Bodyweight training has made quite the comeback in recent years. Between the popularity of bootcamp-style classes, athletic-oriented conditioning programs, and workout equipment that has you using your own body for resistance (e.g. – suspension trainers), bodyweight training is being done by more people than ever. But do you know why it should be a part of your personal fitness regimen? Here are seven reasons for a start.
One of the best reasons you should do bodyweight training is also one of the most obvious ones – you can do it about anywhere. Without having to have a barbell, bench, rack, or the like at your disposal, you pretty much have no reason not to train. This should lead to fewer missed workouts and more consistent training, which both lead to more (and better) progress.
When you get stronger on the weights, it can sometimes come with an increase in bodyweight. However, any time you get heavier, it will almost always adversely affect your bodyweight training. Keeping your calisthenics progress on track will not only keep your workouts in line, but can also be an indirect way of maintaining a proper diet. If you find your bodyweight workouts getting harder, chances are an adjustment in the kitchen is necessary.
Too often, strength trainees and bodybuilders scoff at bodyweight training, thinking that barbells outshine them since you can go heavier. However, it’s also not uncommon to see these same lifters get humbled by high rep bodyweight squats, some of the more difficult push up variations, and even basic pull ups. Improving on these exercises will improve your strength, muscular endurance, and make you more physically well-rounded as a whole.
Whether you’re doing push ups, L-sits, bridging, or even bodyweight squats, you have to keep your torso tight. This means that not only are you working specific muscles targeted by the exercise you’re doing at the time, but always performing a sort of static contraction throughout the torso. This leaves you with a tighter and stronger core, even if you’re not doing a lot of core-specific movements.
While gym exercises barbell squats and deadlifts definitely require balance coordination, most bodyweight movements require even more. One-legged pistol squats, the human flag, and even a basic push up all require decent proprioreception and for the entire body to work as one unit. Some of the more difficult exercises might take longer to master, but you can always start with less technique-intensive variations and work your way up.
There have been some hypotheses that calisthenics have a higher NMA (neuromuscular activation) than barbell movements that target the same muscles. In other words, given roughly the same resistance, a weighted push up will work the pecs, shoulders, and triceps better than a bench press. This is because it’s your body moving through space instead of an external resistance.
Anecdotal evidence could point to this being true in the form of looking at some gym movements. Squats and deadlifts are considered two of the best strength and muscle builders you can do. At the same time, weighted dips and pull ups are often thought of as the “squat and deadlift of the upper body”.
The interesting thing is that all of these are actually bodyweight training exercises – they just have external resistance. Weighted dips and pull ups have a weight hanging from your waist, while squats and deadlifts provide resistance in the form of a barbell. However, all of them have your body moving through space, just taking additional weight with it. Considering these are thought of as some of the top exercises you can do, there very well may be something to the bodyweight NMA idea.
Speaking of bodyweight training having a better NMA, it can also help make you a better athlete. Most of the time in the gym, your body stays stationary while the weight is lifted and moved. However, in most sports and activities, it’s your body that is lifted and moved. Incorporating calisthenics can not only help you build strength and speed needed, but do it in such a way that you have better base level control over your body to apply on the court, track, or field.
Now, none of this is to say that you should abandon the barbells or give up your gym membership. Instead, it’s a nudge to make sure that bodyweight exercise is integrated into your entire program. You very well may have better muscular activation, in addition to building more athleticism, balance, and stability. It makes it easier to monitor your body fat and a calisthenics program provides ultimate versatility. Incorporating these movements will do nothing but improve your regimen.