Bodyweight Workouts: The New Trend in Fitness
When you think of strength training, it’s usually the bench press or some overpriced, oversized contraption that comes to mind. But with bodyweight training, all you need is a functioning body and a decent exercise floor. But does it really work? Read on to find out.
If you’ve been faithfully hitting the gym but have yet to lose an inch, chances are you need more strength training. The point of working out is to build muscle, and if all you’ve been doing is running on the treadmill, you’re entirely missing the point. Strength training—the use of weights or resistance to work individual muscle groups—is what does the actual fat-burning.
Traditionally, weights such as dumbbells and bench presses were the standard tools for strength training. Needless to say, it’s not very encouraging: you’d have to sign up to a gym or get your own machine, which is expensive either way. But here’s the good news—you don’t need to all that iron to work your muscles. In fact, you can work a fair bit of strength training into your routine without spending a penny.
Bodyweight training, or the use of one’s own weight to provide resistance, is based on some very basic exercises. Squats, pushups, and pull-ups are the core movements in using your body weight. If you can do these basic moves, then you’ll have no problem picking up bodyweight training.
Of course, like any other exercise, bodyweight has its pros and cons. It’s simple all right, but is it effective? Here are some of the pros and cons.
Pro: You can do it anywhere.
Because your body is your machine, you can do bodyweight training anywhere. You can use a mat for comfort or a pair of dumbbells for resistance, but in most cases all you need is a floor. There’s no need to scout for gyms when you’re out of town, which makes it perfect for people on the go.
Con: It’s not for everyone.
With free weights, you can always move up a couple of pounds if you want a more intense workout. But with bodyweight training, you can only go as far as your own body weight. That means a person with low muscle mass may not get the same benefits as one who’s solidly built to begin with. If your own weight won’t do, you can use a dumbbell or resistance band to provide the extra tension.
Pro: It’s versatile.
Bodyweight isn’t just for strength training. With the right modifications, you can turn the core movements into a calisthenics drill, endurance training, and even a total body workout. If you know all the drills, you can have all the benefits of a home gym without buying a single machine!
Con: You have to improvise.
To get the most out of bodyweight training, you have to put a spin on the basic moves to target the right muscle groups. Sometimes you simply need more reps to up the intensity, other times you’ll have to use a new position altogether. It takes a while to get the hang of it. If you don’t know what you’re doing, the whole workout can end up being pointless.
Pro: It’s safe.
A lot of workout injuries result from the misuse of heavy equipment. Come to think of it, the bench press—with its heavy iron bar and huge metal discs—is an accident waiting to happen. Bodyweight workouts give you the same kind of exercise, minus the risk. Beginners are often advised to start with simple pushups and pull-ups before trying out the bench.
Con: You can only get so far.
Strength training should be progressive. If you’re getting used to the usual 6-lb lift, it’s time to move up and increase your tension. But with bodyweight, there’s a limit to how far you can go, because your body weight provides the resistance. You can build a fair bit of muscle on bodyweight alone, but if you’re planning to compete, free weights might be a better choice.
Pro: It works overtime.
Bodyweight training doesn’t just build your muscles—it also keeps your metabolism going. That means you keep burning calories long after your workout, and even while you sleep. And as you keep building muscle, your metabolic rate increases, so your workouts become more effective over time.