Saturday, March 7, 2009

Body Weight Exercises: Train at home with little/no equipment

Summary: Body weight exercise is cheap, effective and can be done anywhere. There are many exercises and many ways to do them. Everyone should try it.

Everyone, especially martial artists, should consider body weight exercise as part of their fitness plan. This post will be a brief introduction to doing body weight exercise.

Body weight exercise consists of a lot of stuff you're probably familiar with such as push-ups, pull-ups, squats and sit-ups.

In general you should perform body weight exercise just as you would weight exercises. 1-5 sets of X number of reps. Rest 30 seconds to 1.5 minutes between sets.

I prefer to do mine in different ways to emphasize different strength:
  • Fast, lots of reps (great for endurance) - characteristic body weight enthusiast style
  • Slow, low reps (good for muscle growth) - this is similar to what you will see with a lot of pilates workouts
  • Static contraction (isometric), low reps (great for strength and specific angular strength) - found in a lot of yoga and older muscle builder workouts

Different methodologies

Increased intensity is what drives growth and performance.

Many body weight proponents focus solely on increasing reps. Getting to 100 pushups and 500 squats is a goal I hear pretty often. I think this is an ok method, but it focuses more on muscular and cardiovascular endurance than it does strength.

In gymnastics a key goal with different exercises is progression from an easy version of the exercise to a difficult version. For example with a pushup you may start doing pushups with your knees on the ground, then a full/normal pushup, then elevate your legs on a table or chair. The idea is to put a greater amount of your body weight toward the muscles at work. This increases intensity just like adding weight to a bar would.

Other thoughts

Always do cardio. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is doing only strength exercises. Biking, running or jump rope are some of the easiest exercises you can do and getting your heart rate up is one of the best things you can do for your body. It'll help your strength training too.

Where to start

Start with pushups and squats.

Matt Furey refers to the "Royal Court" as the fundamental exercises for body weight exercise. This includes: Hindu Squats, Hindu/Dive Bomber Pushups and Back Bridges/Wrestler's Bridges. A lot of other body weight enthusiasts emphasize the squats and pushups, but I haven't seen back bridges mentioned as often. I take issue with Hindu Squats, but it's up to you how you want to do them.

Here's a good video on how to do a dive bomber pushup:

These are pretty good to start out with. I like to do variations on all of them. Lots of people think there's only one type of pushup.. there's not. Hands near your body will increase intensity on the triceps, hands further out is good for triceps and chest, extremely wide grip emphasizes your lat muscles quite a bit.

Recommended reading

  • A list of body weight exercises from's forum - a very good thread on some exercises you can start off doing.
  • One of the best articles on body weight exercise. Relates directly to gymnastics and gives a very in-depth view of how it all comes together. Highly recommended.
  • Ross Enamait - popular body weight enthusiast. I really like Ross's stuff. He's got a few books and one DVD out on the topic that you should check out if you're really interested.
  • Matt Furey - another popular body weight enthusiast. Matt's stuff is similar to Ross's. He has a very different instruction technique and writing style though. Matt has both books and videos out on the topic.
There's a ton of stuff on youtube and all over the internet for free. Just look around if you're interested.


hafetysazard said...

Ya'll ain't doing a damn thang if yous ain't doing the 24 ghetto workout! Shiiiiiiiiit.

Ashok K.R said...

very nice article.....thanks for the great workout

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