Is body weight training effective as a strength training exercise?

Answers from Edward R. Laskowski, M.D.

Yes. Body weight training — using only your body weight for resistance — can be an effective type of strength training and a good addition to your fitness program. The resistance training effect you get from using your body weight can be as effective as training with free weights or weight machines.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends incorporating strength training exercises of all the major muscle groups into a fitness routine at least two times a week, and at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.

To use your body weight in strength training exercises, try exercises such as squats, lunges, abdominal crunches, pushups, pullups or step-ups. Keep movements smooth and controlled. Strengthen the opposing muscles, such as the chest and back muscles, and strive for muscle balance.

Once you can easily do 12 to 15 repetitions of a particular exercise, try alternative forms of the exercise to give you more resistance or challenge. For example, you might start out doing a wall pushup, if a classic pushup is difficult. To make this exercise more challenging, try a modified pushup. A modified pushup is similar to a classic pushup, but you keep your knees on the ground during the exercise. Once you can comfortably do a modified pushup, try doing a classic pushup.

Many different types of body weight exercises can be performed to work all of the major muscle groups. And body weight exercises can be done anywhere, using no extra equipment, at no extra cost to you.

But remember to use proper form and technique throughout each body weight exercise in order to get the most benefit and to avoid injury. And remember to take at least one day off between exercising each specific muscle group, in order to give your muscles time to recover.

Aug. 13, 2015 See more Expert Answers