The case for body weight exercises

If you can’t control your own body you shouldn’t try and control other heavy things, either.

I have no memory of not being able to do push-ups, dips, pull-ups, one-leg body-squats or shoulder presses standing on my hands.. against a wall.. or other body-weight exercises. I did these things as a kid, and never really lost the ability. I’m not as agile as before puberty, but actually not far off.

I’m astonished that people can’t do push-ups or dips, or even one pull-up. Early on as a trainer, I learned that body-weight exercises should always be incorporated in my clients program, but on a very basic level and with a plan for progression. Because I can’t even remember being unable myself, I had to learn from others how to teach these exercises. I often refer to Alexandra Bernardin at KILO Strength Society for anyone who wants to learn chins.

Why body weight exercises?

If you learn to control your body, which you will do if you learn body-weight exercises, I believe you’re more likely to succeed with barbell and dumbbell exercises. I don’t know if science have proven this, but I believe that some endurance in body-weight push-ups, pull-ups and squats makes you a bit more resilient against overuse injuries. That means if you can do at least 10 reps, that’s good, but if you can do 20 reps, that’s even better. More than 20 reps may not be necessary, but not bad either.

Body-weight exercises are very good closed kinetic chain exercises (bench press is an open-chain exercise). But most people don’t go heavy on the upper-body variations (e.g. push-ups or pull-ups). So when you have built up your abilities don’t hesitate to put on some external weight when doing push-ups or pull-ups. You already do it with squats (and deadlifts).

A squat is a closed chain movement, while a leg press is an open-chain movement. Just like a push-up is a closed chain movement, and the bench press is an open-chained movement. The two types of exercise involve your muscles in different manner which should be considered when looking for an overall development.

How to start
You may find it enoyingly difficult in the beginning. Body-weight exercises are often harder than it looks. Trainers at the gym should be able to teach you how to simplify the exercises, e.g. push-ups against a wall or a bench, the use of counter-weight pull-up machines ect. Another way is to start with only the eccentric part of the movement. For more on this check out How to learn pull-ups

For more information

I can highly recommend searching for Alexandra Benardin on Youtube.

For books on this I recommend Jailhouse Strong by Josh Bryant and pretty much anything written by Pavel, start with The Naked Warrior.