Training Tips

ISSA Talks, Episode 4: Home Workouts Q&A with Josh Bryant

Reading Time: 18 minutes 33 seconds

By: ISSA

Date: 2022-04-14



Edited for clarity. 

Erin Mahoney:

Hey, everybody. I'm Erin Mahoney, VP of Product here at ISSA and I'm excited to be joined by Josh Bryant. Josh is not only the author of Amazon's bestselling book, Jailhouse Strong, he's also a world-renounced strength coach, and for us, he is the author of the ISSA Bodybuilding Specialist course. Josh has also been a record-setting powerlifter and has coached multiple world-record holders in various events for strength athletes. And recently, by demand, Josh has transitioned into working with athletes via remote training. Josh, thanks for joining us today. We're excited to have you here.

Josh Bryant:

I'm honored to be here. Thanks for having me, Erin.

Getting Results with Limited Equipment

Erin Mahoney:

We're going to start today, Josh, by answering some questions that we received through social media and also email, and then for all the people that are listening, what you can do is you can chime in with your questions and we will answer them as we start segueing through it. What's most important that we're going to be talking about today is doing workouts from home and we've got this amazing powerlifter here that's going to tell us all about what you can do at home to achieve whatever goals you might have. Let's check it out.

Well, the first thing is, given everybody's at home right now, Josh, it's a lot harder to make personal training happen. Half of the trainers’ battles are around technology, but the other half is really around programs that clients can do anywhere regardless of their goals. Can you start by talking about some of the misconceptions that trainers might have about getting results with limited equipment?

Josh Bryant:

Yeah, I think that's going to be the biggest misconception right off the bat—that people aren't able to get quality results with limited equipment. What we can look at here, if you have a tough time selling a client on this is just look at prisons. There’re all kinds of people there that could easily win a natural bodybuilding contest yet they don't have any weights. Weights have been banned there since 1992. So, all these results are made primarily with bodyweight training. Or they're having to rig up some sort of homemade weights, like a trash bag with water, and do bicep curls or things like that.

Secondly, I think bodyweight training is very fundamental to people's success. It's basic and basic does mean fundamental, but it does not mean elementary. So, we can improve in all of these basic movement patterns during this time. Look at all the trainers already having success or people with very limited budgets are doing these park bootcamps. They could easily run these bootcamps and be more than six feet apart and they're getting great results with people and people are enjoying just real basic stuff. Bodyweights, sandbags, things like that. You can get very effective results and it's a great way to build your business right now because there's not a lot of people doing this. It's your chance to kind of get ahead of the curve right here. Plus, introduce your clients to a style of training they might like.

Erin Mahoney:

I love that you brought up people in prison that probably don't have any equipment and somehow they look like they have a ton of equipment. I think that's important for trainers to constantly remember, and also remind their clients. That's a great way to sell them on bodyweight training. Would you say so?

Josh Bryant:

A hundred percent. The only difference is for somebody advanced you'd have to make more advanced variations. Or somebody that's overweight, you may have to scale it back. But you can just have the person stand 24 inches from a wall and do push-ups, where somebody else that's very advanced... Say you have some champion powerlifter that benches 400 pounds, weighs 150... That person might be doing one-arm push-ups. So it's very scalable. Weights obviously are scalable. You add more, take it off, whatever. Bodyweight training is the same way with just a little bit of innovation.

Top Tips for At-Home Gym Equipment

Erin Mahoney:

Awesome. You mentioned garbage bags filled up with water... First of all, there's a lot of increased prices with home equipment and some of it's even unavailable. Like you can't even get it for like a month or two. So what are you top three hacks that almost everyone has at home that they can use for equipment?

Josh Bryant:

Okay, I'm going to go four, because first off, I think if you're a trainer, you should have some sort of bands just for this situation and you can use them on barbell lifts for accommodating resistance, things like that. But we're not going to count that because that's for the next time something happens. 

What do we have right now? Most people have some sort of jugs at home. You can take gallon jugs and do bicep curls, tricep extensions, any kind of device like that. Even if you have a bag and you filled it up with water, you can do tricep extensions. You can bear hug it and do zercher squats. You can do all sorts of different things with all those household items.

