5 Reasons Why You Should Take Up Bodyweight Training

by John Esposito
Simply put, bodyweight training is any kind of strength training where the only source of resistance is your own bodyweight. Pull-ups and push-ups are bodyweight training exercises. So are sit-ups and leg raises. Doing squats without a barbell or a pair of dumbbells is technically a bodyweight training exercise as well. All of these exercises fall under the category of calisthenics.

Progressive Resistance

How can bodyweight training make you stronger? Added strength is developed through Progressive Resistance Training, where you subject your muscles to gradually increasing workloads through your workouts. With enough rest and good nutrition, your body will build itself up to meet the increasing physical demands and thus, becomes stronger and stronger from workout to workout. Bodyweight training is one form of Progressive Resistance Training. Though you are working against the same body weight, there are various ways of positioning your body to create varying amounts of resistance. If you are a beginner and the standard military push is a little too much weight, keep both feet on the floor and start pushing up against a table. Work your way down until you are strong enough to do standard push-ups from the floor. When you do regular push-ups from the floor, you are already pushing against a resistance that’s equal to 50% of your body weight. When you are doing push-ups in a 45-degree position, you are pushing against a resistance equal to 25% of your body weight. When you progress from push-ups to performing dips, you would already be going against a resistance equivalent (100%) to your body weight. The more resistance you can push or pull against, the stronger you get.  

Total Body Workout

5 Reasons Why You Should Take Up Bodyweight TrainingCan it provide a full-body workout? Every bodyweight training exercise is by itself a total body workout. When we try to identify full-body movements, the first things that come to mind are compound barbell exercises like deadlifts, squats, pull-downs, and all kinds of presses. Is there another set of activities that will involve a more significant number of muscles? Bodyweight training versions of the exercises mentioned above involve more muscle groups. Let’s take pull-ups as an example. Your forearms keep your grip firm and curl your wrist. Your biceps bend your elbow. Your rear delts pull your chest out and forward. And your lats pull your elbows towards the side of your ribs which sends your upper torso upward, chin over the bar. While these primary muscles are contracting to perform the pull-up movement, the other muscles on your body are doing some work as well. \Your traps stabilize your shoulders. Your lower back, buttocks, and calves work together to keep your legs from swaying. And your abs and quads pull your legs slightly forward as you ascend to keep you balanced. There would have been zero leg participation if the same exercise movement had been done on a lat machine. All bodyweight exercises call on all muscles to contractions. So if you want to hit the most muscles in one go, bodyweight training should be your first consideration.  

Aerobic Fitness

5 Reasons Why You Should Take Up Bodyweight TrainingWhat about improving fitness levels and heart health? A bodyweight training routine can quickly develop into an aerobic activity that will provide fitness benefits. It’s easy to differentiate strength training from fitness training. Strength training is any activity that tires your muscles. Fitness training is any activity that makes your heart pump faster, ideally taking it up to 80% of your maximum heart rate. Bodyweight training can quickly get you there. Push-ups and pull-ups are no different from running and jogging. With the proper pace and duration, any kind of movement that requires you to move your entire body from point A to point B will raise your heart rate. Just as you get fitness benefits from jogging with the right speed and distance, you can also get the same from doing push-ups and pull-ups with the right cadence and rep range. That’s basically what they are doing in Crossfit.  

Aesthetic Physique

What physical changes can you expect from doing bodyweight training? Bodyweight training will develop every muscle in your body. However, most bodyweight training exercises like dips, pull-ups, and other advanced calisthenics are shoulder-heavy movements. So first and foremost, bodyweight training will build massive shoulders. Bodyweight training will also emphasize ab development. The abdominal muscles are kept contracted in all bodyweight exercises as they work in maintaining your balance. So aside from broad shoulders, you’ll be sporting a slim waistline as well. Wide shoulders with a small waistline accentuate the perfect male V-shaped physique. Gymnasts are the perfect examples of athletes who built themselves up using no more than their own body weight. So if you want to picture the kind of physique that bodyweight training can produce, just imagine the muscular development of a gymnast. Consider the physique of a gymnast who runs, jumps, vaults, suspends himself on the Still Rings, and maneuvers over the Parallel Bars.  

Progressing Challenges

What happens after a thousand push-ups and pull-ups? Where do you go from there? Those who choose to do barbell training will be confined to doing the same lifts repeatedly. They may add a new exercise from time to time. But in general, it will be the same squats, deadlifts, and presses with just a few more plates on the bar. Suppose you choose to start a strength training program via bodyweight training. In that case, you are opening yourself to a never-ending progression of challenging exercise movements that will get you stronger and stronger. While a start-up program might be just a lot of the ordinary push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups, you will progress to doing muscle-ups, flags, front levers, handstands, planches, and many more. There are actually many more things to do in calisthenics than in any other field of strength training. From calisthenics, you can even progress to gymnastics.

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