With gyms and Crossfit boxes closing around the world, the need for other ways to maintain and improve physical fitness has never been more critical.
Unfortunately, most equipment is expensive and challenging to store. As a result, you've probably considered that bodyweight exercise may be the right answer.
However, bodyweight training provides a unique set of challenges. These challenges mean that your training methods and goals will need to be adjusted.
In light of my gym closing its doors, I've determined some key points of consideration for developing an effective bodyweight program. If used properly, these factors can help ensure that your bodyweight program is effective and also enjoyable.
To come, I'll share these factors of bodyweight exercise so that you can make the most of your workouts while stuck at home.
WHY BODYWEIGTH WORKOUTS ARE DIFFERENT
Before jumping into these points, I'd like to touch on how bodyweight workouts are different from resistance training. Making this distinction is essential for building an effective bodyweight program.
First and foremost, exercise of any sort is stressful. This stress is what drives adaptation and improvement.
When you run, your muscles and respiratory system are stressed to metabolize energy and supply your muscles with oxygen. If you run consistently, your body adapts to be more efficient, making you a better runner (1, 2).
Similarly, for resistance training, the external load stresses the muscle through tension, causing fatigue, and in some cases, damage. Again with consistency, this stress can force your muscles to grow bigger and stronger (3).
The main point here is that the type and magnitude of stress you encounter during exercise is what drives your progress. If you run, your endurance improves. If you lift weights, the external load results in greater muscle size and strength.
But now, you're stuck with bodyweight workouts. Without the external load that you get with resistance training, how do you match that stress using only your body?
If you're a beginner, adding exercise of any sort will stress your muscles more than usual, resulting in improvement. But if you've been training for years using resistance, development without that external resistance can be very challenging.
Fortunately, there is some research to suggest that even for experienced individuals, building and maintaining muscle is possible when using low amounts of resistance (4, 5).
However, this research suggests that to do so, you have to approach muscular failure on most sets. Otherwise, your muscles won’t be fatigued enough to stimulate growth (5, 6).
If you learn nothing else, remember the following:
If you have experience with exercise, taking bodyweight exercises to failure should be a primary focus. And even if you're a beginner, taking bodyweight exercises to failure is still recommended (3, 5, 6).
Now, let's dive into some other best practices of bodyweight training to help ensure your workouts are effective.
PRIORITIZE CHALLENGING EXERCISES