Bodyweight training involves using your own body as resistance for a form of muscular or cardiovascular strengthening.
Many peoples’ only concept of bodyweight exercises is pushups, situps and jumping jacks. While these simple exercises are good there is, in reality, so much more available. Here is a list that gives you ideas broken into different categories of bodyweight training.
Pushups – Regular, Close or Tricep, Wide, One Arm, Hindu, Divebomber, One Leg, Handstand, Superman, on Fingertips or Fists and really hundreds more varieties.
Squats – Flat Footed, Hindu, One Leg, Lunges, Jumping and many more
Ab Training – Situps (Regular, Janda, Coffin and more), V-ups, Leg Raises, Grab Ankles Lift, Windshield Wipers, Rollouts and much more
Pullups – Regular, Chinnups, One Arm, Rows, L-Hang, on Ropes, on Towels and more
Bridging – Wrestlers and Gymnastic varieties
Conditioning – Running, Sprints, Jump Rope, Burpees
This is a short list that gives you ideas on what variety there is in bodyweight training. It doesn’t even include exercises that aren’t easily categorized such as the dynamic tension exercises made popular by Charles Atlas or muscle control, both of which only use the body.
Advantages of Bodyweight Training
It requires no, or minimal, equipment. Jumping rope requires a rope. Doing pullups requires something to hang from. Handstand pushups require a wall unless you can balance in the open. Even with those considerations, its much easier than using a barbell and whole pile of weights.
They are progressive for just about every level. That’s one problem. Many people, mistakenly, believe that bodyweight exercises are only for high reps. But the truth is the leverage and difficulty of any exercise can be manipulated to give even the strongest person a challenge. And that’s not to say there can’t be a good reason to do much higher reps. For an idea of how high to go read about my Combat Conditioning training.
A beginner can start off with bodyweight pushups and squats and get tremendous benefits from doing so. For someone stronger they can move onto harder varieties like one arm or handstand pushups and one leg squats. The book, Convict Conditioning isdevoted to high levels of strength with bodyweight exercises.
Just look at gymnasts. No one disagrees about how strong these individuals are. To do press handstands, crazy swings on the bars, levers and iron crosses (all bodyweight exercises) it takes incredible strength.
As bodyweight training only uses the body it may be less stressful on the body then some other forms of training. Barbells can get you strong, but for some, in certain exercises, they may do more damage then what they’re worth. Not saying bodyweight training can’t do the same, but it does offer another method.
Drawbacks of Bodyweight Training
One drawback to bodyweight training is that it lacks any sort of lower body pulling movement. Some people say bodyweight training is the only way to go, that it’s the only natural method. Well, picking something off the ground seems pretty natural to me and there is no way to mimic that with bodyweight exercises. So be sure to add some swings or deadlifts in there.
Also there is a lot more variety for the upper body then for the lower body. While one legged squats and sprints are great, you may want to add some heavier work into the mix.
Who Should Do Bodyweight Training?
Bodyweight training is a great place to start for everyone. I believe that someone should have decent enough movement and strength with their own body, before adding other tools into the mix.
That being said every advanced trainee should use bodyweight exercises as well. You’ll never completely master your body. Yet those that work towards that goal can do amazing things. I think that most athletic people out there do some form of bodyweight training. To be a complete athlete I think it is a must.
Many people also find that weightlifting seems to be beating their body up more then it use to and thus switch over to predominately bodyweight exercises.
To leave you with something fun here is a video of several advanced bodyweight training exercises. At the time of the video these were my bests, but of course with progressive training the goal is to surpass them all.
For more info on how I attained this bodyweight strength I recommend checking out my Advanced Bodyweight Training Course.
Also be sure to read all the archive posts on the blog about bodyweight training. There’s a whole lot there.