What are Bodyweight Exercises?
Bodyweight exercises are simple, uncomplicated and convenient to perform. They are strength training exercises that make use of an individual’s body weight instead of using free weights. Exercises like these are trending because of their simplicity added with multiple health benefits, ensuring happiness, success and well-being.
Bodyweight exercise routines help in muscle building, weight loss, cardiovascular fitness and body toning without expensive gym regimes. They are the oldest known forms of bodybuilding exercises dating back to a time before the advent of machines and gym equipment.
Bodyweight Exercise Routine
Bodyweight workout is a strength training routine wherein the person has to use the body weight to provide resistance to the movement. These exercises are mainly done without the aid of equipment or just by using simple household items. Broadly, they are grouped into 4 categories.
- Push-up: The activity uses a pushing motion to work and flex muscles.
- Pull-up: The exercise is performed against the force of gravity to strengthen the body.
- Core: These activities involve performing contracting movements of abdominal (abs) and calf muscles.
- Glutes: Leg exercises to strengthen muscles in the lower torso and legs.
Push up is a kind of bodyweight exercise routine, which is performed in a chest down-back up position. It involves pushing one’s body against gravity using the arms and then lowering it towards the ground. It is a very common form of body building exercise prevalent in the field of sports and other physical training.
This form of bodyweight workout is mainly targeted towards the chest, arms and shoulder muscles. However, as this exercise involves the support of the whole body moving against gravity, it helps in working out the whole body.
Forms of Push-ups
- Planche: In this form, the feet are not let to rest on the floor and are kept elevated in the air.
- Knuckle: In this variation, the pressure is put on the fingers rather than the hands. It helps in toughening knuckles and is popular with people training for martial arts.
- Maltese: In this form of push-up, the only variation is the hand positioning. The hands are positioned farther apart as compared to the normal style.
- Yoga Dandasana: Yoga is an ancient form of exercise, which alsoincludes various bodyweight workouts that have today become very popular amongpeople of all ages. Yoga has 12 types of asanas featuring push-ups. They are Sadharan Danda, Ram Murti Danda, Vaksh Vikas Danda, Hanuman Danda,Vrischika Danda,Vrishchika Danda type-2, Parshva Danda, Chakra Danda, Patal Danda, Sher Danda, Sarp Danda, Mishr Danda.
A squat is a form of bodyweight exercise regime which benefits a person's muscles of the thighs, hips, and buttock region. It also tones and strengthens the hamstrings, legs and develops core strength. It is performed by standing with feet apart and lowering body by bending knees till the point where the thighs are parallel to the ground.
The squats must be done slowly and any rapid and unprepared descend might result in damage to the spinal cord or might over flex the muscle fibers.
Target Areas: Primary focus is on the thighs, hips, and buttock region. This is a very popular bodyweight workout in body toning and fat burning regimes. It flexes the muscles and relieves muscle stress.
Forms or Variants of Squat
Overhead Squat: In this form, the hands are raised above the head and biceps aligned with the ears. It stretches the muscles to the fullest and enhances mobility.
Wall Squat: This is basically performed standing at a foot’s distance from wall, facing it. The aim is to squat without any part of the body getting in contact with the wall while keeping the torso upright. This increases the muscle flexibility in the hips and upper back. Another variation of this is the Hip Hinge. It involves standing with one’s back facing the wall and making contact with the wall by sliding the buttock region.
Yogic Hindu Squat or “Bethaks”: Yoga has its contribution in this form of bodyweight exercise too. In this type of squat, the hands are left to dangle freely at both ends. Hindu Squat enhances lung power when combined with a deep breathing routine. This has been proven to improve body tone and increase muscle agility.
Pistol Squat: Here, the “squatter” squats with one leg and the other leg is extended off the floor.
Flamingo Squat: This is a variation of the pistol squat. Instead of extending a leg, it is tucked behind the squatting leg, supported by hand.
This is a static exercise involving a push-up-like position that is to be maintained for an extended period of time. Unlike the push-ups, emphasis here is on maintaining the position.
To do this, one must first get into a press-up position and rest on forearms. Then, the body must be lifted into a straight plank like position as depicted in the picture. The main focus should be on retention of the position for an extended duration of time.
Target Areas: The primary focus of this exercise is the abdominal region (abs), spinal cord region and thighs. It tones muscles in the abdomen, chest and lower torso. This is a belly busting exercise that helps burn fat.
Forms or Variants of Planks
There are around 5 variations of this exercise:
Kneeling Plank: This is done by keeping the thigh and spine in line. A sub-variant of this is a side plank where the knee is bent at a right angle on the floor with the thigh and torso in line.
