Bodyweight exercises can be used successfully for strength and fitness training. The musculature of gymnasts is an example of what can be achieved using a trainee’s own weight for resistance training.
Because bodyweight movements do not require weights or other apparatus, they are ideal when you don’t have access to weight training equipment. And certainly travelers should be familiar with a variety of exercises that can provide full-body workouts without equipment of any kind.
Before the steroid era of professional bodybuilding, it was common for weight lifters and bodybuilders to incorporate hand balancing and gymnastics of various sorts in their weight training. Photos of old time bodybuilders and strongmen often showed them doing handstands, climbing ropes, and building human pyramids on the beach. Frankly, they appeared more well-rounded and athletic than over-inflated pro-bodybuilders of today, and they probably were.
Though bodyweight exercises can build a high degree of fitness, they do have limitations. Since the trainee uses his or her own weight to provide resistance the weight being lifted is always the same, though the repetitions can be increased.
Yes, leverage adjustments can be made to make bodyweight movements more difficult (a one-arm push-up is tougher that the standard variety, for example). But if free weights are available, why not use them? For strength and muscle development, weights really can’t be beat. And what is wrong with using both methods?
[Personally, I discontinued bench presses several years ago because they made my shoulders sore. Instead, I do a wide variety of push-up movements. To make them more difficult, I sometimes have someone put a 45 lb plate on my back. It doesn't bother my shoulders and it’s a heck of a workout. -LF]
For convenience sake, familiarize yourself with several basic exercises for those times when weights are not available. Or, for variety, include them regularly in your weight training workouts.
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