Bodyweight exercises are a great way to workout. They can be done at home. But they are often overlooked for more technical and exciting workouts, like TRX and Cardio Tramp.
Last Updated November 15, 2020
Perhaps it is the name? Bodyweight Exercises. Meh, boring. Right? It doesn’t pop! And you don’t really want to be chatting about it in the office lunchroom or with your friends. “I did a body weight workout this morning and it rocked!” It just doesn’t sound very exciting. Not like, “I did a TRX workout this morning and it rocked!” Now you have their attention.
But, regardless of how it sounds, bodyweight workouts can be fun and fabulous. They are used by many professional trainers, fitness experts and bodybuilders. Physiotherapists and chiropractors incorporate them into rehabilitation programs. They are the foundation for Circuit, Plyometrics, Bootcamp and HIIT workouts. And you don’t even need to leave your home to do them.
Let’s explore 12 benefits of doing these impressive exercises.
What are Bodyweight Exercises?
I probably don’t need to define what bodyweight exercises are. It is in the name. They are exercises that use your body weight. But the fact that you use your own body, without needing any equipment or gym, makes them so great.
If you are worried about your actual weight… whether too heavy or too light … don’t fret. Anyone can do these exercises. They are appropriate for any body. Most of the exercises can be modified to make them easier or harder depending on what you need. Modifications will be dictated by your current level of fitness.
And because you use your own body, you can feel how your body is responding to the exercise. So, you can adjust the level of the workout accordingly, and in real time.
1. Body Weight Exercises are a Cheap Workout
You don’t need to buy equipment. You don’t need a gym membership. Bodyweight exercises use your own body and nothing else. Okay… well… maybe the occasional chair or step. But those you have at home already, right?
You don’t even really need clothes or shoes. But for the comfort of those around you, I do recommend workout clothes. (I am kidding, of course!)
Body weight exercises can be done in the comfort of your own home. Nice, right!?
2. Bodyweight Routines are Fun
While the phrase bodyweight workout is boring and not all that motivating, these exercises are fun. Some of them have names like Inchworm, Fire Hydrant, Dead Bug, Donkey Kicks and Superman Lifts. Now those sound fun and exciting! Am I right?
Tell that to your office buddies! “I did a Donkey Kick workout at lunch and it rocked!”
I like to crank the tunes and really get into the workout. Music puts a little spring into my step. I put in more effort when a good song plays. Some studies support this. We workout harder when we listen to music.
3. Saves You Time
You don’t have to go to the gym. So that eliminates the need for packing a gym bag, getting dressed, driving, putting on workout clothes in the change room, then fiddling with the equipment to get it just right for your workout. Whew! In all that time it took for you to actually get to the gym, you could have done your workout and eaten a healthy breakfast.
The fact that you don’t need equipment also saves time. Often you need to adjust the equipment for your workout. You may need to add more weights, take weights off, or position yourself properly. While this takes only a couple minutes, multiply that by the number of exercises you do in your workout plan. It can add up to a significant amount of time.
With bodyweight exercises, you can just hop right to the next exercise after a short rest break. No fiddling needed. Um …. Unless it is that wayward bra strap or bit of clothing that got stuck somewhere.
4. Bodyweight Exercises can be done Anywhere
These workouts can essentially be done anywhere. Although you may be limited in locations if you choose not to wear clothes. (again… kidding!) But with clothes on, you can workout on the beach, in a serene forest, or on the lakeshore.
My favorite place that I have done a bodyweight workout is on the top of a hillside overlooking Lake Superior.
Of course, you can do these any day of the week in the comfort of your own home. And you can go beast mode at a gym, if you have that membership.
5. It is a Full Body Workout
Bodyweight workouts are a full body workout. These exercises engage your core muscles, including muscles in your abdomen and back. There are exercises that focus on legs, arms, chest, and shoulders. And you are also getting a cardio workout, especially with exercises like jumping jacks and burpees. So, bodyweight exercises are also good for your heart and lungs.
6. Build Strength without Bulk
Building strength is why most people do these exercises. Bodyweight exercises work your muscles. Any muscle that works hard will also get stronger.
But strength doesn’t necessarily mean bulk. Bodyweight exercises don’t add excessive muscle bulk. So, if you are worried about getting bulky, this is the perfect way to workout for you. You can get stronger, firm up your body, without getting too bulky.
If you want to bulk up, start with bodyweight exercises. If you are new to body building, these exercises will start you out on the right path. You will get firmed up and stronger. But these will only take you so far. You only have so much body weight, after all. You will plateau and that is the time you will need to move to weightlifting. Adding weights will help you get the gains you want.
