ARTICLES

Herschel Walker and Bodyweight Beast Building

By Chad Smith | In Training | on April 16, 2012

Herschel Walker powered his muscular, 6-1 225 frame to World Class times of 10.23 in the 100m and 6.23 in the 55m in 1982.

A few nights ago, I watched a special on ESPN about Herschel Walker. If you are my age or younger, you probably haven’t had much exposure to Herschel Walker. If that is the case, you are missing out, not only is the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner one of the all-time great College Football players, he is also one of the all time greatest physical specimens to walk this earth. Commonly listed at 6’1” 225 pounds, Walker is the owner of a physique chiseled from granite. Walker’s speed was (and possibly still is) world class. In addition to his 5,259 career rushing yards and 49 rushing touchdowns (in 3 seasons) at Georgia he also placed himself on the school’s all-time top 10s in the 55m and 100m Dash with times of 6.23 and 10.23. This type of speed for an athlete this size is unprecedented. What makes Walker’s physique and accomplishments even more remarkable is that they were built largely with bodyweight training and resisted sprinting.

After growing up as an overweight and often teased early adolescent, Walker is said to have begun a daily routine of 1500 pushups, 2500-3500 situps and tire resisted sprinting, in addition to unweighted sprints. In addition, to this simple bodyweight training routine, Walker certainly possesses some of the greatest genetics ever, which helped build his tremendous physique but the foundation of things are simple, hard work and dedicated bodyweight training.

So how can you use bodyweight training and sprinting to build a shredded and powerful physique?

A strong back is the foundation of a strong body and there is no better exercises to build one than pullups/chinups. They are simple and have endless variations.

There are four movement groups that must be addressed in any training program, including a bodyweight one, Upper Body Push, Upper Body Pull, Squat, Posterior Chain and Abdominals. Since Herschel would load his sprints with a tire, I will also introduce loaded  upper body movements for this program but will stay away from any barbells/dumbbells/kettlebells/etc.

Progressive overload is an essential component of any training program, including one rooted in bodyweight movments. The most simple ways to progressively overload movements is to add more weight or more reps, but when you are dealing with bodyweight movements you need to be a bit more creative. Overloading a bodyweight movement is simple you just need to make it harder and doing a movement explosively is a simple way to increase the challenge of the movement and the amount of muscle fibers being recruited during it.

Here are some of our favorite bodyweight training movements we use at Juggernaut to build muscle and improve explosive power…

  • Upper Body Push-Incline Pushup, Band Assisted Pushups, Board Pushups, Pushups, Closegrip Pushups, Stagger Pushups, MB Pushups, Feet Up Pushups, Clapping Pushups, Pushups onto Box, Drop Pushups, Rebound Pushups, Handstand Pushups, Chain Pushups, Band Resisted Pushups, Weight on Back Pushups, Cable Loaded Pushups

Former USC Water Polo Standout Drew Vyn demonstrates an advanced upper body pulling exercise, the clapping pullup. In Drew’s 2 years training at Juggernaut he put on 45 pounds of muscle, added 175 pounds to his bench, 230 pounds to his squat and 230 pounds to his deadlift, pulling 545 at 227 pounds bodyweight. 

CLICK HERE to view Drew’s Video

Upper Body Pull-Inverted Rows, Band Assisted Chins, Bodyweight Chins, Weighted Inverted Rows, Weighted Chins, Band Resisted Chins. Muscle Ups-These incorporate both a pull and push movement but the primary movement involves an explosive pullup.

