What is bodyweight training?
Bodyweight training is a form of strength training that uses your own bodyweight as resistance, rather than weights or gym machines.
Bodyweight exercises aren’t limited to obvious examples like push-ups, pull-ups, dips, squats and sit-ups. There’s actually a huge variety of exercises you can do to keep you interested and challenged. Some are amazing feats of gymnastic prowess (such as handstand push-ups, muscle-ups and the planche) that would take most of us months or years to achieve, and as such are great long -term goals to aim for.
What’s so good about it?
It’s easy to neglect strength training, particularly as we age. This contributes to the widespread issue of age-related loss of muscle mass, which is associated with a number of health problems, particularly in the elderly, such as falls, loss of independence and increased mortality.
Simple bodyweight exercises can help to prevent this, particularly as they can be done at home (or anywhere really) with little or no equipment, avoiding the costs of weights and gym membership.
How do you do it?
You don’t actually have to do formal bodyweight exercises in order to practice bodyweight strength training. If I had the time, I’d just go rock climbing every day. Others might prefer gymnastics or yoga.
However, given the usual constraints with time, money and equipment, simple bodyweight exercises that you can do at home are a great way of doing some regular strength training.
A common question about bodyweight training is: how do you vary the intensity of the exercises without using weights? How do you make them easier when starting out, and then harder as you improve your strength over time?
This is done using progressions. For example, if you can’t yet do a push-up, then you start with a vertical push-up off a wall and progress to incline push-ups and then the full push-up.
See the progressions page for details of how to increase or decrease the intensity of some of the more common bodyweight exercises. The key is to start sensibly, so you don’t injure yourself, and progress to the next level when you can perform a reasonable number of reps of a particular exercise easily.
Many of the workouts on this site involve bodyweight exercises. For example, see:
There’s plenty of inspirational calisthenic videos online, however for some basic instruction I would recommend you start here: