Like most people – but especially young men – I was under the belief that I need to hit the gym hard, lift weights and be in there for at least an hour at a time. It’s pushed on us from a young age that fitness = gym time and big muscles = weight lifting. After living with this belief all my life– and finally getting sick of being unable to break a plateau in my appearance – I quit the gym and quit weight lifting.
I already had a strong knowledge base of workouts and exercises to do without weights, but I spent a bit of time studying and learning more so I never got bored and off I went. Fast forward to now, and I haven’t done a regular “gym” session in a tad over three years.
Here are the biggest benefits of bodyweight training.
The freedom to workout anywhere, on my terms, whenever I pleased. It was life changing! No longer did I have to fight rush hour traffic after work to get to the gym, or rush hour at the gym for that matter. I worked out on my lunch break at a local oval, or when I got home from work in the backyard, or even down at the beach – there were no restrictions! As I travelled a bit too, this took the pressure off from always finding a gym, I used to feel stressed whenever I travelled about finding a local gym – not anymore!
It wasn’t just the enjoyment of training outside in the fresh air, under the sun, that kept me going. But four months after going solely bodyweight training, my body had completely changed. More muscle, a leaner physique and I just felt generally stronger! Unlike traditional weight lifting, bodyweight training often involves lots of compound movements, or movements that require multiple muscles to work together at the same time. Which –unless you’re a bodybuilder competing and need even bicep fibre to be bulging – is perfect and it will get you results fast!
Bodyweight training is functional, it relates to everyday life movements. Rather than be locked in position in a one-size-fits-all machine, you work with your body, in movements your body is meant to travel in.
4. Injury prevention
For over 10 years I suffered flare ups from a lower back injury I got in my late teens. Since stopping the gym and focusing on bodyweight training, I have not had a single flare up in three years. I believe this is due to bodyweight training really helping to improve my mobility, flexibility and core strength. So many body weight moves require core activation, even when core isn’t the focus. Pull ups for example, while mainly targeting your back, biceps and shoulders, will – if done correctly and with strict form – bring your core into play big time.
You can most definitely build muscle with bodyweight training. As I have discovered, there is always a progression once an exercise becomes too “easy”. Rather than keep loading up the weights (more often than not with poor technique) something as simple as hand placement can prove to add another level of effort. See regular push ups, progressing to “archer” push ups for example.