But I don’t have time to go to the gym…
It’s one of the most common reasons (excuses?) I hear from people trying to get fit and lose weight. Let’s put the fact that diet is much more important than exercise for weight loss aside right now and focus on this gym issue…
Going to a gym is not necessary. Personally, I prefer to train in my house. Or in my back yard. Or at the park. And the simplest way to train where ever you like is to focus on bodyweight exercises.
This isn’t to say that I’m against training with free weights. On the contrary, I am an advocate of barbell and dumbbell training. But when push comes to shove, I’ll admit that they are not necessary for general health and fitness. Furthermore, damned near any training program I design will include push ups and pull ups even if the program otherwise focuses on free weight movements. So yes, I do in fact love bodyweight exercises – below are 10 reasons why:
1. Everywhere is your gym. Whether you are on a white sandy beach or an inner city playground, bodyweight exercises are with you. Hell, I knew a guy who would do his push ups in the bathroom at Starbucks.
2. Dirt cheap. If you are looking to save money on equipment and gym memberships, then learning bodyweight exercises are sure to be easy on the wallet. Now that’s not to say that you can’t have your toys too…
3. Cool fitness toys. Ok, one of the beauties of bodyweight training is that you don’t need to spend a dime to do push ups or bodyweight squats. But what if you’re a fitness nut and you love your fitness toys? In that case I say indulge in a good set of gymnastic rings, parallettes, or an ab wheel. But even with these equipment indulgences, your financial output will be far less than setting up a full home gym.
4. Foundational for other training methods. If you can’t do a squeaky-clean full range of motion push up then you have no business getting under the bar for a bench press. Same goes for the squat – I love the barbell squat, but if you can’t get your hip crease below your knees at the bottom of a bodyweight squat, then you damned sure do not need to be throwing a bar across your shoulders. Establish your basics with bodyweight exercises.
5. Can be scaled for beginners. Even the basic push up can be too much for many beginners. And if that’s the case, you can use the knee push up. Or put your hands on a wall. Even simply sitting in a chair and then standing back up can be enough for many beginners. External resistance is not necessary at this stage.
6. Can be cranked way the hell up for advanced fitness folks. All you have to do is watch a top level gymnast do a floor exercise routine to see the level of strength, power, and flexibility that can be achieved with bodyweight training. Unsupported handstand push ups? Crazy for most people to even think of… but amazing fitness levels can be achieved through bodyweight training (skip to 1:20 of the video below to start seeing the crazy stuff):
7. Monitor body fat. Now I don’t mean that you can get some specific scientific read-out of what your body fat percentage is by doing a set of pull ups. But you can be damned sure that if your pull up numbers are going down, then you should take a look at your body composition as the first culprit. Same goes for pistol squats. I know that when my body fat creeps up, my ability to do pistol squats are one of the first fitness skills to go.
8. Conducive to group training – no matter how large. Why do you think that military units across the world focus on bodyweight exercises to get their troops in top shape? The ability to scale to the individual and eliminate equipment costs makes bodyweight training the preferred method when coaching large groups whether that’s a boot camp fitness class or an actual Boot Camp.
9. Fun. Try doing a few rounds of bear crawls and crab walks and tell me you aren’t smiling. Basic tumbling skills like rolls and cartwheels are always a blast. And then there are those crazy parkour folks if you like your fun a little more “extreme”
10. Ultimate excuse eliminator. So you can do them nearly anywhere (go ahead crank some push ups in your cubicle – I double dog dare you), they are scalable to any fitness level, and you can get incredibly strong and lean while doing them… What was your excuse to not use bodyweight exercises again?
Do you use bodyweight exercises? If so, do they supplement free weight training or are they the base of your programming? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
P.S. There is a quick, fun survey you can take from my friends over at Healthynomics. Check it out by clicking here.