By Niall Ebbs
ACE Personal Trainer, Health Coach, Weight Management Specialist
I’ve always been a big fan of body weight training, i.e. using only your own body weight as the resistance when performing muscular strength or endurance exercises. It’s quite easy to forget about its place amid the myriad of modern resistance training modalities out there, but body weight training forms the foundation of many conventional weight training exercises. For example, the push up is a close relative of the barbell bench press, the pull up is kin to the lat pulldown, and the body weight squat lays the path of progression to the barbell squat.
By mastering the body weight basics of the main push-pull movements, it creates a faster route to mastery of other forms of resistance training. As a coach I’ve found that when I start clients off with the basics of body weight training before advancing to working with dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, or other external resistance training, there is a much higher level of competency and greater level of success.
Even for seasoned exercisers, it’s still a useful tool to ensure that the same form and techniques that were learned prior are still being maintained as subsequently more difficult exercises are being introduced. Practicing good squatting form without weights, for example, is an excellent addition to a warm-up before moving on to using a loaded barbell.
If you’re not yet convinced about its benefits, allow me to list a few reasons for why I’m such an advocate for body weight training:
- Safe Training Tool: Body weight training allows the trainee to learn the basics of movement, with proper form, and without the same risk of injury that can arise from using an external form of resistance such as machine weights or free weights.
- Develops Functional Strength: The strength that is built up is truly functional in nature, i.e. it will provide a positive effect in your day-to-day activities. This enhances self-confidence in our capability to move around and perform daily tasks independently, especially as we approach old age.
- Promotes Muscular Coordination: Learning the basics of body weight training develops the muscular coordination required as you progress towards more difficult exercises.
- Endless Progressions: You are only limited by the scope of your imagination as far as exercise progressions go. By simply changing the angle or placement of limbs, for example, you can put a whole new spin on an exercise such as a push-up or squat.
- Inexpensive and Accessible: With pure body weight training there is little to no expense for getting started. You don’t need a gym membership or a to get started, just a suitable safe space to work out.
- Time Saver: Since you eliminate the need to travel to and from a gym, you save time and can fit your workouts around your own schedule, in the comfort of your own home. The same can be said for other forms of exercise performed at home, of course, but it’s certainly worth noting here.
- Flexible/Adaptable: Even if you prefer the gym environment over working out at home, you can still utilize body weight training to your advantage. For example, if you can only work at during busy times at the gym, you can use body weight exercises as a great filler for the times when equipment is being used or to keep the blood flowing if you’re working with a partner.
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