A strong back is the foundation of a strong body. Sprinters like Britain’s Andy Turner, Bronze Medalist in the 110m Hurdles at the 2011 IAAF World Championships, utlize all varieties of pullups, such as the L-Sit variation shown here, to build back and abdominal strength

Squat-BW Squats, Lunges, Step Ups, Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats, Squat Jumps, Tuck Jumps, Box Jumps, Long Jumps, Split Squat Jumps, Multiple Jumps for Distance, Hurdle Hops, Depth Jumps

Posterior Chain-Back Raises, GHRs, Reverse Hypers-these can be manually resisted by a partner to increase resistance. Sprinting-The higher velocity that sprints are happening at/longer distances being run will lead to greater stress on the hamstrings. Hill sprints or sled resisted sprints will provide a great muscular effort but due to the limited output capabilities (ie. You can’t run as fast because of the weight/incline) they are not as demanding to the hamstrings as longer distance unweighted runs.

Abdominals-Moving Front Plank, Moving Side Plank, McGill Situps, In and Outs, V Ups, Scissors, Hanging Leg Raises, Ab Wheel, Gymnastics Movements-Front Lever, Planche

Gymnasts are the athlete’s with the highest relative strength levels in the world. While some of their movement’s like a front lever and planche require great shoulder and lat strength, they will also develop tremendous abdominal, hip and lower back strength and stability.

 Front Lever Progression


Planche Progression

Now that we have established a pool of exercises to use to help turn you into a beast, let’s look at some sample 3 week training programs for a beginner, intermediate and advanced athlete looking to enhance their relative strength, physique and power.

Beginner Program-This program is designed to increase the athletes work capacity, add muscle (remember you can’t flex bone) and introduce basic bodyweight movements. This would be an excellent GPP block for a young athlete to utilize or someone with a very low training age.

[ismember]

Week

Day 1

Day 3

Day 5

1

Hill High Knees-3x5x20 ydsSquat Jumps-3x5Incline Pushups-3x20BW Squats-3x20Inverted Rows-3×20

Back Extensions-3×20

BW Abdominals-300 Total Reps

 

Hill High Knees-3x5x20 ydsSquat Jumps-3x5Band Assisted Pushups-3x20Walking Lunges-3×20 stepsBand Assisted Chinups-3×10

Reverse Hypers-3×20

BW Abdominals-300 Total Reps

Hill High Knees-3x5x20 ydsSquat Jumps-3×53-4 Board Pushups-3x20BW Step Ups 3×10 each legInverted Rows-3×20

GHRs-3×10

BW Abdominals-300 Total Reps

2

Hill High Knees-4x5x20 ydsSquat Jumps-4x5Incline Pushups-4x20BW Squats-4x20Inverted Rows-4×20

Back Extensions-4×20

BW Abdominals-400 Total Reps

 

Hill High Knees-4x5x20 ydsSquat Jumps-4x5Band Assisted Pushups-4x20Walking Lunges-4×20 stepsBand Assisted Chinups-4×10

Reverse Hypers-4×20

BW Abdominals-400 Total Reps

Hill High Knees-4x5x20 ydsSquat Jumps-4×53-4 Board Pushups-4x20BW Step Ups 4×10 each legInverted Rows-4×20

GHRs-4×10

BW Abdominals-400 Total Reps

3

Hill High Knees-5x5x20 ydsSquat Jumps-5x5Incline Pushups-5x20BW Squats-5x20Inverted Rows-5×20

Back Extensions-5×20

BW Abdominals-500 Total Reps

 

Hill High Knees-5x5x20 ydsSquat Jumps-5x5Band Assisted Pushups-5x20Walking Lunges-5×20 stepsBand Assisted Chinups-5×10

Reverse Hypers-5×20

BW Abdominals-500 Total Reps

Hill High Knees-5x5x20 ydsSquat Jumps-5×53-4 Board Pushups-5x20BW Step Ups 5×10 each legInverted Rows-5×20

GHRs-5×10

BW Abdominals-500 Total Reps

You’ll notice that the progression from week to week is very simple, just adding a set of each exercise, this is by design as a young/inexperienced athlete needs frequency and volume to master movement key movement patterns.

As the athlete progresses in their relative strength levels and improves their speed and power, they will require more advanced exercise and greater variety to continue improving their abilities. Also as an athlete is capable of higher outputs their volume must be reduced from week to week at intensity increases.