Decline Plank: This is performed with the feet elevated on a bench or rested against the wall as support.
Leg Lift Plank: Here, one of the legs is lifted parallel to the ground and maintained in that position for a while. The exercise is repeated with the second leg. A sub-variant of this is lifting one hand along with the opposite leg and balancing them.
Arm-Leg Side Plank: The alternate to the sub-variant is lifting the arm and leg of the same side with the torso in line with the thigh.
Yogic Plank or “Kumbhakasana”: It literally translates to breath holding asana or exercise. Here, the difference is that, instead of resting your weight on the elbows, the hand is stretched out forming a right angled triangle with the floor.
4. Kettlebell Workout
It is a cannonball-like structure made of iron or cast steel and comes with a handle. It is used to perform cardiovascular and flexibility training exercises.
Target Areas: This exercise targets the shoulder, calf, and abdominal muscles. It helps in burning fat and toning the muscles.
Single Leg Dead Lift:
In this, the person has to perform hip hinging with one leg in the air. The other leg must be rooted firmly to the ground. To attempt it, one must inhale and bring the ball to the dead weight position with the eyes horizontal to the ground, then exhale and stand up, bringing the bell along.
Kettlebell Swing: Here, the person has to assume a squat position and slowly swing the kettlebell in a single swoop between hip hinges with a stretch of the hamstrings.
Goblet Squat: This is done by standing erect with the legs parted wide and the kettlebell held with both hands in between the chest area. Then, the body is brought to a squatting position with a hip hinge, while continuously maintaining the kettlebell in the same position. The exercise is then repeated.
5. Tyre Workout
These are a set of exercises using tyres to improve agility and muscle flexibility. This kind of exercise is highly popular because of its simplicity.
Target Areas: These exercises targets biceps, calf muscles, and abdomen. They help burn fat, increases agility and flexibility. This exercise is highly beneficial for the legs.
Tyre Jumping: It is performed by laying the tyre on the floor and squatting with the legs wide apart, facing the tyre. The palms are rested on the tyre with extended arms. A quick jumping movement is made with a swing of hand to land on the tyre. The same is then repeated.
Decline Push-ups: They are attempted by facing away from the tyre with the hands on the floor positioned wide apart. The person rises to a plank position with the feet on the tyre. The upper body is lowered while keeping the torso and thigh in line.
Toe Touch: In this, the person stands facing the tyre. Then, the person pulls up the left knee with the toe touching the tyre. As the knee goes up, the right hand comes to the front as if the person is running. The same movement is then repeated with the other leg.
Step Ups: Facing the tyre , the left foot is placed on the tyre and the heel is pushed to move up. Then, the leg is changed as the foot drops back to the tyre.
- Easy and Convenient: Anyone can perform the exercise within the comfort at home and according to convenience and the time of availability.
- A combination of Muscle Strength Training and Cardiovascular Training: Muscle sculpting, fat burning and body toning can be combined together with these types of exercises.
- Exercise for Every Age Group and Need: There is something for everyone in the bodyweight workout.
- Muscle and Joint Flexibility: Bodyweight exercises improve muscle and joint flexibility by stretching muscles and moving joints through full range of their motion.
- Low Cost and Variety: These exercises do not require fancy equipment and involve many variations under every category.
- These types of exercises make it difficult to isolate and train a particular muscle group. This is a big limitation, especially, when one is recovering from an ailment or an injury.
- The progress cannot be measured quantitatively in a short duration and is most of the time qualitative.
- Muscular mass and bodyweight exercises do not go together. Weight lifting exercises build muscles better. One must decide on the needed end result before going for a specific kind of exercise.
Staying fit is not an option, but a necessity in today’s stressful and complicated lifestyle. Bodyweight exercises are a fresh new option for your fitness regimen. This form of exercise has been used for many decades in physical training and drill workouts. The exercises work on several muscle groups simultaneously and ensure flexibility and balance in the body. Many experts consider them to be superior and more effective than gym workouts and other forms of exercises.
- Is body weight training effective as a strength training exercise? - (http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/body-weight-training/faq-20147966)
- Bodyweight Squat - (http://www.acefitness.org/exercise-library-details/0/135/)
Latest Publications and Research on Top 5 Bodyweight Exercises
- Overuse injuries in the athlete. - Published by PubMed
- Sports nutrition for the recreational athlete. - Published by PubMed
- Some current challenges facing the athlete and their doctor. - Published by PubMed
- [Impact of change of ideal cardiovascular behavior and related factors on healthy vascular aging]. - Published by PubMed
- Effects of aerobic fitness on cognitive motor interference during self-paced treadmill walking in older adults. - Published by PubMed