Body weight training has been around forever. In fact, long before the first barbell was invented, men were using their body and gravity to grow stronger, throw further and run faster. Over the centuries, bodyweight training has come and gone out of fashion. For decades it was known as calisthenics and pretty much shunned by ‘serious’ trainers.
Recently. however, bodyweight training has found a new lease of life. Thanks in part to viral internet videos of ripped dudes doing amazing things with their bodies in mid-air, many people are turning away from the sterile commercial gym scene and working out at home with nothing but the body they were born with.
What is Bodyweight Training?
Bodyweight training is exercise that does not require the assistance of any additional equipment such as barbells or dumbbells. It makes use of just two things:
· Your body
There are times when other equipment is used, such as when doing pull-ups or decline push- ups with your feet on a bench. However, these things are simply used to support your body, not to provide any resistance. (1)
When it comes to the majority of bodyweight exercises, increasing the number of repetitions will improve your endurance. To increase your strength and build muscle, you need to increase the intensity of the movement. This can be done by adjusting the leverage, exercising at the end of the range of motion and adding dynamic tension to the movement.
Bodyweight Workout Benefits
There are four pretty obvious benefits of bodyweight workouts over going the gym route to get fitter and stronger:
· Cost Savings – bodyweight training will cost you absolutely nothing. All you need is a patch of ground and your body. Many people place procrastination barriers in front of getting into an exercise program; they’ll start as soon as they can afford this or that. Bodyweight training cuts through all of that rubbish – you can do it immediately no matter how depleted your bank account is!
· Versatility – There are hundreds of variations of bodyweight exercises that can be done to work every muscle of the body as well as the cardiovascular system.
· Convenience – This is another excuse buster! You can perform bodyweight exercises anywhere, anytime. Just imagine how much time you’ll save not commuting to the gym!
· Efficiency – Many bodyweight workouts combine strength and cardio training into a seamless whole. This saves time while providing the ultimate in functional fitness.
There are other benefits to bodyweight training that are more training focused. Check them out here.
Even though you do not need any additional equipment to get started on a bodyweight training program, there are a few handy extras that will make your workouts more productive. Consider the following:
· Shoes – go for the minimalist style of training shoe that allows you to get an enhanced feel and connection to the floor.
· Timer – a timer or stopwatch will be useful for HIIT and cardio training programs. You’ve probably already got one on your phone.
· Pull Up Bar – look for a bar with multiple grip options and foam hand padding.
· Water bottle – sip from it during your workout
· Towel – to wipe off the sweat that you’ll be producing!
The Big Six Bodyweight Moves
There are six key bodyweight moves that form the foundation of many bodyweight programs. They are a great starting point for your entry into bodyweight workouts. Learning to do them correctly and performing them on alternate days is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and well-being.
Squats are much more than an effective quad builder. They work your entire body, including the core, which stabilizes the body.
Keep your chest up, your glutes back, and your feet flat on the floor. Your back should be slightly arched. Make sure that your shins are close to vertical and your knees line up with your toes. Stretch your arms out directly in front of you and squat down to just below parallel to the floor.
As well as working the quads, hamstrings, and glutes, lunges prepare your body for deceleration and change of direction. They are also an effective calorie burner.
Stand with your feet, ankles, knee, and hips in line with each other. Then step back, being sure to keep everything in line. Keep your chest up, and the shin and front of the legs almost vertical. Drop the rear knee down until it just touches the floor. Then push through the front thigh to return to the start position. Keep your hands on your hips throughout.
This old stand-by may well be the best compound muscle move that exists. As well as working the chest, shoulders, and triceps, there is also a great deal of core involvement. The thighs and hamstrings are even involved. (2)
Get down in the traditional push-up position. Make sure that your arms are between 20 and 40 degrees from your torso. This will reduce pressure on the shoulder joint. Keep your elbows above the wrists, tighten the core and flex your quads. Expand your pectorals by squeezing your shoulder blades together. From a straight arm position, lower directly down until your chest just kisses the floor. Pause and then explode back to the starting position.
The Burpee is a great metabolic booster. At the same time, it works nearly all the same muscles as you get from the push-up. That makes it extremely effective to hit both your cardio and strength goals in one move.
The four parts of the burpee are the squat, sprawl, push up and leap. Start in a full squat position with your palms on the ground. Rock your weight back onto your heels and lift your chest. Now kick your legs back into a sprawl plank position. You should now be at the top of a push-up position. Now complete a push-up and then move directly into a leap into the air.
The inverted row is the opposite of the push-up. It is the classic pulling motion. For this exercise, you will need to work with a horizontal bar that is at about the level of your hips.
Lie directly under the bar and reach up to grab it at shoulder level with an overhand grip. Stretch out your legs so that your body is in an inverted horizontal plank position. Now squeeze your shoulder blades together and bring the chest up to the bar. Pause and then lower.
You probably already know that pull-ups are great for building strength in the upper body. But they are also very good at decompressing the spine. (3)
Hang from a bar with your legs straight and your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Now, look up at the bar, keeping your shin up. Pull up and back to bring your chest up to the bar. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and engage the lats throughout the movement.
The 6 Basics Bodyweight Workout Plan
|Squat||3 x 15|
|Lunge||3 x 15|
|Push-Up||3 x 10-15|
|Burpees||3 x 12|
|Inverted Rows||3 x 12|
|Pull-Ups||3 x as many reps as possible (amrap)|
Bodyweight training allows you to use the body you’ve got to build the body you want. The basic 6 calisthenics workout plan that we have presented here is a great foundation program to get you started. Follow it for six weeks. By then you will have dramatically improved your strength, reduced body fat and built a foundation for a lean, muscular physique. And you’ll be ready for the more advanced workouts in Part 2 of our Bodyweight Training series – see you there!