Do you ever see those videos and pictures on social media of people lifting heavy weights and find yourself impressed? What about the videos of people at a park doing pistol squats, one-arm push-ups, L-sit pull-ups? Who do you think is stronger?
Ok, that’s a bit of a trick question because strength is relative. But it’s worth thinking about because I hear a lot of talk about how you have to lift weights to gain strength and build muscle. I can’t count the number of times people have looked around my gym and asked me, “Where are the heavier weights?” My usual response is, “We don’t need them.”
Before you think I’ve gone crazy (again), let me explain. There is a way to work out and effectively gain more strength and simultaneously tone your physique. We do it daily at McClure Fitness in many of our group classes.
The results speak for themselves, but if you’re really curious, I’m going to break down all the reasons why bodyweight training is something you should seriously consider.
Why No Weights?
Bodyweight training is highly underrated and often misunderstood. Before we get into the geeky reasons why this gets results, let’s be practical. There are some definite advantages to leaving the weight room behind.
Freedom – You can work out anytime, anywhere. You don’t have the obligation of going to a gym full of machines and iron to pump. If the weather is great, you can easily exercise on your back porch or at the park. If your schedule is off, you can get a workout in wherever it fits. The only thing missing is the direction to get in a solid workout, and I can help with that.
Flexible – In addition to being flexible in terms of time and location, bodyweight training actually improves your flexibility. The nature of the movements will increase your range of motion. You’re not confined to a machine with fixed start and end positions. As you gain strength, you will continue to go deeper into each movement and elongate the muscle groups.
Functional – As I said, I’m all about keeping up with my kids. With four, you really have to be on top of your game – squatting down to tie shoes, playing in the floor, or running around outside means a lot of functional movement. Many bodyweight training exercises train your muscles to work together and mimic common movement you do in everyday life.
Can You Get Results?
After I tell people I don’t need heavy weights in my gym, the typical next question (while still slightly confused) is:
“But Marietta, can you really get results? I don’t want to do a bunch of cardio. I’m looking for gains.”
Trying my best not to snicker too much, I remind myself that this is still a pretty counterintuitive approach to gaining strength. But there are actually distinct benefits in sticking with bodyweight training that simply can’t be duplicated.
Fully Engaged – Most bodyweight exercises use your entire body for stability. This engages secondary muscle groups, which only adds to the effectiveness of the movement. If you’ve ever tried holding a plank, doing burpees, or single-leg deadlift, you’ll quickly notice all the extra muscles engaging to keep you steady.
Incredible Sculpting – Sticking with a complete bodyweight workout session will burn crazy calories and simultaneously break down the muscle fibers for more strength. Bodyweight training allows you to move quickly from movement to movement with little or no break, which gets your heart rate up. And like we’ve covered before, a high-intensity workout triggers that afterburn effect, so you’re burning calories long after you end the workout.
Build Muscle (really) – Instead of focusing on how heavy you are lifting, try focusing on time under tension. When your muscles are under prolonged periods of strain, it causes an extensive breakdown, which in turn creates muscle growth. If you don’t think it’s hard to do eight rounds of pulse squats for 20 seconds, give it a shot (I made a video here).
Secret Advantages Of No Weights
There are actually some hidden advantages that many people don’t talk about when it comes to ditching the weights in your workout. When you’ve committed to a workout routine, the last thing you want is to derail your efforts. These side benefits are a big reason why I stick to bodyweight training.
Safer On Joints – Lifting heavy can result in joint injury, especially if you try to lift heavier than you are capable of. This mentality to one-up your peers or push beyond your limit can do serious damage. That’s not to say you can’t injure yourself with bodyweight training, but the movements are easier on your joints and actually help with strength and range of motion.
Develop Better Form Over Time – Bodyweight training exercises typically have modifications, or there are “basic” moves and “advanced” moves. Take a push-up, for example. You can start with a wall push-up which is about as low-impact as it gets. The more strength you build, you can move down to the floor for knee push-ups, then classic (hands and toes) form, on to any of the 50+ variations! Each variation activates muscle groups in different ways and keeps it challenging.
Still Burning Fat (And Lots Of It) – Can you really burn fat while focusing on strength training? Absolutely! The key thing to remember is energy (calories) spent. Your body only knows stress. When you put yourself in a fight or flight mode, you release adrenaline and send signals to release fat (non-essential tissue). You also expend energy rebuilding muscle tissue long after your workout is over.
A Better Body Is Possible Without Weights
Like the vast majority of gym-goers, I’m not training to be a powerlifter. All I really want is to keep up with my kids, rock a 2-piece at the lake, and feel confident in my clothes. My workout routine doesn’t involve a single barbell or weight plate. In fact, as I write this, I haven’t worked out with weights in 18 months. The crazy part? I’m in a season of feeling my best yet.
If you’re looking to build strength and tone your physique, I’ve got great news. You’ve already got all the equipment you need – it’s you! All you need is some direction to make sure you maximize your efforts. The best news is, I can help you with that no matter where you’re at.
McClure Fitness Online is designed to take full advantage of everything great about bodyweight training combined with a group class environment. You’ll have the freedom of training anywhere, anytime and keep the instruction you need for serious results. It really is the easiest way to take back your body.