Even though most people would agree that strength training probably has some value for health, the practice is usually associated with bodybuilders and fitness fanatics in an off-putting or maybe even an intimidating way. Also, some people simply can’t afford a gym membership or buying a bunch of expensive equipment in their home. The good news is, though, that you can work all the muscle groups and build strength without equipment from your home, office, or anywhere else that’s convenient. The key is to develop a personalized bodyweight workout.
The Benefits of Strength Training
Using weight training to build muscle has benefits beyond having a toned or muscular body. In fact, research over the last few decades has increasingly shown that building body strength is linked with a lower risk of early death and a lower risk of developing a non-communicable disease. This research has also shown that strength training is a key factor in countering the inevitable loss of muscle mass and strength that happens as we get older. Below are some additional health benefits of strength training:
- Improved performance: Building muscle and increasing strength can, of course, improve speed and power used in athletic performance. Yet it can also improve balance, range of motion, and flexibility so that a person of any age can experience better mobility.
- Cardiovascular health: Cardio exercise is what people usually think of when they think about heart health, but recent studies have shown that strength training can also be beneficial for improving blood pressure, lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and decreasing the pericardial fat around the heart that is known to be a factor in heart disease.
- Bone density: Weight training or resistance training—anything that makes you work against gravity—puts tension on the bones and promotes the formation of more bone tissue. When this kind of exercise is done regularly, it can increase bone density and reduce the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
- Joint health: Even though there is a persistent myth that strength training can have a negative impact on joints, the truth is that it does the opposite. Resistance training helps strengthen muscles and tendons, and that can increase flexibility and range of motion. If done properly, this kind of training can improve joint health and reduce the chances of pain and conditions like arthritis.
- Burn body fat: Strength training, especially when combined with a healthy diet and cardio exercise, can lead to increased fat loss. One of the main reasons for this is that muscle tissue has a higher metabolic rate; this means that more muscle will burn more calories.
- Mental health: Many recent studies continue to demonstrate that strength training has a positive impact on mood, and people who participate are less likely to have depression and anxiety. Some of this is due to the release of endorphins, neuropeptides that block pain increase feelings of wellbeing. It can also improve one’s sense of self-esteem and confidence.
- Better sleep: The link between better sleep and exercise has long been established, but recently it appears that strength or resistance training may be one of the best ways to get more sleep and to get better quality sleep. One possible explanation for this is that resistance training promotes the production of adenosine, a compound that is believed to increase a person’s drive to sleep.
Examples of Bodyweight Exercises
To realize the benefits of strength training, you can certainly go to a gym and use weights and other equipment. But you can also gain those benefits through bodyweight training, which is defined as exercise that uses a person’s own bodyweight to provide the necessary resistance against gravity. One of the benefits of this kind of workout routine is that it is generally safer than working out with free weights because there is a reduced chance of injury. Another benefit is that anyone can start doing these exercises regardless of your starting fitness level. Here are some examples of bodyweight exercises:
- Sit-ups: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. With your hands at the sides of your head, engage your core muscles and sit up until your abdomen and thighs form a V shape. You can also hook your feet under a couch to prevent them from moving. An alternative is abdominal crunches; rather than sitting all the way up, just bring your shoulders off the floor, hold for two seconds, and then return to the starting position.
- Pull-ups: This is the only bodyweight exercise that requires equipment that you might not have around the house. If you can’t hang a bar in a doorway, you could use the bars at a local playground. Start by hanging from the bar with arms fully extended and pull yourself up until your chin is level with the bar. At first, do as many reps as you can; eventually you’ll be able to break it into multiple sets.
- Planks: In a plank position, you are holding your body in a straight line parallel to the ground and resting on your forearms and toes. Once in the position, engage your core and avoid lowering your hips or shoulders. Hold the position for 30 seconds or as long as you can. Rest and repeat.
- Side planks: Lie on your right side with your legs extended, the elbow of your right arm under your right shoulder, and your left foot stacked on your right foot (your left arm can rest on your body). Lift your hips and knees off the floor until your entire body is in a straight line. You can either do multiple reps and rest or try to hold for 30 seconds. Rest and repeat on the left side.
- Push-ups: Push-ups are a great upper body workout that can be done anywhere you have a little free space. Start in a plank position but rest on your hands instead of your forearms. Lower yourself down until your chest is almost touching the floor and then push yourself back up.
- Lunges: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and step forward with the right leg and let your left leg extend behind and your left foot is on the toes. Bend your right knee to a 90-degree angle while your left knee lightly touches the floor. An alternative is a reverse lunge where you extend your leg back until your right leg reaches 90 degrees.
- Mountain climbers: Mountain climbers are a full-body exercise that starts in the plank position. Bring your right knee toward your right hand with your left leg extended back. Then quickly reverse the position so that your left knee moves toward your left hand. Repeat this quickly for 30 seconds to one minute. It will raise your heart rate while also providing resistance training for your lower body.
- Chair dips: Chair dips are basically just tricep dips that you can do on any stable chair you have around the house. Sit on the edge of the chair with your palms down gripping the sides of the chair and your feet flat on the floor. Slide forward so that you can lower yourself down until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Push yourself back up to the starting position. Do three sets of 10-15 reps each.
- Squats: Bodyweight squats are a great lower body workout that works your hamstrings, glutes, quads, and calves. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and then squat down until your upper legs are parallel with the floor. Be sure to keep your back straight and not rounded. Do three sets of 10-15 reps each.
- Burpees: Burpees are a type of bodyweight exercise that also provide a cardio benefit by increasing your heart rate. From a standing position, bend down and place your palms on the floor. As soon as your weight shifts to your palms, kick your feet out behind you so that you’re in essentially a high plank position. Do a push-up and then immediately bring your feet underneath you and stand up and jump. Then quickly repeat. Like with push-ups and other bodyweight workouts, do as many as you can as first; eventually you’ll be able to do more and move more quickly.
Exercise Can Be a Part of a Weight Loss Plan
People turn to exercise for many different reasons, and bodyweight exercises are a great way to add physical activity into your daily life. But as a means of weight loss, exercise is best thought of as an add-on. Long-term, sustainable weight loss requires a different approach that many people find elusive. That’s why at True You Weight Loss, we are passionate about providing an alternative solution that can help people find lasting success. If you’d like to learn more about how True You can help, please contact us to request a consultation.