Let’s face it, most of us are pretty busy with work, school, family, and doing fun stuff on the weekends. We just want our workouts to keep us physically healthy and maybe help us lean out so we look better in a swimsuit.
Most people trying to “tone up” jump straight into cardio, but there’s one big problem: cardio alone does not “tone” your muscles.
It’s great for heart health and for burning calories, but the time required to burn off the calories you ate that day is unrealistic, and it won’t tone your muscles.
You need resistance training for that. But you probably don’t want to spend all day in the gym, learning how to lift weights and figuring out a training program.
Enter bodyweight training. Exercises like squats, lunges, push ups, pull ups, sprints, and jumps are amazing for burning body fat and building lean muscle. Here’s why.
- 1. You can train any time, any place.
The most common excuse people make for why they don’t exercise more is “I don’t have the time.” With bodyweight training, you can get an effective workout in very little time, with zero equipment, and no need to drive to the gym. This eliminates almost all excuses for not exercising. Since the number one key to seeing results is consistently sticking to your training program, eliminating excuses is vital to your success.
- Bodyweight movements are easy to scale to your skill level,
If you think bodyweight workouts aren’t for you because you can’t do push ups, no worries! You can scale any movement until you’re strong enough.
For example, to scale push ups, simply elevate your hands on a stable surface, like a table, box, bench, or stair step. As you progress and gain strength by adding repetitions, you can start to lower the height of the surface on which you place your hands. Eventually, you’ll be doing full push ups on the floor.
This goes both ways – if you can easily scale bodyweight exercises to make them easier, you can also progressively make them harder. Using push ups as an example again, if you can bang out a hundred or so regular push ups on the floor, try elevating your feet onto a chair or step. Decline push ups are much more challenging and will up the ante for this awesome bodyweight exercise.
- Bodyweight movements are applicable to everyday life outside the gym.
Call them “functional” if you want, bodyweight movements carry over into our daily activities, making you stronger at the things you love to do – which is kind of the point of training, right?
Compared to exercises with weight machines, body weight movements mimic the things we do out in the real world. If you fall, you need to push yourself up; work on your push ups. If you rock climb, having balance and a strong upper body are important; train lunges and pull ups. If you ski, you need to develop leg strength and lateral stability; train squats and skater lunges. Literally any sport or recreational activity can benefit from body weight training.
- Bodyweight training is easier to learn and more joint-friendly than weight training or running.
If you’re just starting out with this whole “exercise thing,” bodyweight movements are much simpler to learn than weightlifting, and it’s easier to nail your technique.
Plus, bodyweight exercise is somewhat self-limiting, which is a good thing for protecting you from injury. If you can’t do 10 push ups, you’ll just be laying on the ground; if you try to bench press too much weight without a spotter, you could crush yourself with the barbell – ouch.
Because they’re self-limiting, they’re often more joint-friendly. It’s easy to load up a heavy barbell, go to town with squats, then wonder why your back or knees are killing you the next day. But with just your bodyweight, there’s much less sheer force placed on your spine and your joints. This means you’re not as likely to overtrain or injure yourself.
Speaking of overtraining, most people’s go-to weight loss solution is running, a highly repetitive, high-impact movement that often leads to injury when you push yourself too hard, too soon. Unlike running, the variety of bodyweight movements available to you allow you to work every muscle in your body in different planes of motion, leading to balanced muscle growth and reducing your chances of overuse injuries.
- It’s easy to transition from exercise to exercise without worrying about equipment.
One of the most annoying things about going to the gym with a training plan is realizing all of the squat racks are full on leg day, or not being able to use the machines you need for a superset because someone jumps in when you’re on another exercise.
With bodyweight training, you can easily transition from squats to pushups, for example, without needing to claim both a squat rack and a bench.
As an added fat-burning bonus, being able to transition quickly between movements cuts down on your rest periods and keeps your heart rate elevated so that you burn more calories in less time. Using bodyweight movements for circuit training or intervals is the perfect recipe for burning fat and building lean, toned muscle.
- The variety of bodyweight exercises is endless.
A major complaint about traditional cardio is that it’s boring (I mean, who wants to jog on a treadmill for two hours, anyway?). And when we’re bored, we tend to give up on exercise.
But there is an endless amount of variety you can add to bodyweight training once you master the basics of squat, lunge, push up, pull up, jump, and sprint.
For instance, you can do forward lunges, reverse lunges, lateral lunges, single leg squats, step ups, jump lunges, skater lunges, etc…
There’s military push ups, wide push ups, diamond push ups, plyo push ups, etc…
See where I’m going with this? You’re really only limited by your creativity.
SO, HOW CAN YOU USE BODY WEIGHT TRAINING TO TORCH FAT AND BUILD LEAN MUSCLE WITHOUT WASTING ALL DAY IN THE GYM?
I’m glad you asked. Try these circuits on for size after a proper warm up.
5 hand walkouts
5 deep lunges (per side)
5 lateral lunges (per side)
5 yoga push ups (push up + down dog)
Set a timer for 15 minutes, complete as many rounds possible in that time.
10 push ups (hands elevated, if needed)
20 alternating lunges
20 plank shoulder taps
10 jump squats (or box jumps)
30 second plank hold, then repeat
Set 15-min timer, complete as many rounds possible (requires pull up bar).
10 push ups
5 pull ups
10 push ups
5 pull ups
10 box jumps
30 second plank hold, repeat
Give these a shot and see how many rounds you can get through before time runs out.
Push your pace, but always use good form.
With bodyweight training, you’re never limited by gym access or lack of equipment. The sky is the limit!
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