My use of bodyweight movement goes back 40 years to my military service and an Australian teaching assistant, Ken Buckley. The military and Ken taught me the value of bodyweight movement and training…it is functional, simple, safe, scientific, natural, efficient and effective.
I graduated from the University of Oregon in 1978 with a Bachelor of Science (Exercise Science). After graduating, through an unusual set of circumstances, I got involved with the sport of swimming. My mission was to develop a strength program for elite swimmers. This may seem straight forward, however, swimmers have some unique needs. For example, they must be very strong without bulk (bulk equals drag). The training system I developed included a high intensity interval protocol (:20 x :20, very similar to the Tabata Protocol) and whole body movements. This combination produced remarkable swim performances and overall fitness. I eventually wrote a book (Being Strong) discussing the training system. I was involved with swimmers for more than 20 years and credit much of what I know and do to these athletes. Their determination, dedication, discipline, and toughness (mental and physical) taught me what the human body and will are capable of. I learned that whole body movements were very effective at developing functional strength without bulk and, in fact, helped promote a lean athletic appearance.
One of the most influential people in my life is Tom Hirtz. Tom, a former world class Olympic weightlifter and now weightlifting coach taught me the importance of using the most powerful ‘muscle’ in our body…our brain! Like most people, I had done workout after workout without ever really engaging my brain, using workouts for PR’s as opposed to practice…Tom taught me to be comfortable with uncomfortable, to embrace frustration, and the value of thought guided repetition…all the aspects of training that most people want to avoid!
The last piece of the puzzle…my numerous injuries (bi-lateral quadricep rupture, broken back, rebuilt hand (13 screws and 2 plates), 3 broken ankles, 2 broken arms, 4 times broken ribs, numerous head injuries (300 stitches from one injury alone)…to name a few. Ultimately all my injuries forced me to train with bodyweight movements. The more I trained with bodyweight movements, the better my body felt and moved. After reading about and researching high intensity interval training (HIIT) and more specifically the Tabata protocol, I began a year long HIIT journey in my garage. The combination of bodyweight movement and the Tabata protocol produced remarkable fitness results, I could feel it and see it. The training was brutal but addictive…
Honestly, I never thought the public would ever want anything to do with this kind of training. My first clue that the public might actually embrace this style of training was my wife, Renae. She watched me do these short, intense workouts (mostly for entertainment)… sometimes I would collapse on the floor, sometimes barf and always make awful noises. At first she wanted no part of this training! However, Renae eventually did try it. Yes, it was very hard for her and yes, she did get very sore, but there is something very rewarding about 100% efforts, she understood it and she felt it. For the next year, we went everywhere teaching and practicing my application of HIIT and bodyweight movement (beauty salons, doctor offices, homes, U of O, gyms, retirement homes, schools, parks). In the mean time, I began ‘HIIT experimentation’ on a small group of fitness enthusiasts at my brother’s gym. The popularity of the ‘HIIT experimentation group’ eventually led to a two times per week 30 minute bodyweight HIIT training session… the sessions were packed within two weeks. I was now convinced and confident that this hard training was what the public needed and wanted. On April 22, 2010, Renae and I formed Rena Fitness, LLC and opened a HIIT studio that focuses on bodyweight movements.
Since then, and with an eye towards improving my application of HIIT training, I have recorded and evaluated every personal and public training session. As I continued my own HIIT experimentation, I began to realize how bodyweight movements could be finely tuned within the constraints of differing HIIT protocols. It seemed the shorter (six seconds and less), intense work intervals with a short rest interval (two seconds) were dramatically changing my fitness. Simply stated, shortening the intervals kept me from losing focus and mentally wandering, allowed more flexibility to increase training volume and helped teach pace. With this in mind I introduced the ‘ReNA protocol’ to the general public. The ReNA protocol is a bodyweight specific, 3:1 HIIT protocol. In my opinion, if applied correctly (movement and intensity), nothing comes close to the ReNA protocol…it’s a simple, effective, efficient, economical, and safe form of intense functional fitness training and general sport conditioning. Soon, I believe we will be calling it an evidence based training protocol. As of this writing, the University of Oregon Biology Department plans to do a research project scientifically evaluating the effectiveness of the ReNA protocol.
Stay tuned, this is only the beginning…