Discover more from The Power of BroScience by AJAC
To note, these are not "elite standards". They are the baseline for living and aging well, and maintaining an effective level of athleticism that should enable you to do most any activity of your choosing.
1. Heart rate-this is the easiest way to determine if you have a healthy cardiovascular system, what is your resting heart rate? Ideally, it should be between 40-70 beats per minute, with the sweet spot being about 60 for most people. If your resting heart is higher than that, than your cardiovascular health is likely poor. Even if you are very very very muscular (and I mean pro bodybuilder sized with muscle mass far beyond the norm for your height), you still want a healthy resting heart rate
If your heart rate is above 70 bpm, you need to improve your cardio. The most direct way to improve this
-Daily, go for a 30-60 minute walk
-2x a week, do an intense cardiovascular activity for 10-20 minutes. This does not mean a workout till you throw up high intensity interval workout (HIIT). I recommend intervals with full recovery (high intensity training, also known as HIT). And yes, there are two kinds, HIIT and HIT, and they are NOT the same thing.
2. Long Duration Walking-I am loathe to even call walking "exercise" or "cardio" honestly, as it gives the wrong impression to people. Walking is the most basic of human activity, and it should be easy and something you can do for hours. Walking 3-4 hours at a time should not be anything challenging at all.
My "standard" for walking is being able to walk 4mph, at a 4% incline, for ONE hour. The incline elevates your HR, and the 4mph is a fast walk, but not a jog. This is done on a treadmill, and its easy to test. If you are able to do this, this would inform you that your aerobic capacity is well developed, and you have the heart rate to match.
If you cannot do this, start working towards. Follow the cardio recommendations above, and once a month test yourself and see how far you can walk at that speed and incline before gassing out.
3. Bodyweight Squats-fundamental exercise that reveals whether your lower body can resist gravity vertically. If you cannot do bodyweight squats easily, your hips and entire lower half (and also upper half most likely) are highly dysfunctional.
Being able to resist gravity is basic, a bodyweight squat is akin to walking; if walking is strenuous, your health has fallen off a cliff. Same for bodyweight squats. They should not difficult, at all.
My standard is 100 bodyweight squats, done continuously in one long set.
If you cannot do this, and squatting itself is difficult, I suggest stretching for 20 minutes daily. Glutes, low back, hamstrings, quads. There is no special "stretch" routine. Stretching is for the purpose of getting your body better at actual movement, again, read the article.
Assuming you can squat, simply incorporate bodyweight squats into your training. 2x weekly, do 2 sets of bodyweight squats for high reps, 20+. Within 12 weeks, you should be able to do 1x100.
4. Lunges-Fundamental, always be able to lunge. If you cannot lunge, that tells you your hips, knees, glutes, lower abs, hamstrings, every is busted. While lunges can be loaded with weight, we are talking about bodyweight lunges. Again, these should be EASY. This should be a movement you can do many many many reps of, and because you are highly competent, you fatigue simply by way of repetition, not because the pattern itself is hard to do.
You should be able to lunge forward, backwards, and lateral, stepping both out to the side, and behind yourself
-If you can't do lunges, start stretching, and practice the position statically. From there you can progress to doing them assisted, and them from there doing them with bodyweight.
Once you can do lunges, you should always maintain the ability to do them. That doesn't mean that you always need to train them (fundamental movements, once mastered, the ability doesnt leave you unless you neglect the muscles completely), and they can be maintained by always including some form of a single leg exercise in your training.
5. Pushups-fundamental exercises that manifests being able to project force against gravity. For Men, be able to do 40 pushups in one set, easily. For women, 15.
This is not a "workout" its a test of competence.
In training, I am a major proponent of pushups (and also dips as well), for any level of trainee. Aside from being a "compound" movement, pushups train the body as a unit, and as the vast majority of people lack athleticism, this factor is a necessary one in any program.
If you are bad at pushups, simply start doing pushups. Include them as part of your training regime, 2-4 weekly. Sets and reps will depend on how bad you are at them. If you struggle mightily, stick with a high number of sets, but low reps per set, not done to failure, say 6x4, 10x3. If you are capable of double digit reps, you can go with a more conventional 2-5 sets of 10-50 reps
6. Chinups/pullups- Fundamental back strength movement. Men, be able able to do 12 reps, both for chinups and pullups. Women, 4 for both positions.
If you protest that this is unreasonable because you are a "big guy", your're wrong. And fat. And weak. Do the chinups and pullups until you are able to do them for 12 reps each.
-To be able to do this, do the following. This should be feasible if you go to a reasonably equipped commercial gym
5 sets of 3-8 reps of chinups/pullups, assisted if necessary. Do not go to failure on any of the sets
5 side of Wide grip/narrow grip pulldowns, 8-12 reps each set, stop short of failure on each set. If you do chinups, go wide grip on the pulldowns. If you do pulldowns, go narrow grip.
Do that 2-3 times weekly. You can tack it on to practically any workout you want. Within 3 months, you should be able to do chinups and pullups easily, provided your bodyfat is reasonable.
To be clear, this is obviously not a full back workout. Its a high frequency tactical routine that you can add into a program or make an adjustment to your current program if pullups/chinups are something you struggle with.
If you want a Back specialization program,get my Back training guide that produces total back development.
7. Inverted Rows-Also called reverse pushups, this movement is a horizontal pulling pattern. I consider these as important as chinups and pullups, and complete development of the back muscles demands you be able to do them.
Strength standard for both men 20 reps in one set. For women, 10 reps.
I prefer these done on a suspension trainer, although you can also do them with a barbell in a rack.
As its almost impossible to overtrain the upper back, I favor doing these 2-4 times weekly. Do 2 sets of failure each time, and your upper back (and posture) will improve immensely in strength and functionality.
8. 45 Degree Bodyweight Hyperextension-These are essentially a straight leg hip hinge, aka, they are a form of deadlifting, albeit with only your bodyweight.
As your posterior chain strength is the critical in how gravity ages you, getting "good" at these is of paramount importance. Done properly, these are hamstring and glute exercise, you move from the back of the thights, NOT the low back. Your low back is worked isometrically, it should not be flexing and extending.
The strength standard is 50 reps in one set. To build up to this, simply do 2 sets of them, twice weekly, and gradually work your way up in rep range. When you can readily do 2 sets of 20-30 reps, 1x50 will be highly doable
9. Dips-Dips are falsely characterized as being bad for your shoulders On the contrary, dips are not bad for your shoulders, your shoulders are bad at doing dips. If you lose the ability to do these, you wrecked your shoulder health. Dips demonstrate rotator cuff strength, flexibility, shoulder blade mobility, and an overall healthy shoulder and elbow joint
Strength standard for men-30 in one set, EASY. For women, 10 in one set, EASY.
Can't do them? Start with the machine version, and also train your front delts and triceps with isolation exercises. Pushups will help as well. If your shoulder health is poor (weak rotator cuff, tight chest, limited mobility) then stretching and even soft tissue work may be necessary.
10. Sprinting-This a Yes or a No, and its not a question of how fast can you sprint, but CAN you sprint? If you can sprint well, that represents
-your upper and lower body work as an integrated unit
-your gait is efficient and biomechanically sound
-your length/tension relationship between the muscles of your lower body are in proper balance
-your feet and ankles are functional
-your hips are healthy
-your cardiovascular system is capable of high intensity activity
Again, this does NOT mean you will be fast, its simply the Yes/No scenario of can you or can't you. If sprinting leads you immediately pull a hamstring, or your gait pattern is terrible and it hurts your knees, back, etc, you are not a functional person.