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What is Bodyweight Training?

Bodyweight training, as the name implies, is a form of exercise that utilizes bodyweight as the primary form of resistance. Bodyweight training employs many common exercises such as squats, pullups, and pushups, and is an essential aspect of any fitness or training plan as it is versatile, ideal for strength gain as well as fat loss, it is great for all fitness levels, and it can be done anywhere. Of course, bodyweight training, like any training, has its limits, but these are easily overcome to reap the many benefits of bodyweight training.

The Benefits

Unmatched Versatility

Bodyweight training is without a doubt one of the most versatile forms of exercise. It allows for the athlete to have more creativity when designing a workout. The vast collection of compatible bodyweight exercises reveal the possibility of nearly countless combinations giving each workout the opportunity to be unique and personalized to the athlete and their goals. Building off of that, bodyweight training caters to a number of different goals including (but not limited to): building strength, improving cardiovascular fitness, and developing better balance; these goals can all be attained through the various organizations of different exercises. For example, high reps of pushups done slowly can help to build strength; whereas pushups that are done at a higher pace and combined with mountain climbers or jumping jacks can greatly increase your heart rate and improve cardio.

Ideal for Strength and Weight Loss

Being an extremely versatile type of training, bodyweight training brilliantly accommodates nearly all types of workouts including High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT),  circuits, or low intensity and long duration. HIIT and circuit training are oftentimes training a combination of muscular endurance, cardiovascular fitness, and strength. Stephen Boutcher PhD., associate professor at University of New South Wales, has found that High Intensity Interval Training is very effective for fat loss, so bodyweight training combined with HIIT will be effective for fat loss as well. Additionally, bodyweight training makes progressive overload easy as it allows for more difficult exercises, additional reps, and faster pace in order to increase the training load. The best way to increase strength is through progressive overload, by increasing the training load strength increases as you are lifting more weight, doing more reps, or lifting at a different pace. Because bodyweight training allows for progressive overload, it is a practical method to build strength.

Good for All Fitness Levels

An athlete performing pushups.
An athlete performing pushups.

The beauty of bodyweight training is that it is a safe and effective way for anyone to exercise; whether you are a training novice or an elite athlete, bodyweight training will benefit you. As a beginner, it is beneficial to build a strong foundation with the proper form of many fundamental exercises as well as a base level of strength. As a seasoned veteran, you can utilize complex exercises and difficult rep schemes to maximize your physical gain. Even more, as you progress and lean body mass increases, your body will be forced to adapt to the weight of the new muscle. This adds another dimension to progressive overload: increased weight. This allows you to progress with your body and proportionally gain more strength as you gain more muscle mass.

Eliminates Excuses

Bodyweight training is what I like to call an excuse-eliminating training method. With it comes no possibility for excuses like, “I can’t work out today because I don’t have time” or “I can’t work out today because I can’t get to the gym.” Bodyweight training kills those excuses. There is no need to carve out a huge chunk of time and drive to the gym; you can easily go into your living room or garage, do your training, and take only a few minutes to clean up. It’s quick, easy, and painless (except for the good pain, of course). Sure, you can do it anywhere and anytime, but what’s even better is that it’s virtually free to do. Because the equipment is minimal – and completely optional – the cost of bodyweight training is close to nothing; of course, there are plenty of upgrades that will improve your training experience if you’re interested in spending a bit of money. These include a yoga mat, a Bosu ball, and even a set of resistance bands to increase the training load. However, if you aren’t interested in spending that money, that’s completely fine! You will still have a very positive training experience because bodyweight training requires minimal time and money and can be done anywhere.

The Limitations

While bodyweight training has many benefits, it also has a few limitations, but if these challenges are handled properly, there will still be plenty of fun and good experiences to be had.

Progress is Difficult to Evaluate

For many people, the biggest limitation that bodyweight training poses is the fact that progress can be hard to evaluate. With weight training, you can easily quantify your progress. For instance, “in the last few months, I’ve gotten 60lbs stronger on squats.” Easy to measure, right? With bodyweight training, it’s not so clear cut; with bodyweight training, you could say “I can now do four sets of twenty pushups which is more than I could do before” or “I’ve progressed from pushups to diamond pushups.” So there is a system of progression within bodyweight training, but it is more abstract as opposed to other training methods which are easily measured.

It Doesn’t Do Everything

Bodyweight training is very beneficial and does a lot of good for your body, but it cannot possibly cover every aspect of your fitness. As with all types of training, bodyweight training is a very constructive training method, yet will be reliant on other aspects and types of training to make you a top performing elite athlete or recreational exerciser. In order to be successful and achieve peak fitness, you must incorporate many types of different training.

Two women working out together.

Common Bodyweight Exercises

Below are some of the most popular bodyweight exercises.

Full Body

• The Infamous Burpee

• …and all the other burpee variations

Lower Body

• Squats

• Lunges

• Calf Raises

• Donkey Kicks

Upper Body

• Pushups

• Superman

• Handstand Pushups

• Tricep Dips


• Planks (and all their variations)

• Bicycle Crunches

• Leg Raises


• Mountain Climbers

• Jumping Jacks

• Burpees (again)

Now that you know what bodyweight training is, what its benefits are, and some common exercises, you have nothing to stop you from going out and giving it a try! Good luck!

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