Many of us feel lost without our gyms right now. No heavy weights to push around, no heavybags to hit or treadmills to run on. It makes a tough time even tougher when you feel cut off from the things that you’re used to. But a lot of us overlook a very simple – and effective – means of training – bodyweight exercises.
Many ‘hard core’ gym goers may laugh at the idea of using nothing more than their own bodies and gravity to try to accomplish a workout, but a lot of the greats used body weight exercise in addition to weight training to achieve their massive sizes – even Arnold Schwarzenegger, a 7 time Mr. Olympia bodybuilder worked bodyweight exercises into his fitness routines. In fact, he relied on a “no-gym” workout as a young bodybuilder. So to lament that you just “can’t get a good workout” during the COVID quarantine is simply not true!
However, in addition to a great workout option, there are numerous other benefits to a bodyweight training routine than just getting bigger muscles. Let’s take a look at a few!
1. Effectiveness. Without the need to move from machine to machine and changing weights constantly, a full, challenging bodyweight routine consisting of push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, squats, crunches etc. can be performed without investing hours and hours each week in a gym. Additionally, many bodyweight exercises are compound movements that recruit multiple muscles and muscle groups to perform the given exercise, shortening the amount of time needed to get a full body workout.
2. Increased Balance and Flexibility. Many bodyweight routines (eg. yoga) engage more of your body, and are made more difficult by the use of physics to place greater strain on a muscle. Because of this, you gain a greater sense of kinesthesia (general sense of the body and it’s movement) which leads to increased balance. Furthermore, the use of bodyweight workouts tends to gently stretch the limbs and core, leading to increased flexibility when compared to working with machines.
3. The Ability to Combine Cardio and Strength Training. Bodyweight exercises can be performed at your own pace, so it’s easy to increase the cardio benefits by decreasing the time between sets, or by adding in more cardio based exercises (eg. burpees) either in, or between sets. Don’t believe me? Try a set of 20 modified burpees that include a pushup at the bottom of the sprawl and a jump knee tuck at the top – my guess is your heart is pumping pretty hard after that set!
4. Workouts Stay More Interesting. Because of the ease of mixing up your workouts, or modifying movements to make them easier, harder or more cardio intense, it’s easier to work a lot of variety into your workouts! Also, it’s not that difficult to generate gimmicks to keep things interesting, like letting dice or cards decide what your workouts look like!
5. Challenging for Everyone! No matter your level of fitness, bodyweight workouts are accessible and possible. A new person may not feel comfortable trying to go to a gym and learn all of the equipment, how to properly use it and how to properly schedule a workout program to ensure that they’re targeting all of their muscle groups, but still allowing for enough recovery time. Not the case with bodyweight workouts, it’s much easier to see how your body moves, and target a workout program that uses a certain part of the body, saving another part for the next day or performing full body routines with a ‘one day on, one day off’ pattern.
6. Faster Fat Burning. Short quick bouts of resistance training have been shown to burn fat more effectively than longer cardiovascular sessions, and since the focus of bodyweight training isn’t to “bulk up”, there is a much greater propensity to see faster fat loss from a bodyweight program than either cardiovascular conditioning or bodybuilding.
7. More Effective Core Strength Builder. Many bodyweight exercises rely on keeping a strong core to hold the body in proper alignment (think planks or pushups for example) as a result, the core is often called in to stabilize the rest of the body in exercises that are not specifically targeting it. Therefore, a bodyweight routine naturally forces the core to perform more work. A strong core can lead to better posture, tighter abs, less lower back pain and a host of other benefits to the body.
8. Modification is Easy. Because it’s just your body and the floor, there are many ways to make movements easier – or harder! So if you’re new to working out or suffering from an injury, you can do push-ups – for example – on your knees, or against a wall until you feel comfortable adhering to stricter form on the floor. If you’re looking to make your workouts harder, you can add weight to your body, or change the angle of your movements to make things harder – elevating your feet during a push-up for example. There are a LOT of options!
9. It’s Free and Can Be Performed Almost Anywhere. Because there isn’t any special equipment involved, you can perform a solid bodyweight routine anywhere, whether traveling, on vacation, or at home. Furthermore, there is no expense of a gym or trainer involved in a bodyweight workout, so it’s ideal for students or people who may not have a lot of money. So there’s really no excuse to avoid starting a bodyweight routine!
OK, so maybe some of those aren’t benefits per se, but the point is the same, there are many positive reasons to start a bodyweight routine TODAY, and very few valid reasons not to. In fact, I’ll remove one excuse right now – not sure what to do? Check some of these out:
COACH Magazine’s Body Weight Workouts
Nerd Fitness – 20 Minute Beginner Body Weight Workout
Nerd Fitness – Advanced Body Weight Workout
Muscle and Strength – 9 Week Body Weight Workout For Strength & Muscle Gains
Men’s Health – Build Serious Muscle with These Body Weight Exercises and Workouts That Can Be Done Anywhere
There you go – 5 solid options to get you through quarantine lockdown, and beyond! Add something positive to this unique experience that we’re all having to suffer through. Instead of coming out of this ‘fluffier’ why not come out of it ready to hit the beach or pool and show off your new body!
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