When you think about exercising what comes to mind? Possibly visions of picking up some dumbbells, taking a seat on a machine at the gym, or maybe going for that barbell deadlift style. When most people think about exercising there is usually going to be an accessory piece of equipment that goes along with it. However, when I think about exercising it is quite the opposite. In fact, when I think about what I am going to do at the gym I don’t have equipment in mind at all. What I do have on my mind is how I am going to manipulate the weight of my own body and the actions I use daily to further improve my physique, as well as the functionality of my day-to-day movements. I want to preface this article with the statement that I am in no way denouncing the effectiveness of weight training, I only wish to shed some light on an often-overlooked training style, bodyweight training.
Traditional resistance training is often preferred by the general population because it follows some rules. Let’s imagine a newcomer to the gym, they walk in, spot the first machine they can find, and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to use said machine, often accompanied by some pictures and a visual on where exactly on the body that machine is supposed to be training in an isolated way. Then you just pick your reps and sets and you’re good to go. Pretty fool proof, right? A lot simpler than trying to master the form of a push up, which can be done 100 different ways and target different areas on the body, depending on type, number, and intensity. Or even a squat, which, if done incorrectly, can damage you’re knees, decreasing dynamic stability. For these reasons that newcomer at the gym will choose the fool-proof machine 90% of the time.
However, I am here to spread the word on how bodyweight training can increase the functionality of your day-to-day movements and improve coordination, deep core musculature, balance, flexibility and unlock full control of your body and how it moves through space. “Probably the most important aspect of it (bodyweight training) is the development of spacial awareness and body control. The ability to run, crawl, jump, balance on one foot, push and pull-up are critical to maintaining health and athleticism long term.” says Andy Speer, a Peloton Tread Instructor. The way that I like to look at it is, the weight of your body is the weight that you will be carrying around for your whole life. If we can become more efficient at moving our bodies through space, this will make all our necessary movements simply easier and make our extracurricular movements more fulfilling.
I say this because some of the main benefits of bodyweight training are increased joint mobility, leading to higher range of motion; If your hip joint could run through its full flexion and extension range of motion, wouldn’t it make tying your shoes at 70 a bit easier? All the micromovements that we make in a plank hold help to train our deep core musculature, which can result in a stronger core overall, and better coordination and balance. A strong core sounds like the kind of thing that would help you to recover from a near fall on some slippery ice come wintertime. Lots of injury prevention core stabilization programs will be comprised almost entirely of bodyweight exercises. It’s all these small things that we can benefit from by at least adding some bodyweight training into our routines.
However, once you have a foundation on these skills, they are all able to be built upon as well, after you master that push-up, you can then progress to a 1-legged push-up, a diamond push-up, a planche hold and then before you know it you have the foundational knowledge and musculature to perform a press handstand. So, not only does bodyweight training have the ability to improve our lives in small, sometimes unnoticeable ways, but it also gives you an avenue to explore movement in a whole new way, build your physique with 0 equipment, and master the control over your body that you may have never had before. So be curious, do the research, have some fun with it, and never doubt the power of a simple squat hold.
My name is Jordan Zielke, I am a 24-year-old Personal Fitness Trainer student at NAIT, en route to graduating this April. I also instruct kickboxing on a part time basis in Sherwood Park. I have always had a love for movement, which grew into a love for fitness a number of years ago. However, I never got super into going to a traditional gym and doing a number of sets and reps on a certain machine. Because of my gymnastics/kickboxing background I have always been focused on mastering the control of my body. This is why I like to focus more heavily on bodyweight training rather than traditional resistance training. I believe that finding a new, possibly scary at first, way to move can unlock completely different aspects of yourself that you may not have discovered yet. So get out there and get moving, and enjoy every second of it.