What's bodyweight training all about and is it right for you?


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Bodyweight training, which involves exercises that utilize your body weight for resistance, is all the rage. In fact, it was found to be the number one fitness trend for 2015 in a survey conducted by the American College of Sports Medicine. Bodyweight training includes classic, challenging workout moves such as pushups and squats that can be done just about anywhere, as many of the exercises do not require equipment.


Using what you've got


According to exercise physiologist Elizabeth Quinn, About.com’s Sports Medicine Expert, this accessibility is just one of the many reasons to try bodyweight training. Quinn reveals that the moves involved in bodyweight exercises are functional, meaning that they mimic movements your body makes in everyday life. She also says that engaging in bodyweight training helps to build balance by performing moves that call for activating core muscles and that bodyweight training “can also be a great choice for building strength, gaining muscle, boosting cardiovascular fitness and burning calories.”

Beginners, focus on developing proper form and movement. This is essential not only for preventing injury but also for reaping the most benefits from the exercises. A 2012 article from Shapepraises bodyweight training because there’s less risk of injury than with traditional weight training: “Being in control of how intense you make the exercise means you can feel potential problems right away and adjust your form without having to worry about rolling the squat bar over your neck.” Still, it is important to learn the basics of form and movement so that you do know what the exercise feels like when it is correctly done. At Men’s Health, strength coach and fitness writer Craig Ballantyne has pinpointed some of the common errors with five bodyweight exercises and has come up with some ways to correct your form. For example, Ballantyne recommends going slow to ensure proper form when doing mountain climbers, a popular bodyweight move, instead of rushing through a bunch and increasing your risk of back injury. About.com has some videos and tutorials that describe proper movement for a variety of bodyweight exercises, such as pushups and planks. If you are totally new to exercising and need help learning form, you could also consult a certified trainer.


You've got to move it, move it 

Shape and About.com laud bodyweight training because of the variety of moves as well as how those moves can be modified to suit your fitness level. Quinn recommends using bodyweight training exercises to create a High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), circuit workout. For inspiration, check out Fitness Blender’s impressive array of bodyweight training routines. Beginners and those who need low-impact workouts can get in on bodyweight training with the Fast and Effective Bodyweight Upper Body Workout and the Low Impact HIIT Cardio workout, each of which are under ten minutes long. The trainers, Daniel and Kelli Segars, explain each movement and offer modifications, which makes these videos work for newbies as well as those who are trying to progress through their training at a safe pace. Though these are fairly simple routines, you will feel the burn. Also, those with weak knees may have issues with some of the moves. Daniel and Kelli link to recommended warm up and cool down routines so you can build your own exercise program. Once you’re ready for a more intense workout, try Fitness Blender’s lineup of more advanced bodyweight routines.

Another way for an advanced athlete to intensify a bodyweight workout is to add plyometric exercises, which are essentially bodyweight exercises that require dynamic movement. Daily Burn describes these movements as “high-intensity exercises that stretch and then quickly shorten your muscles.” These movements are not easy, but they are effective. I’ve made no secret of my appreciation for celebrity trainer Adam Rosante, who is a big fan of plyometric movement. “The intensity of firing up your big muscle groups with such speed sends your heart rate through the roof and burns a ton of fat,” he told Daily Burn. In addition to his work for subscription fitness website CosmoBody, Rosante’s Wave Shape fitness, mentioned by Daily Burn, is an awesome surfer inspired method that showcases Rosante’s genius ability to design fast, intense bodyweight workouts. The Wave Shape Endurance AMRAP — that’s As Many Rounds As Possible — workout is seven minutes of seriously intense exercise that is definitely not for beginners. The routine, which consists of twelve reps of three bodyweight moves done repeatedly, will make you sweat and possibly curse Rosante — power thrusts are the devil, even in modified form — but you will feel like a warrior afterward. He demonstrates modifications as well, which are still intense, and stresses proper form above all else. That’s my kind of guy.

Talk to your doctor to see if bodyweight training is right for you, and enjoy an effective, fuss-free fitness routine!