Bodyweight Exercise Anatomy: The Advantage of Bodyweight



Bodyweight Exercise Anatomy: The Advantage of Bodyweight

Resistance exercises are designed to help increase muscle strength and size. Typically, people lift heavy weights (dumbbells, barbells, plates, weight stacks, medicine balls or kettlebells) to provide resistance in pushing and pulling exercises so the muscles work harder and hypertrophy faster. Water acts as resistance too, but it supports the body at the same time.

By definition, body weight exercises use your own mass, height and gravity. Depending on your angle of incline, physics determines the amount of work you do against gravity. Traditional calisthenics are body weight exercises. For the purposes of this article, I will be showing exercises that don’t need any machines or props. But, note that all of these movements can be progressed or regressed, using a Total Gym or other means.

Benefits of Body Weight

This is the one time when weighing more is actually good for your workout since you’ll have to push or pull more mass. That being said, the more work you do, the more calories you burn, which means you’ll end up losing weight at some point, unless you up your calorie intake.

Body weight exercises can be performed anywhere, any time—no fuss, no commute to a gym, no investment in equipment. You can do them barefoot since you won’t be lifting metal objects. And you can do them at any age, with the right modifications.

There are fewer risks for injury doing these exercises since you won’t be lifting more than you can handle. The body is less likely to be pulled out of alignment since you aren’t lifting weights. You’re able to catch yourself making mistakes in form when you can’t balance, and you can correct them before you get hurt.

Build Your Body

Even though most trainers have pull-ups and muscle ups as examples of body weight exercises (that train the biceps, lats, traps, pecs and deltoids), I have chosen not to include these since technically you need a bar to do them. This blog article covers resistance exercises that use purely body weight–no equipment other than your body. I have also only included exercises that cause mainly eccentric and concentric contractions of the muscles, as one would typically experience while using weights, with the exception of Warrior III and Plank. Warrior III and Plank utilize isometric contractions of the muscles.

Upper Body

1. Handstand Push up or Wall-walk Handstand: for triceps, deltoids, traps, lats, pecs, quadratus lumborum, erector spinae, abs and glutes.
2. Push up: for triceps, deltoids, coracobrachialis, pecs, serratus anterior, abs. (Diamond hand push ups will recruit the biceps too)
3. Dips: for triceps, pecs, deltoids, lats, rhomboids.

Lower Body

1. Walking Lunge: for the quads, hamstrings and glutes
2. Squats: for the quads, hamstrings and glutes
3. Plié to Relevé: for the quads, glutes, gastroc-soleus complex, core
4. Warrior III: for the core, glutes, hamstrings and quads. Also the deltoids.
5. Standing Straight Leg Lifts (side and back): for all glutes, TFL, hamstrings


1. Pike push up: for core muscles front and back, deltoids, pecs, traps
2. Plank (side and face-up): for abdominals, erector spinae,
3. Curl up: for abs and posterior muscles
4. Arch up: for quadratus lumborum, gluteus maximus, erector spinae, hamstrings.

Jodai Saremi

Jodai Saremi, DPM, BS , is a freelance writer, AFAA certified trainer, and fitness model. She has written for American Fitness, SPIN fitness, Your Health Connection magazines, and other online publications. Her articles have also been featured in textbooks. She enjoys an active lifestyle and lives in Ventura County, Calif. with her husband and two children.

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