No field has more fads, crazes and trends than the fitness industry. You might try a new type of training, and immediately the "next best thing" is already the buzz on talk shows and in big fitness centers. Yet despite the constant evolution of training, one thing has always remained constant—bodyweight exercises are one of the most effective ways to get strong and fit. (Try the Bedroom Bodyweight Workout.)
Bodyweight exercises essentially describe themselves. You perform an exercise using your own body weight as the sole source of resistance. Other types of training certainly have merit, but bodyweight exercises cannot be beat based on their simplicity and safety.
Bodyweight training is more forgiving on the joints, especially once basic technique is learned. Your daily life and sports can take a serious toll on your joints, so you want to limit stress during workouts. Bodyweight training prevents you from doing a movement that your body isn't ready to do. For example, it makes no sense to perform a Bench Press if you can't do a Push-Up.
No gear is required for bodyweight exercises—although a physioball, med ball or TRX straps can increase the challenge. Your workout can be performed in a variety of locations, including your house or a local park.
Bodyweight movements are generally functional, meaning the exercises require the body to move as it would normally, and not specific to an exercise. This is especially important for athletes, since sports require them to move in all directions, as opposed to linear—and often unnatural—movements demanded by machines or free weights. Range of motion will improve, as will muscle control and coordination. (Try this heavy bag workout.)
Bodyweight exercises are multi-jointed, forcing muscle groups to work together to complete a movement. Training in isolation has its place; however, the focus of your workouts should be "complete" exercises, because they offer the greatest results in the shortest amount of time. Also, bodyweight exercises, like Push-Ups, build core strength by forcing the core to stabilize your spine throughout each movement. (Learn more about the benefits of bodyweight exercises.)
Most types of training are progressive, meaning the difficulty can be increased or decreased, which is often achieved by simply adding more weight. Although it may not seem like it, it's possible to dramatically increase the difficulty of a bodyweight exercise. For example, you can lift up one leg during a Push-Up or perform a Single-Leg Squat.
Starting With Bodyweight Exercises
Since bodyweight exercises are beneficial for both fitness-minded individuals and competitive athletes, you need to find a way to incorporate them into your program. Here are a few guidelines to help you on your way.
- Start slowly and listen to your body.
- Start with two days of bodyweight training per week.
- Fast-twitch muscle fibers tend to have the greatest potential for growth. If size is your goal, stick to four to 10 max effort reps per set.
- If you need an additional challenge, increase the number of reps or time, number of sets, or perform an advanced variation.
- If you need further challenge, add resistance to bodyweight exercises with a weight vest.
In the video below, you will find a basic bodyweight workout that can serve as an introduction to this essential form of training.
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