13 Benefits of Bodyweight Training


Whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or expert in the field of fitness, bodyweight training can be a great way to build strength, become more flexible, increase endurance, and improve overall cardiovascular health.

The best part?

It doesn’t require a penny of an investment! No gym or equipment needed, just you and your body!

In what follows, we’ll be discussing the vast benefits of bodyweight training and everything in between.

Benefits of Bodyweight Training

So, we’ve established that bodyweight training for any level of expertise and ability is sufficient, even highly beneficial…But what are the benefits?!

Say no more! Let’s get into it…

  1. It’s FREE and convenient, duh!
  2. It has a low barrier-to-entry
  3. It’s highly efficient
  4. It can build lean muscle
  5. It can burn stubborn fat
  6. It’ll improve endurance
  7. It will increase flexibility
  8. It will better your balance
  9. You can perform compound movements
  10. It’s functional!
  11. It’s all-encompassing (strength x cardio)
  12. It’s extremely SAFE!
  13. Bodyweight training is still a CHALLENGE!

Shall we elaborate?!

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It’s FREE and Convenient

As mentioned in the preface of this article, there is no gym or equipment needed, just you and your body! For reasons that don’t need any more explanation, bodyweight training is unarguably the most convenient method of training, and it’s free…

Need I say more?!

Low Barrier-to-Entry

Bodyweight exercises can be performed by anyone, anywhere, at anytime, with little to no experience or expertise level. Because this type of training simply utilizes your bodyweight for resistance, anyone of any stature can partake, whether a complete beginner, or peak athlete.

Of course, things may need adjusting depending upon your ability, however, that is why the barrier-to-entry is so low!

As mentioned in a previous article, bodyweight exercises are almost primal in their nature. A baby squats to pick up a toy; a teen runs, jumps, and throws during play with their friends; an elder whom may have just fallen performs a variation of a pushup or burpee to get up off the ground.

Bodyweight training is in our nature. Whether you’re an obese beginner, or a shredded expert, bodyweight training is for you…

It’s Highly Efficient

Not only is bodyweight training extremely convenient, but it is an extremely efficient method of exercise, as well.

Incorporate three 20-minute workouts per week, and the yielded results will be noticeable. Simply combine your chosen exercises into a circuit, perform them in a HIIT style of training, and you’ve got yourself a quick and efficient training program.

*HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training

Build Lean Muscle

Contrary to popular belief, bodyweight training can build a respectable amount of lean muscle. By using your bodyweight as resistance, you’re involving your muscles to lift your body. This is no different than using your muscles to lift an external weight like a dumbbell or kettlebell.


Sure, it’s an added difficulty level when adding excess weight to an exercise, however by no means is it necessary to build strength and gain muscle.

Burn stubborn fat

A proper, effective bodyweight training regimen can burn an impressive amount of calories. As recommended earlier, by incorporating your chosen bodyweight exercises into a HIIT circuit, your body will, in turn, burn calories, boost metabolism, and in turn, burn fat.

Thanks to a biological process known as EPOC, your body enters a metabolic state post exercise in which extreme fat burning/calorie burning benefits occur. These benefits can last anywhere from 14-48 hours after you’ve completed the intense workout.

Improve Endurance

It’s sad that many believe that bodyweight exercises can’t build strength, OR improve cardio. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

By incorporating a bodyweight training regimen into a high intensity circuit, you in essence train you cardiovascular system. Sorry for sounding like a broken record, but this point can’t be emphasized enough!

When we partake in any type of physical exercise that puts our heart and lungs to work, we improve our cardiovascular system and, by proxy, improve our endurance.


Increase Flexibility

Bodyweight training is different than weight-training in that it requires a lot of flexibility and balance. While weight-training is fantastic for strengthening your bones and building real muscle, it typically focus on isolated, on joint exercises.

Bodyweight training, on the other hand, requires a certain level of range of motion and flexibility. By continuously engaging your body in bodyweight exercises, you ultimately become more flexible along the way!


Better Your Balance

Depending upon the level of bodyweight training that you’ve reached, it can drastically improve your balance. Exercises that test your balance include things like: side planks, 1-legged squats, pushups, and any core exercise as well!

Core strength is in large part the predecessor to balance, and bodyweight requires a lot of core strength. The result? Better balance.

Performing Compound Movements

Compound movements are movements that require multi-joint motion that requires more than one muscle group to work. In other words, exercises that don’t just isolate one muscle and typically involve putting two exercises into one. Let’s clear this up by providing some examples.

  • Air squat
  • Lunge
  • Push up
  • Pull up
  • Burpee
  • Step Ups

All of these movements and more are examples of compound exercises that target more than one muscle group at a time. These are extremely efficient and effective and are typically the exercises involved in a bodyweight training circuit.

Bodyweight Training is Functional

What is “functional” ?

In this context, functional means that the exercise has a strong carry over into daily life. In other words, it mimics daily life. Let’s give you some examples:

  • Squat
  • Burpee
  • Run or Walk
  • Lunge
  • Push-up
  • Pull-up

As you can probably tell, functional movements and compound movements have a lot of crossover.

