77 – Drew Baye – How To Optimise Strength, Muscle Mass And Health With High Intensity Bodyweight Training

Drew Baye presenting at The 21 Convention
Drew Baye presenting at The 21 Convention (photo from i.ytimg.com)

Drew Baye is one of the top high intensity training experts around today. He is the founder and owner of Baye.com, the most popular high intensity training website online. He’s a prolific writer, researcher, and elite level personal trainer.

To listen to my previous episodes with Drew Baye, go here: Part 1 and Part 2.

In The 4-Hour Body, the author, Tim Ferriss featured Drew to demonstrate how it’s possible to get to 3-4% body fat with no “cardio”. Check it out:

Drew Baye
Drew Baye looking shredded (photo from Baye.com)

I recently moved to Galway, Ireland, and have no access to fancy MedX and Nautilus machines (until I build my own gym! Muhaha!). With that in mind, I decided to continue my high intensity bodyweight training using Drew Baye’s Project Kratos, which is an excellent eBook on how to use just body weight training to maximise strength, muscle mass and overall health.

In this episode, Drew answers my questions about Project Kratos and bodyweight high intensity training in general. Drew kicks off by explaining the principles of high intensity training that apply to any workout protocol. We then discuss how this fits into a high intensity bodyweight training context over the long-term.

In this episode we cover:

  • How to get past sticking points in Project Kratos and optimise your overall results
  • The importance of knowing when to introduce specialisation programs
  • How to train to failure and not rely on a secondary exercise, drop set, etc to “get there”

Listen below:

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This episode is brought to you by Exercise Science LLC, your one-stop shop for all your exercise needs. Exercise Science, a high intensity strength training studio based out of New Orleans, is owned and run by Exercise Physiologist and Body By Science contributor, Ryan Hall. Ryan has been featured on the podcast twice and both are among my most popular episodes of all time. Exercise Science LLC have the expertise, experience and the tools to maximise physical strength, improve performance and functional capacity in just 12 minutes per session. I’m a big fan of Ryan and if I were living in New Orleans, I would seriously sign up in a heart beat. To book a consultation now – click here.

This episode is brought to you by Hituni.com, providers of the best online courses in high intensity training that come highly recommended by Dr. Doug McGuff and Discover Strength CEO, Luke Carlson. Course contributors include world-class exercise experts like Drew Baye, Ellington Darden and Skyler Tanner. There are courses for both trainers and trainees. So even if you’re not a trainer but someone who practices HIT, this course can help you figure out how to improve your progress and get best results. Check out Hituni.com, add the course you want to your shopping cart and enter the coupon code ‘CW10’ to get 10% off your purchase!

To subscribe via email and get my FREE eBook with 6 podcast transcripts with guests like Dr Doug McGuff, Drew Baye and Skyler Tanner – Click here  ????

QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What is your high intensity bodyweight training workout? Please let me know in the comments.

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Show Notes

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Comments 17

  • Great interview Lawrence, and Drew hit so many fundamental points here – it brought back to me why Drew is really one of the best working in the industry right now.. He really got me thinking on a completely different level – all about the long term cost vs benefits, as opposed to short-term stuff from the latest 6 month study.. BUT: this does leave a big question in my mind, and would love to hear from you Drew if you are out there, namely: Lawrence asked well wouldn’t it be enough to just do the Project Kratos exercises to failure each time, rather than having to make the exercises progressively harder over time? Your answer was, well if you don’t make the exercises harder over time then it makes the TULs too long.. But: if you are an intermediate (as I am: 2 years consistent training experience) then as long as I am hitting MMF at some point between 60 and 120 seconds, surely I have no need to bother about progressive resistance? Surely true MMF is enough in itself: particularly given your other point that all roads lead to the same place anyway? It just saves me a bunch of time/ mental energy only having to think about hitting MMF each time, rather than overthinking how I am going to progressively make things more difficult? Doing it this way makes it much easier to initiate a workout whenever a suitable time arises (just started doing them 3 days/ week early in mornings before kids wake up).. Of course once I start hitting TULS of 120 seconds then I will need to consider progressive resistance, but do I REALLY need to think about that before then? If you disagree, then what TUL would you view as the appropriate cut-off point when resistance MUST be increased some way?

