Why Body Weight Exercises Limit Strength
Right now, body weight workouts are king. In fact, body weight training was named the number two fitness trend of 2016 by the American College of Sports Medicine. It was beat out by wearable tech. “Body weight training uses minimal equipment, making it more affordable. Not limited to just push-ups and pull-ups, this trend allows people to get ‘back to the basics’ with fitness,” the report declared. A very popular workout I offer, Insanity Max30, uses body weight exercises to burn a ton of calories and build lean muscle.
Obviously, working out without equipment can hardly be called a ‘trend’ (It’s been around since the push up was created), but it’s true that these workouts seem to have reached an all-time peak. I’m a huge fan of body weight training, and as the ACSM points out, it does make working out more accessible to those who don’t have the option to dole out thousands a year on gym memberships or boutique fitness classes. For the most part, you can body weight train anywhere, and it’s quick and convenient if you’re short on time.
But as a result of body weight training’s popularity, it’s led many to ditch their gym memberships and question the necessity of weight rooms. Can’t I just squat and push-up my way to a lean body? In part, the answer is yes.
“The best tool you have is your own body,” says trainer Kira Stokes, creator of The Stoked Method. Stokes is a huge advocate of body weight exercises, with hundreds of unique moves in her arsenal (like these 31 plank moves!). But she believes only focusing on body weight has its downfalls. “You become limited in what you can offer your body,” she says.
First of all doing push ups and pull ups takes proper form and strength to complete. Doing only body weight workouts limits building strength in these different areas of your body. That’s where weight training comes in. If you want to be able to lift and lower your body for pull ups and push ups you first need to build strength using dumbbells. I’ve heard it said that dumb bells can be a modification to using your body weight during exercises. I like this concept. How can you push up your body weight when you haven’t worked on lifting or lowering 10 or 15 lb dumbbells?
I believe many people would love to lift weights they just don’t know what exercises they should be doing in the weight room to get results. Because of the popularity of HIIT, body weight training programs and at home workouts that I offer, we have lost sight of the importance of basic lifting exercises. Body weight exercises focus on training movement, but in order to gain strength you also need to train the muscle for the movement.
Hitting A Plateau
One of the problems with body weight exercises if the risk of hitting a plateau. If you’re always doing the same workout or exercises your body will adapt and it won’t stimulate the muscle enough to causes changes to your body composition. Because of this you can actually lose strength if you’re only focusing on body weight exercises, depending on your current fitness level. While many people might improve and gain strength initially from body weight workouts, for those who can already do, say, 30 push-ups, focusing only on body weight training will actually cause your strength to decrease.
What you should know is that you shouldn’t be afraid to pick up the weights and train for strength at times. Variety is important to maintaining motivation. Free weights can be a great way to do that. So don’t necessarily follow the trends these days. Sometimes the old-fashioned dumbbells are still the best workout to build strength.
If you are an avid at-home fitness junkie, there are a couple programs that incorporate weight training to build strength and burn fat. They also use body weight exercises and cardio for more variety and to work different muscle groups to build strength. Body Beast is the ultimate in weight lifting to pack on muscle. If you are a beginner 21 Day Fix is amazing using both cardio and weight to shed fat and build strength. If you are looking for a challenge my two favorite weight training workouts are 21 Day Fix Extreme and Hammer and Chisel.
I invite you to join my next virtual workout group with the team, The Strength Squad. We will be doing Hammer and Chisel. We would love to motivate, inspire and hold you accountable in finding your strong. Contact me if you have any questions on weight training, nutrition or to find a program that fits your goals.