Finding Strength, Regaining Health with Progressive Bodyweight Training

Finding Strength, Regaining Health with Progressive Bodyweight Training

Posted by Chris S. Cornell on 12th Nov 2020

JT Teixeira Uses Twitter and YouTube to Provide a Path to Fitness for Thousands

Chris S, Cornell writes about nutrition and fitness. Information is for informational purposes and is not medical advice. Consult a qualified medical practitioner for advice.

By Chris S. Cornell

Jerry (JT) Teixeira is a strength training coach who has heard all the excuses.

“My gym is closed,” is a common one.

“I don’t have any weights in my home,” is another.

“The stress of the pandemic has wrecked my routine…”

“We're in the middle of a pandemic, and it's not going to be gone tomorrow.” said Teixeira, a former enlisted Marine. “l encourage people to look for the silver lining and make the best of a bad situation. If your gym is closed and you're somebody who regularly works out and you're already healthy, then you can utilize progressive bodyweight training to get a great workout. The quality of your training session doesn't have to suffer because you don't have the access to the gym.”

Eight months into the COVID-19 pandemic, JT is one of the most muscular and fit 41-year-olds you’ll ever meet. And he hasn’t lifted a dumbbell or worked out with free weights in years.

JT, who lives in Bakersfield, CA, has spent the past five years passionately pursuing minimalist fitness and teaching body weight strength training. He has shown tens of thousands of people how they can achieve or maintain a high level of fitness without a gym membership, and without a bunch of fancy exercise equipment.

“All you need is a pull up bar and a set of rings, and you can get a world class training session that rivals anything you would find in an expensive gym.” said JT.

“I think we have all seen the people that are now eight months into an excuse and not making improvements. So yeah, definitely don't let that be an excuse.”

JT has nearly 35,000 followers on Twitter, and his YouTube channel has nearly 17,000 subscribers. He is known for his easy-to-understand videos, mostly filmed in his backyard, that are designed to take followers from the beginner level exercises all the way through to highly advanced workouts. He’s also appreciated for his warm and generous nature that contrasts with the more confrontational and abrasive tone of many internet personalities.

He has conveniently categorized his instructional videos into primary progression playlists that make it easy for viewers to find a starting point that’s right for them. For example, his pushup playlist features six sequential videos that are suitable for people of every possible strength level—from those who are unable to do a single traditional pushup to those who can do one-armed pushups, and beyond.

These videos are currently being used effectively by men and women in their 60s, 70s, and beyond, as well as teens, 20-somethings, and all ages in between.

The eight primary progressions include the following:

  1. Pushups - push-up progressions: from beginner to advanced
  2. Front lever - front lever progression: hollow body holds
  3. Bodyweight squats - squat progressions: from beginner to full pistols (single leg squats)
  4. Handstand progression - handstand fundamentals and progression
  5. Glute/hamstring work - Glute Thrusts/ Glute bridge: Training the glutes and hamstrings with body weight
  6. Perfecting your pull-up - pull up progression (from beginner to advanced in one video)
  7. Body weight rows - bodyweight row progression on rings (from absolute beginner to advanced variations)
  8. Back lever - back lever progression: Superman holds

His YouTube channel also has a progression called Full Workouts/Training Sessions that provides complete workouts, starting with a beginner’s workout that takes just five minutes per day, yet delivers measurable results.

Getting Started with Bodyweight Training

So how, exactly, does one get started in making bodyweight training an integral part of their life? 

“I firmly believe that what it comes down to first and foremost is establishing a daily habit that's part of your life,” said JT.

“I try to gear all my content to take somebody from sedentary out of shape never exercised. I set it up so they can take baby steps all the way up through to however high they want to go with it, but it all begins with establishing habits.”

He explained that he never exercised much before he joined the Marines, at which time he had no choice in the matter.

“It was five days a week and you didn't have a choice,” he said. “It was by force, for four years. And so it became a daily habit. It was just what we did. And then when I got out after four years of doing that, it was just part of what I did, and it just kind of stuck with me.”

JT says that beginners can get meaningful, realistic improvements in health and strength in just two relatively short workouts per week, but the challenge is that for most people, that is not frequent enough to build a habit.

“if you're only physically active twice a week, you will not build a habit, it's not frequently enough, you will actually struggle more to workout twice a week for most people, than you will working out every day.”

JT says he recommends a different strategy he says has been very effective for those just starting out. It involves watching (and following) his video for beginners that features just two exercises and five minutes per day.

“It’s literally five minutes of exercise a day for 30 days,” said JT. “And I have people email me at the end of the month, saying ‘This is the first time in my life I’ve actually exercised for a month,' So the main piece of advice I would give people is build the habit. 

"Don't worry about the optimal. So many people start with hour-long workouts, four or five days a week, and they fail repeatedly for years. And part of it is because the barrier to entry is really too high.”

JT advises people to establish that daily habit first, and then increase the duration of the daily workouts to 10 or 15 minutes per day, “You'll start seeing bigger benefits and the habit itself will catalyze other habits.”

“What happens is positive habits tend to attract other positive habits,” JT said, “so during this month, while they're doing their five minute, habit forming beginner level exercise, most people are also making smarter food decisions.”

“The best way I can describe it is when your brain thinks you ARE something, it will help that something manifest much, much better than if it thinks you're NOT something. When people are overweight and they are fat and they are struggling, I try to tell them first and foremost, ‘You're a skinny dude in a big guy's body.”

