Do you want to build your muscles and core strength but have no equipment? Do you loathe going to the gym? Well if you answered yes to either of these queries, fret not you can actually use your own body weight to work out and come up with a body that is well toned. Yes, body weight training is the buzz word that does the trick.
So what is body weight training? Simply put this is a training method where the individual’s own weight provides resistance against gravity. Bodyweight exercises do not use free weights or any other type of machine or equipment. The person exercising uses his or her own bodyweight as a sole form of resistance for the workout. “This type of training helps enhancing motor abilities such as strength, endurance, speed, flexibility, coordination and balance. Movements such as the push-up, the pull-up, and the sit-up are some of the most common bodyweight exercises. It is also called callisthenic training,” explains Prosenjit Biswas, Fitness Manager, Skulpt, Kolkata. These are strength training exercises that provide resistance, bio-motor abilities that include stamina, power, strength, flexibility, endurance, coordination, speed, and balance. Bodyweight training comprises of pulling, pushing, squatting, bending, and balancing. Prameet Kotak, Holistic Wellness Expert, RAPTFX Fitness says, “body weight training is an effective combination of cardio and strength training. based on intensity of body weight training, it could have minor after effects as compared to gymming wherein the muscles are sore for days.”
Considering that you need to move your weight against gravity, body weight exercise enables you to train with more resistance than in the gym. Sonali Swami, Adidas athlete explains, “body weight squats are great as apart from burning a lot of calories, they also strengthen your core and tone your legs. These are great, as squats burn a lot of calories and can also help tone your legs as well as strengthen your core. Pushups is a great upper body exercise which helps in toning your chest, shoulders and arms and the best exercise to strengthen your core is crunches. Once you have mastered a basic crunch movement, then you can move onto more advanced variations. Plank is a great exercise to strengthen not only your core, but your entire body. Likewise mountain climbers are a very good option for high intensity cardio which can also help you build your arms, shoulder and core strength.” The free squat is considered to be the most important exercise, the free squat, a squat that is done without any equipment or machines can easily be scheduled into your workout. “Squats strengthen the legs and hip muscles, provide balance in its range of motion, is a stretching exercise in its bottom position, and it will give your legs great endurance if done for medium or high repetitions. Single leg squats are an excellent functional bodyweight training exercise that will develop leg strength, flexibility, improve balance and increase your vertical jump.” avers Mustaqeem Mohamed, Service Manager – Health Club at Shangri-La Hotel, Bengaluru.
The biggest advantage of body weight training programs comes from the fact that there is a reduced chance of injury as using external resistance involves other factors like aligning the external weight to the body. “It works on several muscle groups at one time; for example, when doing a pushup, the body has to be in a straight line, and the elbow moves from a straight angle to the smallest angle possible. This movement works on the core muscles, chest muscles, triceps, and legs,” opines Biswas. Dr Maneesha Mohan, Pre/post natal fitness trainer, Fortis La Femme, Bangalore adds, “bodyweight exercises are helpful for both strengthening different muscle groups and for toning and sculpting the muscles as well. Depending upon the breakdown of repetitions and the type of exercises in the workout plan, we can work to enhance both the strength and the shape of the muscles.” Whether you want to slim down, bulk up or stay fit, body weight exercises help you achieve your fitness goal. “Body weight training helps build lean muscle, cuts down excess fat and increases metabolism. With minimal equipment required and a wealth of health benefits, body weight exercises are a must in your workout regime,” says Akshay Verma, Co-Founder and Director, FitPass.
Working on the Core
The core basically consists of trunk muscles, i.e. abdominals, the back, the hip muscles and the pelvic floor muscles. Our core or the trunk acts as a base of support for the whole body. While performing the body weight exercises, our core muscles work indirectly to support our position that we hold, thus helping in strengthening of the core. A strong core leads to a healthier body and keeps postural problems at bay. Core exercises help in improving balance and overall stability. “Human core is made of more than twenty-nine muscles and body weight training engage most of those muscles. Hence, simple bodyweight training exercises can work on those muscles and strengthen core muscles, improve core strength and posture,” advices Amaresh Ojha, Founder and Fitness expert at Gympik.
Gym vs. Body Weights
Body weight training can be done even if you have not considered any gym membership. Whereas a single exercise of body weight training works on multiple muscles, the equipment available in the gym may focus on any particular muscle or muscle groups. “While using gym equipment, it also becomes a matter of concern how to adjust the workouts according to your stamina and ability, body weight training allows you to modify the workouts as per your strength and stamina. Body weight training is more challenging than weight training in the gym as it’s meant to pull and push your body against gravity,” says Ojha. Bodyweight Training focuses on your basic core strength across the whole of our bodies. “By focusing on bodyweight training at first helps our muscles and joints be able to function whilst only pushing or pulling our own weight. Once the basic exercises of bodyweight are improved we can then move forwards to lifting weights depending on the goal of the individual,” opines Sally Jones, COO & Head Coach of MultiFit (A Calisthenics based Functional Fitness Gym).
