February 28th 2013
In my last article, Fitness Activities and Habits, I covered some of the ways to bring more fitness into your lifestyle. One of the things I’ve always focused on in any fitness and sport I get involved in, is to study, research, learn and visualize as much as I can with resources from friends, books, online, experts or wherever I can get it. I enjoy the learning aspects of developing new skills, movements, and abilities for my fitness activities and so this article jumps in on one of the those, fitness training using bodyweight training. Basically, bodyweight training involves using your own body as weight resistance for developing your strength, balance and flexibility.
No Equipment Necessary
I’ve used training equipment at the gym and had some of my own over the years and I always thought they limited the movements I could train for. Some machines and equipment certainly have an advantage to isolate muscles and make weight gains very simple to adjust, but they still need adjustments, maintenance and a lot of space or a facility to keep them in. That was something that I just never liked. Bodyweight training doesn’t require any equipment to get started and only a few simple things are needed to really expand your workouts. Your body is the main weight you need and this method uses different leverage angles and resistance with your own body to train. For example, pushups are a classic bodyweight training exercise and most people know of one or two types of pushups you can use for training. I know of 36 different pushup styles (no, I can’t do them all yet), that you don’t need any equipment for and they all work slightly different muscles and vary in difficulty from simple (which anyone can do) to extremely difficult (which could take years to get strong enough for).
The little equipment that does help in bodyweight training is quite inexpensive or you can build or use household items for many of them without spending a dime. The best equipment I’d consider for bodyweight training is and you certainly don’t need all of these are:
- Gymnastic rings
- Small barbell set
- Medicine ball
- Exercise ball
- Stretch bands
- Parallette bars
- Wobble board
Training on Your Terms
So, since the majority of the exercises can easily be done with no equipment at all, this method of training makes it possible to do anywhere and anytime. Your workout program can be easily be done while traveling, it can be done when you only have a short amount of time. Since you don’t need to drive to a gym or remember to bring your gear bag to change clothes and you don’t need to have a membership or pay any fees, the training becomes completely on your terms. You can train for 5 minutes or 2 hours, before work or in the middle of the night, with or without a buddy, once a week or every day, whenever and wherever you feel like it. This such a huge advantage over traditional training methods that most people use at a gym or fitness facility. As long as you are self motivated enough to actually get started for some training, the accessibility to training however you like, is an immediate advantage for bodyweight training.
The next area of bodyweight training that I have found to be a serious advantage is that the various muscle groups and exercises you will work on, start simple and get more complex as you get stronger. The exercises change and get more interesting as they get more difficult as well, which doesn’t happen as much with programs for pumping iron for example. You start with bicep curls and even as you get much stronger, you will likely still be doing bicep curls. I’m not saying that is bad, cause its not, I just find the variety is better with bodyweight training and the exercises are far more interesting to work towards and accomplish. The pushups for example that I mentioned above, start simple for beginners but to progress through 36 different pushups, you are going to work through many different muscle groups, body positions, balance techniques, postures, speeds and dynamic movements in order to get to the most difficult ones. This makes progressions interesting and an excellent challenge to help motivate you towards the next type of pushup.
A Balanced Workout
Balanced training is very important in an exercise program so that you don’t focus on one area of the body way more than another. This can lead to major muscle imbalances, injury and posture problems over a period of time so its important to work on a variety of muscles and not to do too much muscle isolation, which unfortunately is all too common with inexperienced or unknowing trainers. While bodyweight training has the same risks and concerns, its a lot less likely since bodyweight movements as you progress use more and more muscles of the body together for each movement, instead of isolating muscles as you progress to build strength. Core muscles and the lower back with hip and pelvic regions become crucial in many of the exercises so it leads to much more balanced workouts with muscle tone in whole areas, not specific muscles. Another huge advantage is that many bodyweight exercises not only develop more strength, but also bring challenging elements of balance and flexibility into the exercises, which help to balance the muscles used and develop higher levels of mobility and general body movement.
It’s Simply More Fun
Last but not least, I think bodyweight training is a lot more fun because of its simplicity and ease of getting started, and strangely appealing as you seek more complex progressions and master a series of movements. To me, this has always been more motivating and the fact that I can bring in balance work with a huge number of exercises, keeps me very excited about bodyweight training and I expect to be sticking to this method for many years. I hope its something you are interested in learning more about and will enjoy it as much as I have. In fact, I’ve built (well still building) a web application for browsers and mobiles to track and train bodyweight exercises, which I’ll share once I’ve got some beta testing completed.
In the meantime, would love to read your comments or questions and enjoy these couple links to some common bodyweight exercises: