Now today I want to talk about bodyweight training. About what it can and can't do for you. And show you a few exercises as well.
On the weekend, I worked out with an ol’ buddy of mine. Now Joe, my buddy, is a lawyer in the big city. He's chained to a desk, a big change from his University days of varsity sports, or his high school days working on the farm.
Now for a guy like Joe, who wasn't meant to be stuck behind a desk for 10 hours per day, bodyweight training was a real godsend.
The athletic movements were just what he needed. The challenges of mastering his bodyweight in both upper and lower body exercises was exhilarating, and liberating compared to the days he spends behind the desk.
Not surprisingly, Joe also liked my favorite exercise (the Y-squat or Overhead squat) because it opened up his chest, stretching his tight pecs, and strengthened the muscles of his upper back.
Why just tonite I did 10 reps of the Y-squat because my upper back was starting to tighten, and 4 hours later, my upper back still feels as relaxed as it does after a good night's sleep. (Just do your bodyweight squats with your arms up in a Y-position, keeping your shoulder blades back - feel the tension back there during the exercise and it will help release the stress!)
And with each new exercise, Joe would challenge his body to increase his range of motion, to “unstick himself" if you will, from the deskbound posture that he ends up with after another 50-60 hour work week (he doesn't work that much, for a lawyer).
And as I said to Joe, it is really important to get working on stuff like the Y-squats and stick-ups when he's young, so that his shoulders aren't all tied up like some of the older executives I see in the gym. . . that can't even lift their arms overhead. . . so that's why we use the Stick-up exercise with these guys.
But don't worry, it's never too late to make improvements - just be consistent with your bodyweight training. If you are in really bad shape and all twisted up, you'll have to master basic postural exercises like the Bird Dog and the Plank. Those can help take away your back pain.
If you are a desk jockey, you need to use as many different exercises and movements as possible. And the bodyweight manual, with almost 100 exercises, will challenge your strength and mobility, endurance and agility.
It will make you feel alive.
You want a quick burst of energy? Forget about Starbucks, and their drinks so loaded with caffeine that they make Red Bull look like kid's stuff. In the same amount of time (or less) that it takes you to walk to Starbucks, and order one of their ridiculously-named beverages, you could do a circuit of bodyweight exercise that will:
loosen you up
increase the blood flow to your brain
burn more calories and fat than any caffeine-loaded beverage ever will
improve your health
give you sustained energy boost, not a massive artificial increase in alertness followed by a crash
in your motivation that you get from caffeine
You want stress relief in less than 30 seconds? One set of 10 Y-squats or Stick-ups will give you that.
Now I do get asked a lot, “Can you build muscle with bodyweight exercises"?
And the truth is yes, but. . .
For some guys, they can literally build a cover model body with bodyweight exercises (I was just at a magazine photoshoot with a fitness model that does only bodyweight training and boxing and he was leaner, buffer, and better than some weight-trained fitness models). . .
It all depends on where you are in your physical development. . . but certain exercises like Chins, Dips, Single-leg Squats, Shoulder-press Pushups, Glute-Ham Raises, and Pullups, will help you gain muscle. And you can do these at home, while on the road for business, or when you have to workout an inadequate fitness facility.
But for many other people - and I should say the majority of people, they will need some weight exercises to build muscle. (If you have the option, just start using dumbbells for as many of the bodyweight exercises as you can - you'll find you won't need much weight to gain muscle when using the 1-leg deadlifts, Bulgarian split squats, and the like).
Another popular question, “Can I use bodyweight training in place of regular interval training".
And the answer of course, is yes. If you are looking for a new form of interval training, then I recommend a 6-exercise bodyweight circuit alternating between lower and upper body exercises. Those are some kick-butt, fat-burning, get-leanin’ workouts. And all can be done at home, in less time than it would take you to drive to the gym and back, let alone do your workout.
Craig Ballantyne is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and writes for Men's Health, Men's Fitness, Maximum Fitness, Muscle and Fitness Hers, and Oxygen magazines. His trademarked Turbulence Training fat loss workouts have been featured multiple times in Men's Fitness and Maximum Fitness magazines and all over the Internet, and have helped thousands of men and women around the world lose fat, gain muscle, and get lean in less than 45 minutes three times per week. For more information on the Turbulence Training workouts that will help you burn fat without long, slow cardio sessions or fancy equipment, visit http://www.TurbulenceTraining.com