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Bodyweight Training Is The Fitness Craze Taking It Back To Basics

We’ve seen the rise of yoga and Crossfit, but now the fitness spotlight has shifted to bodyweight training.

Bodyweight training gets back to basics by doing away with machines and focusing on strength and flexibility. And basic doesn’t mean boring. Considered a progressive form of exercise, bodyweight training provides constant goals.

But why the sudden spike in interest? Mathew Harvey, personal trainer and owner of The Bodyweight Gym, credits it to an increase in accessibility of the training and progression of the sport. “Any exercise program, in my opinion, needs to be progressive for people to be able to stick at it,” he says.

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“Anyone can start bodyweight training, and there really is no endpoint of bodyweight training for most adults. There’s always something to be working on, whether it’s trying to get more flexible or stronger, or to be able to do x, y or z.”

Interested in learning more? Read on.

What exactly is bodyweight training?

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Bodyweight training is all about understanding the root of exercise and being able to properly run, jump, squat, push, pull and fold, says Harvey.

“They are really simple movements that all humans can do, but you pair them all together at the highest level, and what you get is what you see in Olympic-level gymnastics. That is all they are doing – pushing, pulling, hinging, jumping,” he says.

“We are lucky now to be able to pull from contemporary dance, gymnastics, strength and conditioning training, and be able to package it in a way that’s digestible.”

Bodyweight training relies on the same principles as most other forms of strength and resistance training – only, minimal tools are used in the process.

“We work with time under tension, but develop connective tissue, joints and muscles at an appropriate rate so that people can recover from it,” says Harvey. “So really, from a very base level, it’s no different to any sort of strength or resistance training.”

How it differs from Crossfit

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The biggest difference between bodyweight training and Crossfit is that with bodyweight training, cardio isn’t the main focus.

“Crossfit has done amazing things for the world of fitness around the world,” says Harvey.“It’s probably the best thing to ever happen to fitness in modern times, as far as popularising a whole lot of movements that previously weren’t popular.

“Crossfit gives people that feeling of working very hard and sweating a lot in their class, and they come away from it feeling high. That’s terrific, but people get addicted to that feeling and start to associate their training with that feeling of being high from the cardio exercise.”

While cardio is obviously an important part of exercise, it shouldn’t happen at the expense of your muscular-skeletal health, says Harvey. With a bodyweight session, you won’t always walk away sweating because not every session will be intense. And that’s a good thing.

“Your joints are just not going to keep up with the stress that you are putting into your body,” he says. Instead of focusing on cardio and its associated high, bodyweight training is about building muscular-skeletal integrity, strength, flexibility and balance. It’s about quality over quantity.

What makes it so effective

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Bodyweight training sets you up to build a flexible, strong, lean and muscular body, but it won’t happen overnight.

“Within the first month of bodyweight training, you see people make massive changes to their overall strength,” says Harvey.“Within the first six months, their physique changes dramatically. They get more muscular definition – not a lot of muscle like bodybuilding – but more muscular definition and a lot leaner and a lot more flexible.

“Within that first year, people tend to get a lot of personal records. Of course, after the year, it starts to slow down a little bit, but you’re still getting those gains and changes.”

With traditional weighted work, progression comes by adding more resistance or more weights to the bar or machine you’re using. With bodyweight training, the exercises themselves start to differ. You move in more complex ways.

Even the humble plank can be scaled up, moving towards inversions and hand balances as you become stronger. Once you’ve then learnt to hand balance solidly, the door to advanced movements like press handstands and one-armed handstands opens up. After tasting success, we start to seek out more difficult challenges.

“Initially, we start people really simply, with low complexity, strength requirement and flexibility requirement, and then build from there,” says Harvey.

(All images: The Bodyweight Gym / supplied) 

Published 19 July, 2019