The Right Tool for the Need

Just moments after the stacks of my new book, “Can You Go?,” arrived at my house, I was already adding a new chapter. Once again, it is Mike Warren Brown’s fault.


He made a great point: “Bodyweight exercises reward the fat loss client (body composition client).” As you lose weight, dips and chin ups and push ups all become “easier” as the load is decreasing. Some of my bodyweight exercises books even push the point that the body actively adapts to a bodyweight regime by setting the systems up to release fat.


That might be a reach, but a program with a heavy dose of bodyweight work seems to help with body composition changes. It could simply be this: with a machine exercise (and machines certainly have their place), the need for total body tension and postural adaptions are not necessary. A proper pull up is an ab exercise and involves either movement by the lower body (frowned upon) or tension of the lower body (which is what we teach).


A proper bodyweight training system would then demand more total bodywork and part of the reward could be in body comp changes.


This got me to thinking about Josh HIllis’s insights about having strength standards to get women to certain percentages of body fat. His basic numbers are (for women):


Either back squat or deadlift 135 for five

Three Dips

Three Pull Ups


When I pushed this through Mike’s idea about bodyweight work, I had a moment of clarity.


In the 1-2-3-4 Assessment, Threes are our pure body composition clients. Men tend to be Twos…needing both body comp work along with mobility and hypertrophy.


Women, though, tend to be Fours…when they first arrive at the gym. They need body comp work, but they also need to get stronger. So, Josh’s insight about the need for strength standards with the barbell and bodyweight numbers seems just about perfect.

Certainly, anyone can benefit from bodyweight, barbells, or kettlebells. But, I had this thought that certainly families of training work better with certain groups. I would expect an athlete to embrace all tools over a year or career, but when we are focusing on the short term of the “What Next?” issue, choosing the right tool for the job might save us a lot of effort.

For the mobility clients, the One Triad, the TRX, the dumbbell and the Kettlebell lend themselves to mobility and hypertrophy work without a lot of extra coaching. Certainly the barbell family can be used. I had a weekly mobility workout during the 1990s (the time I focused entirely on the One Lift a Day program with O lifts and squats) with the following:

Overhead Squats

Straight Leg Deadlfit



Saxon Side Bends

Yet, each of these has a learning curve that is going to take some time to address. We could easily have our client doing TRX mobility moves with simple presses and Goblet Squats on day one….with mastery within a week or so. Pick the right tool.

For our Five Triad, the barbell is obviously the perfect tool as we can adjust load simply and easily with that Miracle System called: “Add Plates.” The barbell moves, especially the powerlifting family, teaches maximal body tension, the “secret” to holding a plank.

Machines have their place for many clients here, but I stand by this: Lesson One of the strength coach is teaching the mastery of total body tension. There is value in hypertrophy (and the corresponding hormonal cascades) in training with machines, but if strength is the question, barbells are the answer. Other loads, like KBells and dumbbells, are obviously fine, too, if you have enough incremental pieces of equipment.

Our friends in the Three Triad can benefit from many kinds of equipment from rowers to bikes to nature itself. Adding bodyweight movements to Swings or a 500 meter row is going to keep the metabolism broiling. We accomplish this with the Swing/Push Up combos that can be found in the Coyote Point KB Club materials.

In our gym, we are adding the L Sit and Front Lever work from Max Shank’s new book. L Sits will also show you how big your belly truly is…beyond the tape measurement test.

Remember, the key to “Can You Go?” is addressing what you NEED, not what you WANT. This short blog today just gives some insights about addressing the right tool for the job. Certainly, treat the whole world as a nail if all you have is a hammer, but if you have options, choose the right one for the need at hand.



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