by Angie Miller
The Beauty of Bodyweight Training
As bodyweight workouts rise in popularity, I often get asked about their effectiveness and their ability to deliver results. Personally, I think bodyweight training is the foundation of all training. Not only do I love the freedom and flexibility of weightless workouts, no equipment, no fuss, I love what they teach us about our body. When it’s just us against gravity we learn how to create resistance, and how to target every muscle group effectively simply by changing our body position. Bodyweight training teaches us how to manage and distribute our body weight, how to stabilize and strengthen our core, and how to use our gluteals for power and support. This gives us better body intuition that carries over into everything we do, in the gym and at home. Most importantly, without the added dimension of dumbbells, weighted bars, and other training tools, we can focus on proper form and technique, and just like dancers we can learn to move with grace and precision.
Here are of three of my favorite bodyweight exercises: All three exercises build upper body strength in your arms and shoulders, help you to stabilize and strengthen your core, improve your flexibility, and teach you to use your gluteals and legs for power and support.
Downward Facing Dog:
How to Do: Start in plank position with your body fully extended, hands directly below your shoulders, hips stable, and shoulders down and back. Engage your torso and lift your hips in the air, keeping your hands and feet in place so you stay long and extended.
Tip: Think about distributing your bodyweight so that your shoulders and wrists don’t feel any extra pressure. Engage through your center as if you’re wearing a belt. Lift your energy up through your spine and down the back of your legs, rooting into your heels.
Tip: Be sure to keep your neck long to avoid your shoulders sinking into your neck.
- Side Plank:
How to Do: Start from front plank, then open up into a side plank, extending one arm up toward the ceiling.
Tip: Make sure that your support arm is directly below your shoulder. Be sure to keep your neck long and look up toward your extended arm. Stack your hips and shoulders, placing your body against an invisible wall behind you.
Tip: You can modify this exercise by bending your bottom leg and placing your knee on the floor. This helps take pressure off of your shoulders and wrists.
How to Do: Start with your buttocks, feet, and hands on the floor, with fingertips facing your hips, feet are hip distance apart. Gently lift your hips and try to flatten your torso, engaging your center, pulling your chest open, and drawing your shoulder blades together.
Tip: Keep your head in line with your spine and don’t forget to breath. Really engage your gluteals here, using them for strength and support.
Tip: Tabletop opens your chest and strengthens your back, gluteals, and hamstrings, all three areas that are often overlooked and undertrained. This is great for your posture!
I hope you enjoy bodyweight training as much as I do. Here’s to good health, strong muscles, and amazing posture!
Angie Miller, M.S., is a fitness educator, university instructor, and Licensed Professional Counselor who blends her skills and expertise to empower individuals, mentally and physically, and provide them the tools they need to succeed. A veteran group exercise instructor and personal trainer, Angie is the star of acclaimed exercise DVD’s, including the Bedroom Body™ workout. Her passion for progressive education brought her to Northern Illinois University, where she teaches in the Dept. of Kinesiology & Physical Education. Outside of the university, she presents at fitness conventions worldwide and leads industry trainings as an AFAA Certification Specialist and Kettlebell Concepts Master Instructor. Angie writes for fitness journals and digital communities, and blogs for Collage Video. Connect with Angie at: http://www.angiemillerfitness.com