Another thing people don't think about are elevated surfaces. So, the countertop. If someone's overweight, doesn't have bodyweight experience, that's a good place to start, say on push-ups. Somebody more advanced can put their feet up on that same countertop and make it into a decline push-up where they’re handling a lot more of their bodyweight. It makes it much more difficult. So both of these people can just make it scalable to their current situation. If you think about it, the same elevated surface you get under it, inverted, you could do a bicep curl with it. You could do a tricep extension against it. If you don't mind jumping on your kitchen countertops, you can do plyometrics.

Another one most people don't think about is another living being. It could be a person, an animal, or anything else. You have a cat or something, carry your cat around. If you're really strong and have somebody comfortable with being lifted, you could possibly do zercher squats. If there's another living being that is willing and cooperative, there you go (partner exercises). Those three things I think would do really well for you.

Erin Mahoney:

All right. Let me make sure I got it right also for our listeners. Your top four are: bands, countertops, whether that's to progress it or regress it, and then we had the water jugs, and then we had the living beings. I love the water jugs. We have one of those big water coolers, that's how many jugs? I don't know, probably five gallons or something or maybe. Whatever. And I always hate setting it up, but now without the equipment, I'm like, "Oh my gosh, I'm going to use this for my squats." So, even if you don't have one, I'm pretty sure you can go buy one and just refill it and that adds substantial weight. That's awesome.

Josh Bryant:

Absolutely.

Increasing Intensity with Bodyweight Exercises

Erin Mahoney:

Next up: You mentioned this earlier, when you normally have equipment at the gym, you can stack on more weight, but in this particular circumstance, while gyms are closed, you can't. So, you talked about inverting in order to increase the intensity. What are some other ways that clients can be increasing their intensity so they feel like they're really getting a solid workout?

Josh Bryant:

That's a great question because of your more advanced clients. A lot of people avoid bodyweight training for this particular reason. It's a great way to build strength when properly applied. There's a number of different ways. Number one is let's look at the tempo. To make it a little bit harder, let's just use the push-up, for example. Instead of a normal cadence, do a five-second negative on the way down. Make it a little bit harder that way. A little more time under tension, not maximum tension, but you are going to get a little more time under tension. We'll take that. Good for hypertrophy and to kind of establish, rekindle your mind/muscle connection.

Want to kick it up a notch? Okay. Anybody here who has taken the bodybuilding course has read a little bit about compensatory acceleration training. What that means is you're basically compensating for improved leverage by exploding as hard as possible. So, in a push-up, you could do it more forcefully on the way up. You can even really take it to the next level and do a plyometric push-up where you become airborne. So, by that maximum force production right there, that's by default increasing intensity.

Okay, the next thing you could do besides that is go unilateral. Just think about it. A two-legged squat may not be hard for you. Now do a pistol squat. A pistol squat is going to be much, much harder. Pause the reps. Think about just a push-up. Pause it at the bottom. A pull up, if you hold it at the top for a second. By pausing those reps, you, by default, increased intensity.

You can just move away from your midline. You think about it, if you do a push-up with your arms out in front of you, it's going to be more difficult than if you do a push-up in a normal position. Even lunging. If you put your hands above your head when you lunge or squat, it's more difficult than just holding them by your side. So, all those different things are different things you can do to increase the intensity of the workouts. Even look at like surfaces around you, just elevating those surfaces in certain instances, because a push-up's more difficult with your feet up.

Erin Mahoney:

Perfect. Again, recapping for our listeners. We've got modifying the elevation. And, also talked about tempo, which I think it's a really good thing to bring up. I think a lot of trainers typically assume we can change the intensity by the elevation, but I think they forget about the tempo. By either pausing at different parts of the motion or by increasing the tempo. So I love that you brought that up and then you also talked about doing things unilaterally, which again, that's great. That can challenge their balance mechanisms, it can make it heavier.

