year old physical age.

Ben Tatar:  Brendon, you’re one of the strongest and most athletic men in the NFL when it comes to physical challenges. How do you combine your athletic training with your bodybuilding training to be so great at NFL athletic challenges while looking like a bodybuilding champ?

Brendon Ayanbadejo: I love body building. I’m a vain person. At 14, I started lifting weights. I noticed my frame picked up muscle and strength very quickly. However, being an athlete, I needed to be fast, explosive, big, strong, agile, and all these other things.

So I incorporated functional training into my regiment at a young age. I was lucky to have great trainers in Santa Cruz California where I grew up who were so amazingly far ahead of the curve. Luckily 18 years later, everyone is now doing what I learned at 18, and I’ve mastered it. Functional training, along with bodybuilding, not only looks great but works extremely well!

Ben Tatar: Your NFL journey has been complete as you are now a Super Bowl champion! After you’re finished playing in the NFL, what would you like to do in the fitness industry?

Brendon Ayanbadejo: I just might do a natural body building contest one day. But my true love is athletics. I love all sports. I aspire to be the athletic director at my alma mater, UCLA one day in the near future. I like to help student athletes have better lives, especially the ones that do not become pro athletes and that’s the vast majority of young men and women in the NCAA.

Ben Tatar: What are five of your favorite bodybuilding exercises? What are five of your favorite athletic exercises?

Brendon Ayanbadejo: My 5 favorite bodybuilding exercises are:

1. Bench press

2. Dumbbell curls

3. Squats

4. Pull ups

5. Dumbbell front raises for shoulder

My 5 favorite athletic exercises are:

1) pure running is #1

2)agility/speed ladder

3) jump rope

4) any movement using a rubber bland for resistance, curls, bench, tri extension and squat ( I usually do these movements until failure and do them with speed.)

5) prowlersled. (Can push it, pull it, walk it, run it, rehab on it. Very functional.)

Ben Tatar: How do you combine bodybuilding and athletic exercises into your routine?

Brendon Ayanbadejo: Once a week I speed bench and speed squat. There’s a machine hooked up to the barbell that lets you know if you are reacting fast enough. That’s a functional bodybuilding movement used to increase speed and strength. We typically do 10 sets of 3 with a minute recovery and often times we do not go above 185lbs. if you can hit it fast enough. On a body building day, we are well into the 300 lbs. realm for sets 6-10 reps and over 400 for squat.

Ben Tatar: I’m going to list a quick concept, tell us what came to mind when these moments happened:

Brendon Ayanbadejo: Let’s do this.

A) Your game winning interception against Tom Brady in your first NFL start at LB and when you beat the 2004 historic Patriots in that game –opportunity.

B)When your Chicago Bears beat Drew Brees and the New Orlean Saints in the 2007 NFC Championship game to go to the Super Bowl— It was amazing as we hosted the NFC Championship Trophy to the Chicago fans. Snow was falling to cap an incredible story.

C) You are part of one of the most dominate defenses in the history of the NFL, the Ravens defensive dynasty- Tradition.

D) Playing in many Pro Bowls—Fun in the sun. Blessed and honored

E) Winning the 2013 Super Bowl under the toughest conditions as you beat 1)Andrew Luck’s Colts 2) Peyton Manning’s Broncos in which many would call the greatest game ever played. 3) Then you beat the most talked about New England Patriots in New England, 4) Then you beat the incredible offense and defense of the SF 49ers in the Super Bowl—- The highlight of my career.

Ben Tatar: You have played for the Dolphins, Bears and Ravens. What was the best part of being a player, on and off the field, for each team?

Brendon Ayanbadejo: Best part, on the field, of being a Dolphin was playing with Zach Thomas, Jason Taylor and the legend Jr. Seau. Off the field, Miami, Florida is an amazingly beautiful place to live. I was born in Chicago, and Chicago is the most amazing city in the US. The Bears have amazing tradition.

The defense is monstrous, hence monsters of the midway. Urlacher and Briggs are both hall of famers. Baltimore might be the toughest football and city I have ever played for. It’s Blue Collar all the way.

The team owner is the best owner in football and Ozzie Newsome, our GM is a former player and great guy. Playing with Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Ed Reed and Ray Lewis are all Hall of famers and the best football players I have ever played with.

Ben Tatar: What is your advice for younger athletes who would like to be as ripped, strong and as athletic as possible? Do you have any nutrition, recovery or motivational tips?

Brendon Ayanbadejo: I would say learn about food and more importantly, learn what foods affect your body. It’s different for everyone. Eat simple and natural. Lift, run, stretch, and do all sorts of training, yoga, swimming, biking, weights, rubber bands, kettlebells, etc.

For recovery take supplements. Learn about what keeps your body feeling good, ie hyaluronic acid, collagen, arginine, glutamine, zinc, magnesium, sodium bicarbonate. There’s too many to name.

Ben Tatar: What do you enjoy doing away from training and playing in the NFL? You seem to be living your dream beyond winning the Super Bowl.

Brendon Ayanbadejo: I love to learn. I’m in school at George Washington University Staremba doing my masters in business. It’s challenging and fulfilling. The number one priority in my life is my family and my kids. I love being a daddy. The kids keep me on my toes.

I have three French bulldogs that seem to run my life along with the kids. But I love it, or I wouldn’t have three lol.

Ben Tatar: Brendon it has been great interviewing you today. What a life you are living as an NFL All-star, bodybuilder, father and man. Congratulations on your big Super Bowl win! In closing, what message would you like to leave your fans?

Brendon Ayanbadejo: Without the fans there is no football. Without football, I don’t have such a powerful platform to help make the world a better place. Thank you for allowing me to voice my opinions and giving me a foundation to stand so tall.

EDITOR NOTE** Today Brendon is currently working as a analyst for Fox Sports 1 on Fox Football Daily. Ayanbadejo plans on continuing his advocacy in equal rights as a surrogate for the White House.  Ayanbadejo has also brought the Orangetheory Fitness franchise to Los Angeles County and the Bay Area (several locations coming soon) Lastly, Brendon was the Sports Illustrated sportsman of the year 2013.  Brendon Ayanbadejo fans can read and follow Brendon @brendon310 for both Twitter and Instagram. Brendon can also be followed on