Intermediate Program-This program is designed to continue adding muscle to the athlete’s frames while improving their body awareness and explosive power in both the upper and lower bodies.

Week

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

1

Hill Sprints-10×10/20/30ydsSquat Jumps-4×3Clapping Pushups-4×3Lunges-3×16 StepsBW Pullups (Palms Away)-3×6-8

Back Extensions w/ Weight-3×12-15

Feet Up Pushups-3×8-10

Ab Wheel-3×8-10

 

Hill Sprints-10×10/20/30ydsBox Jumps-4×3Pushups onto Box-4×3Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats-3×12 each legInverted Rows-3×8-10

Reverse Hypers-3×12-15

Incline Band Resisted Pushups-3×8-10

Hanging Leg Raises-3×8-10

Hill Sprints-10×10/20/30ydsLong Jumps-4×3Explosive Stagger Pushups-4×3/3Step Ups-3×10 each legBW Chinups (Palms Towards)-3×6-8

GHRs-3×12-15

Dips-3×8-10

V Ups-3×8-10

2

Hill Sprints-3x6x20ydsSquat Jumps-5×3Clapping Pushups-5×3Lunges-3×14 StepsBW Pullups (Palms Away)-3×8-10

Back Extensions w/ Weight-3×10-12

Feet Up Pushups-3×10-12

Ab Wheel-3×10-12

 

Hill Sprints-3x6x20ydsBox Jumps-5×3Pushups onto Box-5×3Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats-3×10 each legInverted Rows-3×10-12

Reverse Hypers-3×10-12

Incline Band Resisted Pushups-3×10-12

Hanging Leg Raises-3×10-12

Hill Sprints-3x6x20ydsLong Jumps-5×3Explosive Stagger Pushups-5×3/3Step Ups-3×8 each legBW Chinups (Palms Towards)-3×8-10

GHRs-3×10-12

Dips-3×10-12

V Ups-3×10-12

3

Hill Sprints-4x4x20ydsSquat Jumps-6×3Clapping Pushups-6×3Lunges-3×12 StepsBW Pullups (Palms Away)-3×12-15

Back Extensions w/ Weight-3×8-10

Feet Up Pushups-3×12-15

Ab Wheel-3×12-15

 

Hill Sprints-4x4x20ydsBox Jumps-6×3Pushups onto Box-6×3Rear Foot Elevated Split Squats-3×8 each legInverted Rows-3×12-15

Reverse Hypers-3×8-10

Incline Band Resisted Pushups-3×12-15

Hanging Leg Raises-3×12-15

Hill Sprints-4x4x20ydsLong Jumps-6×3Explosive Stagger Pushups-6×3/3Step Ups-3×6 each legBW Chinups (Palms Towards)-3×10-12

GHRs-3×8-10

Dips-3×12-15

V Ups-3×12-15

You’ll notice that this program involves a greater exercise variety and more intensive drills to allow the intermediate athlete to produce higher outputs. The explosive exercise choices here like clapping pushups and squat jumps are great ways to increase the intensity of bodyweight drills and lead to greater recruitment on fast twitch muscle fibers.

Once an athlete has mastered the drills in the intermediate program it is time for them to begin introducing more advanced gymnastic drills, explosive exercises and reactive plyometric movements.

The Ab Wheel is a very challenging exercise that will build great strength and stability throughout the torso. If you don’t have an ab wheel device, the same exercise can be accomplished by using a barbell loaded with 25-45 pound plates.

Advanced Program-This program is designed to elicit great responses in explosive and reactive strength for the athlete, as well as body awareness and relative strength with the gymnastic maneuvers.