Josh Bryant:

Let me add to the unilateral part too. There's intermediate unilateral too. For instance, one-arm push-up. You could put a basketball on your off side and then do a push-up. If I'm doing my right side, I can put a basketball over [on my left], so I'm kind of doing it. Not fully engaged, not full on one-arm push-up. Doing a one-arm push-up on your knees. You do a one-arm push-up against an elevated surface. It doesn't have to be like, "Okay, I either do a two-arm push-up or a one-arm." There are intermediate stages of the one-arm push-up.

How to Progress to a Pistol Squat

Erin Mahoney:

I'm getting excited to do my next workout now talking to you. I'm seeing the questions come in. We've got plenty of time. I promise we're going to get to them. This one that just popped up was actually a statement. But they said, "Hey, I've yet to be able to do a full pistol squat." Maybe talk about how you can progress from being able to do just a regular squat into a full pistol squat. Can you talk us through that?

Josh Bryant:

Yeah. I would first off tell you to go to my YouTube channel. It's @jailhousestrong. I have a video up called "bodyweight progressions." It's going to go through all these different movements. But just real quickly here, there are a few different ways you can do it. You can start off by doing it to an elevated surface, say like a bench or something, and then slowly working your way down. Then you can do it where you hold onto something in front of you. In the video there are actually 25 steps to different progressions on how to do it. But you just gradually kind of increase the intensity, which in this case is increasing the range of motion. I should have said that and let me get back to the other question. The other way to increase the bodyweight intensity that I should have mentioned there also, was increasing the range of motion.

What Are The Best Bodyweight Leg Exercises?

Erin Mahoney:

Perfect. Somebody had asked what are some good leg workouts? We just talked through pistol squat. Anything else that comes to mind that people can add for legs? Other than just typical squats? So maybe we start with some basics and then go to advanced.

Josh Bryant:

Yeah. For the basics, you have your bodyweight squat variations. That can be just a typical bodyweight squat. Then you can evolve that into, if someone's ready for it, a jump squat. So you actually get airborne on the way up. Then you can take it to things like Bulgarian split squats and things like that that are kind of unilateral, but you're not full-on doing a pistol squat or anything of that nature.

If you have someone way more advanced, one of my favorites, what I consider one of the big five in a bodyweight movement is the Nordic leg curl. That is basically if you have somebody that can hold down your feet. Again, I have this video. Just type in "Josh Bryant, Nordic Leg curl." It’ll come up on YouTube, if you want to see it like in action. But basically somebody is going to lower themselves at a five-second tempo. Also, if you got a minute, go on Google scholar. Type in Nordic leg curl. There are dozens of studies correlating that with injury prevention. It's huge for that anyways. I use this all the time with clients. 

If someone's unable to do that, what you can do is have them stop themselves on the way down with their hands, like a push-up, so they get a partial range of motion. Or if you have the luxury of having bands, then you can do it with the band. Because as it comes down further, and it gets more vulnerable, more difficult position, that band's going to stretch tighter and provide more assistance so you get the full range of motion. 

Erin Mahoney:

All right. There's a question in here. "Hello, I'm a new certified trainer. What are some good gym-less endurance exercises for indoor with no equipment?" Are they asking for less endurance? Does that mean more power? 

Josh Bryant:

You're thinking less endurance, you're thinking less strength. Again, if you guys go on Google, look up a guy named The Great Gama. He's arguably the best wrestler in the history of wrestling from about 100 years ago in India and all he did was train with his bodyweight training. But what he did is instead of doing like regular push-ups, he did things like Hindu push-ups, like a dive bomber sort of push-ups. If somebody is advanced like that, you have to use those intensity techniques. Make a push-up become a Hindu push-up, a one-arm push-up, things like that. You just keep those lower rep ranges, but to obviously get the adaptive overload, it has to be difficult enough to make it happen. There's all sorts of advanced bodyweight movements like that. Just increase the tempo, go unilateral, increase range of motion, things like that. You can make it happen.

Tips for Online Client Assessments

Erin Mahoney:

Fantastic. There's a chat in here asking about different ways to do assessments online. I do want to tell this participant that's going to be one of our next ISSA talks is talking about how to do these different assessments when you can't be with somebody in person. But Josh, does anything come to mind quickly that you want to address on assessments?

