The body weight exercise fad seems to be slowly dying off. Still, there is no shortage of people peddling workout plans, if not elaborate training programs on DVDs for a dollar amount ending in a 7. The latter is a giveaway that a product is most likely crap. As there has been some discussion related to my recent post on body fat percentages, I would like to take a moment to highlight the one huge limitation of body weight exercises. It’s one that is so significant that it should keep you from pursing that kind of fitness regimen in earnest, if you want to gain some muscle. It kind of reminds me of when a pretty hot Russian girl hit on me some time ago. I did not bother with her because I realized that she is most likely connected to the criminal underworld. Just like I bailed back then, you should bail when someone tells you that body weight exercises are where it’s at.
The big problem with body weight exercises is that you don’t have enough weight to work with. You can increase your squat in the gym in small steps until the barbell bends. With body weight exercises, your squat will have little to no effect from a certain point onward. Of course, body weight gurus, or their followers, spout standard lines like “increase the number of repetitions”, “perform your exercises more slowly”, or “pick a more challenging variation”. None of that compares well compared to simply lifting heavier weights.
At that point, you tend to get two standard objections. The first is that body weight exercises target groups of muscles. Sorry, buds, but I get the same effect doing compound exercises. The other is that I should look at male gymnasts to see what’s possible with body weight exercises. Funnily enough, guys saying that never look like top-level gymnasts. By the way, the gymnasts you see excelling at the rings on TV have been putting in 30 or 40 hours a week for years. Heck, even on a much less competitive level, people put in a lot of hours. You may also look into related injuries because the rings can easily fuck up your shoulders.
My opinion is that if you do body weight exercises for anything more than getting toned, you are doing it wrong. If you want to build muscle, you will hit a ceiling pretty quickly. Even worse, though, is that you can arguably get better results in half the time if you just stuck to doing compound exercises with moderate weights. But if you really only want to get toned, do Ashtanga yoga. It’s fun, and, based on my experience, it blows your average body weight exercise workout plan out of the water.