Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Power of Your Bodyweight

Trying to switch up your workout? No time for the gym? Don’t have access to any exercise equipment?  Here is your answer, bodyweight exercises! What are bodyweight exercises you ask? This is a type of training that does not require any equipment such as weighted machines, free weights, etc. Only your bodyweight is used as resistance, challenging yourself against your own weight and the force of gravity. Bodyweight exercise is an effective means for both cardiovascular and resistance training.

The following is a list of benefits that come from bodyweight exercise:

-          No need for equipment: This is perfect for those days that you can’t make it into the gym or want to take your exercise outdoors for a change of scenery. Bodyweight exercises can be done anywhere, and it does not necessarily have to take up too much space. This is ideal when traveling and all you have at your disposal is your hotel room. This is also an affordable means of exercise; now there is no excuse not to get active!  Heavy machinery or excess equipment is not necessarily needed for a great and effective workout because your bodyweight alone is challenging in itself.
-          All exercises can be easily modified: There are simple modifications that can be made to each exercise so that anyone can be successful. This truly shows that bodyweight exercise is for everyone. For example, a simple push up can be modified from the full version to a kneeling position, taking off some of the load, until you are ready to progress.
-          Total body workout: Bodyweight exercises incorporate multiple muscle groups at a time whereas other forms of exercise may only focus on isolating one particular muscle group. When multiple muscle groups are recruited at the same time, more calories are burned, making your exercise more efficient and cutting your workout time almost in half. For example, plyometrics is an advanced form of bodyweight exercise that is characterized by explosive and powerful movements such as jumping exercises. It also produces lean muscles and improved coordination as you learn to work multiple muscles in simultaneous movements at once.
-          Increased core strength and stability: As stated in a previous blog, core is not only abs. Your core is comprised of muscles that align the spine, ribs, and pelvis, stabilizing your trunk during any kind of movement. Body weight exercises recruit and strengthen these muscles that increases ones functional capacity of movement. A strong core produces better balance and stability, resulting in decreased chances of injury. All of this combined also promotes better overall posture.
-          Improved flexibility: Bodyweight exercises, when done properly, challenges you to go through a full range of motion with proper form. When you consistently go through these motions, your muscles adapt to the stretch and in turn become more flexible with regular training. Increased flexibility also decreases injury from pulled muscles and a greater overall range of motion and joint mobility.

   Here are some bodyweight exercises to try:

         Jumping Jacks 
Start off with your feet together, knees can be slightly bent, and your arm right by your sides. Then jump legs and feet out to the side landing about shoulder width apart and raising arms out and above your head. Jump back to the original position and continue this motion for the desired number of repetitions. 

Modified Jumping Jacks


Wave arms like  regular jumping jacks but step out legs without a jumping motion. You can either step them out to the side or alternate taping them out in front of your body. Another modification can be using a chair or piece of furniture and hold your hands on them to support your body and proceed to perform the lateral jumping motion with your legs. 

Burpees
Start from a standing position then bend down, placing hands onto the ground beside your feet about shoulder width apart, then jump feet back into a plank position on your toes. Then jump your feet back towards your hands and return to a standing position. For added intensity, add a jump when returning to the standing position. 
Modification - Go through the same motions as a regular burpee but do not engage in jumping your feet from your hands to a plank position. You can walk one foot at a time into a plank position and then walk them back towards the hands and return to the standing position.

Plank
Lie on your stomach and rest your forearms on the floor with your legs stretched out straight behind you. Push up from the floor and onto your toes and rest on your elbows. Hold this position engaging your core and holding your abs tight. Make sure to keep a neutral back avoiding any sagging or arching of the hips. There should be a straight line from your head to heels with respect to the natural curvature of your body. 

Modified Plank

Maintain the same positioning as a regular plank but you may lower your knees to the ground for extra support.

Russian Twist
 
Start from a seated position with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lean back and contract your abs until your back is at 45 degrees to the floor. Keep your abs engaged throughout this exercises with your back straight and chest facing up. Lift your feet up off the floor until your hips are also flexed at a 45 degree angle. Interlock you hands in front of you, then proceed to twist your trunk to the right side and bring your hands as close to the floor as possible then rotate to the left side bringing your hands as close to the floor as possible. Continue this motion until you have reached your desired number of repetitions. Remember to engage your obliques and hold your core tight when rotating from side to side instead of only moving your arms from side to side.
Modification - Keep feet flat on the ground as you go through the rotating movements.

Push ups

Start from a plank position with your body raised up off the floor and hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart and raising up onto your toes. Make sure you keep a neutral back avoiding any sagging or arching of the hips. As you inhale, slowly lower yourself towards the ground where your elbows are at 90 degree angles. On your exhale, push yourself back up to the starting position. Avoid locking out the arms and maintain a slightly bent arm throughout the exercise. Repeat this motion for the desired number of repetitions.

Modified Push Ups 


Lower your knees to the ground bringing your toes up and off the floor. You can cross your legs from this position if it is more comfortable. Proceed to go through the same lowering and raising motion as a regular push up.

Squats
Stand with feet about hip to shoulder width apart. Holding your core tight, lead with your glutes and bend down into a seated position where your knees are bent at least 90 degrees. Make sure that your knees do not come past your toes and that you keep a neutral back without rounding it as you lower down towards the floor.


Lunges

Start from a standing position and step out with the right foot, lowering your body down towards the floor until the front knee is at a 90 degree angle, with the back knee also lowered down as close to the floor as possible, without touching it. Then return the front foot back to the starting position and repeat, or alternate the same movement on the left leg. You may choose to perform an entire set of repetitions on one side then move to the next or alternate sides until you reach your desired number of repetitions. Remember to keep a good posture when performing this exercise and make sure the front knee does not come past your toes. 

Good luck with these exercises and feel free to change them up as you progress. Make these exercises your own through modifications or increasing difficulty as needed. 

Kimi Ma
ACE - CPT

References

Zdeb, C. (2013, Feb 19). How to ...; exercise equipment-free bodyweight workout requires no machines. The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1289247868?accountid=10357

(2008, July). Using Body-Weight Exercises. IDEA Fitness Journal. Retrieved from http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/body-weight-exercises


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