Body-Weight Training: A Good Place to Start
While it is nice to work out on expensive machines and carry around fancy dumbbells and weights, it is definitely not a necessity for making strength gains, especially for those just starting out with a strength training program. Machines and weights are usually set up to use only one joint at a time as resistance is moved away from and toward the body with freely moveable limbs. These are called open-chain exercises and tend to be directed at muscles rather than movement.
Bodyweight exercises are exercises that do not require free weights. The person’s own body weight provides the resistance for the movement. Body-Weight exercises are considered closed-chain exercises. This means that multiple joints are being used as the resistance is moved away from or toward an anchored body part. These closed-chain exercises are considered to be more functional because they cause more synchronization of muscles, better strength and performance, and more kinesthetic awareness.
With body-weight exercises, increasing reps works on endurance, while strength gains come from decreasing the leverage and working to maximize range of motion. The main limitations that are placed on body-weight training are how much more an exercise can be altered to increase the difficulty.
Benefits of Strength Training Without Weights:
• Portable: Body-weight exercises can be done anytime, anywhere. No gym membership needed, no fancy equipment, you can do them when you’re on the road, you can do them at home, whatever you want.
• Progression/Regression: Body-weight training is nice because exercises can be progressed or regressed depending on individual needs. This progression/regression strategy allows people of nearly all fitness levels to engage in strength training. NO excuses. An example of this is doing a modified push-up as a regressive measure, or doing a handstand push-up as a way of progressing and making an exercise more difficult.
• Inexpensive: Body-weight training can literally cost nothing. Some people like to acquire pull-up bars, stability balls, etc., but it is by no means a necessity.
Tips to Remember When Engaging in Body-Weight Training:
• It is very important to perform all exercises slowly and under control. This will help prevent injuries while giving you the best possible results.
• Take each exercise through a full range of motion. That is where the difference will come into play with how your body looks. Take a look at squatting for example. According to Brad Shoenfeld, CSCS, to optimize development of the gluteus maximus, squats should be carried out through their full range of motion. So in other words, if you don’t squat deep enough, it’s not doing you much good. The saggy butt and saddlebags will still be there next year no matter how many shallow squats you perform.
Possible Exercises to Include in a Body-Weight Workout:
Arms: pull-ups, push-ups (normal, close-set, wide-set, staggered), tricep dips, diamond pushups
Trunk: plank, crunch, side plank, superman, back extension, reverse crunch, twisting crunch, dorsal raise.
Legs: lunges, squats, wall sits, single leg mini squat, single leg raise, calf raise, calf raise with bent knee, toe raises, hip adduction and abduction, bridge, heel drops.
Wrapping It Up:
Strength training should be a key component of our fitness program. It can help us rebuild muscle that is lost as we age, as well as boosting our stamina, controlling body-weight, developing strong bones, and reducing the risk of injury, just to name a few. Body-weight training is a great place to start as we can make it as easy or hard as we want while working toward these amazing health benefits and a better body.
Body Weight Exercise. Retrieved on November 13, 2011 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodyweight_exercise
Body-Weight Exercises. Retrieved on November 12, 2011 from http://www.teachpe.com/strengthening/body_weight.php
Karp, Jason, PhD. Body-Weight Training Program. Retrieved on November 13, 2011 from http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/body-weight-training-program
Shoenfeld, Brad, CSCS. (February 2, 2010).The Biomechanics of Squat Depth. NCSA Hot Topic Series. Retrieved on Nov. 13, 2011 from http://www.nsca-lift.org/HotTopic/download/Squat%20Depth.pdf
Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier. Retrieved on November 13, 2011 from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/strength-training/HQ01710