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Bodyweight Training, Animals, And Jumping Off Buildings – An Interview With Mike Fitch

16 Comments | Interviews

Global Bodyweight Training

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Fitch of Global Bodyweight Training, who also placed #3 in the Top 50 Social Media Fitness Bloggers contest.

What drew me to Mike was his incredibly unique approach to bodyweight training. Whereas most trainers simply recommend the same old push up and pull up, Mike really goes above and beyond these standard exercises and shows you that you don’t need weights to build a lean, ripped, and incredibly functional physique.

Enjoy the interview!

1) First off thanks for doing this interview Mike. So to start off, what exactly do you do and what kind of training do you specialize in?

I consider myself a Bodyweight Athlete, Coach, Educator, and Student. I’m continuing to learn every day and even more so as I continue to develop programs and teach. Bodyweight training as a discipline has been increasing in popularity a great deal over the past year, and names like “bodyweight athlete” and “bodyweight coach” are titles that you’ll hear more and more as the style grows.

I personally like the title Bodyweight Athlete a lot, because it conveys the idea that the practice isn’t confined to just one discipline, but rather encompasses a wide range including parkour, hand balancing, breakdancing, bar calisthenics, general bodyweight training, and more.

All of these disciplines share the same foundations, though, so the carry-over between them is incredible. They are all Bodyweight Athletes, using movement, gravity and their own bodies to accomplish amazing things.

As this trend continues, soon everyone will know what a Bodyweight Athlete, or Bar Athlete, is. It’s an exciting time in fitness. I think everyone is itching for a change.

2) You have some pretty crazy looking exercises that go way beyond the standard push-up and sqaut like the tornado pull up and front kick-through. How exactly do you come up these unique exercises?

Well first of all, I never take credit for inventing an exercise. There are only so many movements that the body is capable of so I’m sure everything has been done before.

However, one of my main goals with fitness programs is to make sure the total body is being challenged in multiple ways, and I find that developing or exposing unique exercises is a great way to accomplish that in a way that keeps it fresh and fun. I really like combination exercises that keep the body moving in multiple planes of motion, and there is a lot of opportunity to come up with creative ways to put together traditional exercises.

I spend a lot time just moving in the gym and figuring out combinations of movement that make sense on a biomechanical level. I then break it down to figure out how to get the most out of each movement, and decide what I consider to be the most effective or “correct” form for the exercise. Then, if it’s something that I personally haven’t see before (or can’t find on YouTube), I give it a name that makes sense to me.

For example, the Tornado Pull-Up that you mentioned takes two traditional exercises that I clearly did not invent – a pull-up and a trunk rotation – and combines them in a new way that adds an extra dimension to the pull-up. Then I made up the name “tornado pull-up” to play on the incorporation of the rotational movement.

[Mike demonstrating the front kick-through]

3) So what made decide that you wanted to focus solely on bodyweight training?

Well, I’ve been in the fitness field for 12 plus years as a personal trainer and coach.

Plus, I’ve always been interested in alternative styles of training, anything that goes outside of your traditional isolation or machine-based exercise.

Two years ago I found myself in a phase where I was lifting a lot of weights and focusing mainly on strength and hypertrophy. I was literally 50 lbs heavier than I am now and I just didn’t like the way I felt.

I seemed to always have nagging injuries. Eventually I just got burned out and found myself not wanting to even touch another weight. So I started checking out other disciplines that were completely bodyweight based. Beginning with gymnastics, I worked my way through parkour, circus arts, hand balancing, bar workouts and even breakdancing.

The transformation I saw in my body and the sense of achievement with every workout was astonishing.

I’ve never MOVED better and most importantly, I’ve never felt better! The change made such an impact on my life that I wanted to share it with the world. It’s empowering to know that you can build a perfect physique with nothing but your own body and gravity.

I was hooked, and haven’t used a weight in my own training since.

4) Personally I’m a huge fan of heavy lifting (no disrespect) but I know there are a lot of advantages to doing bodyweight exercises as well. In your opinion, what are the main advantages of doing bodyweight exercises vs. weight lifting?

No direspect at all, I’m not a weight hater and I honestly miss kettlebells and Olympic lifts. But, I personally really wanted to dedicate myself fully to the practice of Bodyweight Training (BWT). That’s one of the main differences – BWT it truly is a “practice” and a discipline. You can’t just turn off and go through your exercises on auto-pilot, you have to be present with every workout. It’s all about self mastery and is something that I will be working towards for the rest of my life.

BWT is 100% progressive and skill based, so with every workout you are attempting to advance your personal progress. It’s a pass/fail scenario, you can either perform the exercise or you can’t, there’s no middle ground.

I believe that translates into a greater sense of accomplishment when you reach your goal – for example, it might be great to add a few pounds to your bench press, but you’ll never forget the day you get your first muscle up, or nail your first human flag. Even as far as I’ve come, there are still exercises that I hope to achieve over the next few year.

