How can you tell if you’re fit? For most of us getting to the top of a flight of stairs without being out of breath seems like a good start. It’s not that scientific though and kind of misses out half of the body - unless you do it on your hands, of course. As silly as that sounds there’s a fitness craze sweeping the nation right now that has quite a lot to do with lifting your own weight. Bodyweight training, where you use the resistance of your own body during moves like press-ups and squats to build strength is booming. From one-off workouts to organised group exercise classes like INSANITY and Rigworx, gym-goers are hitting the high-intensity bodyweight workouts like never before.
The explanation is simple, according to Will Brereton, personal trainer and director of Beach Body Live. ‘The average gym-goer will actually see their fitness improve from workout to workout. By constantly training at a level that challenges you to work above what you could do before, you are constantly making your lung capacity and ability to deliver oxygen higher.’
This is obviously a good thing but being fitter also has other benefits - it’s well documented that regular exercise reduces the chances of heart disease but you may not know that a University of Toronto study found that it extends your total sleep time and improves the ratio of deep sleep to REM sleep. This helps your body recover properly for the next workout, and improves your mental alertness.
Of course a bodyweight workout will teach your body to become more efficient at it’s own movements, as well as developing your relative strength. ‘Moves where you balance on one leg or arm leg train your propreoception, your ability to stay in control of your body,’ says Brereton. So working on your general fitness is important if you plan on leading an active lifestyle while staying injury-free. ‘Your ankles, knees and shoulders become more used to changing direction and handling force changes so when you get onto the tennis court for the first time in the summer, you don’t end up ripping your knee.’
Because it’s hard to overload your muscles with too much weight when bodyweight training, you can safely push your efforts past your normal limits. This can give your general fitness, as well your physical skills, a massive boost says Kesh Patel, author of The Complete Guide to Bodyweight Training. ‘With its high level of scalability and diversity of movement, bodyweight training offers a unique opportunity to challenge your comfort zones.’ So, you heard the man, use your own body as a gym and see your fitness levels go through the roof!
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care or recommendations. Please check with your GP before embarking on exercise or nutrition regimes for the first time.