Today you take your first steps towards becoming a ninja/jedi/assassin/superhero, without needing to step foot in a gym.
Interested? Of course you are!
That’s 4 amazing things all combined into a nerd mecha-robot.
Here’s the deal: It doesn’t matter if you’re a 300-pound guy who wants to lose weight and get back in the dating scene; it doesn’t matter if you’re a mom of three who wants to drop a little fat and gain a little muscle; it doesn’t matter if you’re an in-shape twenty-something who’s just looking for a new workout challenge.
Right now — right in front of you— are all the tools you need to get into amazing shape and live a healthier, happier life.
So…just where the heck are these tools? Check the mirror! Seriously go look in the mirror.
Did you go look? That’s okay if you didn’t. But keep reading.
Bodyweight Training Can Change Your Body — And Your Life.
“Use your body to improve your body.” – Something some zen master said at some point probably
Bodyweight training means doing any exercise that leverages your own bodyweight to build strength and muscle, burn fat, and become more resilient. Now, you might think that’s just basic stuff like push-ups and squats. And those things ARE bodyweight movements, and absolutely crucial to building a healthy foundation.
Hidden in plain sight, your own bodyweight is actually a complete training system waiting to be used. +5 points to Gryffindor for you being a complete training system. Go you!
Whether you want to use your bodyweight as a centerpiece in your training routine for decades to come (like me or Team Nerd Fitness Member Jim Bathurst), just build a foundational strength before you move to barbell workouts, or mix in some bodyweight training to complement your yoga/swimming/running/dancing/international jewel thievery, today we’ll take you through exactly how to get started.
The best part: since bodyweight training scales in difficulty and has plenty of variety, it truly can be used from Level 1 to Level 50.
How Bodyweight Training Can Help You Build The Body You Really Want
Your body is a complex piece of machinery that has been fine-tuned over thousands of
generations. Think of yourself as Human Ver. 100000000.0.0.1. We’ve been doing “bodyweight training” as a species since our days as cavemen and cavewomen – except back then it wasn’t called training, it was called “life” and there were no spandex in sight:
- Sitting in a deep squat around a campfire with our tribe.
- Crawling under and over things as we encountered obstacles in nature.
- Pulling ourselves up into a tree or over a cliff to escape danger.
- Pushing ourselves up onto a ledge or platform to get a better view.
- Swinging from vine to vine as King of the Jungle. (Okay maybe not this one).
Because we’ve had to adapt to do all of those things to survive, our bodies LOVE the idea of working with all of our muscles and bones and joints in unison to accomplish movements or overcome obstacles.
It’s the reason we rage against the machines in the gym – cue “bulls on parade” – they often create imbalances and other weird problems through isolation and non-functional movement. Think of it this way: Cavemen didn’t pick up various rocks to isolate their triceps muscles or do “curlz for the cavegurlz.” And they certainly didn’t lie on a bench at a 30-degree angle while doing log presses to emphasize their upper pectoral muscles before going to kill a gazelle.
Instead, men and women did whatever they needed to do in order to survive — and their bodies adapted as a result.
If you’ve been reading Nerd Fitness for a while, you know I’m a fan of this quote from the trainer of the actors in the movie 300: “Appearance is a consequence of fitness.”
Bodyweight exercises tap into our full, natural anatomy. Movements like squats, push-ups, pull-ups, dips, and rows recruit all the muscles in our body and teach our body to work in unison. When you do bodyweight training, your body becomes more efficient working as a unified organism: all of your muscles, tendons, joints, and bones get strong as hell together — and safely.
Plus, you get to master your body like a freaking Jedi.
We know that strength training — with your bodyweight or with free weights — also happens to burn plenty of calories and builds muscle and strength. So it doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, young or old — bodyweight strength training can help you build a body that looks good and feels good. In fact, as you get older one of the best ways to feel young is to stay strong! Just ask our older rebels.
Period. Exclamation point! Loud noises!
Bodyweight Exercises Can Be Done Anywhere
Read that headline one more time. Crap, there goes that excuse for not exercising! You always have your body with you, which means you always have the ability to exercise, even if it’s just for a few reps here and there.
You can always improve yourself physically. Anytime. Anywhere. Whether you’re:
- Traveling around the world
- Hunkered down in a bunker during the zombie apocalypse,
- Stuck in a cubicle
- Living in a hotel
- Training in your living room
- Near a playground
- On mars. Once Elon Musk sends me there.
Seriously, right now you can just drop down and do some (knee/wall) push-ups.
You didn’t do them, did you?! You sandbaggin’ son of a biscuit… you SAILOR you.
Even if you DIDN’T do them, you weren’t completely overwhelmed at the idea of doing a few reps!
My point is this: You don’t need access to a gym to get in great shape. You simply need to know a few moves — which we’ll teach you below — and you can train anywhere.