Josh Bryant:

Yeah. If you're doing any kind of assessment where you have to watch the person, you can do a lot more than you'd think on Skype. Or you can do a Skype, personal training session. You can Skype any sort of assessment where you need to watch the person. For the safe bet are things like bodyweight, measurements, things like that. I don't think we're going to be in this situation (pandemic quarantine) for a super long time, so I don't think you have to stress out on the assessment. 

But, if you need to see something, absolutely. I would recommend having a go-to sheet about what you tell them. For instance, if you're assessing just a squat, I want it from a front diagonal angle. If you just say, "Send me a video of you squatting," it may not be a good angle. They've never done this before. Just have whatever you normally do. If it's not going to be live on Skype where you can say, "Hey, move over here", have explicit instructions ahead of time and I think you'll be fine.

Erin Mahoney:

You brought up a great point. This isn't forever. We do have to find a way to make it work. I appreciate your perspective on getting as much as you can in this type of format right now and understanding that eventually you'll be able to transition into other assessments. It sounds just like, "Let's all be patient with one another and do the best we can because your clients still want it."

Josh Bryant:

Well, I think if they're joining you at this point, they're not in it for an assessment. They're in it just to get going right now. They need something right now and that's not the best way to always do things, but it's a very unique situation where you have to take into account the whole person. The mental aspect, not just the physical.

Erin Mahoney:

That's a great point too. Somebody asked a good question. I'd love to hear your take on this: Do you feel that the online market is saturated right now with so many trainers also transitioning to online because of the COVID-19?

Josh Bryant:

Definitely saturated in the sense of there's more people do it, but it's also saturated the sense there are more people (clients) willing to do it. Probably evens out at the end of the day because there's a lot of people that would not even consider online training with a personal trainer, but now they have no choice. For every new person that takes up online training, you're going to have a bunch of new potential clients in the pool too. You just have to find what's your target market. If you're an endurance runner and that's kind of been your main clientele and all of a sudden you're coming out, talking about college offense linemen bulking up, you might not be taken seriously just because that's not your market. The flip side is just the opposite, so you need to find your target market. I think when you find your niche, then it doesn't matter how saturated it is if you're good enough at it.

Erin Mahoney:

Yeah. That's a good point. It's always important to know your target market. One thing I've noticed is everyone's trying to go to virtual, but that varies greatly. When I go for a run around our park over here, there's a lot of trainers out there still training their clients in person. I think some of the trainers are still stuck with the mindset of being in person. That's my take on it is that there are still trainers that probably haven't made that transition yet.

Josh Bryant:

I think you separate yourself too, by doing things on Skype and things like that. A lot of times people think online training is some Instagram celebrity just sends you like a copy and pasted workout. It's basically the person's paying for saying so-and-so trains me rather than quality training. Eventually the cream is going to rise to the top, so just keep doing the right thing and eventually people will notice and your retention will be higher. Their whole philosophy is: there's a sucker born every minute or sell one program and it's over. Where your philosophy needs to be: I'm going to do the best I can for somebody and that person is going to appreciate it, stay with me and help refer me to other people.

Erin Mahoney:

Also, to your point, cream rising to the top, sometimes I think trainers can be a little intimidated by technology because everything that they do is in person. To add onto what you're saying, to be part of that cream that rises to the top, we've got an ISSA talk on some different platforms that you can use for coaching, so check that one out if you haven't. Be part of that cream that goes to the top.

How Do You Hold Online Nutrition Clients Accountable?

Erin Mahoney:

All right, I've got a bunch more—I love the questions. Somebody had made a statement about tying in nutrition with bodybuilding. Before you answer that, there was also a question that we had submitted prior, which was how do you hold clients accountable when they're working from home and they have like tons of food at their disposal? Maybe you can talk about tying in nutrition into bodybuilding with your clients, and then also how you hold them accountable.

Josh Bryant:

Accountable first. My question would be, I'd throw one back at you: how do you normally hold them accountable? If you're lucky you're getting them maybe three hours a week. What about those 165 hours? So I don't think a whole lot should change there. If you're checking in with them, and they're sending you videos, you're corresponding, "How's the nutritional aspect of things going," as long as you have rapport with that client, I think you're going to at least get honest answers.

