A Simple DAILY Bodyweight Trick To Improve Your Upper Body

About a month ago I was “trapped” in a conference room with 8 other fitness guys talking about our businesses and how we could improve them. We affectionately named ourselves “Canadian Bacon”…mainly because we're all Canadian and because Bacon is awesome.

Canadian Bacon

Naturally, when you have a bunch of fitness guys in one room, the conversation had a tendency to sway away from business and to turn to the topic of, well, fitness. Specifically, what everyone in the group does to keep themselves in shape.

(By the way, everyone does something different, and we're all in pretty great shape).

On the second day of the meetings – as we started to veer off the business path and started talking about training – I just happened to be sitting beside Big Vince. Vince, if you haven't heard of him, is a true meathead. He's a guy that used to be highly competitive in Cross Country running and at 6'1″ weighed about 150lbs soaking wet. They used to call him Skinny Vinny.

Now, Vince is a lean 200lbs with arms bigger than most guys' legs. Over the past 10 years he's managed to pack on over 50lbs of muscle and now teaches skinny guys how to pack on some weight.

With me naturally being a skinny guy, I always love to hear what the “big guy” is doing to improve himself physically and Vince has this one cool – and ridiculously simple – trick that he does everyday to help “bring up” his upper body.

He tells the group…

Every morning, before you start the bulk of your day, do 200 push-ups and 50 chin-ups.



But what if I can't do 200 and 50 straight?

“Then work your way up to it.  Start slow, but just make sure you get it done.  You can do it in multiple sets throughout the morning, but just find a way to get it done. Do this IN ADDITION TO your regular workout.”

Push-Ups and Chin-Ups, the 2 most basic bodyweight exercises known to man, are this meathead-bodybuilder's secret to getting jacked?


So, for over the past month I've been giving this routine a try – with some slight modifications. If you're going to give this a try, here's what I suggest you do…

bodyweight trainingFirst, don't jump right into doing 200-50. Practice, don't train. So if you've never done that amount of push-ups and chin-ups on a regular basis and then jump right into it I can guarantee you that you'll get hurt after the first 2 weeks. With my chronically painful shoulder, I didn't want to take the risk and so I started by cutting the numbers to 1/4 of the volume, so 50-12.

Second, now that we have our initial numbers (50-12), we need to make sure that we don't train to failure. If that means doing multiple sets to get to our numbers then so be it. Get to 50-12, but don't train to failure. Leave a few reps in the tank using as many sets as you need to get to your numbers. Just make sure that you stay fresh.

Third, vary the movements. The are a myriad of push-up variations – close grip, off-set, decline, staggered – that you can do. The key is to not do the same movement every single day. That's a recipe for an overuse injury if I've ever seen one.

The same can be said for pull-ups. Do chin-ups, pull-ups, neutral grip, mixed grip, use rings (I highly recommend rings if you want to limit elbow & shoulder issues). Lots of variations here, so get your numbers in, but don't use the same grip every time.

Give this a shot with me and let me know how it works out for you. I'd love to hear about it.

What if you can't do a pull up yet?

Well, don't worry, because tomorrow I'll tell you about a way you can “cheat” to get your first few pull ups in.

Train smart,


  • Reply August 27, 2012


    Totally agree with the idea. I have been doing a variety of workouts, switching things up on a monthly basis. I lost a lot of fat and felt good about my progress, but wanted to pack on some muscle. I am a lot like Vince in that I am 6’4 and weight 211 and have trouble packing on muscle. I found a program called Convict Conditioning on the Dragon Door website. I am doing it 3 days a week, while still following my normal workout. It does not take long, but I have noticed, as has my wife, that I have started to pack on some muscle. The program said it could take up to a year to master everything. From where I am starting, I think it will take longer. I am not complaining, as I really enjoy these short, but intense, workouts. Thanks for confirming what I have been doing.

  • Reply August 27, 2012


    That reminds me of what Chad Waterbury recommended a while back for lagging bodyparts: get 100 reps in throughout the day. http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance/100_reps_to_bigger_muscles

  • Reply September 4, 2012

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