There’s a tool that I’ve been looking for for a while that’s not easy to describe. It’s a tool to help recommend fitness goals, based on what you can currently do.
Say, for example, your goal is to do a push-up. This tool would provide a listing of push-up variations, in order (as much as possible) from easiest to hardest. Once you master one—say, you are able to successfully do a wall push-up—it gives you the next harder one to work towards (push-ups from the knees).
On Facebook today, I saw a link to something that sort of does that: The Periodic Table of Bodyweight Exercises, which appears to have originated with Strength Stack 52.
- More variety. Don’t get me wrong, bodyweight is great. I think it’s entirely possible to work out effectively without toys. But I like toys, and some of my goals involve them.
- An “Accomplished or Not” focus. SS52’s tool seems like it would be really useful for building workouts—which is fantastic and valuable, but I’m looking for help in figuring out goals, and particularly goals of the “Do an X” variety.For example: The chart lists tuck jumps as a hard exercise, and I’d agree. But tuck jumps are primarily hard when you do them in series, and when you focus on how high you’re jumping and how tight your tuck is. A single tuck jump, assuming some basic caveats about knee health and the like, really isn’t. So tuck jumps really aren’t a great candidate for a measurable goal. There are some exercises on the chart that do have the binary “can do/can’t do” state—stop mocking me, pistol squats!—but what I’d like to create is more tightly focused there.
- Harder stuff. This follows up on the previous point. Most of the exercises on the chart are ones I can do. That’s a great starting point, but when the goal is “can you accomplish this once,” the feats need to end at a higher level of difficulty. I’m looking more for “Cool stuff to do” than the basis of a well-rounded workout.
- A better-defined progression. This one is a bit tricky. The chart groups exercises by muscle group, which is entirely logical and, again, really useful for building a workout. But I’m looking for something that can be a bit more focused: If you can achieve this, than this is one level up for you to shoot for. That’s not always possible, I know—sometimes an exercise that’s harder for one person is easier for another—but I’m okay with having a caveat that your mileage may vary.
Two things that will be outside of the scope of my tool are speed and quantity. That’s not because they’re not worthwhile—if you currently run an 8:15 mile and you want to hit 8:00, or you can currently do 10 push-ups and want to hit 15, those are noble and worthwhile goals. (I’ve certainly made similar ones.) But they’re also pretty easy ones to set—I don’t need any kind of outside reference to tell me that 8:00 is faster but probably not unreasonably so than 8:15.
The Extremely Preliminary Listing:
Here’s what I’ve got so far. For each exercise/exercise category, I’m listing variations as I see them from easiest to hardest. There are also alternates at the end when I am not sure how to place them—or even if they should be part of the sequence or an entirely separate sequence.
- Wall push-ups
- Knee push-ups
- Toe push-ups
- Clapping push-ups
- Plyo push-ups (both hands and feet)
- Alternative techniques: Decline push-ups, spiderman push-ups
- Decline plank
- Wall-assisted handstand (facing wall)
- Wall-assisted handstand (away from wall with kick-up into handstand)
- Unassisted handstand
- Alternative techniques: handstand walk, one-hand handstand, suspension trainer-assisted handstand
- Lat pull-down
- Inverted row
- Elastic-assisted pull-up
- Alternative techniques: kipping pull-up, muscle-ups from a box. I have a feeling muscle-ups are sort of a hybrid—there would be a pull-up series, and a dip series, and both would feed into the muscle-up series.
- Catch-up (i.e., bringing your back arm to the rung your front arm is on before moving forward)
- Alternate (bringing the back arm to the rung in front of your front arm)
- Skipping (taking the bars two at a time)
- Jumping bars (both arms catch air as you swing from bar to bar, releasing a bar at the same time and catching the next one at the same time)
- Alternative techniques that I’m not sure how to place: Gripping the sides of the monkey bar rig, rather than the rungs; sloth walk (traveling backwards with both arms and feet on the rungs); traveling across monkey bars backwards; alternate grips (rings/balls/vertical bars)
This should be considered entirely preliminary and considered “something I came up with off the top of my head” rather than something that is authoritative. If you choose to apply it to your own life, think about whether it’s appropriate first.
Also, if you’ve got recommendations or requests for additions, please comment and let me know—I’m focusing on my own interests, but those are hardly exhaustive, and there may well be things that I don’t know about that I would like to.
Much more is to come…