Another thing I like to do with people: just have them write down what they're eating. There're all sorts of studies online—look at stuff on Google Scholar too—when people don't actually count calories, they just are eating to lose weight type of deal, they always underestimate their calories. It's not my opinion. It's scientific literature. So just have the person write it down. They might be like, "Whoa, I had ice cream four times this week," that kind of thing. When they see it written down, it's going to make a light bulb go off. If you don't normally do that, that I think is a huge strategy in this time.

My personal opinion is most people that workout right now with a lot of time on their hands, are they going to come out of this thing in better shape or worse shape? That's just the reality of it. 

But with more time to work out, if your goal is to set the world record in deadlift, you don't have a barbell, that's going to be a problem.

But if it's to get into better condition, they’re either going to get in a better condition or not. 

I think it's a good chance to separate yourself by kind of establishing yourself as a nutritional expert. All this stuff can be done with Facebook posts and things like that. Just be the nice person that suggests stuff. On my personal page and my business page, I just drop workouts. I put up like bodyweights, different workouts all the time. There's no link to sign up. There're no strings attached. If you want to do it, do it. If not, don't. But people appreciate that. So, for one, it's just a nice thing to do. It's helping people out. They're never going to pay you. For two, I think you're going to get business that way. It's just if enough people see your stuff, it becomes a game of numbers.

Erin Mahoney:

Yeah. That's a good point. With a lot of the stuff that we've been looking at over here at ISSA and things that we're going to start offering our trainers, it's definitely addressed that giving away stuff for free is great for exposure because then those people are just going to want more, then you can actually provide a service offering for them.

What’s So Great About Burpees?

Erin Mahoney:

I want to ask a few more questions. There's a lot of chats coming up about online coaching and different platforms and I'm telling the participants, we do have other webinars on that. In our ISSA talk series, we're going to be addressing a lot more of this, so make sure you stick around and attend those. But let's stick to some of these ones more related in what you're doing, Josh. Tell me about this. What about burpees? Clients hate burpees, but there is, I guess, benefits to it, right? Tell me what's so great about them.

Josh Bryant:

I think what's so great about the burpee is it teaches the body to work together effectively as an integrated unit. I would call it almost like the Swiss Army knife of exercises, sort of like the deadlift. It doesn't probably do any one thing the best, but it does a lot of different things well. It's a great way to get yourself into condition, and again, you can scale it and make it harder. A famous one that they do in prison is they actually will have people do a burpee, do a couple of push-ups at the bottom, jump up and then they'll throw a knee each way. It's almost like a unilateral leg raise, if you want to look at it a different way. It doesn't matter what it is, but you can make it more difficult by doing things like that. When my kids work out, I have them go out there in our garage and they're getting to where now they're doing burpees and they jump up and do pull-ups on them and stuff. So you can make it more difficult. But even just the most basic burpee is teaching your body to work together as an integrated unit, and actual history on it is it was the way a lot of recruiters assessed soldiers for World War II. That's how it came about.

How Do You Program Burpees for Hypertrophy and Strength?

Erin Mahoney:

That's pretty cool. It's been around for that long. Somebody else has asked... Because some trainers will be like, "Oh, burpees, 10 different ways" or whatever. Let's maybe talk about a more advanced client. How would you program burpees for somebody trying to achieve hypertrophy and strength?

Josh Bryant:

Okay. If we're going to do achieve hypertrophy and strength, few things. We need to really make sure there's some sort of resistant component part of it, like some sort of difficult push-up variation at the bottom. Or a pull-up variation when they come up and jump up. Then really when they jump up out of the burpee, make sure they're focusing on exploding and getting high, not just like I'm doing a hundred burpees and barely clear the ground. Really make sure they maximize... That's where tempo comes in. They really want to be explosive on that burpee on the way up to maximize the strength adaptations. 

Erin Mahoney:

I love it. I wish we could even talk more about that. We have one minute left. Josh, thank you so much for joining us. We've had so much interaction and participation on here. We'd love to have you again.


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