The Art of Bodyweight Training

First and foremost, anyone that has ever wanted to work out either 1) on vacation, 2) in the office, and/or 3) in areas with severely limited space and exercise equipment has experienced the thought, “I really need to work out but I can't.”  Not true!  Granted, you really have to want to work out to start utilizing bodyweight training as a fallback option.  However, I can show you how bodyweight training can become a solid and dependable “emergency” training option in these situations, and maybe even your primary go-to when you're at the gym.

Think about the amount of room you need to do Yoga.  Not much, right?  It's virtually the same with bodyweight training.  Except you don't need a mat!

If the idea of planking brings a certain amount of dread to you, then good!  It should, if you're doing it right!  That being said, once you master the plank you'll begin to love it if only for the results it produces.  The key with the plank is to start small.  I seriously mean like 15 second planks if that's what you can do right now.  Do that for a week or two, move up to 30 seconds… to 1 minute… to 2 minutes… I think you see what I mean.  What you'll do is come from the top of a push-up position, then lower your torso by putting your forearms on the floor.  You'll want to have your hands pointing forwards, together, almost in a triangle with your elbows forming the bottom of the triangle.  In my sample bodyweight workout, I'll be including this with the intention of moving up in duration.

We'll get to specific breathing techniques soon, but with the plank you want to take deep breaths in through the nose, and in a controlled way out through the lips.

The bodyweight squat

The bodyweight squat is pretty straightforward and simple, but deceptively easy.  This is where we get into breathing techniques!  These first two techniques and proper abdominal breathing are what I consider to be the bread and butter of bodyweight training.  On the bodyweight squat, you want to bring your legs out slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and arms in front of you (clasped at the chest, or both straight out with palms down), keep a straight and flat back (no hunching over or rounding) while you bring your torso towards the floor, and have your butt come to the same level as or slightly lower (don't overdo it, if this is new to you) than your knees – then use your abdominal muscles to come back up to your starting position.

Breathing becomes paramount here.  As you think about bringing your torso towards the floor, you take a short breath in through your nose – then when you are coming up from the bottom of your squat, you breathe out through your mouth while forcing the air out in a controlled way with your abdominal muscles.  This breathing technique will drastically improve the effects of any bodyweight workout you do.

Bear Crawl Walk-Outs

Next is a fun one – the bear crawl walk-out!  This will help core muscles, wrist and arm strength, as well as a little something from the upper legs.  You start out in a normal standing position, except your arms are flexed at the elbow with palms facing forward.  You bring your palms to the ground, and walk them out to push-up extension range and then back to standing.  On the way up, you will push off with your hands into a semi-squat position and use your abdominal muscles and glutes to come back to the starting position.

The breathing technique here is similar to the plank – just deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Even with just these three techniques, you can get a very solid workout done in about 6-10 minutes.  Here's how:

Bodyweight squats for 20 seconds
<rest for 20 seconds>
Bear crawl walk-outs for 20 seconds
<rest for 20 seconds>
Plank for 20 seconds (or max time for you)
<rest for same amount of time>

Repeat at least 2 more times for 3 total circuits, preferably 5 times.

If this isn't enough for you, try it 10 times!  That's a full 20 minute workout.  The best thing about this to me, is that you won't need to look at website every time you do this – you'll memorize it your first time of doing it!  From then, it will always be in your repertoire for when you need it in between breakfast and going to hang out at the pool, or in the office during lunch when you don't have time to make it to the gym.  Or add it in between barbell deadlifts to make your strength training more interesting and comprehensive!

Have fun with this, and more importantly – listen to your body!  Push your self, but don't put your body in threat.  Keep some water nearby, and enjoy this nice simple workout.