The gym is great and traditional lifting has its benefits, but for people who travel often or have exceptionally busy schedules, bodyweight training is a game changer.
The Benefits of Using Your Body Weight
Bodyweight training is appealing because it can be done anywhere – from a hotel room to a park to your own home – and it requires nothing in the way of equipment. It’s therefore perfect for people who are constantly on the go and can’t necessarily make use of a regular gym membership, or for people who aren’t keen on getting their exercise in with loads of people around.
It’s also an excellent choice for beginners. When you’re exercising, form and technique is extremely important; jumping into weighted versions of exercises that you haven’t yet mastered without weight can leave you sore at best, and injured at worst. Bodyweight training allows you to get comfortable with the movements before adding external resistance – it’s a bit like a prerequisite.
Is it effective, though? The short answer is yes. When you engage in bodyweight training, you actually are using resistance: your own body weight. This can be just as effective as training with free weights or weighted machines, and it helps build greater coordination, joint strength, balance, and flexibility.
For those who have only a short amount of time to exercise, high intensity interval training – or HIIT – is an excellent way to train with bodyweight exercises. It involves repeated bouts of short but high-intensity exercise intervals alternated with lower intensity active recovery intervals, and research shows that it’s an efficient way to burn more calories, and that it increases aerobic efficiency, muscle volume, and muscle definition.
Upping the Challenge
To increase the challenge of bodyweight exercises, you can play with volume or try more difficult variations of the exercises. Increasing the volume means adding reps and/or sets – for example, rather than doing 3 sets of 15, try 3 sets of 20 or 4 sets of 15.
There are lots of resources online to help you progress to harder variations of the exercises you’re doing. Here are some great ways to up the challenge of a few of the most common bodyweight exercises:
- Squats – Bulgarian split squats, beginner shrimp squats, assisted one-leg squats, plyo (jumping) squats
- Lunges – reverse lunges, forward-reverse lunge combo, walking lunges, around the world lunges (forward, side, reverse), plyo lunges
- Push ups – diamond (close) push ups, wide push ups, feet elevated push ups, divebomber push ups, plyo push ups
- Plank – single arm or leg lift, feet elevated, up and down, cliffhanger plank, forearm rocking plank
There are also plenty of affordable fitness tools available for people who have mastered the basics and want to increase the challenge even more. Look for ones that are easily packable and can fit in a suitcase or carry-on bag when you travel, like a set of mini bands, resistance bands, and slides. For on-the-go cardio sessions, a jump rope is a great investment.