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What are Different Types of Body Weight Exercises?

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  • Written By: Shelby Miller
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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Body weight exercises are a category of strength training exercises, much like dumbbell or weight machine exercises. They are performed using one’s own body weight for resistance, though the body’s weight may be supplemented with external weight loads like dumbbells, barbells, or medicine balls to increase the difficulty of the exercise. Intended to strengthen the body’s muscles, body weight exercises also can improve coordination, increase flexibility, and introduce a cardiovascular component to the traditional strength workout. Examples of body weight exercises include lower body movements like squats and lunges and upper body movements like push-ups and pull-ups. Core exercises like crunches and ab planks may also be categorized under body weight moves.

The exercises that fall under this style of training are typically classified as closed kinetic chain exercises. This means that the hand in the case of upper body movements and the foot in the case of lower body movements remain in contact with a fixed surface, whether it is the floor or a chin-up bar.

They always involve multiple muscle groups. For instance, a push-up trains the muscles of the chest, shoulders, arms, back, and abdomen. As such they are considered to be both more efficient and more functional, in that the training style more closely resembles how the body moves in real-life scenarios, than exercises that work the muscles in isolation, such as a biceps curl.

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There are many different types of body weight exercises. Those that work the muscles of the lower body may be performed standing on one or two feet or in a bridge position with the feet planted on the floor and shoulder blades on a bench, exercise ball, or the floor. Examples of standing exercises include body weight squats, single-leg squats, split squats, calf raises, and lunges in several directions.

Hip bridges, which work the glutes and hamstrings and involve lying on one’s back and lifting and lowering the hips, may be performed as noted above with the shoulder blades resting on an elevated surface and feet on the floor or vice versa. Prone leg lifts done while lying on one’s stomach on the floor,on a bench, or over a ball may also be considered body weight exercises. These work the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back, though they are not closed chain exercises.

Upper body exercises that utilize body weight for resistance include different styles of push-ups, inverted rows, pull-ups, and dips, among others. Push-ups are a horizontal pressing exercise that predominantly works the chest and triceps, while inverted rows are a horizontal pulling exercise that focuses on the upper back and biceps. The opposite of a push-up, these involve placing a bar on a squat rack or Smith machine at chest or waist height, hanging under it face-up by one’s arms with body in a straight line and feet on the floor, and pulling one’s chest to the bar. Pull-ups and dips are vertical pulling and pushing exercises that similarly work opposing muscle groups. Pull-ups predominantly use the muscles of the mid-back and the biceps to pull the body weight upward, while dips use the anterior shoulders, chest, and triceps to press the body weight upward.

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