Traditionally, bodyweight exercises were seen to be only for beginners; now as we learn more
about the science behind athletic performance and aesthetics, it is clear that this style of training caters for everyone from beginners through to intermediate and advanced trainers.
BENEFITS OF BODYWEIGHT TRAINING
No gym necessary! First, the exercises can be done without the cost of a gym membership, as virtually no equipment is needed. Take away the financial aspect altogether and think about the beginners who dread to simply step foot in a gym in the first place. Bodyweight training is a great option if it simply means those people start a training routine and do so in an environment where they feel more comfortable.
Time-saver: Second, bodyweight training eliminates some of those age-old excuses. The ‘I don’t have enough time’, the ‘I have to look after the kids’, the ‘I don’t have any equipment’, the ‘I don’t have a gym membership’ — the list goes on.
Instantly, those common excuses can be knocked over, as bodyweight training is accessible, convenient, and modifiable. It allows anyone to squeeze in quick and effective workouts, whenever and wherever they are, with virtually no equipment—all they need is their body and a small amount
of space. It’s also great for busy mums who are time-poor or can’t leave the house, and for those who work long, arduous hours or travel a lot for work.
Change it up: Third, you can change the exercises as you progress, also known as ‘progressive overload’. You can add more reps, add more volume with increased sets, change the time or tempo at which the exercise is performed, or increase to more difficult variations (also called progressions). In this way, certain exercises can easily be modified to challenge any fitness level.
Goodbye aches and pains: Finally, and one of the most important benefits, bodyweight training is mostly joint friendly and allows for the natural range of motion that our body is functionally designed to do. As such, it is considered generally safe for any trainer regardless of experience, age, or fitness level. In fact, many simple bodyweight movements are used as effective exercises employed by health professionals for rehabilitation and reconditioning, particularly for postpartum women. Bodyweight training can also be done safely without supervision and can be the perfect prerequisite to safely and appropriately condition the body before progressions are made.
Whether you are a beginner or an advanced athlete, with the advantages being too good to defy, quit the excuses and start incorporating bodyweight training into your exercise regime today. Not only will you feel and look better, but you will also reap all the performance and aesthetic benefits this effective style of training has to offer.
BODYWEIGHT REVERSE LUNGE
Target muscles: Quadriceps
Set-up: Begin in a standing position, hands held in front or on hips (whichever is most comfortable), with your head neutral and forward-facing, chest up, and feet shoulder-width apart.
Action: Take one step back, allowing the hips and knees to flex, and touch the ground with the ball of the foot descending until the knee nearly touches the ground, using a slow and controlled movement. After a brief pause, return to starting position by driving through the heel of the front leg; repeat for desired reps. This exercise can be completed all on one side before switching to the other leg or done with alternating legs. Add a pulse at the descent position to increase the intensity. Perform 3 sets for 15 reps per leading leg.
Tip: Pay attention to posture. Ensure the knee stays in-line with the foot, and ensure the spine
remains neutral and does not curve.
Target muscles: Quadriceps
Set-up: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands in front of you or behind your head (also known as ‘prisoner squat’), with your head neutral and facing forward.
Action: Sit back as if on to a chair, flexing at the knees and hips. Continue to full depth or as low as best form will allow, and reverse the motion until you return to the start position again. Add a pulse at the bottom of the squat to increase the intensity. Perform 3 sets for 15-20 reps.
Tip: As you squat, keep your head and chest up, and push your knees out and drive through the
heels as you return back up.
Target muscles: Shoulders
Set-up: Stand up tall and extend both arms straight by the sides, keeping both arms parallel to the ground and perpendicular to the body.
Action: Create circles of about 30cm diameter with each outstretched arm at the same time. Breathe normally as you execute the movement, and ensure the core remains engaged and
the back and spine remains neutral. Continue the circular motion for up to 30 seconds before reversing the movement in the opposite direction for up to 30 seconds. Perform 3 sets with 30- to 60-second duration per set.
Tip: As you get stronger, increase the intensity by adding some light resistance or extending the
duration per set.
PUSH-UPS (KNEES OR TOES)
Target muscles: Chest
Set-up: Lie on the floor facedown, place your hands shoulder-width apart in order to hold your torso up at arm’s length, with your core engaged and back straight. This can be performed from the knees or up on the toes (whichever strength and best form will allow).
Action: From the start position, lower yourself downward until your chest just touches the floor as you inhale; press the upper body back up to the starting position using the chest while breathing out. Pause briefly at the starting position and lower downward again to continue the reps. Perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
Tip: As noted, this can be done from the knees to reduce resistance or performed against the wall instead of the floor until strength increases. For the advanced, try decline push-ups whereby feet are suspended on a higher surface to increase the resistance and target the upper chest.
PLANK WITH OPPOSITE LIMB EXTENSION
Target muscles: Abdominals
Set-up: Begin on all fours, facing down. Begin with your shoulders perpendicular to the wrists, feet hip-width apart, core engaged, back straight and with a neutral spine.
Action: Ensure hips and back are square; then engage the core and extend the opposite leg/arm outward. For example, extend your left arm straight to shoulder level while simultaneously extending
the right leg straight back to hip-height, ensuring abs and glutes remain tight. Hold at the top of the contraction for 2-3 seconds and return to starting position; repeat on opposite side. Perform 3 sets for 12-15 reps per leading arm/leg.
Tip: As you get stronger, increase the intensity by adding some light resistance or extending
the duration per set, or begin in the push-up position from the toes to increase the difficulty.
Target muscles: Abdominals
Set-up: Lie flat on your back, with feet flat on the floor, and place your hands lightly on either side of your head, keeping the elbows locked in.
Action: To better isolate the abdominals, push the small of your back into the floor and roll your shoulders off the floor in a slow and controlled manner, then contract your abs and exhale. This is simply a crunch, not a full sit-up; therefore, the shoulder should come off the floor only 3-4 inches
while the lower back remains affixed to the floor. Hold for 1-2 seconds before lowering; then repeat. Perform 3 sets for 20-25 reps.
Tip: Do not interlock your fingers behind your head as it puts unnecessary strain and pressure on
SIDE PLANK WITH REACH
Target muscles: Abdominals
Set-up: From the side plank position, press your hand into the ground (or mat) and stack your feet on top of one another, while your hips remain on the floor.
Action: Press your torso up and hips away from the floor, extending the outer arm toward the roof. Tighten the abdominal muscles by engaging the core and ensure your head, neck and spine is aligned with your body. Hold the position for 10-20 seconds at a time before returning to the side plank position. Perform 3 sets on each side with 10-12 reps.
Tip: Focus on keeping the core engaged throughout the exercise, the inhale and exhale, and ensuring the movement is slow and controlled.
Target muscles: Triceps
Set-up: Position your hands shoulder-width apart on a secured bench or stable chair. Sit on the edge of the chair, with legs extended directly out in front. Ensure the core is engaged and back is straight throughout.
Action: Slide your body off the edge of the chair, keeping the load on your arms, and descend to lower your body toward the floor until your elbows reach about 90 degrees, then return to the
starting position. Perform 3 sets of 12-15 reps.
Tip: Be sure to keep the body and back close to the bench and refrain from arching the back. If you are finding this difficult, reduce the resistance by flexing at the knee as the pivot point instead of having your legs fully extended out in front of you. For the advanced, try elevating your legs on a steady platform to increase the resistance and range of motion.