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Bodyweight Training: The No-Excuse Workout Everyone Can Do

Even if we are familiar with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation of at least 30 minutes of daily cardio/weight training, we can be tempted to spend that time making excuses instead. Maybe It's that we’re too busy or the gym is too far away. The ideal solution, we tell ourselves, would be a private fitness center that’s open all the time. The good news is that you already have what you need for a convenient, quick workout.  

What Is Bodyweight Training?

Bodyweight training, or strength-training, uses your own weight to provide resistance against gravity to work several different muscle groups at the same time. You can tone and strengthen your body without going to the gym or buying weights. It also has a correlation with increased bone density, decreased depression and improved sleep habits.

How It Benefits You 

In addition to its convenience and long-term advantages, bodyweight training delivers important physical health benefits, such as:

  • Faster fat burning. A cardio workout allows you to burn calories while you exercise. But weight training will keep burning calories for up to 36 hours afterward. That’s because   it's process of breaking down and rebuilding muscle causes a spike in your metabolic rate, which tells your body to keep tapping into its energy stores of fat — even at rest.

  • Improved core strength. Your core, a complex of muscles in your torso, is the central link connecting your upper and lower body – controlling movement of your arms and legs. A weak core can contribute to back pain, mobility issues and discomfort. By eliminating workout equipment, bodyweight training requires you to engage your core to provide needed stability, strengthening this crucial set of muscles.

  • Flexibility. The importance of maintaining your body’s flexibility cannot be understated. It helps reduce day-to-day pains, increases vascular health, extends mobility and ensures a better quality of life. Bodyweight training encourages a full range of motion and better flexibility. 

  • Better balance. Using body weight during resistance training forces you to rely on form and balance. As your balance improves, you’ll have better posture, increased reaction times (and fewer injuries from falls), a properly aligned muscular system and improved cognitive function. 

Three Easy At-Home Exercises

Depending on your current exercise level and needs, you or your trainer can create a program that helps you reach your fitness goals. Here are three exercises to get you started:

1. Squat

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, resting your arms at your sides.

  • While engaging your core, keeping your chest up and neck neutral, bend your knees and push your hips back as if sitting in a chair. Do not allow knees to go past your toes. 

  • When thighs are parallel to the floor, pause and return to the starting position.

  • Tip: If desired, you may increase intensity by speeding up squat pace, going down lower or even adding a jump to the squat.

2. Push-up

  • Push-ups are done with the upper body, on the ground or against a wall. 

  • Set your hands just a tad wider than shoulder-width apart and even with your chest. Place your feet shoulder-width apart (or lightly touching one another if more comfortable) supporting your body with your toes. 

  • Looking forward, inhale and gradually lower yourself until each elbow is at a 90-degree angle or less. Pause, exhale and push up with your arms.

  • Tip: If you try to do this exercise on your toes and can’t achieve the full range of motion, start on your knees instead.

3. Plank

  • Starting on the ground, place your hands directly under your shoulders (slightly wider than shoulder width) like you’re about to do a push-up.

  • With toes on the floor, squeeze the glutes, abs and legs to stabilize your body. Be careful not to lock your knees.

  • Neutralize your neck and spine by looking at a spot on the floor about a foot beyond your hands. Your head should be in line with your back. Hold position for a minimum of 20 seconds while steadily breathing.

  • Tip: Two alternates offering less resistance include the forearm plank (supporting your weight with your forearms instead of your hands) or knee plank (supporting your weight with your knees instead of your toes).

The beauty of bodyweight training is its accessibility. It is open to all ages and all levels of fitness, and can be done anywhere. You can increase the challenge and benefits by doing additional repetitions or adding inexpensive resistance bands. It’s up to you. After all, this is your own private gym.

Orlando Health National Training Center

The NTC, part of Orlando Health South Lake Hospital, is a state-of-the-art sports and fitness facility located in Clermont, Florida.

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