If you’re looking for a way to keep your training varied and productive, incorporate bodyweight workouts into your program and achieve these benefits!
Bodyweight Exercises Can Be Done Anytime, Anywhere
I do some of my favorite workouts when I travel. That’s because the only equipment I need to bring are my Gymboss Interval Timer and athletic shoes. I survey my surroundings for a tentative route and identify obstacles to be used as “equipment” and off I go.
The first day of my vacations I will jog more than usual as I scout the area for playgrounds, hills, and long staircases, then the following days it’s go-time. I use retaining walls for box jumps, monkey bars for (assisted) pull-ups, bodyweight rows, and dips, hills for sprints, staircases for step-ups and climb sprints, and I can do allllll kinds of things with a park bench. Ahem.
In fact, in LA last month, I jogged 12 minutes, finishing at a park bench that had end table-like extensions, then did 20 intervals of 50/10 timing utilizing the bench for all kinds of awesomeness.
Bodyweight Workouts Promote Functional Fitness
Bodyweight exercises tend to be dynamic, compound movements, and you can do elaborate combination moves that might be less safe with weights. Take the burpee for example. This exercise provides cardio and strength work, while also challenging your flexibility and stability. To get similar benefits with weight training, you’d need to do several separate exercises – squats, jumps, planks, and push-ups for sure.
Will bodyweight squats help you squat with 300lbs on your back? No, they won’t. But they will help you develop strength, stability, and improved range of motion.
And, bodyweight exercises are fantastic for developing comprehensive physical fitness, as they increase and build balance, agility, flexibility, range of motion, strength, and most exciting, athleticism.
Hellz yeah, that sounds cool.
“Whatcha doin’ there?”
“Oh, just improving my athleticism.”
Bodyweight Exercise Provides both Cardio and Strength Training
You can get cardio and strength training by incorporating high-intensity dynamic bodyweight exercises into your workouts. Try kettlebell swings, burpees, high-knee jog-in-place, and bear crawls and tell me your heart isn’t pounding out of your chest while the lactic acid builds in your muscles.
The combination of weights and bodyweight training leads to the best overall development; they can compliment each other extremely well.
In my bodyweight workouts, I specifically program them – even on the fly! – to alternate strength exercises like tricep dips with cardio exercises like jumping jacks. To be sure I hit all body parts, I also think “Upper, Lower, Core, Cardio” and cycle through those.
When I’m improvising those workouts, I’m simply thinking of what exercise and body part I will hit next while I’m doing the current exercise!
Bodyweight Exercises and Progression
With weight training, progression is frequently measured by how much weight you lift. You begin with light weights for a high number of reps, and progress to heavier weights for fewer repetitions. But with bodyweight training, your progress is measured by number of sets and repetitions, how fast you do the exercises, increasing time (as in plank) while sometimes decreasing rest periods, progression of difficulty in variations, as well as range of motion.
In the case of push-ups, for example, you might begin with your hands placed on a table or countertop, and as you get stronger, progress to hands on a chair, then hands on a low bench, then to push-ups on knees on the floor, then standard push-ups, and finally to declined push-ups with feet elevated, inverted push-ups, and even handstand push-ups!
Bodyweight Workouts are Fun
Remember when you were a kid and it was fun to turn your surroundings into one giant obstacle course? Or throw pillows on the living room floor and play “hot lava?” We even turned regular sidewalks into hop scotch (“Step on a crack, break your mother’s back!”).
We farm kids got to swing on ropes in the barn, jump 100-yard rows of giant haybales, climb fences, and even scale rock walls in our farm’s stone quarry.
Another fun trick of mine – when my kids were younger, I’d boast that whatever they could do at a park or exploratory museum, I could do too. That got them tackling harder tricks, and whether I could keep up or not, we all had fun, we got in a good workout, and we had some good laughs as I tried to contort my less-flexible adult body in ways their lithe young bodies did with great ease.
I have photos of us atop jungle gyms, scampering over boulders, sliding down long railings at museums, and having kayak races at the lake.
Bottom line, these workouts are fun!
I can make short work of a playground these days.
The next time you’re in a workout rut, try turning your environment into an obstacle course!
I think you’ll have a blast and a kick-ass workout!
What are your favorite bodyweight exercises? Why?