Getting in shape doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. It can be quite simple and free.
Bodyweight training can be very effective for gaining strength, improving flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness.
And without a doubt, it is the most convenient type of strength training you can do to get in great physical shape at home or away.
If you are skeptical, ask any gymnast.
Their fit, lean, and strong bodies are in large part made by bodyweight training and their clever use of gravity.
Granted, you may not want to become a gymnast or train vigorously like one, but you can still reap the benefits of calisthenics to get in your top shape.
So, without further ado, here are 8 reasons why you could benefit from "bodyweight training".
1. Beginner-friendly workouts
Bodyweight training provides a way to train yourself at the intensity that's right for your needs and improvements of overall health and fitness.
So, it's beginner friendly.
Since the exercises are done with bodyweight only, they can easily be modified to challenge you at your current fitness level.
Adding extra sets, reps, taking shorter breaks or performing the exercises faster or super slow- all are just a few ways to make the simplest workout a more challenging one.
And each added modification can lead to an obvious progression in your strength and physical fitness.
2. Endless exercise options
There are literally hundreds of bodyweight exercises to choose from.
Here are our top 50!
From Bodyweight squats and lunges for the lower body, pull-ups, pushups, and dips for the upper-body to crunches and planks for the abs.
Your options are just endless.
And as you gain more strength and stamina, you can mix and match some of these exercises to create a full-body circuit workout to make your workout more efficient and save time.
3: Cardio and strength training
One of the best benefits of bodyweight training lies in its ability to improve both your cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength all at once.
While going from one exercise to another with minimal rest in between will keep the heart rate elevated, using the weight from your own body helps strengthens your muscles and improves your fitness level.
For example you can add 30 seconds of jumping jack between every set of squats.
Choose 3 to 4 aerobic based bodyweight cardio exercises such as burpees, jumping jack, high knees or jumping rope and combine them with strength and muscle building moves like pushups, squats and lunges.
You'll get an effective workout that improves both your cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength (1).
4. Burn more fat
Bodyweight exercises to burn fat—Since there’s no exercise equipment, transitioning from one move to the next takes very little time, if any.
This also means, bodyweight training can essentially become interval training, by alternating bursts of intense exercise such as burpees, jumping jack with a low intensity activity such as push-ups, lunges or plank.
And with less rest, your heat rate maintains its elevation between exercises.
For calorie and fat burn, it's important and a real difference maker since harder you work your body, the more oxygen they require.
This equates to more calories and fat burn over a longer duration of time—up to 48 hours or days after your workout.
5. Build core strength
On contrary to the popular belief, core is not just abs. It is a group of muscles, extending far beyond your abs, including your lower back, arms and legs.
And it is involved in almost every movement you do.
With bodyweight workouts, your body is fully involved in supporting the movement.
Take a plank or push-up exercise for example, your entire base of support is limited to your hands (or elbows) and feet.
This puts everything from your back, chest, glutes is engaged to maintain the proper body alignment and support the movement.
Bodyweight training won’t just make your abs tighter, but it'll improve your posture, relieve back stress, and improve your overall body strength.
6. Improve flexibility
Bodyweight training is more instrumental in building strength and flexibility than most think. Completing bodyweight exercises through full range ensures your joint are moving freely.
Not only this can lead to improvement in your exercise performance, it might reduce risk for exercise-related injury (2).
Yoga for example is a great form of bodyweight training that incorporates both flexibility and strength building.
You can see great improvements in both by practicing yoga.
If you ask anyone why they don’t exercise, chances are, it's either no time or no access to gym.
Bodyweight workouts combat both and eliminate these common obstacles.
Since there’s no equipment needed for bodyweight exercises, all you need is a little space to move around. It’s also super easy to squeeze a quick workout wherever you are—the bedroom, living room or even an outdoor area.
Without those time and equipment constraints, keeping a consistent workout schedule is much easier and getting in shape more achievable.
8. Good for any fitness level
Since bodyweight exercises can be easily modified to challenge anyone—it’s great for both beginners and gym rats. They’re perfect for almost any fitness level.
You can easily make an exercise harder by adding more reps, sets, and decreasing your base of support, or ease the challenge by decreasing the intensity and adding more base of support.
For example, you can make a bodyweight squat harder by performing it on one leg.
Another classic exercise, push-up can be made harder by elevating your feet (putting feet on a bench) or easier by elevating the upper body by putting your hands on a bench.
With bodyweight training, it's all about working with gravity, so options are practically endless.
Now that we know bodyweight training can be as effective as other forms of strength training. So, how do you start working out with your bodyweight?
How to start exercising with your bodyweight
There are countless bodyweight exercises to choose from, but I think these are the top 21 basics you need to get started.
Top 21 Bodyweight exercises for every muscle group.
- Prone cobra
Abs & Core
- Mountain climbers
- Bicycle crunches
- Jumping jacks
- Jump rope
- High knees
You can mix and match the exercises above to create a full-body circuit routine. Here's an example of total body workout below.
Bodyweight Circuit Routine
- 20 Jumping Jacks
- 15 squats
- 10 Push Ups
- 10 Lunges / per side
- 15 Bicycle Crunch
- 30-45 Seconds Plank Hold
Repeat the sequence 2-3 times, and remember to warm-up before workout and stretch at the end.
Advanced Bodyweight Workout Routine
- 60 Seconds of Jump Rope
- 20 Bulgarian Split Squats (10 / side) (Medicine ball optional)
- 10 Push Ups
- 20 Step-Ups (10 / side)
- 12 Inverted Rows
- 60 Second Side Plank Hold
Repeat the sequence 3- 4 times, or continue repeating till you run out of time, and remember to stretch at the end.
While you can benefit from all types of exercises—weight training, running, swimming etc, bodyweight training offers convenience, use and versatility.
They can easily be modified to fit any fitness level and performed anywhere, anytime, making them the best go-to exercises for home and travel.