Is body-weight training effective as a strength training exercise?

Answer 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. Body-weight training can be as effective as training with free weights or weight machines.

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting 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. Aim to include strength training exercises for all major muscle groups into a fitness routine at least two times a week.

To use your body weight in strength training exercises, try exercises such as:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Situps
  • Pushups
  • Pullups
  • Planks
  • 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 an exercise for one set of 12 to 15 repetitions, 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. For more of a challenge, 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.

You can perform many different types of body-weight exercises to work all of the major muscle groups. And you can do body-weight exercises anywhere, using no extra equipment, at no extra cost to you.

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

Oct. 10, 2020 See more Expert Answers