The way we achieve results is different with BWT. Since we’re not adding external loads, we have to challenge ourselves by adding complexity or figuring out a way to take a higher percentage of your own weight. For example, just changing the angle of your body can make an exercise much more difficult.

Two years ago I found myself in a phase where I was lifting a lot of weights and focusing mainly on strength and hypertrophy. I was literally 50 lbs heavier than I am now and I just didn’t like the way I felt.

You can also improve any specific ability like strength, endurance or power by manipulating your tempo, volume, reps or complexity. If you just wanted to focus on mass, you can choose a BW variation that will keep you in a certain rep range to illicit that response. It’s an incredible versatile method of training.

But I think the real advantage of BWT is the neuromuscular challenge. You’re forcing the body to communicate with itself, “linking” all of your stabilization systems and truly synergizing the muscles of the entire body.

Think about it this way: let’s say you are performing a bench press for a 5 RM. In this case you only have to have the strength of the prime movers and the stability of the shoulder girdle. The rest of the body is supported by the bench. However, if you were to perform a variation of a single arm push up that you can only complete five reps of (your single arm 5RM), you now have to perform multiple functions throughout the entire body.

You still have to posses the strength of the pec, deltoid and triceps, but now the entire stabilization system of the shoulder joint and all of the muscles that stabilize the scapula have to be fully functioning and firing. The trunk muscles have to all be working together to handle the torsional load and maintain total tension to stabilize the spine.

All of the muscles of the lumbo pelvic hip complex are active to keep the hips in line with the shoulders. Basically every muscle is ON and working. The demand on the neurological system is completely amped and creating both strength and stability throughout the entire chain.

To put it simply, you’re getting more bang for your buck with each exercise.

These are just a few perks of BW training, the list goes on.

Best bodyweight exercises

5) You have a workout program available called The Animal Flow Workout. What exactly is that?

The Animal Flow Workout was created by fusing elements of multiple bodyweight training disciplines, intended to increase mobility, flexibility, stability, power, endurance, skill and neuromuscular development.

As I was exploring the different disciplines I mentioned above, including parkour, breakdancing, and gymnastics, I noticed that there was a lot of carry-over from one discipline to the next. One of the things that seemed to repeat quite a bit was the use of quadrupedal movements (crawling patterns) that were animal- inspired.

It might be great to add a few pounds to your bench press, but you’ll never forget the day you get your first muscle up, or nail your first human flag.

It turns out that animal movements have been used for health and conditioning for literally thousands of years. They are so beneficial for all aspects of physical ability that I turned all of my attention to creating a program that used animal inspired forms, with the addition of what we call “switches and transitions” that were similar to the moves I learned in breakdancing and parkour training.

When you combine the Animal movements with the flow of the transitions, you get a super intense workout that allows you to create an endless flow of energy, challenging you through multiple planes of motion.

The benefits of The Animal Flow are incredible.

It can be used for sport specific training, conditioning, cardiovascular training, weight loss, and even physical therapy. It’s become popular with all kinds of fitness professionals and athletes – fighters, team coaches, personal trainers, yoga practitioners, parkour athletes, and, of course, general fitness enthusiasts who just want a fun, challenging workout.

6) So if people are trying to lose weight and get a lean and ripped body, would The Animal Flow Workouthelp them accomplish that?

Absolutely! One of the best things about the workout is you can use it however you want. It can be used as a killer dynamic warm up to increase flexibility, mobility and stability; as a complete workout that you do by yourself or as part of a class; as one component of a circuit; or as high intensity interval training.

You’re using all your muscles and stabilization systems, providing excellent overall conditioning. You are using so many muscles that the caloric expenditure and high oxygen demand make it ideal for fat loss.

The response has been insane, from people who love doing it, and from personal trainers and physical therapists who love using it with their clients.

We’ve been receiving videos from people all around the world getting their Flow on! We have The Animal Flow Workout as digital download or hard copy DVD that you can purchase through our site GBWT.

We’ve also begun offering workshops to fitness professionals that want to be certified Animal Flow Instructors, and have been selling them out around the country.

7) What would you say is the biggest reason people don’t reach their fitness goals?

There can be multiple reasons people don’t reach their fitness goals. If someone is having a hard time dropping body fat, it’s probably their nutrition.

As they say, you can’t out train a bad diet.

Other reasons include lack of consistency and setting unrealistic goals.

Additionally, pushing yourself into an injury can be a major set-back. That’s why one of the things I repeat all over my videos and posts is the importance of form – when form breaks down, the exercise should stop, period.

8 ) Alright so I’ve been dying to ask someone this for the past 5 years. I’m a huge fan of Parkour, mostly because it looks absolutely badass and I know you include it your training. In movies like District 13 and the beginning scene of Casino Royale, they showcase some pretty crazy moves that seem too good to be true. I know they’re just movies, but seriously, are the Parkour moves they show in movies possible in real life? 

I have to tell you, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some incredible free runners and parkour athletes and have seen them first hand do things that I would’ve thought impossible.

