Why Bodyweight Workouts Are All You Need

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When embarking on any fitness routine from time to time we can think more about the optimum approach. Are we better off using kettlebells or should we train in a martial art? There are so many different options that we could argue the fact that we are overthinking health and fitness. The concept of fitness covers 9 key fitness adaptations which may sound like too much however let’s break it down: 

  • Maximal aerobic capacity. 
  • Long duration submaximal work. 
  • Speed. 
  • Power. 
  • Anaerobic capacity. 
  • Strength. 
  • Muscular endurance. 
  • Muscle hypertrophy. 
  • Skill and technique.

If you are trying to hit each one of those you can certainly cover muscular endurance with anaerobic capacity and maximum aerobic capacity as well as long duration submaximal work. Speed, power, and strength can also go together, and muscular hypertrophy is something that will have adaptations that spill over into some of these other areas. 

This is why, when we’re trying to find the perfect workout, sometimes simple is best, especially if you are looking to hit these nine adaptations equally. So rather than thinking about weights it might be time to make it simpler and go for bodyweight workouts. But why is bodyweight exercise all you need? 

The Convenience

Of course one of the biggest benefits of using our body weight is that we can create a fully-fledged workout routine anyway. There are apps like Flex Fitness that create a full bodyweight workout ensuring that you can hit all of the appropriate areas you are hunting for. 

They are incredibly versatile in terms of when and where they can be performed and while there’s so many people who believe they need a gym membership in order to thrive, gyms are a relatively new phenomenon in the grand scheme of things. 

While we can certainly benefit from specific types of workouts especially if you’re trying to train a specific adaptation such as your posterior chain, which may require a kettlebell, the fact is that if you are in the beginner to intermediate phase of your training and you have very little understanding of how your body moves, using your bodyweight is an excellent approach to understanding your weaknesses and strengthening them before you progress on to something like weights. 

The Functional Aspect

In recent years the concept of functional fitness has been touted as the best solution especially as people are now more concerned about their overall fitness levels as they age. If you have access to exercise machines or dumbbells you can certainly modify them to engage multiple muscle groups but because bodyweight exercises are considered more functional utilizing different muscles and joints at the same time while also making everyday activities and engaging things like your balance you are training the more functional aspects of your fitness. 

We can make the mistake of believing weights to be the perfect solution and train with compound movements like squats and deadlifts, but if we engage in these exercises with improper form, we are causing ourselves problems over time. One of the biggest issues we can all experience in the gym is thinking we need to progress quicker than our body is actually capable of, which means that if you keep pushing with certain exercises way beyond the recommended 70% to 85% of your one repetition maximum you can burn out and overtrain. 

You can achieve what is called progressive overload with bodyweight. Working out with just your bodyweight for many people sounds like an effective solution, however, the key to developing your abilities in your workouts is, very simply, to achieve what’s progressive overload where you are modifying certain aspects of the exercise to make it more difficult. Typically, people lifting weights will add extra to the bar but with bodyweight, you can achieve more effective solutions because you are working with your overall functional fitness. For example, you can add extra weight by using something like a weighted vest or placing something on your back when you’re doing a push-up but you can also make things more difficult by slowing the movement down which is also known as time under tension, and can be very effective for muscle growth (also known as hypertrophy) and improving your strength. 

Another simple way is to add sets, reps, or reduce your rest periods. However, it’s essential that we don’t progressively overload too much. 5% is the absolute maximum you should do. So for example, if you are able to do an exercise routine consisting of sit-ups, pushups, and other bodyweight movements that total 100 reps in one week you would then increase this by five reps only the next week. Also make sure that you take into account deload weeks, which usually occur between six and eight weeks after you’ve started an exercise regime. 

You Listen to Your Body More

When you are using your own bodyweight you can develop very specific strength but you are also working with your body’s natural limitations. Arguably, using your body weight is the best approach to developing fitness because, as already stated, you start to work with your innate sense of fitness. “The Naked Warrior” by Pavel Tsatsouline is one such book that focuses on simple and effective techniques for maximum strength development requiring only 20 minutes a day for effective workouts without the need for fancy equipment or longer hours in the gym. 

Because you are less likely to overtrain when you’re doing this you start to listen to what your body is capable of and because you’re not pitting yourself against someone else in terms of adding extra weight to the bar or extra kettlebell swings, this provides a very simple approach to fitness that we all need to follow from time to time. 

While many people pride themselves on deadlifting a certain weight you’ve got to think about what you can really do with that ability. It has carryover into things like your posterior chain, but ultimately as you enter your 60s and beyond there may be some benefits to training with weights but if you can master your own personal strength and learn not just how to do certain pushups or pistol squats but actually craft a comprehensive workout routine with your bodyweight, this will be all you need to mass stay your body. 

Pavel Tsatsouline has written many books over the years focusing on fitness including “Relax Into Stretch” which is something that we all must incorporate into our lives as well as a proper fitness routine. Because we can easily find ourselves overlooking the functional aspects of fitness that will actually serve us better in later life. Since the pandemic, a lot of people threw away their gym memberships and recognized that, in fact, they were making a lot more progress with things like bodyweight exercises. Ultimately it’s about doing the things that we enjoy but there are countless people out there who are looking for cost-effective ways to keep fit. 

Going back to those nine different adaptations at the very top you can craft an amazing bodyweight workout routine that will give you exactly what you need because choosing the right exercises that work out certain body parts for you as well as modifying the intensity and prioritizing things like flexibility means you can get the body you want. We haven’t even touched upon things like pull-ups or dips which are absolutely amazing for your overall fitness. If you really want to make changes to your health whether it’s aerobic fitness, power, speed, strength, or hypertrophy, bodyweight workouts are all you need.

 

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