Let’s face it – most of us aren’t that fortunate to have a fully equipped gym at home.
Sure, a pair of dumbbells is not that hard to get but what’s when you don’t have ANY equipment?
Or maybe it’s simply a preference of yours – you just rather skip the iron.
Well, that’s all fine.
Bodyweight workouts are undoubtedly the single most convenient form of training – all you need is just some space (in many cases – not even much space).
Benefits of bodyweight exercises
Given that bodyweight exercises are in general much less technical than weightlifting ones, they tend to be much more beginner-friendly.
If you are an absolute novice in exercising, bodyweight exercises are the way to start building your foundation.
Injury risks are minimal and you’re less likely to overload your body with the initial stress of exercising.
2. Develop and improve technique
Building on our previous point, bodyweight exercises are great to practice, develop, and improve your technique.
Most compound weightlifting exercises require you to master the technique first before loading the barbell.
For example, before jumping into deadlifts, you should definitely practice the hip hinge.
This will allow you to safely master the form and have much more control and confidence once you start loading the movement.
The same goes for squats.
3. Injury prevention
Again, continuing the line of thought from our previous point, bodyweight exercises have a lower impact on your joints, tendons, and muscles which also means a lower injury risk.
Furthermore, by perfecting your form through bodyweight exercises, you are much less likely to injure yourself once you start working with weights.
4. Easily accessible
Well, one of the main and most obvious advantages of bodyweight exercises is that they only require the bare minimum – just some space and your own body.
As we mentioned already, if you’re a complete beginner, have zero equipment at home and no desire to visit a gym, bodyweight exercises are your obvious choice.
5. Agility and speed
You might have heard about the term plyometric exercises, which are basically jumping exercises.
They require (and develop) a lot of explosiveness, speed, and body control and are used even by professional athletes (basketball, tennis, football, etc.) to enhance their performance.
Plyometrics are a great way to improve your agility but are not be advisable for training newbies or people recovering from injuries.
Bodyweight exercises vs. Weightlifting
The type of training you decide to do depends to a large extent on your goals.
If you’re looking to improve your speed and agility, plyometrics is obviously the answer.
If you’re a complete workout newbie and you want to build muscle and increase your endurance, bodyweight workouts can be a great beginning.
However, as you get better and stronger, you might find yourself stuck in a plateau.
The reason being that to continue to improve and strengthen your muscles you need to progressively increase the resistance.
There are two variables in strength training – weight and repetitions/intensity.
While you can modify most of the bodyweight exercises to make them more challenging, there are only so many variations that you can do.
Given that you’re still working with the same resistance – your body weight, you’ll most likely need to increase the other variable in the equation – the number of repetitions.
This might work for a while but who wants to spend half an hour doing air squats?
For that reason, the more effective and practical approach for strength training is to use some kind of external weight like dumbbells, kettlebells, etc. that you can progressively increase.
The best approach for complete beginners: Start out with bodyweight training – mastering the form of compound movements and building up strength.
Once you feel confident enough, move on to add external weights to your program.
Can you build muscle with bodyweight exercises?
Put very simply, there are three factors that influence muscle building: progressive overload training, adequate nutrition, and rest.
Every time you put more stress on your muscles than they were previously used to, you cause damage to your muscle fibers. The body naturally reacts by initiating a repair and replace cellular process, in which new myofibrils (muscle cells) are built. The important thing to note here is that damage happens during a workout, repair (growth) happens while you rest. It’s essential that muscle protein synthesis exceeds the muscle protein breakdown.The myth of the “toned body”
This means that to achieve muscle hypotrophy (building of muscle) you need to consistently challenge yourself and progressively increase the resistance.
As mentioned before, a complete beginner can easily achieve that with bodyweight exercises but as they adapt to the resistance volume, they’ll undoubtedly reach a point where external weights are needed.
In short: Yes, if you’re a complete beginner. As you get better and stronger, you’ll need to add additional resistance to continue seeing progress.
Can you lose weight with bodyweight exercises?
To lose weight you need to be in a caloric deficit – burn more calories than you consume. How you achieve that depends on you.
You can either cut down your calorie intake by reducing meal portions, you can increase your activity levels and thus burn more calories, or you can do both.
Any activity that makes you burn extra calories brings you closer to your goal of losing weight (as long as you don’t make up for it with more food).
So yes, bodyweight exercises can certainly help you lose weight. How successful you are in losing weight depends on a lot of factors though and not just the type of exercises you choose.