“You need to see yourself as where you want to be—not necessarily where you are. So I think that by forming a positive habit exercising just that little bit every day, your brain starts realizing, ‘oh, we exercise. We are healthy. We eat healthy’.”

JT says that when most people think about fitness, they automatically think about cardiovascular exercises, such as jogging. He says they often overlook the importance of strength training, which can help combat age-related loss of muscle mass.

“Strength training is important for everyone from the soccer mom to the grandmother,” JT said. “No matter what your age, strength training, is going to help combat age related loss of muscle mass.”

“We’ve seen studies where the cohort with the highest strength is often the cohort with the greatest longevity,” said JT. “So that means if two people are equally healthy, and one person is stronger and has more muscle mass, that person has a better chance of living longer. Building strength and being physically active is important, because it makes you harder to kill.”

The Role of Nutrition

Although JT is best known for his strength training videos, he is also a student of nutrition science, and a proponent of the low-carb way of eating.

When he was 26, his wife gave birth to their first child, and JT began to struggle with his weight for the first time.

“Up until that point, I was physically active, and I pretty much ate whatever I wanted, and I never got fat. That all changed, pretty much overnight. I was still eating the same, or so I thought, and all of a sudden I went from around 170 pounds to nearly 220 pounds in two years time.

For the first time in his life, JT was significantly overweight with a BMI 35.

“It wasn't like I was some big strong guy that just happened to have some extra body fat—I was predominantly body fat at that point. And because I was working out, I guess in my own mind, I didn't want to see that I was fat.”

At 5’8” tall, JT’s waistline had expanded to 38 inches. This was around the time that cameras were becoming popular on phones, and JT recalls his reaction to seeing photos his wife took of him at the beach when he wasn’t wearing a shirt.

“I realized like, holy crap, yeah, I'm fat. That made me realize I had to address this, that I could no longer eat whatever I wanted, and then just exercise the bad diet away. That was my first experience with my exercise not being able to compensate for a poor diet.”

JT started reading about diets for weight loss, and the typical advice was to eat six meals a day, chicken, brown rice and broccoli, egg whites and oatmeal. He bought a bunch of Tupperware containers and started preparing six of those bland meals per day.

“I went from almost 220 down to about 195, but then it seemed like everything just came to a screeching halt. I was weighing my food, measuring my food, 2000 calories a day, you know, I was doing everything, right. But my metabolism had adjusted. And so no matter what I did, I was pretty much stuck. And that went on for months on end.”

And then a friend recommended he read the The Warrior Diet by Ori Hofmekler, which exposed him for the first time to a more ancestral approach to eating.

“It was a study of different warrior civilizations and cultures over throughout history. And although it didn't dig into the science a whole lot, it just intuitively made sense. The book noted that historically, hunter gatherers were societies were all lean, all healthy, and free of metabolic diseases. And they generally ate fewer meals spaced further apart.”

JT decided he was going to try this approach even though it went against everything everyone was saying at the time. He implemented a 20-hour fasting schedule and would eat one massive dinner each evening. He ended up getting incredibly lean in a matter of just six weeks or so.

“And so when that happened, it totally blew my mind that I did the exact opposite of what all the authorities at the time were recommending and I got far better results than when I was doing what the general recommendations were. And that made me really curious about why this seemed to work.”

JT continued to read about nutrition, and he learned about intermittent fasting, alternate day fasting, the ketogenic diet, and the paleo diet.

He experimented with the carnivore diet and found it extremely helpful in reducing and eliminating the symptoms of his gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), autoimmune issues, and a skin condition. He has since carefully added back some vegetables and berries to his diet, but he continues to enjoy the benefits of a low-carb way of eating.

His own success with strength training goes against the prevalent view that it’s difficult, if not impossible to perform well with very low carbohydrate intake.

JT maintains his high level of performance while taking in only about 50 grams of carbs per day. He targets 175 grams of protein per day and about 150 or so grams of fat per day.

When asked what book he would recommend to someone looking to learn about optimizing their nutrition, he immediately responded that Ted Naiman’s P:E Diet book, known for its protein-prioritizing approach to nutrition and sustainable weight loss, would be his top pick. “The P:E Diet covers everything from top to bottom in a way that an average person can read it and say, ‘Oh, I get it. This makes sense. I think it's probably the most accessible book that you could read knowing nothing, and walk away with a good working understanding of what's going on.”

Naiman’s P:E Diet led to his creation of the Protein:Energy (P:E) ratio and P:E Calculator. His diet recommends targeting foods with higher P:E ratios, which means they have greater levels of protein versus carbs and fats.

All 10 flavors of Simply Snackin’s beef and chicken snacks have a P:E ratio of 1,0 or higher, and are highly recommended by Naiman.

JT described Simply Snackin’s beef and chicken snacks as “delicious, high-protein, low-carb snacks that are perfect for adults and kids alike. My kids like every one of the 10 flavors.”

“I really appreciate the high quality of the product, and the fact that the beef is grass fed and grass finished. My daughter is a gymnast and she practices for hours at a time. We’re able to just throw a couple in her bag and she has a versatile, nutritious, high-protein snack when she needs it.”


JT’s daughter isn’t the only one in the family with an aptitude for gymnastics. Back in August, JT tweeted that he had just set a rope climbing record at the gym where his daughter was training. You’re not going to want to miss this insane display of strength.

For those who want to learn more about JT, he did a great interview in Episode 120 of the LowCaMD Podcast.

JT climbing the ropes

Subscribe to keep up to date