Bodyweight training goes back thousands of years. It was the chosen training method for the Greeks, Romains and Navy SEALS and has been a consistent component of nearly every military organization from past to present. Outside of being used to train the world’s greatest warriors, bodyweight exercises are used in the athletic training world and are a key component of many of the best fat loss and muscle gain workouts available.
Bodyweight training in simple terms is any exercise that involves using the body as a means of resistance against gravity. Common types of bodyweight training include calisthenics exercises, like sit-ups and push-ups; plyometrics to improve explosive power and yoga emphasizing a mind body connection.
While there are plenty of different methods and fitness equipment to choose from, bodyweight training still has advantages over traditional training options. The individual differences in size and strength make it difficult to construct strength-training machines to accommodate everyone’s needs and shape, but bodyweight training is always unique to that individual. It is also inexpensive, convenient because you don’t need anything and bodyweight exercises can be performed almost anywhere.
In fact, the biggest disadvantage to bodyweight training is that it is perceived as too easy for the experienced trainee and too hard for the beginner. However, with proper exercise execution and knowledge it is possible to develop a bodyweight only training program to fit anyone’s needs. A perfect example is the plank exercise.
The plank exercise is an isometric core strength exercise that involves maintaining a strict, straight position for extended periods of time. The most common plank is the front plank, which is held in a push-up position with the body’s weight on forearms, elbows, and toes. No sagging at the hips or flaring of the butt is permitted. Typically, the way to increase the intensity of the exercise is to increase the time. Plank for 10 seconds, then 20 seconds and so on.
Another way to increase the difficulty is to remove an arm or leg and hold the same position on three body parts. By lifting a leg or arm off the ground it reduces the base of support and makes the core work more while at the same time adding variety and excitement to an otherwise mundane exercise. For video instructions of several plank variations, visit www.KCstrength.com
Bodyweight training is effective on its own, but when added to a program involving weights, it increases in efficacy as well. External loads can also be added to exercises like planks, dips, push-ups and pull-ups to challenge the strongest of athletes. Many people feel they need specialized exercise equipment to reach their goals, but the most effective and most underutilized piece of equipment you already own.
Kyler Crouse, BS, CSCS, FMS is a personal trainer and strength coach who trains at Sierra Athletic Club and in the homes of clients in the greater Lake Tahoe area. Crouse specializes in performance enhancement and injury prevention. Visit www.KCstrength.com for more information.