Getting familiar with good bodyweight workouts is one of the best ways to quickly improve and diversify your training regime. Many weightless exercises can tackle a wide range of muscle groups and can be performed when you are traveling and have limited space or aren’t able to get to a gym. In fact, many athletes in sports such as boxing or Muay Thai will actually focus almost entirely on bodyweight exercises due to the type of muscle those activities build – more on that in a second. So, if you are looking to develop that attractive lean muscle and quickly burn off a lot of fat, then familiarize yourself with as many of these workout options as possible.
Why Do Weightless Exercises?
“Many different types of bodyweight exercises can 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.” – Edward R. Laskowski, M.D.
In addition to the primary benefits of bodyweight exercises we just covered in the intro, there is also the added benefit of the plyometric principle that many of these types of workouts employ. To oversimplify it, plyometrics deals with strengthening explosive movements, like jumping or punching, which utilize the muscles in a different way than a sustained motion like a push would. A clapping pushup where you must explode of the ground in a moment of intensity trains the muscles very differently than a slow bench press style movement does.
One study showed that adding plyometric exercises into a youth resistance training regime actually has a noticeable effect on physical ability versus groups that relied solely on resistance weight training. In fact, most studies on the topic of the last decade have shown similar results.
Great Weightless Workouts
1) Martial Arts
Martial arts can encompass everything from wrestling, to Muay Thai, to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). Many people would be surprised to learn just how large a percentage bodyweight training plays into these athletes’ programs.
There is a good reason many forms of martial arts are able to provide such a good workout with little equipment. Think Muay Thai or wrestling. Both wrestling and Muay Thai are centuries-old techniques that were derived directly from tactics used in the warfare of their time. It was a matter of life and death for these warriors to learn to build muscle and become strong long before the invention of the barbell. While many of the older techniques have been adapted or replaced with modern alternatives, the principles remain very much the same. The explosive movements, such as doing 50 repeat kicks on the heavy bag in a Muay Thai class or drilling double leg takedowns over and over again in a wrestling class, really help you pack on lean muscle for a shredded physique. BJJ’s isometric contractions and having to push and pull your opponent’s bodyweight while rolling also help your body build muscle.
Another great thing about building muscle through martial arts is that your mind doesn’t have to focus solely on building muscle, as it would when lifting weights for example. When training martial arts your mind is engaged and occupied with learning new techniques and solving problems, and building muscle comes along as a welcome byproduct of that. This ensures that you won’t get bored and can keep up a regular training schedule for a long time, developing it into a part of your lifestyle.
It is also the type of body that plyometric bodyweight exercises build that fighters covet. Lean, explosive muscle and as little fat as possible. Due to the unique nature of the sport, the MMA world has been pushing the possibilities with bodyweight workouts, with many fighters rediscovering old techniques or inventing their own. UFC World Champion Conor McGregor, for example, is known to utilize some unique exercises to supplement his martial arts training.
There is also a wide range of benefits to practicing the martial arts that goes beyond simple athletics. As the Wisconsin Medical Journal stated: “While any form of exercise benefits physical well-being, martial arts may also improve the practitioner’s sense of psychological well-being and provide self-defense training.”
2) The Playground Workouts
This isn’t the official name of a single workout; rather it is just an umbrella term used for many different exercises that either focus on things you can find at a park or playground, or only require a small patch of grass. There are quite a few groups and programs out there that fit into this category.
These are all exercises that use your weight and require either a pull-up bar, a wall, or just some space. The better programs are usually step-by-step (or week-by-week) systems that slowly build you up to be able to perform some seriously impressive feats of strength. If you have never tried a dead-hang single-arm pull-up or a full single-leg squat, then try a couple and see just how much room for strength building you have with your own body.
3) Treating Outdoor Activities as a Workout
While many don’t consider swimming or hiking a muscle-building workout, they are some of the most tried and true methods for building both strength and endurance. Militaries around the world use long hikes with heavy weight to condition their soldiers, and swimming is the preferred method of almost every personal trainer when looking for low-impact workouts. Rock climbing is an incredibly difficult upper body and core workout as well. Going for a run on the beach will quickly challenge your endurance as well as strengthening the muscles in your calf and foot.
Our bodies are made to adapt and overcome the challenges the natural world threw at us. It only makes sense that some of the best ways to build the muscles we evolved over thousands of years are to challenge them with the tasks they were built for. There are hundreds of typical outdoor activities that can be turned into a fantastic workout if done with the right level of intensity.
So, what are you waiting for? If you want to get in shape and build some functional muscle, while learning how to defend yourself, sign up for a trial class and give martial arts a go today!
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