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Bodyweight training: how you can train properly with your own body

July 27, 2021 5 min read
Bodyweight training: how you can train properly with your own body

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    For too long, bodyweight exercises have been relegated to the beginner leagues, as people fail to realise the potential or value this type of training can bring. Some say that they’re ‘too easy’ and you can’t build muscles or burn fat using bodyweight exercises, and others still reckon that the only way to get fit is by hitting the gym five times a week and lifting serious weights. But that’s just not true, and people are finally waking up to the benefits of a bodyweight workout. 

    Is bodyweight training effective? 

    Yes, is the short answer. Just like any other form of training, you get out what you put into it though. 

    Bodyweight training is so versatile, and one of the best things about it is that you can incorporate it into any form of workout. By combining bodyweight exercises with free weights and machine weight training, you can really drill down and target all the areas you’re looking to strengthen. The best way to make gains from bodyweight training is to be aware of a few key things:

    Decide which type of workout you’re doing. 

    With bodyweight training, you’ll want to first decide on the intensity of your workout. HIIT, Tabata and Interval are the most popular training methods, and the great thing is you can make any of these a mixture of bodyweight and free weight exercises. 

    Know the variations

    As you progress with your training, you’ll need to vary the exercises you do if you want to keep seeing results. This can be by upping the number of reps and shortening your rest time between them. But you can also intensify most bodyweight exercises by slightly modifying one aspect of the exercise. Eventually, you can also add free weights to really get the muscles working. For example, you can intensify a classic press-up by putting your feet on a box or coffee table. Likewise, you could make a press-up easier by putting your knees on the floor. Know your ability and build from there.

    Know which muscles you’re targeting

    As with any form of training, you need to know which muscles you’re targeting so you can know how to execute the exercises properly. With bodyweight training, you often recruit more stabilising muscles than machine weight training, so it’s important to factor this into your plan. You’ll also need to give your muscles a rest after working them, so aim to work similar groups of muscles on the same day (e.g. lower body/upper body split).

    Can you do bodyweight training every day? 

    Like with most forms of training, rest and recovery is just as important as the training session itself. The temptation with this training is to do it every day, as you may feel like you’re doing less than if you were training machine weights. This  is not the case. Make sure you leave some time for your muscles to recover after your sessions. That’s not to say, however, that you can’t train your lower body one day and your upper body the next – you just need to plan your training in advance. 

    What are the 5 best bodyweight exercises? 

    Press-ups

    How to: 

    • Set yourself into a high plank position with your weight on your hands and toes. Make sure your hands are underneath your shoulders and your body is straight. 
    • Engage your core and lower your body to just above the ground by bending at the elbows before pushing yourself back up in one, explosive motion. Make sure a straight line tracks from your head, all the way through your spine and glutes to your heels. 

    Variations: 

    • Increase intensity by having your feet higher than your hands in the set-up position. Play around with how slow you lower yourself to the ground to vary the time under tension. 
    • Make it less challenging by lowering your knees to the floor in the set-up position. Play around with keeping your feet crossed and elevated with your knees on the ground to vary the intensity.

    Squats

    How to:

    • Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Keeping your back straight, bend at the knees as if you were going to sit on a chair behind you, making sure you don’t lean your weight forward. 
    • Lower yourself as far as you can, then engage the glutes and push the ground away with your heels to push back up to standing. 

    Variations:

    • Make it more challenging by adding more explosive movements into the mix, jumping back up once you hit your lowest point, for example. You can also play around with walking forward or sideways in the low point of the squat.

    Crunches 

    How to: 

    • Start lying on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. 
    • Engage your core and crunch your abs to lift your shoulders off the floor. 

    Variations: 

    • Start with your arms extended above your head so your body forms a straight line, keeping your arms locked in this position, perform the crunch.  Play around with lifting your legs off the floor, but make sure your back doesn’t come off the floor and you keep your abs engaged.
    • To make it easier, place your hands under your lower back and extend one leg. Contract your abs and lift your shoulders off the ground. Pause here before lowering back to your starting position. Change legs on your next crunch.  

    Lunges 

    How to: 

    • Standing up straight, step forward with one foot until your knee is at a 90-degree angle. Your back knee should come to just off the ground. 
    • Pushing against the ground with your front foot, return to the starting position to start again. 

    Variations: 

    •  Make it more difficult by doing jump lunges, where you jump straight from one leg lunge to the other. You can also vary the time under tension by playing around with the speed you lower yourself into the lunge position. 

    Spider crawls

    How to: 

    • Set yourself up into a high plank position, as you would start a press-up. Raise one foot off the floor and bring it to your elbow. Pause here and then put your foot back in the starting position. Repeat on the other side. 

    Variations: 

    • Play around with the speed and how long you pause at the top of the crunch to get the most out of this one. You could also add a press-up into the mix to maximise your exercise time. 

    Now you’re ready to start your training. Keep it fresh and interesting by mixing up the exercises, and incorporating some weights into your workouts too. Find out more about strength and weight training by reading the latest features on the blog

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