You Can Make Bodyweight Exercises As Easy — Or as Challenging — As You Need
Although bodyweight exercises are a bit more tough to visualize as a scalable activity compared to weight lifting (where you just put more weight on the bar), with just a little bit knowledge bodyweight training is like improving a particular skill tree in video games.
For example, in the pushup you might start on your knees or with your hands on an elevated surface. Over time, by slowly adjusting the angle you are manipulating your bodyweight, you can effectively change the difficulty of an exercise to make it more challenging. With a tougher angle, you have to move a higher percentage of your bodyweight, and thus more strength is needed!
I guarantee you can train with just your bodyweight for the next 20 years and you will not reach a “MAX LEVEL” screen.
Here’s what an oversimplified progression tree for the pushup might look like:
Wall push-ups -> Knee push-ups -> push ups -> feet elevated push ups -> pike push ups-> handstand push ups.
Show me somebody that has advanced to the end of one or more bodyweight skill trees, and I’ll show you somebody that is in peak physical condition (and looks damn good too!).
Once you learn the progressions, it’s just like adding points to a skill tree or leveling up a skill to unlock the next one in a video game. You start at the base exercise, get stronger and better, and then rank up when that movement becomes too easy. Gamification ftw.
There’s always a new skill to work on, a new challenging variation, the next level in the skill you’re working on.
Bodyweight Exercises Build Great Physiques
If you’re like me (and the other 7.2 billion people on the planet), you might look at gymnasts or see what Jim Bathurst is doing in that photo above and say “holy crap I wish I had a body like that” or “dang, would be cool to do that, but not me.”
If you happen to be somebody who is stockier or heavier, you might look at bodyweight-training-jedi and say “I can’t train like them, because i’m not built like them. I need to lose weight first before trying to those things” You’ve got it backwards.
They look like they do precisely because they train like that!
In fact, we have TONS of success stories from people in our community, male and female who have transformed thanks to bodyweight training. Yours truly included!
Some people use the training to slim WAY down, others like me, use it to pack some muscle on (click on each photo for the story!):
Now, not only do ninja/assassin/gymnasts look good, they can also do some pretty cool party tricks – like Jim doing handstands on chairs above.
I don’t think I’ll be doing handstands on stacked chairs anytime soon, or busting out one-handed handstands, but it’s amazing to know what our bodies are capable of when we train them with conviction and follow the right progressions!
If you’re somebody who scrolls through Instagram far too often (like me!), use motivation properly and follow people that inspire you to be stronger, fitter, and better.
May I suggest:
- Mats Trane: 53 years young!
- Andrii Bodarenko: your jaw will drop.
- Madeleine Leander – Starcraft 2 female champion with a PHD in math who has mastered the muscle up!
- Jennifer Tavernier – Dang!
- Nerd_Fitness – hey that’s us! You’ll definitely want to follow us this month.
- Jim Bathurst – Master of the Training Universe at Nerd Fitness
- Staci Ardison – Ring enthusiast, Deadlift addict at Nerd Fitness
- Steve Kamb (me!) – all around goofball working on becoming a monkey-ninja-assassin- gymnast-jedi.
How to Get Started With Bodyweight Training
At this point, you’re most likely nodding your head at your computer and saying “okay fine Steve I get it, I’m going to make bodyweight training a focal point of my training!”
Seriously, I can see you. You look nice today, and those shoes go great with that shirt.
But you might think you’re too overweight or too old or too [something] and that’s all nonsense. Hogwash. Poppycock. Balderdash. (Here’s that 53 year old Gymnast again who is in better shape than 99% of people 20 years younger.)
If you’re brand new to Nerd Fitness, we recommend you get started with the Nerd Fitness Beginner Bodyweight Workout. Read the article, and watch the video below, featuring me about 30 pounds lighter and with helmet hair:
(Fun fact, this is our most viewed video on Youtube at 700,000 views, and my shorts are on backwards. Professionalism at its finest!)
If you’re feeling particularly feisty, check out our Advanced Bodyweight Workout too.
Quick note: If you’re looking for more structure and variety and a boss battle system, you can check out the Nerd Fitness Academy, our flagship program with boss battles and a leveling system with 7 levels of Bodyweight Exercise Routines (and video demonstrations!) to follow along with as you level up.
But you can get started with the basic stuff right, now, equipment and cost free! Start today by creating a free character and start working your way through the Assassin Quests which are primarily bodyweight focused!
Here are the three moves I want you to master:
If you can do a workout with 3 sets of 10 push-ups, 3 sets of 20 bodyweight squats, and 3 sets of 5 pull-ups, you will be in better shape than 95% of your peers.
Are those movements too easy for you? We have more advanced stuff soon…
Struggle with these movements? Don’t worry, more articles coming this month to help you perfect each of them!
For now… answer me this:
What is the BIGGEST thing holding you back currently from getting started with bodyweight training?
What’s one reason you are going to add bodyweight training to your routines this month?
Leave your comments and questions below and we’ll do our best to answer them.