 

Week

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

1

Sled Sprints-10×10/20/30ydsJumps for Distance-4×3 JumpsPushups onto Box-4x2Planche-3x5Feet Up Clapping Pushups-10×4

Reactive Box Jumps-10×4

Clapping Pullups-10×4

Ab Wheel w/ Vest-3×15

Depth Jumps-4×5 jumpsRebound Pushups-4×2 pushupsMuscle Ups-4x3Explosive Stagger Pushups-10x4Split Squat Jumps-10×4

Back Extension w/ Weight-3×12-15

Inverted Rows w/ Vest-3×12-15

Hanging Leg Raises-3×20

Hurdle Hops-4×5 hurdlesDrop Pushups-4×2 pushupsSprints-6x100mPullups w/ Weight-3×12-15Weighted Incline Pushups-3×12-15

BW Abs-30 seconds on/30 seconds off x10 rounds

 

2

Sled Sprints-3x6x30ydsJumps for Distance-5×3 JumpsPushups onto Box-5x2Planche-4x5Feet Up Clapping Pushups-10×5

Reactive Box Jumps-10×5

Clapping Pullups-10×5

Ab Wheel w/ Vest-3×12

Depth Jumps-6×5 jumpsRebound Pushups-6×2 pushupsMuscle Ups-6x3Explosive Stagger Pushups-10x5Split Squat Jumps-10×5

Back Extension w/ Weight-3×10-12

Inverted Rows w/ Vest-3×10-12

Hanging Leg Raises-3×25

Hurdle Hops-5×5 hurdlesDrop Pushups-5×2 pushupsSprints-4x200mPullups w/ Weight-3×10-12Weighted Incline Pushups-3×10-12

BW Abs-30 seconds on/30 seconds off x12 rounds

 

3

Sled Sprints-4x4x30ydsJumps for Distance-6×3 JumpsPushups onto Box-6x2Planche-5x5Feet Up Clapping Pushups-10×6

Reactive Box Jumps-10×6

Clapping Pullups-10×6

Ab Wheel w/ Vest-3×10

Depth Jumps-8×5 jumpsRebound Pushups-8×2 pushupsMuscle Ups-8x3Explosive Stagger Pushups-10x6Split Squat Jumps-10×6

Back Extension w/ Weight-3×8-10

Inverted Rows w/ Vest-3×8-10

Hanging Leg Raises-3×30

Hurdle Hops-6×5 hurdlesDrop Pushups-6×2 pushupsSprints-2x300mPullups w/ Weight-3×8-10Weighted Incline Pushups-3×8-10

BW Abs-30 seconds on/30 seconds off x14 rounds

 

 

The advanced program features a high volume of explosive drills and needs to be performed in a particular manner. In between the drills where 10 sets of work are being performed, rest only 10-15 seconds between exercises, this will develop great alactic capcity and would make this program (plus a basic weight lifting program) a great option for a grappling athlete to use in their final weeks of preparation before a fight. All of the sprints must be done at the highest intensity possible after a full dynamic warmup. One day 1 rest 30 seconds for every 10 yds of work you have performed between reps and 3-5 minutes between sets . Day 3 Sprints are to develop speed endurance and will require 5 minutes rest between the 100m runs, 7-8 minutes between the 200m and 10 minutes between the 300m. You should aim to replicate the same time in every repetition.

Sprinting and Bodyweight Exercises are a great way to achieve your physique goals as demonstrated here by some of England’s elite level sprinters during their training at Juggernaut.

Bodyweight training is a staple of such great athletes like the legendary Herschel Walker and world class gymnasts everywhere. If you want build muscle, explosive power and body awareness then give these programs a try and keep checking JTSstrength.com for more info on how to improve your strength, performance and nutrition.

If you’re a football player or coach, you can’t be satisfied with free information floating around the internet.  You owe it to yourself to invest in the Juggernaut Football Manual – a comprehensive resource that will teach you how to set up a football training plan for every position on the field, to separate you or your team from the competition.

Juggernaut-Football-Manual-cover-1

1 comments
brad756
brad756

Chad this would be able to do a 1 minute Q&A video on getting strong using your bodyweight? Perhaps as a follow up to this article. I really enjoyed the information presented here. I have limited access to a gym right now due to financial reasons and this is perfect for my needs at the moment.

Brad

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