Do It Right
So having understood what body weight training is all about, how do you begin? When you are start body weight training, you should consult a qualified trainer to understand what exercises should be done, how they should be done, the right postures for exercises, right weights, exercises which will suit your body type depending on your body strength. “You can prepare your body for body weight training by having a balanced and healthy diet. Have a protein rich diet – recommended daily protein intake should be 2 grams per kg body weight. Cut down on fats and carbohydrates, especially on sugar, particularly in the form of empty liquid calories. You can consult a qualified dietician for your diet plan. Don’t break the routine of your workout,” avers Sheela Seharawat, Founder & CEO, Diet Clinic Health Care Pvt. Ltd. The main key to any type of training is a thorough warm up. 5-10 minutes of a high intensity warm up making sure that there is plenty of blood flow to the muscles and joints is vital. “Number 2 is to make sure that you start with the basic movements i.e. pushups then progressed into a diamond push up. By starting with basics will increase your strength and most importantly technique. Without technique there are no exercises. Bodyweight can be pushed and progressed in many ways therefore we need to focus on what’s right first. Number 3 don’t overstretch, by this we mean not to over stretch our muscles when performing exercises, i.e. lunge – when we step out we step so that both legs perform to 90 degree angles, anything more than this can cause injury. The biggest advice we can give is to go at your pace, not your friends or the person next to you, it’s your body so listen to it. Don’t just watch a video from YouTube which shows you bodyweight examples, actually sit down with somebody within the health and fitness sector and speak to them on what they advise,” says Jones. Leandi Van Zyl, Sports Scientist – Prosport Fitness Centre adds, “make sure that you do not have any injuries before starting body weight training. If so consult a doctor or physiotherapist before taking part in any form of training. Don’t try to do too much too soon. Start with 10 reps and increase from there.” Planning a short and crisp workout, using body resistance instead of weights and utilizing the muscle to its full length is the key to effective body weight training. As Jin Evans said, “the body achieves what the mind believes.”
Mustaqeem Mohamed demonstrates some exercises
- Set your feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out. Pull in your lower abs, and keep your eyes forward.
- Slowly bend at the knees and drop your hips to lower your body. Keep your heels flat on the floor.
- At the bottom of the exercise pause for a moment and strongly push back up to the starting position, mirroring the descent.
- Repeat for desired number of reps.
- To counter balance your weight, hold your arms out in front of you at shoulder height.
- Keep your back as straight as possible throughout the lift to avoid strain or injury.
Single leg Squats:
- Begin with arms extended out in front of your body.
- Balance on one leg with opposite leg extended straight in front as high as possible.
- Squat down as far as possible while keeping the elevated leg off the floor. Ensure your back is kept straight and the supporting knee pointed in the same direction as the supporting foot.
- Raise body back up to original position until supporting led is straight.
- Repeat for desired reps and switch leg.
- To counter balance your weight hold your arms out in front of you at shoulder height.
- Keep your back as straight as possible throughout the lift to avoid strain or injury.
- Stand upright and keep the abdominal muscles tight.
- Take a long step forward and lower your body until your back knee almost touches the floor (your front knee should not extend over your front toe).
- Step back so that your feet are together.
- Repeat (you can either use the same leg or alternate) for desired reps.
- Ensure your hips stay square.
- If the exercise is too hard, start with a shorter step and go further as you improve.
- Lie face down on the floor with hands slightly wider than shoulder width.
- Push down on the floor with the hands and raise the body up by extending the arms.
- Lower the body back down to the floor by bending at the arms and repeat.
- Maintain a straight body throughout the exercise.
- Grasp the bar with an overhand grip and begin from a dead hang (arms fully extended, about shoulder width apart).
- Pull up toward the bar by bending at the arms and clear it with your chin.
- Pause at the top of the exercise and then lower back down under control.
- Return to the starting position and repeat.
- Keep the movement slow and controlled at all times.
- Ensure the body is tight throughout the exercise and keep the torso straight.
- Minimise ‘kipping’, rocking or swaying movements for strict pull-ups.
- Support your body weight in an upright position, arms straight, and hands gripping the bench.
- Lower your body by bending at the elbows. Keep your shoulders close to your sides and the movement steady and controlled.
- Press your body back up to the original starting position so that your arms are nearly straight but not quite locked. Repeat.
- Leg position can be bent, crossed or straight during the exercise.
- To ensure the triceps are targeted, ensure your body is straight. Leaning over will apply emphasis to the chest muscles.
- Being face down resting your weight on your forearms and toes and pull your abs in tight.
- Maintain a hold where your body is in a straight line from shoulders to heels for as long as possible.
- Keep a straight back and don’t allow your hips to sag throughout the exercise hold.
- Lie on your side with your right forearm resting on the ground and your feet on top of one another.
- Separate your legs from one another raising the uppermost leg into the air.
- Hold this star position for desired time and lower the leg back down. Repeat for the set, then swap sides.
This story appeared in the May 2017 issue of Smartlife Magazine here: