Are Bodyweight Exercises Actually Effective?

Want to work out but don't want to go out? While you may not have access to weighted machines and free weights, you can still perform muscle-strengthening exercises in the comfort of your home, without any equipment. Known as bodyweight exercises, these muscle-strengthening moves utilize your body weight and work against gravity for resistance (via Mayo Clinic). If you've ever done a push-up or a squat, then you've done bodyweight exercises.

The benefits of bodyweight exercises include that they are accessible to everyone as they are free of cost, and they are incredibly efficient in getting the heart pumping and building muscular strength (per PopSugar and Train Heroic). Because bodyweight exercises usually involve little-to-no equipment, the transitions in between exercises also become quicker, which boosts your heart rate further and burns more calories, says The Huffington Post

According to Train Heroic, bodyweight exercises are so convenient that you can do them in your living room or even a hotel room. And because they are convenient, PopSugar notes that it's easier to be consistent in doing the exercises, but just how effective are they, compared to free weights and weighted machines?

The benefits of bodyweight exercises

Bodyweight exercises are extremely effective as a muscle-strengthening workout and should be incorporated into your regimen, per Mayo Clinic. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts often incorporate bodyweight exercises, and can therefore also be an effective cardio activity. Exercise physiologist Tom Holland told PopSugar, "HIIT is an extremely efficient way to decrease body fat." Holland added that the key to weight loss is consistency in your workout routine, and that it's easier to be consistent with HIIT workouts that incorporate bodyweight exercises, as they tend to be shorter. Bodyweight exercises can also improve your core strength, flexibility, balance, and metabolism (per The Huffington Post).

According to Train Heroic, bodyweight exercises work with your body's natural range of motion and are less likely to result in injury, while machines can push your body to perform movements that end up taking a toll on your joints. Some celebrities have even replaced weight-lifting with bodyweight exercises like legendary NFL player Tom Brady and Emmy award-winning actress Zendaya (per Insider and Television Academy). 

Mayo Clinic suggests including bodyweight exercises into your workout routine at least twice a week. Examples of these exercises include squats, lunges, planks, step-ups, pushups, situps, and pullups. Ensure that you use the proper form and technique when performing bodyweight exercises, and make sure to take at least one day to rest after working out a certain muscle group. For example, if you do a leg-based bodyweight workout, do an arm-based workout the next day.

The bodyweight exercises that can replace going to the gym

If you want to replace weight-lifting exercises with bodyweight training, then there are several options, per Train Heroic. Instead of using a leg press machine, you can try the single-leg squat. Push-ups can replace a seated chest press machine. You can even use "props" like a chair or a wall to perform certain exercises. Performing tricep dips on a chair will work your triceps similarly to the tricep push-down machine. A wall can work great for wall sits and wall push-ups.

If you're a beginner to bodyweight exercises or find them difficult to perform, you can try easier modifications like doing a push-up on your knees instead of regular pushups (via Mayo Clinic). On the other hand, if you are already used to some of the exercises and want to push yourself further, you can perform advanced modifications like doing jumping lunges instead of regular lunges (per PopSugar).

Of course, if you do have dumbbells or a barbell at home, that doesn't mean you should let it collect dust. According to PopSugar, lifting weights can stimulate your metabolism and help you burn more fat, so incorporating weight-lifting exercises with bodyweight exercises is an optimal way to lose weight and tone your muscles.