Lately I’ve been writing about the importance of the basics and how essential bodyweight training is. This underrated form of exercise doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Today I will address the top 10 benefits in my opinion and why I think that bodyweight training is vital for your goals and success in fitness.
1) REDUCED RISK OF INJURY DURING WORKOUTS.
While it is true that every exercise has a risk vs. reward factor, bodyweight training tends to be VERY safe compared to a lot of weightlifting exercises. Some of the reasons are:
• You can move more freely as opposed to being locked in a machine or under a barbell.
• It’s a more natural range of motion.
• There isn’t any load so you won’t have to worry about spinal compression and other stressors.
• No equipment will fall on you because you are the equipment.
2) MORE MUSCLE RECRUITMENT BURNS MORE FAT.
I know what you are thinking, more muscle recruitment? Don’t we already get enough recruitment from weights? Yes, you do, but not always. Let’s look at the bench press VS the ring push-up:
BENCH PRESS: Chest, front deltoid, triceps
VS RING PUSH-UP: Chest, front deltoid, triceps, + serratus muscle, Abs, hips and gluteus (to help stabilize for a proper push-up so that the hips don’t start to sag).
I’m not saying that the bench is a bad exercise, it’s a great strength and mass builder if done correctly, but the pushup involves more muscles – it’s just a matter of loading the push-up with harder variations, but that’s another article altogether.
The point I’m trying to make is that bodyweight exercises activate your whole body in every lift, there is no isolation in bodyweight training. Every bodyweight exercise is like a full body movement. This leads to great muscle activation and over time it’ll lead to amazing gains.
With so many muscles being activated during an exercise, you can imagine how much fat is being burned. This is good for everybody because fat doesn’t do much for you.
3) ANYTIME, ANYWHERE AND IT’S CHEAP.
How many times per week would you do a military press? Maybe once per week? With bodyweight training, a similar exercise to the military press would be a handstand pushup; you can do it anytime and anywhere. This isn’t to say that military presses are bad, I use them myself, but those people with no gym membership who are really pressed for time might be more interested in this style of training. If you can’t make it to the gym and you want to do 1-arm dumbbell presses or Bulgarian split squats, you could use your bodyweight and do 1-arm pushups and pistol squats. Believe me, these are tough exercises. Don’t ever think that just because you don’t have weights that you can’t get a good workout in. Not to forget that it won’t cost you any money. So nobody should ever have an excuse because your body is the weight, that’s why they call it body-weight.
Even the Russian Daredevils could make time for pull-up’s…
4) BODYWEIGHT EXERCISES HELP YOU MOVE BETTER
Take a look at how stiff some bodybuilders and weightlifters are, some of them can’t even touch their toes or scratch their own backs. Do you want to be like this? I hope not. Bodyweight exercises help you move more smoothly. You’ll notice that with a lot of bodyweight exercises in your program you will start to feel:
• LESS STIFF
• MORE FLEXIBLE
5) LESS SORENESS.
The sorer you are, the harder it’ll be to train, and you want to come to the gym feeling fresh. Bodyweight training doesn’t get you as sore. This means that you’ll be able to train more frequently than with weights. This could lead to more progress and more work being done over time. You can’t make consistent progress if you never feel 100%. Not to say that anything is wrong with being sore, but you will have a better work capacity in everyday life if you aren’t always sore. Don’t get me wrong, bodyweight training will still get you sore – I did pull-ups, inverted rows, levers and other bodyweight moves last night and my lats and core are sore, but you won’t get as sore as with the weights.
6) LESS PSYCHING UP.
Do you ever get scared to do a certain lift like a squat, deadlift or military press? Well I’m not telling you to avoid these exercises because you have to face your fears, but with bodyweight training, you don’t need to psych yourself up like crazy, so it’s less intimating – you just do it without even thinking about it.
7) EASIER TO PUSH YOURSELF.
It’s definitely easier to push yourself to the limits when doing bodyweight exercises because if the exercise is way too difficult, then you could easily stop the set without having to worry about putting any weight down or anything. If you are doing a bench press you have to worry about racking the weight while getting the weight back up safely. If you are doing a 1-arm push-up and you can’t go up another inch, you can easily put your other hand on the floor and stop the set. It’s a lot easier to stop the set during bodyweight exercises.
The trick is not to get too comfortable and still do variations that challenge you. Bodyweight training isn’t a vacation from the weights; it should be just as hard as if you are doing it properly.
8) FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH FOR THE REAL WORLD.
There are rarely any days where we are on machines or pushing weight up our chest like you are in a bench press. There isn’t a day that goes by where you don’t move. Bodyweight training teaches you how to move better. It gets you flexible, gives you coordination, stability, strength, mental focus and other interesting feats. I like to call it RAW MOVEMENT. So, if you have bad lifting mechanics and can’t even move properly with your own body, then you are setting yourself up for an injury. Learn to move properly with your own bodyweight before adding extra weight.
9) IT WORKS.
Now bodyweight training has all of these benefits, but the question is; does it work for building muscle and strength? Yes, it does. In recent articles I’ve talked about athletes like Hershel Walker, Olympic gymnasts, Barstarz and other calisthenics-influenced individuals. These people have phenomenal bodies and will put most athletes to shame. The only thing that matters at the end of the day is results, and bodyweight training will provide that as long as you keep progressing.
10) VARIETY IS GOOD; IT KEEPS YOU HEALTHY AND FROM BEING BORED.
Weight training is fun, but eventually it does get tiring and draining. This doesn’t happen with bodyweight training; it teaches you to love your body and the way you move. You have to experience it for yourself. It builds chemistry with yourself and it gives you confidence, too. It has definitely had a serious impact on my life.
These are only a few of the benefits of bodyweight training, there are probably thousands of other benefits, but this was just my list squished into 10 categories. Don’t underestimate the importance of this type of training. For the past few weeks I put the iron down and have been following a bodyweight program that I have made myself and I feel better than ever; my aches and pains are gone and I haven’t lost an inch of size or strength. In fact, I’m gaining size and strength. It’s just a different kind of strength. Try it out for yourself and you won’t be disappointed. As long as you push yourself and keep progressing, you’ll be fine.