No gym? No problem. Bodyweight exercises have become so popular that they placed second in the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) annual Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends. In fact, you won’t see one piece of fitness equipment or fad workout in ACSM’s top 10 fitness trends this year. This hasn’t always been the case, though.
Let’s recap the last few decades. If you went back in time 50 years, it wouldn’t take long to figure out just how much the world of fitness has changed. A visit to one of the first fitness centers back in the day, often referred to “health spas,” may have included a few leisurely laps in the swimming pool and socializing with friends in the steam sauna.
After Arnold Schwarzenegger wowed moviegoers in 1970’s Hercules in New York, bodybuilding quickly gained popularity. By the late ’70s and early ’80s, people began putting a greater emphasis on weight training. While Arnold was inspiring men to pump more iron, women were flocking to Jane Fonda’s aerobics classes.
By 1989, I was working at my first gym, wearing a one-piece thong over leotards. Women of all ages were doing Jazzercise on an open carpeted floor and loving it. Carpeted dance floors slowly were replaced with wood floors in private group exercise studios, offering a much larger variety of specialty classes. Year after year, new trending workouts like Tae Bo, Reebok Step, Spinning, and Zumba would make the top charts with traditional bodyweight exercises not even being discussed.
However, in more recent years, fitness has simplified in many ways. People exercising these days are training more like an athlete in a 1960s gym class or a new cadet in basic training. The bench press is being replaced with pushups and fancy treadmills are being passed over for plyometric exercises.
Why has bodyweight training taken off? First, it’s cheap. Okay, it’s better than cheap. It’s free. You literally need nothing but floor space. Second, bodyweight exercises are endless. There are a variety of bodyweight exercises for every muscle group. If you have access to a computer, there are thousands of exercises you could learn in the privacy of your home. Lastly, they work.
In order for an exercise to make ACSM’s top 10 list, the exercise trend has to work–and bodyweight training is no exception.
6 Reasons to Do More Bodyweight Exercises
1. Strengthens the Core. Unlike working out on a machine, where your core is supported by a bench, bodyweight exercises incorporate the full body–including the core. A strong core helps prevent back injuries and improves posture.
2. More Efficient. Bodyweight exercises can also be more efficient because many bodyweight exercises incorporate both strength and cardiovascular endurance in one single exercise. Instead of working each individual muscle independently on weight machines, you can work more muscle groups at once, saving you time.
3. Improves Flexibility. Since you aren’t saddled with additional heavy weights, it’s safer to complete the full range of motion, which results in improved flexibility.
4. Develops Better Balance. Most people don’t attempt to do daily tasks on one leg. However, many bodyweight exercises, like lunges and planks, require good balance. The more exercises that require balance, the better.
5. Always Challenging. Bodyweight exercises can be challenging for all shapes, sizes, and physical conditions. The more fit you are, the more reps you may get in during an allotted amount of time. As long as you are giving each exercise your all, you are getting a great workout no matter what your fitness level is.
6. Never Boring. Since there are so many exercises to choose from and so many ways to put different exercises together, you’ll never be bored or confined to certain moves. The longer you do bodyweight exercises and expand your exercise library, the more you’ll enjoy them.
If you’ve been using a list of excuses that include “I can’t afford to join a gym” or “I don’t have any equipment,” I just took your excuses away. It’s time to clear a space on the floor and get to work!
Sample Body Weight Workout:
Do 30 seconds of each:
- Jumping jacks
Repeat five times as quickly as you can, with no rest, for an intense 10-minute workout.