The Benefits of Bodyweight Training

By PJ Nestler | Fri Nov 17 2017

What if we told you that everywhere you go, you’ll find a gym right nearby? Well, it’s true. Wherever you go, you never have a reason to skip a workout—because you’re there.

No, we’re not trying to be cryptic. We just know that your body is the handiest gym there is, and that the benefits of bodyweight training are well-proven. Your bodyweight workouts can take you much farther in your fitness than you might imagine—and the research backs that up.

Bodyweight workouts have been repeatedly shown to be effective and efficient when it comes to building strength, endurance, flexibility and balance. Bodyweight workouts can also help injury-proof your body and give you a break from the wear and tear of weightlifting.

Every form of exercise has its place, depending on your goals and situation. But we think bodyweight workouts are a fantastic method of training for athletes of all levels. Here’s why.

Bodyweight Training Builds Strength

Think you can’t get strong and stay strong with bodyweight workouts? Then you’ve probably never seen a picture of Hershel Walker. Walker was a very successful football player in college and the NFL, and after he retired from football, he went on to become a professional MMA fighter. Somewhere in there, Walker even competed in the Olympics as part of a bobsled team.

Throughout his career, Walker looked every inch the athlete. But contrary to what many assumed, he didn’t lift weights. According to a 1982 Sports Illustrated article, My Body’s Like an ArmyWalker used only bodyweight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and sprints. Is bodyweight training effective? Just ask Walker!

Now, there’s no denying Walker is a genetically gifted person, but if you use progressions of the various bodyweight exercises, you can continue scaling up the “weight” of your exercises for a long time. Instead of putting plates on a bar, you’re putting your feet up on a box when you do push-ups, for example.

Bodyweight Training Builds Endurance

Because bodyweight workouts tend to include higher repetitions than traditional weight-based resistance training, you receive the additional benefit of building muscular endurance. We all know there’s a big difference between your ability to do a one-rep-max squat and your ability to do a hundred bodyweight squats. But they are both important qualities for all-around fitness and performance.

Bodyweight workouts offer you the opportunity to train muscular endurance, as well as cardiovascular endurance. And because there is so much potential variability in bodyweight workouts—from long, slow sessions to high-intensity intervals—you can choose which aspect of your metabolic pathways you’d like to train. It’s one of the chief benefits of calisthenics.

Don’t forget that climbing, hiking, walking, and running are all bodyweight workouts, too. “Cardio” doesn’t have to mean endless miles in the gym under the fluorescent lights. It can mean scheduling your favorite outdoor activity a couple times each week, and even spicing them up with sprints and obstacles.

Bodyweight Training Builds Balance and Mobility

Think about it—yoga is bodyweight exercise. Of course, yoga is most often thought of as a method for building balance and flexibility, but what makes it so powerful is that’s not all it builds. Yoga is an incredibly well-rounded form of bodyweight exercise, with many different options that can emphasize strength, endurance, mobility and more.

In a study published in 2011, researchers wrote that the “sun salutation has the potential to improve the muscle strength, general body endurance and body composition to the optimum level in healthy individuals.”

Bodyweight Training Builds Consistency and Results

With bodyweight workouts you don’t need equipment, space, or a lot of time. You can do bodyweight exercise at home, in the park, or anywhere you travel. If you can set up a couple pieces of equipment, then a jump rope and suspension trainer will give you endless options when combined with truly equipment-free bodyweight movements. 

What are the best body weight exercises? Simply put: The one’s you’ll stick to. We all know that when we enjoy doing something and it’s simple to get ourselves going, we’re far more likely to do it regularly. And, when you’re consistent in your workouts, a lot of good things happen. A study from the University of Georgia says that regular exercise will increase your energy level and reduce your fatigue. And that’s on top of all the other benefits.

The Real Benefits of Bodyweight Training

When you look at all these factors together, the benefits of bodyweight workouts add up to a broad spectrum of fitness. When you are strong, stable, flexible, mobile, fit and consistent in your efforts, you’re also injury-proofing your body because you have achieved a balanced program.

In addition, bodyweight exercise can often be done outdoors. A research review published in 2013 demonstrated that, along with supplying your body with much needed fresh air and vitamin D, outdoor exercise has also been shown to increase levels of exertion, reduce stress and boost mood.

But the best thing about bodyweight workouts, aside from the convenience, may be the endless variability. No matter if you need to go hard or go light, you can easily adjust. From high-intensity intervals to a recovery walk, bodyweight workouts can provide what you need, wherever you need it. This level of customization and flexibility tops the list of benefits of bodyweight exercises vs. weights.

Recommended Reading