What Is Bodyweight Training, and Is It Effective?

Predictions are in for wellness trends in 2024, and according to Mindbody, strength training is expected to surge! Bodyweight training is a form of strength training.

So, what exactly is bodyweight training, and is it effective? According to the Harvard School of Public Health, bodyweight training is beneficial because it’s convenient, functional and good for your overall health. Following is an explanation of this popular form of exercise, thoughts on how to maximize its effectiveness and examples of exercises you can do while at home, work, traveling or anywhere!

Bodyweight training allows you to use your own body’s weight to create resistance against gravity. You don’t need any fancy equipment, and you’re able to naturally build strength, which can help with performing everyday activities and tasks.

Bodyweight training is effective because you can increase your muscle mass, metabolism, caloric burn rate, bone density, stability and stamina, which can help prevent against heart disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and more. It’s also efficient, because you only need to do it two to three times per week to see a positive impact on your muscle fibers. You’ll be changing your entire body composition, as you build muscle and burn fat.

Here are different types of bodyweight exercises you can do to strengthen your upper body, lower body and core. Aim for three sets of 12 repetitions for each exercise.

Upper Body:
1. Push-Ups – this is a tried-and-true upper body exercise that works your chest, shoulders, back and core. You’re essentially pushing your entire body weight in consecutive ranges of motion. It’s important to be on the palms of your hands and the balls of your feet, while keeping your back straight and spine neutral in a high plank position. Keep your core tucked in and lower your chest to the floor, as you bend your elbows and then come back up into a high plank position. You can also modify by doing the push-up on your hands and knees.

2. Tricep Dips – this exercise effectively targets the back of your arms. Take a seated position on your mat and keep your feet shoulder-width apart. Place your hands and elbows facing straight behind you with your elbows in towards your body. Lift your bottom off the floor and lower it down and up while bending and straightening your elbows. Pull in your core as well.

3. Plank Taps – this challenging exercise will surely improve your upper body strength using your own body weight. Start in a high plank position, and using your core and upper body, lift each hand up one at a time and tap the opposite shoulder, while holding your plank. The key is to keep your core engaged and your hips facing down towards your mat, while maintaining your balance with only one hand down at a time. You can also modify this exercise by dropping down to your knees.

Lower Body:
1. Squats – this is a classic lower body exercise that works your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, inner and outer thighs. Bring your feet shoulder-width apart in a standing position, bend your knees and lower down and up in a squat position. Remember to keep your knees behind your toes and point your bottom back. Try to keep your knees soft and come down as far as you can without compromising your knees or alignment, and squeeze your glutes when you stand back up.

2. Lunges – this bodyweight exercise works your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calf muscles. Begin in a standing position and bring one leg back at a time. Drop your back knee towards the floor and keep your front knee behind your toes. Tuck in your core and squeeze your glutes as you lunge back, down and up. Then switch legs.

3. Leg Lifts – there are three variations of this exercise to work your outer thighs, inner thighs, glutes and hamstrings. You can lift one leg out to the side at a time to work the outer thighs, one leg up at a time with your toes turned out to work the inner thighs and one leg up and behind at a time to work the glutes and hamstrings. Make sure to tuck in your core, squeeze your glutes and lift from the hip for each variation.

1. Mountain Climbers – this exercise can comprehensively work your core, hitting your upper and lower abdominal muscles and your obliques, which are the sides of the abdominal wall. Start in a high plank position and bring one knee into your chest at a time. You can also bring one knee across to the opposite elbow at a time. Make sure to keep your core engaged, bottom down, back flat and spine neutral. You can add a bounce for higher intensity or take the bounce out for lower intensity.

2. Reverse Crunches – this bodyweight core exercise targets your lower abdominal muscles. Lay on your back with your hands at your side. While pulling in your core and flexing your feet, lift your bottom off the mat and your legs straight up. You can tap your feet back down on the ground with bent knees or extend your legs out in front of you before lifting back up.

3. Russian Twists – this core exercise targets your obliques, the sides of the abdominal wall. Sit back at a 45-degree angle with your knees bent and your feet together. Keep your hands clasped together and twist from side-to-side with your core engaged. You can keep your feet on the ground or lift them off the ground for a greater core challenge.

Bodyweight training has many health benefits and is an efficient, effective and convenient way to incorporate strength training into your fitness regimen, anytime and anywhere!


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