Bodyweight training is exactly what it sounds like: You’re using nothing but the weight of your own body to work out with. “Bodyweight training is strength, endurance, and cardiovascular training using your own weight to provide resistance,” says Fhitting Room trainer Ben Wegman. “It involves only yourself and gravity.” Because of this, it’s more convenient than, say, weight training. “It can happen anywhere, and it’s perfect for now, during a global pandemic.” (Yep, because nobody’s hitting up the gym anytime soon.)
“You’re likely already familiar with bodyweight exercises such as the push-up and pull-up, but there are countless more that you can use to build muscle, strength, endurance, and mobility from head to toe,” says Trevor Thieme, personal trainer and content director at Openfit.
But because bodyweight training doesn’t involve any special equipment, it can get a reputation for being an easier or not as effective way to work out… which trainers say is definitely not the case. Keep scrolling for the three most common misconceptions that trainers say people have about bodyweight training, plus the truth about the workout modality.
1. It’s only for beginners
Thieme says that one of the top beliefs about bodyweight training is that it’s only for people that are just starting to develop their fitness routines. But he stresses that it’s not solely beginner-level at all. “If you need proof of how powerful bodyweight training can be, just look at gymnasts—pound for pound, they’re among the strongest athletes in the world, and pretty much all that they do is bodyweight training,” he says.
2. It’s not an efficient way to get strong
“People think that bodyweight training isn’t an effective way to get into shape,” says Thieme, noting that this isn’t true at all. “There’s always a bodyweight exercise that you can do to challenge your muscles as effectively as a weighted exercise.” He recommends doing so through added variations to your traditional bodyweight moves.
“If you can easily bang out 30 push-ups in a row, try switching to a variation that challenges you to complete just 10 to 15 reps, like a decline push-up,” he says. Check out these push-up variations that take the workout move up a notch. Devin Wiggins, trainer and host of 600 Seconds on Openfit, also suggests slowing down your repetitions, adjusting your angle, and changing other variables (like the number of reps or how long you recover for) to make your bodyweight workout even more challenging.
3. It doesn’t work enough of your body
“Nothing in bodyweight training occurs in isolation,” says Wegman. Sure, lifting heavy weights really challenges certain muscle groups, but he points out that bodyweight exercises work more of your body at once. “No matter what you are doing in bodyweight training, your core is engaged and activated. Everything should always be engaged and working, so make sure you are thinking of your full body in every exercise.” One prime example of this? Push-ups, which he says fully work your core even though it’s a great arm workout (the same can’t be said for bicep curls).
Try this full-body strength workout that involves only your body weight for a challenge:
Also, here’s the truth about whether soreness after workouts means that your workout was really effective. And this is what to know about a sweaty workout and how it compares to one that doesn’t involve as much sweat.