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Work What Your Mama Gave Ya

Resistance training – and I don’t mean “resisting” training – means going back to the basics. Picture yourself doing high school physical education kinds of exercises (based on using your bodyweight as resistance) and there you have it.

Resistance training is a common phrase in the fitness world. By definition, resistance training is a form of strength training where resistance is applied to a muscle to stimulate growth of muscle fibers with the goal of increasing strength, body mass, and/or muscular tone and endurance.

People often think of these exercises as training with dumbbells and weight machines. Today, the latest trend in resistance training is using what you carry around every day: your bodyweight. Using bodyweight as resistance is a proven effective and excuse-free workout.  You don’t need a gym or high-tech weight machines – all you need is you!

Bodyweight resistance training requires performing seemingly elementary, but challenging and effective, exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, squats, lunges and fast, powerful movements called plyometrics. You can add resistance tubes and stability balls into the mix for added challenge.

You don’t need to be a hardcore body builder to reap the benefits of resistance training. In fact, bodyweight training can be equally as effective for trimming and toning the body for all ages and fitness levels, depending on your goals.

“The biggest benefit to bodyweight training is you can do it anywhere, anytime – and it’s fun,” said Doug Balzarini, a certified personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach at Fitness Quest 10 in Scripps Ranch. “Bodyweight training is appealing to people who are generally uncomfortable in the gym and who want to exercise efficiently in the privacy of their own home or at a local park.”

Balzarini, whose facility counts Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees and former San Diego Charger LaDainian Tomlinson as clients, says the beauty of bodyweight training is that you don’t need any of the big, fancy pieces of equipment to get results. As a bodyweight training fan, I’ll tell you from experience that Doug’s statement is right on the money.

Incorporating resistance training exercises into your workout regimen two to three times a week can reap the following benefits, according to the American Council on Exercise:

  1. Increased bone and muscular strength, which decreases your risk of injury, coronary disease and osteoporosis.
  2. Increased muscle mass, which boosts your basal metabolic rate, in turn, increasing the number of calories burned at rest, making it easier to maintain your ideal body weight.
  3. Resistance training makes doing everyday activities, such as picking up a child or groceries, easier and less taxing on the body.

“In life, you need to be able to move your body properly before you get in a machine at the gym,” adds Balzarini. “Bodyweight movements can help prevent injury and imbalances down the road.”

Bodyweight resistance training goes beyond strengthening and toning the body. It also helps us become more adept at performing everyday functional activities.

“If someone wants to become functionally strong, the body doesn’t care what it’s pushing, pulling or lifting,” said Jeff Groh, owner of Authentic Motion, a functional personal training and education company in San Diego. “It’s the intensity, volume, speed, force, and so on that you tweak in order to get the results you’re looking for – whether it’s strength or endurance.”

Groh, a certified health and fitness specialist from the American College of Sports Medicine, uses bodyweight training with clients of all ages to help restore healthy joint function and enhance overall body movements.

Since the human body moves functionally in multiple planes of motion, Groh notes, static weight machines, which tend to work isolated muscle groups, limit your body’s natural motion and your ability to activate all muscles – big and small.

“If you think that weights are necessary for strength and muscle development, take a look at a rock climber and you’ll see all the little defined muscles that are typically neglected when you do isolated training with weight machines,” said Groh.

Naysayers who think the burn of a bodyweight-based exercise pales in comparison to lifting heavy weights may want to think again.

“We get a lot of people who roll their eyes when we say they’re not using equipment; they don’t think they’ll be challenged like they are,” said Balzarini. “Our athletes are using their body in their sports and their training should duplicate it.”

The bodyweight training trend also makes fitness more accessible to the masses by allowing fitness professionals to provide their services outside of health clubs with minimal to no equipment.

However, bodyweight training isn’t for everyone. If a person has certain imbalances, problems with coordination, joint pain or other physical limitations, then using weight machines may be more beneficial for stability.

Cassie Piercey is an SDNN contributing writer and Communications Manager for efi Sports Medicine, creator of Total Gym® and GRAVITY® health club fitness program. She can be reached at

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