26 April 2011

Bodyweight and Functional Training

Bodyweight Exercises and Their Benefits

Bodyweight exercises have long been a favourite of mine and for good reason. Many people who strive for fitness believe that lifting weights and running for hours on end are a sure fire way to the physique and fitness levels they desire! But let me ask you a question. How can you lift weights if you can not lift your own body? It does not make sense. Pushing each muscle to the limit individually is one thing, but pushing  your body to the limits AS A UNIT is something completely unique. 

Let me explain the importance of FUNCTIONAL TRAINING. Functional as a word means 'productive' or 'useful' and functional training is exactly that. In contrast, Isolation means 'solitary' or 'alone' so you can begin to see the differences between functional and isolation training methods already!  Functional movements can be very beneficial for our overall health, as a lot of these movements involve multiple muscle groups and mimic every day movements, for example picking a box up from the floor and placing it on the top shelf. This happens in households and work places every day, and a huge number of people are injured every year doing just that. If we look at that movement and which muscles in the body it uses, bending down to pick something up takes strength from the legs, back and abdominal muscles, as well as putting stress on the spine and ankles. You can now see that this movement has many areas of concern when being performed, as 1 muscle unable to cope could lead to nasty injury.

On the other hand, isolation exercises like bicep curls for instance, have less area of concern as the movement pattern is very simple. Flexion of the elbow is all that is required to perform the exercise, but how many times in the average day would you be required to use a bicep curl and exactly how much force would be required when using it? I mean, you don't need big, strong biceps to brush your hair!!! 

The point I am making is, it is easier and less hassle to train muscles individually! I call isolation exercises, the 'lazy mans workout' as sitting in a chair doing bicep curls, or standing doing tricep pushdowns is really such a waste of time! Don't get me wrong, everybody should once in a while hit all the muscles from every angle possible, including SOME isolation work, but I see far too many people training with the bulk of their workouts consisting of isolation movements, and even giving them precedence over the compound exercises! It astonishes me!!!

I have decided to give a 'Mandatory Exercise List' which is for anybody serious about getting in shape, and really gaining from their workouts!!! Be honest and ask yourself, do I really do the following exercises as often as I should, even as a warm up???

All of the following movements can be performed with bodyweight only, in fact I would recommend before starting a weight training programme to spend up to 4 weeks on these movements alone, developing a real neuromuscular understanding within the body. 

Pull Ups 
Leg/Knee Raises
Push Ups
Star Jumps
One Leg Balancing
Sit Ups/Crunches
Plank Holds
Tip Toe Holds
Vertical Jumping

These exercises cover all areas of the body, and if performed with perfect biomechanics can be just as if not more effective than similar weighted exercises. Being in control of your body has nothing to do with the amount of weight you can lift and for how many reps. People who ask me about my training are often shocked to hear that I very rarely use weights, and when I do never lifting too heavy, always staying around the 12-15 reps range as to avoid injury.

The exercises listed each have many variations, all of which can stress the muscles in slightly different ways. Variation is the key to progression, as has been my motto since I first discovered the principle of muscle confusion. 
Never allow your body the chance to adapt to a set workout, weight, rep range, exercises angle, training time or day of the week, free weight, cable, machine or bodyweight, strength endurance or power training, number of sets, time of the actual exercises.

These are some of the things which you can change every single time you come to the gym, and the list is endless! try doing 10 second reps!!! even with the lightest weights or your body weight!
Now you have some of the tools necessary to get you on the right track, go out and experiment with some of the bodyweight exercises, and unleash your inner potential!

Good Luck!

Mens Sana In Corpore Sano - A Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body


  1. thanks for a good workout option!

  2. The core abdominal exercise machine include abs trainers, abs ball, abs slings, crunch benches, crunch machines etc. These machines are better than simple abs exercise because they help to contract abs muscles more, isolate them and work best on them to develop them.

  3. As these abdominal exercisecause the full contraction of muscle groups a very minimal time is required between reps. The time required to rest between sets is much longer to allow for more recovery. Eccentric contractions are also known as negatives.