Incorporate Strength and Cardio Simultaneously

This benefit goes back to the endurance and lean muscle argument…

When we combine strength movements with cardio movements, we get a circuit! This is the most common way to execute a bodyweight training program. With the utilization of a high intensity interval circuit, or HIIT, we are able to reap the benefits of building strength, and improving our cardio simultaneously.


What more can you ask for in an exercise program?!

It’s SAFE

When we take away all the noise, avoid all the excess equipment and accessories, and focus on just our bodyweight, we reach peak safety.

It’s safer on our joints, it puts less strain on our nervous system, we avoid using too much added weight, and we have no equipment that can harm us.

Bodyweight training is just as effective as it is safe, which is why it should be the driving force of your training regimen, whether you’re a beginner or an expert.

It’s a CHALLENGE

Don’t listen to those that say bodyweight training isn’t challenging enough. This statement is laughable!

If you ever get a chance, a fun experiment is to put someone who has this thought process through a HIIT bodyweight training session. As an added insult, tell them that it’s less than 20 minutes of exercise.

When you combine the fact that you’ll only be using bodyweight, and that the training session will be less than 20 minutes, they’ll think you’re crazy! But I promise, after those 20 minutes are complete, they’ll be humbled quickly.

Bodyweight exercises, just like any type of exercise, is challenging only by the level of intensity you give it. If done properly, bodyweight circuits can be some of the most deadly.

So, can I train everyday?

Of course you can!

Should you?… Of course not.

I bet I got you excited for a second…Look, training is a game of longevity, it’s not a short-term fix. No matter what type of training you partake in, bodyweight or not, your body needs its rest. In fact, rest is probably the single most important factor to getting the results that you so desperately want.

While bodyweight training is the single safest training methodology out there, it doesn’t mean that it has no risk. The risk comes when you don’t take rest. Joints will begin to stiffen, muscles will begin to become more fragile, and the potential for injury will begin to increase.

The best general recommendation I can give is to take 1-3 days off per week, with one of those days being an active recovery day. There’s no need to become completely sedentary on your rest days. It’s just important to give your body the rest it needs from the levels of intensity and output that you give during the workouts itself.

The benefits of training everyday may show in the short-term, however, you need to understand that the long-term consequences are masked. Be smart, prioritize recovery, and the results will come faster than you know.

Is bodyweight training enough?

We’ve established the vast benefits of bodyweight training. It’s safe, effective, efficient, and can produce results that many other training methodologies can provide. They’re a fantastic way to build strength, burn fat, improve cardio, among other things. Additionally, bodyweight training is the perfect introduction for beginners, those on a budget, or with a busy schedule.

Frankly, bodyweight training is great for everyone.

However, it needs to be understood that it’s always more beneficial to incorporate external forces into your training from time-to-time. Anything from resistance bands, to dumbbells and kettlebells would be a fantastic start.

By simply adding an accessory to a bodyweight movement, you drastically improve results. The harder it is, the better it is for you, right?!

The main point that needs to be emphasized is variation. Bodyweight exercises are amazing. But so are weight-barring exercises, and gymnastics movements, and CrossFit movements. It’s important to incorporate all that you can, whilst always remembering the core fundamentals of bodyweight training.

Be smart, and always ensure that you’re performing a movement correctly before adding any weight or accessory to that movement.

How to Incorporate Weights into Your Training Regimen

If you’ve mastered the art of bodyweight training and you’re ready for the next step, continue reading!

As we’ve just discussed, bodyweight training is a fantastic, safe, and effective training regimen, however, having the ability to incorporate weights and accessories to your bodyweight exercises will only improve your results. 

The following are some exercises that you can begin to incorporate with the addition of a weight or accessory:

  • Kettlebell Swing
  • Thruster (otherwise known as a squat-and-press)
  • Deadlifts
  • Barbell Squat
  • Farmers Carry
  • Dumbbell Curl-to-Press
  • Weighted Pull-Up
  • Resisted Push-up (with a band)
  • Banded side-to-side shuffle
  • Bicep Curl
  • Tricep Extension
  • Leg Press
  • Shoulder Press

Incorporating weights to your training regimen doesn’t mean that you should forget about the benefits of bodyweight movements. As mentioned earlier, it’s all about variety and versatility. The more options that you have in your arsenal, the less bored you’ll be and the more results you’ll reap.

Keep it fresh, Keep improving, and soon enough, you’ll be able to look in the mirror and experience the transformation you’ve been so long working towards!

Conclusion

There is no arguing the benefits of bodyweight training.

However, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to just that! There is no “one-size-fits-all” training methodology. The key is to continue learning so that you can become a versatile athlete that is prepared for anything life throws at you!

Sources

ACE Fitness: EPOC

ACE Fitness: HIIT

Mens Health: Bodyweight Training & Lean Muscle

Healthline: Compound Movements

NIFS: Importance of Recovery

NCBI: High Intensity Bodyweight Training

Heath Barrow

Heath is a certified personal trainer, an ordained minister, and most importantly, a father. He loves reading and learning new things...and enjoys it when he's able to pass that along to others!  ~"A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed." (Proverbs 11:25, NIV)

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