What is Body-Weight Fitness?
Some people look down on simple Body-weight Exercise, viewing it as not effective to build muscle. This can be completely up to the person or workout, but in general body-weight training is a fantastic way to get in shape anytime, anywhere, without the use of cumbersome or expensive equipment.
While the process of building muscle at a cellular level is complicated to say the least, at the practical level, it’s fairly simple.
A story from Greek Mythology, details the life of Milo. A boy who carried his pet calf around everywhere. As the calf grew each day, Milo grew even stronger to carry the calf. When Milo became an adult, he was one of the strongest men in the land. (Good luck pulling a Milo, you are more likely to pull something far more painful.)
Although, this is a myth, and there are many things wrong with this story, it is fairly accurate. Building muscle can be simplified into an easy concept: increase the weight, reps, or volume that you can do in given exercise to increase speed, strength, agility, or flexibility. This applies to any workout/exercise and is called “progressive overload”. The result is an increase in muscle size a process known as Muscular Hypertrophy.
When at the gym, it’s easy to progress with the weight of a barbell, dumbbell, or machine you are using. But can you continue to overload with body-weight? Gaining muscle in the process? The answer is yes, until you plateau.
For people who are lighter, the first thought is whether their body weight is even enough for hypertrophy to occur. Even if your weight is low, the good news is that you weight enough. Studies show that using as little as 30% of maximum weight one can lift, activates muscle hypertrophy.
And when it comes to heavier people who are worried they can’t even preform body-weight exercises, there are exercises such as kneeling push-ups or wall push-ups to start with, until you progress to regular push-ups. There’s no shame in this, the thing that matters is progress.
When it comes down to it, your weight doesn’t matter. You should be able to progressively overload by either adding more reps, more volume, or progressing to more difficult variations of exercises.
The Positives of Body-weight Training
The largest advantage of body-weight training is that you don’t need a gym, a membership, or much equipment. But aside from the financial and convenience benefits, there is a major psychological benefit for beginners who find themselves uncomfortable around “gym rats” or “bros” says Coach Ben Hessel, who runs the site Gym Free Workouts.
Even if you eventually want to use free weights, body-weight training is a fantastic place to start. Its more like a prerequisite. It makes form more concise, shows an ease of progression, and is fairly simple enough to keep people from getting overwhelmed.
Make sure to pick a program and stick to it. I recommend this beginner routine.
Also, make sure to have your nutrition down pat. Your intake actually has much more to do with things than your exercise. And if you want to switch to free weights, recognize that body-weight fitness can be a great stepping stone to what works best for you.
There is no best program, there is no best diet, there is no best exercise. When it comes to health and fitness, everything is contextual and depends on the individual. If done correctly, body-weight training can build muscle, and make you stronger. And be a lifelong routine to staying fit and healthy.