Recently, the fitness world has gone crazy over a type of training that has existed for a very long time; you may have heard of Bodyweight Training. Bodyweight Training has become popular again because it’s a cheap and fast way to exercise, but most importantly, because it is so effective at sculpting your body into a strong, beautiful, form.
Bodyweight Training is exactly what it sounds like- it is a type of training that uses the natural force of gravity to create resistance against your own body and its movements. Classic examples are; pull-ups, push-ups, planks, squats, calf raises, lunges, dips, handstands, abdominal curl-ups, and crunches. You may have recently seen these exercises on youtube, known as “thug workouts” using dip bars, basketball poles, chin up bars and other playground equipment (here’s one example http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xw4jh-7yo28). These exercises can be done with varying degrees of difficulty, so beginners can find a level to push themselves without being overwhelmed and experienced athletes can continually challenge their bodies.
Since gravity always pulls straight down, you can manipulate the amount of body weight applied to the exercise by changing the direction of applied body force. The greatest resistance is experienced when you put your body in a position where the vertical force you create is directly opposite the force of gravity. For example, a handstand push-up creates the greatest resistance against gravity because your entire body weight is pushing straight down toward the ground as you try to push your body upward into a handstand push-up. Few people are ready to jump straight into handstand push-ups, so luckily there are ways to lessen the resistance felt in Bodyweight Training.
You can reduce the feeling of gravity by increasing what is known as the “horizontal component”. This simply means that instead of doing a traditional military push-up, you could do your push-up off of a weight bench; by placing your chest and arms on the weight bench, you reduce the involvement of trunk stabilizer muscles and reduce the vertical resistance on your upper body. The more you increase the horizontal component on push-up exercises, the easier those exercises become.
There are a lot of advantages to this type of training beside the obvious of not having to pay an expensive gym membership to be able to work out. One advantage of Bodyweight Training is that these exercises enhance the efficiency by which your body moves its own mass- this allows your body to become more efficient in everyday movements, and everyday tasks. This can be very helpful for older age groups, and at risk overweight individuals, because many people in these groups experience decreased balance and range of motion. This training is also helpful for beginner exercisers, because these body movements aid in motor learning and neuromuscular patterning (also known as ‘muscle memory’). Performing squats or similar exercises allow you to learn and perfect body movement and technique before adding weight. If a proper lifting technique is not perfected, injury can easily result from the imperfect movements and poor body mechanics. Beginners can use Bodyweight Training to focus on perfecting body movements and performance without fear of damaging stabilizers or prime movers of the body.
Like any other form of exercise, there are some disadvantages to Bodyweight Training. The most important lesson for any exerciser is to learn to maintain proper form and correct body position to avoid injury. Though you are not working with external machines while Bodyweight Training, your body is still performing heavy resistance and occasionally, complex movements that can just as easily lead to injury as incorrect movement with a weight machine. A disadvantage for experienced exercisers is that, with Bodyweight Training, you are always moving the same amount of weight- your body. If you have mastered your own body weight in a series of training exercises, you can always add weight, such as a weight vest or sand bags.
With Bodyweight Training, you can perform many intense exercises in just a few minutes, with little or no equipment, and in any space (even in your hallway). You can control the intensity of the exercise and the complexity of that exercise, without altering the gains you receive from performing the movements. You will not only see the benefits of this type of training in your mirror, but feel the power you can create in your own body with a few simple movements. Gymnasts and athletes have used this type of training for years to sculpt their bodies into lean, powerhouses, and you can do the same.
Information gathered from Advanced Concepts of Personal Training by Brian D. Biagioli