Benefits of Bodyweight Training
If you’ve ever seen a toddler squat down to pick up something and stand up again, invariably what you’ll see is a perfect squat motion. Somehow over the years as we get older, we lose that natural body movement and it becomes awkward and cumbersome. Next thing you know, you’re in the gym and your mate takes you over to the squat rack. If you’re lucky, he just puts the 20kg barbell on your shoulders and tells you to squat. If he’s a bad person or just inconsiderate, he’ll probably chuck a weight or two on there as well. Then your bum pokes back too far, or your shoulders are rounded and forward, or your feet too close together, or your knees roll inwards, or any number of things that can and do go wrong. That’s when injuries big and small occur, and you walk away from your exercise experience pained and swearing off working out ever again!
The biggest benefit of bodyweight training is that you can perform them safely without additional load. Everything is contained within the parameters of your body type and size, and you don’t have the loads that can put extra pressure on the joints or spine. A good personal trainer can set you up safely, and explain how the leverage of the body length can add extra challenge to the exercise.
The classic example of this is the push up. The higher up the torso is off the ground, the less weight needs to be pushed by the chest and arms. For someone who is overweight or never attempted a push up before, you would start with a wall push up. Set them up with the feet a little back from the wall, and place the arms out slightly wider than shoulder width with palms flat and fingers spread wide, and nice even pressure on the wall. Then “screw” the shoulders into the wall so that the inside of the elbows face towards their head. Take a deep breath in and lower the chest to the wall, elbows should travel on an angle down towards the ribs rather than straight outwards. Keep the breath in the core, squeeze everything tight and “push” the wall away and finish with a sharp exhalation.
As their body becomes used to the motion and they get stronger, just substitute “wall” for bench or floor, and you have a perfect push up set up!
It never gets easier either! Progression when it comes to a bench press in a gym would be to add more weight. Typical push up progression would look something like this
Once your strength and coordination has improved to this point, then you can start with the fun stuff!
Progression comes once you’ve mastered the body mechanics and can perform a complex movement safely and confidently. This can be easier to achieve with bodyweight rather than with additional load to move.
Just a fancy fitness term for any exercise that involves more than one set of joint movements to move the force, be it weights or the body. Bicep curls would be a good example of a simple movement exercise, where only the elbow joint moves to lift the weight. The most efficient way of working out and achieve full body strength and endurance is to incorporate big compound movements. In the gym, the big ones are bench press, deadlift, squats and overhead press. Examples of great compound body weight exercises are push ups and pull ups (shoulders and elbows), squats and lunges (knees and hips). In addition, bodyweight training can be done safely whilst moving in various planes which engages the stabilising muscles of the hips and core, and gives a great full body workout. Of course you can still perform similar exercises with weights, but that generally requires more experience to control the additional load safely.
This can be a buzzword that loses its meaning after a while, but it just means an exercise or movement pattern that can be utilised in the real world. It could be the goblet squat, where you hold a kettle bell or dumbbell to your chest while squatting, which looks like a mother picking up her baby and standing up. Or everyone’s favourite exercise, the burpee, can be directly translated to someone pushing themselves off the floor and standing up! Because bodyweight training relies on your own body, it’s more realistic than carrying additional load. For the general person on the street the goal isn’t to squat 100kg, but to have the flexibility, mobility and strength to perform day to day activities with confidence and freedom.
Muscle tone, not size
Depending on your fitness goals, bodyweight training may be better suited for you. I often get the feedback that women especially fear weight training because they “don’t want to get too big”. It could be a whole blog article on its own, but the components for Hypertrophy or muscle growth are quite hard to line up – testosterone, protein intake, stress levels, rest and sleep, training frequency and training weight.
What bodyweight training does is provide muscle tone for both females and males. Personally I don’t have the goal of looking jacked, as a martial artist I prefer the strong and lean look like a Jet Li or Donnie Yen, which can be achieved through dynamic and explosive bodyweight exercises.
No need for equipment
Didn’t feel like there was a need to spell it out, but it costs nothing to use your own bodyweight to train!
As you can see, bodyweight training has numerous benefits and can be utilised to supplement your usual gym workouts, easy to do at home, or if you prefer working out at the beach or park, all you need is some flat ground and a bench to really challenge yourself.
Velocity Fitness offers bodyweight training as part of its 1 on 1 Personal Training and Group Circuit classes. Book in a consult now to see if it fits with your fitness goals, or a FREE first trial group session. https://velocityfitness.com.au/classes/timetable/