I would say the majority of the stunts are legit, although some of the building to building gaps or drops may be wired. Those guys are absolutely badass and deserve maximum respect for pushing the limits all of the time.

no gym workout

9) Awesome, so what’s next for Mike Fitch and  Global Bodyweight Training? Do you have anything excited coming up?

The rest of this year is full of exciting things! As I had mentioned before, we are offering Animal Flow Certification Workshops throughout the country and will hit Europe by the end of the year.

We’ll also be working on a collaboration with Dr. Perry Nickelston from Stop Chasing Pain to create an adaptation of the Animal Flow workout video that is geared toward physical therapists. It will combine some of his techniques with Animal Flow moves for integrated rehab.

Outside of Animal Flow, we’ve just started production on our second full-length DVD which will be completely focused on the skill of hand balancing, beginning with the basics and moving through how to progress into advanced moves.

And finally, we are working on getting the entire GBT System up and available as a membership site. More to come on that later.

10) Thanks for your time Mike, is there anything else you’d like to say?

Sure, I want to challenge everyone to get out there and move their own bodies. Step outside of your comfort zone and incorporate more bodyweight training into your routines.

Everyone can go to our site and brows through the exercise library for some great tutorials to choose from. Oh, and keep checking out FitMole, it seems that guy Keith is doing some pretty solid stuff!

**********************END INTERVIEW**********************

Awesome stuff Mike!

So yeah…. after doing this interview I’ve come to the conclusion that I really need to start diversifying my training more. Currently all my training revolves around heavy lifting with maybe a couple sets of push ups, pull ups, and dips thrown in. And this is fine if you’re strictly training for aesthetics, but it would be nice to be more flexible and mobile. I guess it’s time to start training like an animal.

If you enjoyed this interview and Mike’s approach to bodyweight training, be sure to check out his blog at GlobalBodyWeightTraining and also be sure to check out his Animal Flow workout program.

Weight Loss - September 5, 2012

This is such a helpful posts, thanks for sharing this to us. Looking forward for more updates. Great body weight workouts, this would be a fun workouts to do.

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Sam- Look Like An Athlete - August 15, 2012

Loved this interview!
When I first saw the beginning of Casino Royale with these guys doing these crazy stunts it made me wish I had those skills. However, ever since it inspired me to add more bodyweight exercises in my workouts.

-Sam

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Mariana Abeid-McDougall - July 14, 2012

Great interview; thanks!

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Scott J. - June 29, 2012

Outstanding interview. I have been adding more and more bodyweight exercises to my workouts.

Many thanks.

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Troy Adashun-Formulatedfitness.com - June 22, 2012

Wow- Some awesome information and the “animal flow” workout seems like it truly is a perfect storm of muscle confusion and calorie burning. People are truly naive to the benefits of body weight exercises and the muscle building and fat loss benefits! Thanks for giving them all a wake up call with this article!

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    Keith - June 22, 2012

    Totally right Troy, bodyweight exercises are definitely one of the more underappreciated forms of exercise around.

    Reply
Mitchell - Home Fitness Manual - June 21, 2012

Ketih and Mike,

Training exclusively with bodyweight exercises can be pretty rewarding…especially if you’re looking to improve your entire body, and not just certain muscle groups. Also, I often have moments of inventiveness during a routine that I know I wouldn’t get in a lifting program. When those moments happen that’s when the fun really starts.

-Mitchell

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Betty Rocker - June 10, 2012

I’ve been using a combination of bodyweight training and lifting for the past year or so. I really don’t do much cardio any more, I feel awesome, and am lean and ripped. Some of the fittest -looking people I’ve ever met used bodyweight workouts exclusively. It just seems smart, and sustainable. I love Mike’s approach. Thanks for sharing this interview, I learned a lot!

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Ccoltrun - June 9, 2012

I know Martin Rooney has most of his clients begin with body weight training. IMHO Its the best way to hit every muscle (Prime movers, antagonists, synergists).

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Aesha - June 5, 2012

Amazing coach, incredible workout, gratifying results. One of the most authentic and dedicated to real fitness folks I have ever met. I would recommend him to anyone.

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    Keith - June 5, 2012

    Mike’s definitely a cool guy. Glad I discovered him.

    Reply
Randall S Redman - June 4, 2012

I might use your material in the weeks to come.

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Paul - June 4, 2012

Back in December of 2011 I set out to transform my body and chose bodyweight training instead of weights. I have been hooked on it ever since and when people ask me for workout advice they’re always surprised when I tell them I workout at home without weights! I’m a bodyweight athlete for life!

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    Keith - June 4, 2012

    That’s awesome man. If you want to be lean and ripped, you really don’t need weights.

    Reply
    J.R. - June 4, 2012

    I’m 55 and in the best shape of my life. Bodyweight Training with a 20 lbs. weighted vest. SEALFit & CrossFit both use bodyweight exercises. Military Special Forces use bodyweight training & they train to save their lives.

    Reply

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