We all know I’m a well established gadget freak. Toys, tech, gadgets, machines.. you name it I generally can’t wait to play with it.
The other day I overheard a conversation in the park along the topic of the cost of staying fit, eating healthy, going to gym classes or having a personal trainer. The phrase jumped out at me “You are your Own Gym.” And it was something I reflected over on the way home. The girl in the park was right – you don’t need to spend a fortune of gym memberships or equipment to get a great, versatile workout. You essentially use your own body to create resistance to burn fat, build muscle and tone.
And there are a whole lot of other benefits.
Bodyweight training uses nothing but your own body and can provide even more benefits than using weights. Some benefits of bodyweight training (other than the obvious that it can be done anywhere and uses no equipment) include:
- Improves joint function – Joint function is important to your overall health – especially as you age. Bodyweight training is an excellent anti-aging technique for keeping your joints lubricated and functioning properly.
- Tones muscles – You don’t need a gym or fancy equipment to get your muscles toned and fit. Bodyweight training can get the job done just as well.
- Ultimate convenience – For most of us, life gets so busy that we have to kick our fitness plans and goals to the back burner at times. Bodyweight training means that you don’t have to sacrifice your time in favor of going to the gym.
- Core strength – Many of the bodyweight training exercises are excellent to improve the core and abs.
- You won’t be bored – Bodyweight training is versatile, so you won’t be bored by repeating an exercise or class over and over again. Many treadmill users complain of boredom if every day involves walking or running and no other type of exercise.
- Improves posture – Using your own body to perform various parts of exercises improves your posture by making you more aware of your body – how you’re standing, sitting and reaching.
If you think about it, the beleif you need a gym membership or expensive equipment to work out is a marketing myth! Working out with your own body weight can be just as beneficial and give you the results you are after.
Starting Body Weight Training
You can begin lightly and perform just a few sets of each exercise, but gradually try to push yourself to add another set periodically. One reason bodyweight exercises should be incorporated into your workout routine is that they use such a variety of muscle groups.
You’ll immediately begin to notice that you have more core strength and athletes will notice better performance. Bodyweight training is so convenient, too. How many times have you been all keen to get to the gym after work and by the time the end of the day comes, you really don’t want to head out again – or the weather is horrid, or you really ca’t be bothered to do you hair (that is a TOTALLY valid excuse for a girl – I swear)
Bodyweight training incorporates your own body to give you the workout routine you need for overall health and fitness. Using absolutely nothing except your body, you can perform exercises that will tone and build muscle for your entire body or target specific areas of the body.
If you’ve been a couch potato for a while – or if bodyweight training is new to you – there are some exercises that you’ll want to try and some that are best left for more advanced exercise buffs.
Some easy, but effective bodyweight exercises that you may want to try include the following:
Jumping Jacks – Such a simple routine that can get your cardio pumping is what bodyweight training is all about. You’ve likely performed this exercise many times – especially in school.
Perform 10 to 30 repetitions, depending on how fit you are. Get some rhythm going with music and this or any exercise will be much more fun.
Planks – This exercise isn’t easy for beginners, but you should keep trying to perfect it because it’s a powerful way to build muscle.
Simply lie down on your right side, keep your legs straight and raise yourself with your right forearm – keeping your body in a straight line from your head to feet and knees and hips off the floor.
Squats – You’ll be building muscle and strengthening your legs with this one – and, it also improves knee and hip mobility. It might help to hold a pillow in a “hug” to give you some balance.
Keeping your back straight, bend your knees and squat as far down as comfortable. Repeat about 5 to 10 times if you’re a beginner.
Lunges – Be sure to tense your core muscles on this one. Besides building muscles, lunges will improve your balance and help your posture.
Keeping straight, shoulders back, chin up and relaxed, stare at a point in front of you. Then, step one leg forward and lower hips until your knees are at a ninety degree angle. Repeat 5 to 10 times and gradually add more to your regimen.
Push-Ups – The lower back, torso and posture are all benefited by the bodyweight exercise of push-ups. You can build ups the triceps, chest and shoulders.
There are many forms of push-up exercises, the most popular being those with hands and feet in elevated positions. Others include push-up plus and Hindu push-ups.
Sit-Ups – Very effective for your core muscles, sit-ups are easy and there are many variations you can try. You can lie on the floor and place your feet beneath something (or have a partner hold them down).
Lock your hands together behind your head and then slowly elevate your upper torso to a V-shape. Vary the sit-ups by performing the repetitions more rapidly to increase cardio strength or add more repetitions when you can.
Bear Crawl – On your hands and knees, rise up on your toes with your core flexed and then reach forward slowly with your right arm and knee – then perform the same movement on your left side.
Plyometric Push-Ups – This bodyweight exercise will fill your lungs with oxygen. On a padded surface, perform a push-up, then in one rapid motion, push up off the floor and back down again to the beginning stance. Repeat as many times as you can.
Advanced Body Weight Exercises
Some effective bodyweight exercises for more advanced exercisers include:
- Enhanced push-ups – Rather than the obvious push-up exercise, do a one arm or a hand stand push-up.
- Roll Outs – You’ll be forced to flex your abs during this advanced bodyweight training exercise. It looks like a plank, but you’ll be resisting extension while your torso is stiff and the upper body is moving out.
- Russian Twist – If you want to target your core muscles with bodyweight training exercises, this is a great one. You’ll need something to hold with both hands – such as a book or ball. Hips on the floor and knees bent about 90 degrees, keep your back straight and rapidly twist your torso as far as possible to the left and then reverse and twist to the right.
- Frog Squat – More difficult than a squat, the frog squat begins with a wide stance, feet more than shoulder width apart and feet slightly turned out. With the chest up, drop to a squat position and making sure your hands touch the floor. Jump upward quickly, land and immediately jump up again.
- Long Jump – In a standing position with feet about hip-width apart, squat and put your arms back. Now, spring forward – both feet together. Land on the balls of your feet – knees bent. Immediately perform the jump again.
You get the idea. By modifying the easier bodyweight exercises, you can get a much more intensive workout. You can also accomplish this by simply adding more repetitions.
Targeting Specific Areas
Lower body – If you want to improve your leg strength or get a more sculpted, fit look for your legs, try some bodyweight exercises specifically designed for the lower body.
For example, rev up your squats and lunges for super strong legs. Athletes who depend on their legs for performance practice these muscle building exercises to get the most out of a workout.
Not only will your legs improve, but your posterior becomes firmer and more sculpted. That pair of skinny jeans will look awesome on your new and improved body.
Upper body – One of the main wishes of people beginning bodyweight training is to develop awesome abs. If you want to target your abs, the exercises that engage them are sit-ups, push-ups and any variations of the two.
Planks are also a great way to build core muscle and strength and also build the arm muscle and strength. When you’re working out by using your bodyweight, all of the exercises can engage your core and upper body.
Keep Moving Your Body
Everyone has his or her own favorite way to exercise. It might involve a combination of exercises – such as combining cycling with a Zumba dance class. No matter what your exercise preference is, you’ll benefit from the body movements involved in bodyweight training.
In a world where time is precious and money can be an obstacle to better health, this is one fitness trend that might dominate for years to come. There are no excuses when it comes to bodyweight training. Everything is on your side – whether you’re rich or poor, male or female, in perfect health or out of shape.
Of course, remember that it’s always best to mix up your routines. Don’t do the same thing over and over each day. Add variety to your regimen so that every muscle gets a workout and you don’t stay stagnant with your results.
No other exercises can match the dynamics you get from bodyweight training. Why not try it out for yourself. Don’t be afraid to push your body to its limits.