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Building Strength without Weights – by Vic Vale

It is time to explore a building strength without weights and free yourself from all limiting factors to reach your goal. Vic Vale writes about how body weight exercises and calisthenics can be instrumental in doing so.

Strength has traditionally been associated with lifting heavy weights in the gym. However, times are changing and in recent years there has been a lot of momentum behind bodyweight strength training, specifically calisthenics.

People are realising that bodyweight exercise is a hugely diverse area of fitness with a lot of potential. It has a lot of advantageous over traditional strength training – it’s more sustainable, more functional and, dare I say, more fun!

Training without weights

There is a plethora of different bodyweight exercises that in many instances are more effective than their weightlifting equivalents. They can be done anywhere, without the need to access a highly sophisticated gym.

The big catch with bodyweight exercises is that they tend to be everyday movements, with an emphasis on core and postural muscle engagement. This functional aspect makes these exercises far more useful.

Body weight exercises for beginners

Anyone who has wanted to start strength training but has been too intimidated by the gym should consider bodyweight training at home. You might also consider a calisthenics park or outdoor fitness station, which will give you access to some bars.

For most beginners, upper body exercises are the most difficult. Your best friend here is the resistance band. This is a portable piece of equipment, that although not necessary, will make your life a lot easier and will make you progress much faster.

It can also be hugely beneficial to find a training partner or a personal trainer to motivate you. It can be very difficult to gain momentum, and there can be a lot of early frustration as you grow accustomed to regular exercise. It’s important to get the right advice, technique and nutritional guidance from the very start to succeed in your bodyweight fitness journey.

Training legs in calisthenics

The most popular way to train legs with bodyweight exercises is through the use of squats and lunges and their variations. Both of these exercises are great ways to get the legs going. Lunges are incrementally more difficult and introduce an element of balance.

Training legs with bodyweight exercises can be made more difficult by introducing plyometrics. Plyometrics refers to explosive exercises that will force your muscles to work significantly harder! Examples of such exercises are jumping lunges, jumping squats and explosive step ups.

Training the upper body with calisthenics

The upper body can be loosely broken down into the push and pull movements. Push works the chest and triceps while pull works the back and biceps. Push and pull are therefore antagonist actions and require balanced training to maintain posture.

Working push strength

Push is best trained by push ups and dips. Both exercises can be challenging for beginners and therefore might need regression. The best way to regress these exercises is by reducing the amount of pressure on the upper body.

For push ups, this means to raise the position of the hands by using a higher surface such as a table. For dips this means keeping your feet in contact with the ground/bars. Both of these modifications will make the exercises significantly easier.

Working pull strength

The best bodyweight back exercise is the pull up. This exercise is perhaps the most difficult in our list and requires some serious strength. It’s suggested that as a beginner you use a resistance band to assist you. Tie the resistance band to the bar and put your feet in before attempting to pull yourself up. The thicker the resistance band, the easier it will be to pull yourself up!

Training core with calisthenics

Core can mainly be split into the abs and lower back. Again, these are antagonistic muscle groups that should be worked together. The best core exercises are static holds, where the body is maintained in a certain position against gravity. For the abs, this is the hollow body hold; while for the lower back this is the superman exercise.

About The Author

Vic Vale

Vic is a Melbourne-based Personal Trainer. He is a Calisthenics Athlete and the Founder of Street Workout St Kilda. He is driven by passion for bodyweight training and the art o.... Read More..

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