Not only do these exercises strengthen your muscles, but they also strengthen your bones and ligaments. This helps to prevent bone loss and osteoporosis as we age. This is especially important for cancer survivors, as many of the medications we are on cause bone loss.
7. Better Flexibility
Bodyweight workouts have you bending and stretching during the exercises. This helps to improve flexibility.
In fact, a study found that athletes improved flexibility with exercises that encouraged eccentric contractions. Flexibility improved much better than static stretching, which actually lessens flexibility in athletes over time.
Eccentric contractions happen when your muscles lengthen while contracting. This occurs, for example, in the downward phase of a squat or a push up. It also occurs when you lower yourself back down during a crunch.
8. Improves Your Balance
Bodyweight exercises work your core muscles. These are the muscles essential for balance and coordination. Your core includes the muscles in your abdomen, back, butt, and chest. The core is essentially the torso.
Strengthening and firming up these muscles will give you better posture.
A stronger core will allow you to respond to shifts in balance faster, so it helps with clumsiness. Cool, right?!
A stronger core means less trips to the chiropractor. Which brings us back to the first point of costing you less. My apologies to all the chiropractors out there. But it is true!
9. They are Safer than Other Exercises
You control the movements. There is no added weight. There is no added pull or push from a machine. You are using your own body, that you live with and walk around in every day. If you are familiar with and in-tune to your own body, then you can stop or adjust any movements in these exercises at anytime. It is harder to push yourself to the point of injury. This makes them safer to perform.
Oh-oh, I feel a disclaimer coming on!
Yes, you are less likely to get injured when doing body weight exercises. But you need to listen to your body. While they are safer, it is possible to injure yourself doing any exercise. Injuries usually occur when:
- the exercises are not performed properly
- when you do not have secure footing
- when you are not focusing on proper form
- if you get too tired doing them
- if you are doing them too quickly
- when you do not stop when something hurts
- when you are doing too many repetitions or sets
- if you are increasing too quickly
- when you go beyond your current level of fitness
So, don’t do these things.
Work to your current level of fitness. You don’t need to look like a fitness model or your fitness instructor who have been working out for years.
10. It is an Efficient Way to Workout
Bodyweight exercises are a type of HIIT workout. HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. These are workouts with short bursts of effort, followed by rest periods. The rest periods allow your muscle fibers to regenerate their energy for the next round of activity.
The exercises include both isometric and eccentric muscle contractions. This makes them an efficient workout. And remember, it is a whole-body workout in a condensed window of time. Again, cool!
11. They are Challenging at Any Level
It doesn’t matter what your fitness level is right now. These exercises are challenging for the beginner. If you are new to moving, then this is the perfect place to start. Low investment and high return makes this program a no-brainer.
But they are also challenging for advanced levels too. Bodyweight exercises are incorporated into many body building programs. And like I said before, they are the basis of many fitness programs, such as plyometrics, bootcamp, circuit training and HIIT classes.
Bodyweight exercises are for every body.
12. They Burn Calories and Fat
Many bodyweight exercises have a cardio component to them. This means that they burn calories and fat. Weightlifting alone does not burn many calories. But add in some of the movements needed for body weight exercises, and you have a decent cardio workout too.
There is also an afterburn. One study showed that metabolism is elevated for 14 hours after a 45-minute vigorous workout. This means that working out not only burns calories during the workout, but fat and calories are burning away even after we stop.
“In young male subjects, vigorous exercise for 45 min resulted in a significant elevation in post exercise energy expenditure that persisted for 14 h.” – Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 43(9)1643-8 –
In another study, 8 weeks of HIIT and conventional training decreased body fat and improved fitness. The researchers said it was a good way to gain significant fitness in a relatively short timeframe.
However, I don’t think we should think of these exercises in terms of short periods of time. These exercises should be a part of a lifelong program of healthy habits.
Bodyweight Exercise Program
I love bodyweight exercises. When my running buddies asked me to develop a body weight challenge program, I jumped at the chance.
Since, I have put together several challenges, including one I did on the Pink Ribbon Runner Facebook Page during the entire month of April 2020.
But I wanted to do more. So, I wrote a 42-page eBook that is an entire bodyweight workout program that you can do at home. This eBook includes:
- 40 bodyweight exercises with descriptions and photos.
- 4-week workout program that can be customized for any fitness level.
- 10-minute workout for those days you may be short on time.
- Printable log pages to track your progress
- Templates and planners to customize your training program
My eBook is all you need to get started on your fitness journey. Be sure to check it out here, if you want to see what is included.
You will love it!