Bodyweight exercises are strength training exercises that don’t require much (or any) equipment. As the name suggests, your body weight provides the resistance needed to build muscle (and burn calories).
Exercises that rely on your body weight, such as pushups, pull ups, leg raises, extensions, sit-ups and crunches, to name a few, are ideal for people who want to be fit and strong but don’t have access to equipment.
Why Bodyweight Exercise is so Effective
Most bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups, can be progressed (planche push up) or regressed (wall push-ups). This progression/regression strategy means that people of all levels can participate, by changing the amount of leverage in an exercise, using an unstable platform or modifying the range of motion in an exercise- squatting lower, or higher depending on your level. You can also incorporate unilateral movements instead or bilateral movements, like doing a one-armed push-up, and adding isometric pauses during the exercise, like holding for a few seconds at the bottom of a push-up.
Bodyweight exercises have a much, much lower risk of injury compared to using free weights and machines due in part to the absence of an external load that is placing strain on the muscles that they may not be able to deal with, and as I mentioned before, you can much more easily adapt bodyweight exercises to your ability level.
Of course, this lower risk of injury is only if you are progressing slowly, and not skipping to strenuous movements that can place undue stress on ligaments, tendons and other soft tissues.
Although falls can occur, they are far less harmful than dropping a weight on a body part or overextending a joint.
Bodyweight exercises also have the advantage of having minimal bulking and cutting requirements that are often used in free weight and machines training. This is because bulking brings in extra fat that decreases the performance of bodyweight exercises, and many callisthenics athletes retain a low body fat percentage all year round. This means if you are on a low-calorie diet of some sort, or a low carb one, you don’t have to change diets, but merely consider the activity level.
Another bonus to bodyweight training is that most, if not all bodyweight exercise utilise multiple muscle groups, gets your heart rate pumping and burns tonnes of calories.
Bodyweight training burns more calories than interval training, and way, way more calories than steady cardio. When you strength train, you burn calories (duh!). After exercise, your body needs to spend hours and hours and hours afterwards repairing your muscles, which burns even more calories (this is the “afterburn effect”).
If you’re a busy person (you probably are!) why spend hours doing tedious exercise that takes much longer to be as effective, when you can be stronger, fitter, and have a better physique with less time?
Beginners Bodyweight workout
This is a basic bodyweight circuit from Steve at Nerd fitness, where you’ll do each exercise in sequence without a break in between (if you can). Once you’ve done all the exercises, do it again. If you can do it twice, do it. If you can do it three times, do it.
Because all these exercises come one after the other, you’re bound to get tired. That’s okay! If you can’t do three circuits without stopping remember we all start somewhere, and you have something to work towards.
It’s better to stop than to push through and do an exercise incorrectly, which might leave you with an injury.
Before you start, warm up. Never forget to warm up. You need to make sure to get your heart rate pumping and get your muscles warm, or you’re just begging for injury.
You can run in place (I do!), jump rope, do a few push-ups, jumping jacks or kicks and punches (imagine you’re Serena, or Ronda, or Holly if you want), jog up and down the stairs (watch out Rocky!). Give yourself about 5 minutes, and don’t wear yourself out- this is your warm up, not your workout!
After your all warmed up, and ready to go, here’s what you need to do:
Ten dumbbell rows
30 jumping jacks.
After you’ve done your workout, do some stretches. All your muscles have been contracted and need to stretch out and rebuild.
You’ll want to do this workout every other day, as it’s a full body workout, you’ll need to give your muscles time to recover so that they can rebuild properly. And to ensure you aren’t sore and doing exercises that will add to the soreness.
This bodyweight workout helped me drop four dress sizes- so far, without sticking to it very hard, and not eating particularly well… most of the time. I still have a long way to go, so I’m picking up my habits, and I’ll share my new routine with you soon, as well as my eating plan if you’re interested in that- and probably even if you aren’t!
But this workout is the first one I did. It’s the one that let me, and my enormous body know I could be strong if only I worked at it. I find weight training to be one of the few exercises that give me energy, rather than leaving me tapped.