Bodyweight exercise is the best place to begin when starting a physical fitness training program, should be added to programs that otherwise neglect bodyweight exercise and should be diversified with resistance training for programs that use bodyweight exercise exclusively.
Some people love bodyweight exercise and some people hate it... similarly, some people think bodyweight exercise is valuable to a physical fitness training program, and others don't.
I believe that bodyweight exercise is not only the best method to start a physical fitness training program... but I believe that it should remain an active part of any well balance physical training program.
Let's look at bodyweight exercise from three different perspectives... from the beginner just getting started, from the experienced weight lifter that neglects bodyweight exercise and from the bodyweight exercise only crowd.
1. Bodyweight Exercise For Beginners
Most commercial gyms will prescribe an exercise regimen of strength training, usually in the form of machines, and cardiorespiratory endurance training, normally in the form of stationary "cardio" equipment.
This is a generalization of course... but these two types of training are the predominant forms of physical training in most gyms, regardless of how they are put together.
Notice... bodyweight exercise is missing.
Answer me this... should a beginner with no prior experience with physical training start by jumping right into resistance training with free weights or machines, or would they be better served by learning more about the movement of their bodies by using bodyweight exercise?
Physical training allows you to improve the body by supplying increased stimulus that is not normally found in your daily lifestyle.
For the beginner, bodyweight exercise is the logical place to start... because most beginners are actually going from a state of complete inactivity to a state of activity.
The beginner has not even scraped the surface of what their body can perform without resistance... and should therefore strive to make improvements using bodyweight exercise first.
Once the beginner has made sufficient gains and reached an improved state with bodyweight exercise... then they can add resistance.
2. Bodyweight Exercise For The Experienced Weight Lifter
Many people with a great deal of experience and expertise in physical training completely neglect bodyweight exercise... or believe it to be ineffective.
They notoriously use all types of resistance training methods... while neglecting bodyweight exercise all together.
I propose that the goal of any physical fitness training program is to improve performance that can be used to meet the challenges of sport, work and life with excellence.
Many of those challenges will be met by the effective control and movement of your own body... and not the movement of other objects through space.
And what is the best way to train the improvement of body movement and control of your own body... that's right, bodyweight exercise.
Here is an example...
Many people that have trouble doing a push up will focus on the bench press with hopes of improving their push up numbers... with limited results.
If you want to be able to do more push ups... do more push ups!
The point is this, the improvements you will see from physical training are specific... so if you want to see improvements in a bodyweight movement, use bodyweight exercise to do so.
3. Bodyweight Exercise For The Bodyweight Only Crowd
As you can already tell, I am a strong advocate of bodyweight exercise... but not exclusively.
There are various physical fitness training programs that use bodyweight exercise almost exclusively... like Yoga or Pilates.
While I have no problem with these forms of training... I believe they can take you only so far on the road to physical fitness excellence.
We must remember... Yoga exercises are performed in conjunction with meditation and Pilates was originally developed as a form of rehabilitation for war veterans.
The point is this... bodyweight exercise only programs will only take you so far, and then some form of resistance training must be applied to see further improvement.
Bodyweight exercise is an important part of any well balanced physical fitness training program.
If you are just getting started... bodyweight exercise is the perfect place to start.
If you have notoriously neglected bodyweight exercise in your training... add it to improve the physical abilities you have been neglecting.
If you only use bodyweight exercise... diversify your fitness training program by adding some form of resistance training.
In this way, each group can optimize the use of bodyweight exercise.
Do not underestimate the importance of bodyweight exercise... Use it effectively and in the right proportion to meet your goals, needs, abilities and limitations and meet the challenges of sport, work and life with excellence.
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Eddie Lomax is a strength, conditioning and fitness coach and founder of Optimum Physical Training. We recommend his book Unchained Bodyweight Workout.
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