    Oh and on another point it seems that Drew respects Brad Schoenfeld as a fellow scientific researcher – what a fantastic podcast that would be, a roundtable with Drew and Brad – eg discussing Jeremy Loeneke’s recent paper on volume. That would be one to remember! Even better if a lot of common ground could be established (which I believe it would be)..

    • Hey Rob,

      As you get stronger the same difficulty level will become less challenging and a less effective stimulus. You have to increase the difficulty as you get stronger to continue to stimulate further adaptation. Eventually, as you approach the limits of your genetic potential for strength and conditioning, it will become more difficult to do this and be necessary less frequently, however.

      • Thanks for replying Drew: I really appreciate your feedback. Whilst I totally understand the point you are making above, there is something I am having real difficulty understanding: maybe you can help clarify for me (and others too I am sure). Namely, when I am pushing to MMF at a slow, controlled, cadence, I can assure you that the difficulty I am experiencing is always very high – trying to push for that extra rep until failure is always extremely challenging. Will that in and of itself not be enough to send a powerful message to the body to stimulate hypertrophy, regardless that it may be exactly the same style of chin-up I have been doing in previous weeks? I guess my point is that I always keep the level of difficulty/ resistance and challenge extremely high, so there should be a strong stimulus for growth? The progressive resistance seems to automatically occur in that if I am always pushing for MMF and allow a day of rest in between workouts, then my TULs should naturally keep increasing (on average), without even really needing to track them – so long as they fall into the 60-120 second range. I did my usual full-body bodyweight circuit this morning and it certainly felt like it gave a very strong stimulus to my body!

        On another point, I have come to believe that singular focus on hypertrophy is probably not the way to go: although good muscular development is good for both health, longevity and appearance – I think it’s just as important to focus on the leanness aspect: the reason your physique is so impressive in the 4 hour body shot is probably more down to your level of leanness – in my opinion anyway!

        • First, you can’t assume you will progress, because that also depends on whether you are allowing your body enough time for recovery and adaptation between workouts. Second, if you are progressing and your TUL is increasing regularly you will have to increase the difficulty to keep the TUL from getting too high.

          I never said hypertrophy should be one’s singular focus. The goal of an exercise program should be to improve overall functional ability, including body composition.

          • Thanks for responding back on that Drew – yes sorry I should have said that my point above was based on the assumption that I believe I am allowing enough time in between workouts, and that sleep and nutrition are adequate – ie assuming those aspects are covered. And with regards to your second point, my TULs are slightly more than 60 seconds, but only increasing very marginally on a workout by workout basis, so I figure I have a considerable amount of time left until I start achieving TULs of over 120 seconds, probably at least a good few months to a year so I’m happy sticking with my same routine until then without the hassle of having to track anything for the additional simplicity/ time saving that provides. By the way, do you have a guideline cut-off TUL as to what you would consider to be “too high” – that would be very instructive to know. I’ve heard from others that the max should be around 120 seconds? Oh, and the point about hypertrophy not being one’s singular focus was more around something I have come to realise for myself – I know you’ve never advocated that!

            • I start people with 60 to 90 and adjust from there. What I would consider too high or low would depend on the individual and what they’re trying to accomplish. That being said, I’ve had a few people who have done better with a range of 120 to 180.

    • Thanks for your comment Rob. To add to Drew’s reply, I wonder if there is downside to training to failure (e.g. loss of muscle mass) on the same exercises using the same ROM/protocol time and time again? By increasing the difficulty, I think you’re preventing this potential outcome from happening and more likely to stimulate optimal gains. Perhaps we’re splitting hairs and this doesn’t matter as much as we’d like to think. From my POV, if nothing else, it helps keep the workout interesting, though I appreciate you, in your instance, you sometimes just want something routine.

