The Bodyweight Exercise Trend

Everyone's looking for ways to simplify their life while tightening their financial belt.  Ditching the gym is one way to do that and the new trend in body weight exercises can help.  With no equipment or classes, you can still get a great strength and resistance workout.  It's actually not a new trend and you probably already do some bodyweight training.  Think sit-ups, crunches, pushups, squats and chin lifts. Think boot camp. If you do yoga, martial arts or Pilates, you're in on the trend of bodyweight exercises.

What are bodyweight exercises?  They're exercises that use the weight of your body for strength training. They incorporate muscle contraction, leverage and resistance; the three basic principals of weight training.  Before weight machines, body weight exercise was the #1 way athletes built muscle.  We used to call them "calisthenics."

The advantages are many:  They can be done anywhere and anytime you choose to "drop and give me ten"  (push-ups, that is).  They require no extra equipment and are easy to learn.  They may also reduce joint and muscle injuries associated with improper weight training techniques using machines, dumbbells and free weights.

Disadvantages?  Some exercises may be too challenging for beginners if lifting their own body weight is more than they're ready for.  Fortunately, there are enough types of bodyweight exercises that beginners can find ways to start out easy.

What are some basic bodyweight exercises?

Squats and lunges-Anytime you perform a squat or lunge, you're strength-training your lower body by lifting your upper body weight.  If you're a yoga fan, Warrior One and Warrior Two are squat/lunge-style bodyweight exercises.

Chin-up-Grab the "monkey bars" at the playground and pull yourself up as far as you can to strengthen your upper body by lifting your lower body weight.

Sit-Ups and Crunches-They strengthen your abdominal and back muscles by lifting your lower and upper body weight.

Try these yoga exercises to start your bodyweight exercise program:

  • The Plank is an intense abdominal and upper-body exercise that's surprisingly simple:

Start out in a basic pushup position.  Bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle and place them directly under your shoulders.  Either grasp your hands together or place them in parallel lines straight in front of you.  Now lift your knees off the ground and keep your legs, spine, shoulders and head in a straight line.  Hold this position as long as you can.  Breathe.

  • Cobra is a powerful but gentle way to strengthen your back, arm and shoulder muscles: 

Start out lying face down and stretch your legs back with the tops of the feet on the floor. Place your hands directly under your shoulders and hug your elbows into your ribs. The tops of your feet, thighs and hips all stay on the floor throughout the pose. 

Straighten your arms and lift your chest.  Go as far as you can while keeping the lower half of your body pressed to the floor.  Hold the pose for 15 to 30 seconds.  

Bodyweight exercises may be the latest trend but classic moves like these have been around for thousands of years.  Maybe our ancestors were onto something.