Body-weight training: Ditch the dumbbells
You don't need to spend hours using fancy equipment to see fitness gains. Ditch the dumbbells and get a great cardio and strength workout using your body as resistance.By Daniel V. Gaz
People walk around all day long carrying with them the most effective and efficient exercise machine — their bodies. So why do they spend so much time lifting weights and using other strength training tools to get strong and fit? The truth is, you don't need to spend hours a day using special equipment to see results. You can get a great cardio and strength workout with body-weight training.
It's easy to zone out and mindlessly hop from one piece of equipment to the next when you're at the gym. But the nature of body-weight workouts forces you to focus and get down to business. In fact, if you add plyometric moves — such as lateral jumps, squat jumps or even skipping — to your routine, you can maximize calorie burn in 20 minutes or less. For example, perform a body-weight exercise, such as pushups, and then switch to another exercise, such as single-leg squats or tricep dips. In between these two exercises, get your heart rate up with a set of jumping jacks or burpees. The duration of each exercise depends on your fitness level. Aim for 30 seconds on each move and repeat that three-exercise sequence for 15 to 20 minutes. Add an exercise or increase the duration of each move as you build endurance and get more fit.
Body-weight training boosts metabolism, fitness and endurance. This type of exercise also challenges several muscle groups at once and offers more variety than a solitary exercise machine can. For instance, a pushup works all areas of your arms, as well as your chest, core and back. Plus, have you considered how many different ways you can squat, plank or jump? It's easier than you may think to get started.
Are you ready to upgrade your training routine? Ditch the dumbbells and get inspired with these simple exercise swaps that target the entire body.
Weight exercise: Chest press machine
Swap with: Pushups
Why: Builds your muscular endurance and requires more total core activation
Weight exercise: Barbell squat or leg press
Swap with: Single-leg squats
Why: Improves your balance and core stability and may help to correct imbalances between your right and left legs
Cardio exercise: Treadmill or stationary bike
Swap with: Jumping jacks, mountain climbers, burpees or lateral hops
Why: Elevates your heart rate and moves your body out of the normal plane of motion
Weight exercise: Situp or crunch machine
Swap with: Planks
Why: Better for your neck and spine and helps activate often-overlooked deep (transverse) abdominal muscles
Now you have the tools to put this type of exercise into action. Perhaps one of the biggest perks of body-weight training is the convenience factor, since little to no equipment is needed. These do-anywhere exercises will help you stay on track when you are faced with inclement weather, traveling, short on time or simply feeling unmotivated to get moving.
Whatever the circumstances may be, consider an indoor cardio circuit of jumping jacks, mountain climbers, side-to-side hops and other activities that elevate your heart rate. If you're used to power walking, running or biking, this type of cross-training can do your body good, working muscles that you don't normally use. The same goes for swapping your body's weight for the dumbbells, weight plates or machines. What could be better than a no-cost, equipment-free way to get fit?
Jan. 20, 2017
- Replace one machine or weight-based exercise with a body resistance exercise.
- Try body resistance exercises that raise your heart rate and burn more calories, such as jumping jacks, running in place, jump squats or walking lunges.
- Incorporate one all-body circuit training workout each week.
See more In-depth
- Haff GG, et al., eds. Program design and technique for plyometric training. In: Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. 4th ed. Champaign, Ill.: Human Kinetics; 2016.
- Contreras B. The bodyweight advantage. In: Bodyweight Strength Training Anatomy. Champaign, Ill.: Human Kinetics; 2014.
- Gaz DV (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 9, 2017.