  • Hi Lawrence, I really enjoyed this episode! Drew Baye is not only a top trainer, but is an eceptionally good Teacher. He knows quite a lot, but in the same time is Top, when it comes to properly articulating, explaining and transfering his knowledge. Always a treat and a pleasure to listen to him!
    I’d like to add my view to the “not being able to reach failure” issue, only to complement what Drew has explained, through my personal experience. I have been in that situation many times, but I started to notice the problem, when looking at others, whom I’ve tried to train in HIT fashion. I guess observing from a side helps a lot 😀
    So if we accept, that training to muscular failure, is training to a point, where you’re no longer able to perform another complete repetition in the right/perscribed form, then according to me “not being able to reach failure” is really a missmatch between the selected resistance and the form with which the exercise is executed. And there are three scenarios:
    1. Selected Resistance is too light from the beggining – discomfort sets in, long before actual muscle failure. My practical solution – try to revisit my form and make things harder for the remaining repetitions (easiest is limit the range of motion, to the “hard” part and try to slow down even further);
    2. Selected Resistance is too heavy from the beggining – You actually reach failure in the perscribed form too soon, but you continue to execute the exercise, emplying all sorts of tricks, like sqeezing, sandbagging….etc., You also feel discomfort, but in the same time you’re actually deloading the muscles trained and limit the effectiveness of the exercise for the sake of prolonging it. In this scenario you feel like you could have done a lot more and you usually continue with “advanced techniques”. My practical solution – Remind myself it’s not an endurance contest for the next time and do something as rest pause in best possible repetition form just to reach some total resonable TUL.
    3. Selected weight was Ok, but you started sloppy for whatever reason (lack of concentration in my case) and discomfort sets in, but you’re still far away from real failure. My practical solution – as in case 1 – try to revisit my form and make things harder for the remaining repetitions.

    • Thank you Kamen. These are excellent pointers on training to failure using bodyweight :D.

      • Thanks Lawrence, furthermore, I personally prefer training in the 30-60 sec. TUL range. Figured this out through observation and experience. As Drew Baye wrote in one of his recent articles Intensity = Inroad/Time(where Inroad is meant as a level of), so My choice is to use heavier resistance and to keep the discomfort and the level of inroad in check. For Me this helps a lot with reaching “true” failure and with recovery as well.

        • Interesting. I am similar though slightly longer TUL. Drew talks abot experimenting with different TULs in our round table with Skyler Tanner and Ryan Hall. This was epic (3hrs) and can’t wait to post in a week or two.

          • Hi Lawrence, regarding the experimenting with the TUL and the theory behind it, as I got it from Ryan Hall’s interview and what I have heared from Drew Baye, it is most likely, that most of us will be somewhere in the middle anyway, so testing will probably not show much, except for extreme cases (cited by the two gentlemen). It’s still a “bell curve”. But in My case, I have already noticed over the years, that I am rather a “sprinter”, than “long distance runner”. Long before I started to work with weights, in my very young age, I was in involved in swimming and simple observation made it clear, that I was very competitive in short distances up to about 100 m. Then in 200,400 … I would perform very very modestly. Later on, following Arnold-like training regiment, I’ve noticed, that thowing aerobic sessions in the schedule (usually mornings) in about 3 weeks, I would feel like hell. And I was in my teens.
            So even without specific testing, it may be already obvious from one’s life experience which type of training may be better suited.
            In addition, as far as theory is concerned, it is 75-80% of a 1RM in a “perfect form”, that is supposed to be the middle point. Over time, supposedly, theese percentages would become a higher real value – 80% of 100 – 80% of 120. So middle point will move up in real value and training with same/similar resistance for longer TUL/reps, even if done to failure, may still be somewhat productive, but it’s effectiveness will constantly reduce. So My choice is rather to aim for the slightly higher side of the spectrum for this reason, but also for improved recovery(not to reach deeper levels of inroad), which seems to be My need. Hope I made myself clear. English is not my native langauge and the topics are very specific too 😀

  • I’m also very curious what comment may Drew have on the Brian Johnston interview (hopefully he has listened to it) and more specifically to the practicality of the idea that changing exercises for a given muscle group regularly, wihile keeping best possible form and of course employing the more or less most effective and safest ones, may be another way to stay away from focusing too much (in the bad way) on improving your TUL, Cadence, Improvement in a given exercise…. In other words will this be a valid way to help one’s self to stay focused only on the exercise execution form and not on “performance” variables as weight used and TUL and in the same time to still have a great workout and avoid too much adaptation to technique of a given exercise. To me this idea seems valid, but the downside is ofcourse exercise selection and learning an practicing proper form for each one. Just to clarify that my question reffers for an experienced lifters.

  • Hi Lawrence, I forgot, to answer the question, that you both ask about how it is correctly to pronounce “Kratos” in greek. My country neighbours Greece, and I undesrtand this much. So you pronounce it Kr{ej}tos, as in Greek it should sound like Kr{a:}tos, a firm A, like in the word cAr for example 😀

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