While there are plenty of different methods and fitness equipment to choose from, bodyweight training still has advantages over traditional training options. 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.
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 a few simple tweaks, it is possible develop a bodyweight only training program to fit anyone’s needs. Perfect examples of exercises that can both challenge beginners and advanced trainers are planks, push-ups and squats.
Planks: A plank is an isometric core exercise that involves maintaining a strict, straight position for an extended period of time. The most common plank is the front plank, which is held face down with the body 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. Finally, place a water bottle on the lower back and don’t let it fall, this will let you know if you are doing the exercise right.
Push-ups: Push-ups work the upper body and core at the same time. Adding weight plates, sand bags and even a training partner can all be used to add resistance to make them hard. If you are having trouble, start the push-up against a bench, table, wall or any surface elevated off the ground to take some weight off. Place your hands on a box, bench or ground slightly wider than and in line with shoulders. Slowly lower body until your chest nearly touches the bench or ground. Pause at the bottom and then push back up to the starting position as quickly as possible.
Squats: Start with body weight only squats to grove the proper movement pattern, then add weight. Start the body weight squat with your legs shoulder-width apart, feet pointing forward or slightly outward. Bend your hips and legs and lower your body down in between your legs while keeping your torso upright. Keep your knees in line with your toes, and then stand back up by squeezing you glutes and quads. You may need to hold onto something to take some weight off at first.
Jump Squats are more challenging because they involve using your legs and hips to generate force like a compressed spring. Same as the regular squat but with a jump, land gently on the balls of your feet and repeat.
Weight can be added to planks, push-ups and squats challenge the strongest athletes. Many people feel they need specialized exercise equipment to reach their goals, but you already own the most effective and most underutilized piece of equipment.
— Kyler Crouse, BS, CSCS, FMS is a personal trainer and strength coach that trains at Sierra Athletic Club and a training center instructor at Barton Memorial Hospital. Kyler specializes in performance enhancement and rehabilitation after injury. Visit www.KCstrength.com for more information.