Body Weight Training

by Stephanie Sharpe

Body weight training is a form of weight training that only uses an individual’s own weight for resistance. It is a great way for those just beginning to work out to perfect their form and can be done at any age or ability. Each exercise uses just the resistance of that particular individual’s own body and a minimal amount of equipment. Body weight training can be done anywhere, is not expensive, improves strength and movement, and can be adapted in numerous ways for any skill level (Smith, 2014).

Body weight exercises are mostly closed-chain exercises that use multiple joints unlike free weight or machine exercises that are open-chain and only use one joint as resistance is moved toward or away from the body. These closed-chain exercises lead to greater motor unit activation and better strength performance (Karp, 2013). Body weight exercises train the body to perform three-dimensional movements that will increase proprioception as well as balance, strength, and flexibility. Improved joint health is also a benefit of body weight training.

There are many benefits of body weight training. These include: no cost, many different variations, can be done anywhere, improves movement, improves relative strength, and can improve reactive strength (Smith, 2014). It can be adjusted to match any goals by simply changing the repetitions and resistance.

Strength training is an important component of any exercise plan with numerous benefits. Strength training protects bone health, helps with weight loss, strengthens and tones muscles, improves balance and coordination, boosts energy levels, and improves mood. Some certification organizations such as the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) recommend strength training with multiple sets of each exercise which could be with low repetitions for to increase strength or high repetitions for muscular endurance. They also recommend fast or explosive repetitions for power development. However, more scientific research has come to the conclusion that this type of training may not be as effective as once thought. According Arthur Jones and many other studies over the past thirty years, it is just as effective, if not more so, to engage in one set of an exercise to failure, only train each muscle group once a week, move slowly and methodically through each exercise, and do a moderate amount of repetitions which is usually between eight and twelve (Smith & Bruce-Low, 2004).

It may be considered “old school” but a resurgence in body weight training which includes push-ups, squats, lunges, planks, sit-ups, and pull-ups has led to a “new” form of exercise routine for many.  Body weight exercises can be done in high-intensity circuits to increase muscle strength, endurance, and aerobic fitness.

As these exercises become easier to do over the weeks, adaptations such as a change in resistance or repetitions increases the impact of these exercises.

Karp, J. (2013). Body weight training program. Retrieved from

Smith, J. (2014). 5 Best body weight training exercises. Retrieved from



Klika, B. and Jordan, C. (2013). High-intensity circuit training using body weight: Maximum

            Results with minimum investment. ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal, 17(3), 8-13.

Smith, D. and Bruce-Low, S. (2004). Strength training methods and the work of Arthur Jones.

Journal of Exercise Physiology, 7(6), 52-68.

Smith, J. (2014). 5 Best body weight training exercises. Retrieved from



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