Before the advent of modern gyms offering a wide range of free weight and resistance training machines those who wanted to improve their strength and fitness did so using their own body-weight.
Body-weight exercises are strength training exercises that do not require free weights or machines as the individual’s own weight provides resistance against gravity. These types of exercises can enhance a range of bio motor abilities including strength, power, endurance, speed, coordination, flexibility and balance. They include both strength training exercises as well as cardiovascular exercises ranging from fast walking and jogging to jumping jacks and jumping rope.
Some of the toughest guys in the world such as military elite units and Special Forces, martial artists, wrestlers and boxers all train using body-weight training almost exclusively, and with a range of sports disciplines using body-weight resistance training as part of their fitness program, this type of strength training continues to grow in popularity for both recreational and professional athletes.
Body-weight exercise is an option that is freely available to everyone because the exercises are performed using the exerciser’s own body weight to provide resistance for the movement.
Body-weight training utilizes simple abilities such as pushing, pulling, squatting, bending, twisting and balancing and movements such as the push-up, the pull-up, and the sit-up or crunch are some of the most common body-weight exercises. Although these type of exercises do not require free weights, they are still strength-training exercises that provide benefits to the young and old alike, and the perfect solution for beginners who can start out at their own pace and work up adding additional resistance. Even those currently experiencing health challenges such as stroke patients or those recovering from cancer benefit from body-weight exercises.
Body-weight training is effective when used to strengthen core muscles (the mid-section-abdominal and lower back muscles) with the addition of speed or unstable surfaces (such as a stability ball). Extra wide pull-ups or push-ups that limit motion can also be utilized successfully as well.
The biggest disadvantage to body-weight exercise is that it can be difficult to achieve progression in strength levels (the basic premise of strengthening the human body) because the weight lifted is never greater than the weight of the participant lifting.
However, you can increase intensity by adding weights (wearing a weighted vest or holding a dumbbell, barbell, kettle-bell, sand bell or plate during a sit up). You can also increase the intensity by elevating the feet, hanging from straps to change leverage, using one limb and incorporating isometrics.
You can easily add variety and challenge to your workouts by increasing the repetitions you perform. You’ll add to total strength and endurance.
Although body-weight exercises do not provide maximum resistance, the body still receives the resistance required to strengthen the body structures in order to prevent and minimize any health risks.
Compared to more traditional strength training exercise, some body-weight exercises such as the ordinary push-ups or handstand push-up require more flexibility and balance when performing repetitions. If needed, they can be modified to decrease the intensity. For example, one might not be able to perform a single traditional push-up but can perform them with their knees on the ground.
Because they don’t require the use of outside machines or equipment. (Of course there are exceptions – doing pull-ups does require a hanging bar to lift yourself), for the most part, these exercises can be performed at home or wherever you have space.
Body-weight training is so effective, it remains a key component of some of the best muscle gain and fat loss workouts today, however, they are not a perfect fit for everyone. Let’s face it, we’re not clones of one another. Some people excel better in the gym where they have access to trainers and the buzz of other people around them adding to the social aspect, likely the biggest reason for the huge popularity of group training in gyms.
It’s not about copying what works for another, it’s about finding out what works for you, and making your exercise routine a regular part of life. That’s when positive results follow.
A couple of solid strength training workouts weekly is the best foundation of any personal fitness regime. Add to it any other exercise, recreational activity or workout that you enjoy to keep it fresh with lots of variety.
It’s also important to keep tabs on how you are progressing. You’ll want to make sure the workout you are currently doing is better than the last. It’s all about making progress. Checking how far you’ve come can also be an excellent motivational tool to use when you aren’t feeling so motivated.
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