Body Weight Training: Beginner's Guide
On the journey to getting more fit, the benefits of an at-home, bodyweight workout should not be overlooked. Besides being incredibly convenient, and versatile enough to be done at any time in any place, bodyweight workouts are excellent for fitness newbies that don’t have a lot of experience.
For starters, let’s define bodyweight exercises as any strength training exercise that does not require the use of free weights or machines. In a bodyweight exercise, your own weight provides the resistance for the motion, via gravity. Generally speaking, bodyweight exercises can be used to enhance strength, power, endurance, speed, flexibility, coordination and balance. Bodyweight training, like traditional weight training works by utilizing simple abilities such as pushing, pulling, squatting, bending, twisting and balancing.
There are many reasons for utilizing bodyweight exercises. For starters, they can literally be performed safely (once you learn form!) virtually any clear spot with floor space. There is no special equipment required, which makes these ideal for at-home workouts. Most bodyweight exercises also engage multiple muscle groups, making them great for all-in-one workouts.
Rather than suggest any specific workout regimen here, let’s instead just go through a few of the most common bodyweight exercises, categorized by the muscle groups worked in each.
Squat (Hips, Legs, Core) - In a traditional squat, your feet are very slightly turned out and planted firmly on the ground, about shoulder-width apart. With your spine extended, head facing forward, and arms placed either straight in front of you (for balance) or bent at your sides, sit back and down with your hips until your quads are parallel to the ground, then come back up to the starting position. That is one rep. In the squat, proper form is everything, and mastery of the bodyweight squat is the gateway to all kinds of advanced squatting moves.
Lunges (Quads, Glutes) - Another amazing move to work the lower half of your body, lunges can be performed in a multitude of variations, to their desired effect. In a traditional lunge, your upper body is straight, with shoulders back and chin up. With your hands on your hips, step forward on one leg, lowering your body into your hips until both legs form 90 degree angles (knees over toes). Pushing up through your heels, step back up into the starting position.
Push-Up (Arms,Chest) - One of the fundamental body movements, the standard push-up will not only work your chest and arms, but also engage your core, as it is performed in planking position. To execute, begin on the floor in planking position, with your legs, spine, and arms as straight as possible . Keeping your hands under but slightly outside of your shoulders, lower your body - bending at the elbows - until your chest nearly touches the floor. Push up through the heels of your hand back into starting plank position to complete one rep.
Pull-Up (Arms, Back) - One of the quintessential moves for a strong back, the pull up will not only work all of the muscles in your back, but also your biceps, triceps, shoulders, and core. The pull-up does require some equipment, in the form of a bar at least 12 inches higher than your own height to hang from. You start in the hanging position with arms grasping a parallel bar - palms forward - just a bit outside of shoulder width. Keeping your spine erect and your head facing forward, slowly pull yourself up until your chin reaches the height of the bar. Slowly lower yourself back down to starting position to complete the rep.
Burpees (Legs, Arms, Chest) - the burpee requires full mastery of form as you perform many different body weight exercises in one rep, often at an explosive pace. The basic burpee, as I’ve been taught involves a squat, thrusting back into full plank, performing a push-up in plank position, and then reversing back up to the tucked and then starting position. For even more of a challenge, perform the tuck to squat as an explosive jump before you do it all over again. Burpees are slightly advanced, and will set your heart racing, for sure.
Speaking of explosive movements, when discussing bodyweight exercises we can’t discount plyometrics as a surefire way to build up both power and endurance, all while torching some serious calories. A plyometric exercise is one in which muscles exert maximal force in minimal time. For example, a front box jump will work all the muscles in your legs, as you squat down and then explosively jump up onto a box/bench/step. The higher the box, the more explosive the motion needs to be to get you up there. Other popular plyometric moves include pop squats, switch lunges, high-knees, and jumping jacks. All are a discussion for another day.
While your own bodyweight may be a limiting factor with these types of exercises, note that altering the angle, changing duration of the rep (as with time-under-tension), adding explosive motions within reps and sets and increasing the volume of reps/sets can dramatically change the difficulty of the exercise - meaning that you can always work up.
Get on the fit train, with bodyweight workouts.