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Body weight training is an extreme muscle workout

Updated on May 16, 2013

Forget the dumbbells. Stash the clumsy, bulky weight bench in the garage; you’ve stubbed your toe for the last time. Get those gimmicky seen-on-tv exercise fads ready for the yard sale. It’s time to upgrade.

The ultimate weightlifting and resistance training machine is completely portable and fits in any room: it’s your own body. Professional athletes and soldiers use bodyweight training to tone, and to gain muscle mass. Any time, any place - you are ready to go.

People have been doing calisthenics for centuries. The ancient Greeks didn’t go about sporting six-pack abs by using a plastic roller-wheel thingy that folds up to fit under the bed. They used technique and the weight of their own bodies to get those chisel-ready physiques.

Chiseled abs!

This is not a Bowflex body. (Ricardo Andr Frantz Wikimedia Commons)
This is not a Bowflex body. (Ricardo Andr Frantz Wikimedia Commons)

Body weight exercises: no equipment needed

A push-up is kinda boring, right? It lacks... drama. Unless you are out in the pouring rain and there is a scary guy yelling “Give me 20!” at you. Push-ups are great for building upper body strength, but they are not particularly graceful. At least the kind we learned in PE aren’t.

For a variation, check out the Hindu Push-up.

It’s not the rigid, brute force pushup that we normally see. It’s still an upper body workout, but the extra movement increases flexibility as well as muscle tone. It requires more coordination and uses more energy.

The fluid motion of the Hindu Pushup makes it low impact, yet it is a better muscle workout than a standard push-up. It incorporates breathing exercises while it stretches your chest, back and shoulders.

The Hindu Squat uses a similar variation. The heels are raised, focusing the weight on the toes. Again, fluid motion lessens the hard impact of a standard squat. Coordinated breathing and constant motion improve balance while strengthening muscle.

I think this is more impressive than power lifting. Don’t you?

Core bodyweight exercises build strength and muscle

Yoga and Pilates are also body weight exercises, but for weight training without equipment, start out with the basic core resistance techniques:

  • Push-ups build strength in the chest, shoulders and upper arms.
  • Squats target the knees, upper legs and butt
  • Lunges work the legs; varying the angle of the arms focuses different muscles.
  • Crunches build up the abs.
  • Dips work the upper body, arms and shoulders
  • Pull-Ups or Chin-ups also work the upper body. For many, this is the most difficult exercise.

Without a heavy barbell, you won’t need a spotter on standby to rescue you if you get too tired or try to lift too much. Be careful just the same, especially if you are in an awkward position. Don’t forget to stretch!

Don’t underestimate your own body weight.

Body weight training builds muscle mass, and it also develops balance and coordination. The basic techniques are simple to learn and don’t require any equipment.

(Although, you may need to go looking for a low tree branch to do your pull-ups, if you don’t have a bar.)

As your stamina increases, add more reps to your program. Keep adding variations to the routine.

How soon could you be doing one handed pull-ups and handstand push-ups?


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  • alocsin profile image

    alocsin 6 years ago from Orange County, CA

    Excellent fitness article. I'm linking this to my fitness shoe hub and voting it Up and Useful.

  • MosLadder profile image

    Chris Montgomery 6 years ago from Irvine, CA

    Nice hub, too bad that guy in the video was such a slacker. Shiii, one handed pullups. Whatever! Nah, really, good on ya!

  • ma45frost profile image

    ma45frost 6 years ago from USA

    Excellent post! I really like the body weight training video. Wish I could do that without anyone's help.

  • scubadoggy profile image

    scubadoggy 6 years ago

    Interesting, these are great exercises that you can do on the road or without equipment... Thanks, great hub!

  • parrster profile image

    Richard Parr 7 years ago from Oz

    Bookmarked. thanks champ

  • ocbill profile image

    ocbill 7 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

    good post. I use some of these from Core workouts in P90x. try the sphinx push-up or spiderman push-ups. Those are great too

  • jaynotts profile image

    jaynotts 7 years ago from New York

    GREAT POST really cool bodyweight exercises

  • wyanjen profile image

    Jen King 7 years ago from Wyandotte Michigan

    Body weight workouts don't seem as interesting to some, I think because people need a prop. Like, a treadmill or a barbell.

    This is why I added the hand stand push up video to this hub. That just blows my mind! lol

    I always start out feeling a little awkward, without equipment. But in the end I feel more coordinated than if I had used some equipment.

  • Don Simkovich profile image

    Don Simkovich 7 years ago from Pasadena, CA

    Good advice. I've not been able to run due to a hurt knee so I've been doing more push-ups, sit-ups . . . and they do work . . . I do use weights, too. There are some parks around us with equipment that causes people to use their own weight as the weights. Great workouts!

  • wyanjen profile image

    Jen King 7 years ago from Wyandotte Michigan

    qwark! I'm bummed out.. My comments are not working evidently because I left one for you here yesterday, but I don't see it today. Weird.

    Maybe it will reappear! :-(

  • wyanjen profile image

    Jen King 7 years ago from Wyandotte Michigan

    Why, thank you Laura. Congrats to you with the contest - how awesome!

    The Hindu Pushups are mind/body exercises too, with controlled breathing and meditation. I can't do even one regular pushup LOL

    We should do pink mugs for Easter! HA

  • profile image

    wordscribe41 7 years ago

    WHISTLE, whistle, Zeus, my man. I like the hindu push-up, that's a new one for me. I look like a child when I do push-ups. I've seen a couple of DUDES at our gym doing the handstand push-ups. Grand stand push-ups! Anyway, this is a well done hub, Jen. Loads of information and cool visuals. I like it. I like it a lot. Cheers! Happy St. Patty's day. Still lovin' my green mug!

  • qwark profile image

    qwark 7 years ago


    Those are the 7 exercise movements that work all the major muscle groups.

    You'd be surprised, maybe not, that new participants don't have the strength to do 5 -6 bodyweight squats, 'specially the ladies and certainly can't do correct pushups.

    When I was personal training I used those 7 exercises but I had my own special routines that took the full brunt of the movement away.

    The Old "Charles Atlas" program of "Dynamic Tension" is still a wonderful way to workout with only body weight.

    If you aren't familiar with it look it up. It's a great routine for beginners.

    This "hub" tho is right on. :-)