Body-weight exercises are simple to add to your workout regimen.
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Many people are getting out of the gym and going back to basics with body-weight training. Not only do you not need heavy or expensive equipment, but body-weight training can be just as effective as exercises with free weights or weight machines. You can increase the calories you burn during a body-weight training session with plyometrics, circuit training and high-intensity intervals with cardio.
Calories Burned in Body-Weight Training
You need to burn calories to lose fat, but resistance training doesn't burn many compared to aerobic exercise. For example, in 30 minutes a 155-pound person can burn 372 calories running at an average pace of 6 miles per hour. But, doing resistance exercises for 30 minutes will burn only 112 to 223 calories, according to Harvard Medical School.
These are just average estimates, and many more factors come into play when figuring calorie burn. But, all things being equal, doing moderate-intensity cardio burns more calories than doing body-weight squats, lunges and pushups.
Muscle Mass and Weight Loss
Even though body-weight training doesn't burn calories like aerobic exercise, building muscle is a crucial part of weight loss. Instead of just burning fat with cardio, body-weight training helps you build muscle to replace fat with lean tissue. Lean muscle is more metabolically active than fat, and it increases your resting metabolic rate, according to Paige Kinucan and Dr. Len Kravitz of the University of New Mexico.
In fact, muscle mass increases your total daily calorie expenditure by 20 percent, while fat increases it by only 5 percent. The boost provided by having more muscle can help you burn more calories throughout the day, even when you're not working out.
Is Body-Weight Enough?
Muscle growth occurs as a result of trauma to the muscle caused by lifting heavy weights, according to Dr. Jacob Wilson of Tampa's Applied Science and Performance Institute. As your body repairs the damage, your muscles increase in size and strength. In order to promote continued growth, you need to alter the load and intensity of your workouts and introduce new exercises into your routine.
How much weight you have to lift and how much trauma is necessary is still under debate. According to a research article in Journal of Experimental Biology, you don't need to do much damage to the muscle fibers to get results. Either way, the resistance provided by your own body weight is enough to promote muscle growth as long as the exercises are hard enough.
Add Challenge and Variety
When you begin a body-weight training program, you don't need a lot of intensity to challenge your muscles. Deconditioned muscles respond very quickly to stimuli. Doing one to three sets of body-weight exercises that target all your major muscle groups is enough. A sample workout might include pushups on your knees, assisted pullups, squats, lunges and planks. Do as many reps as you can with proper form.
As you get stronger you can increase the reps, sets or difficulty of the exercises. You can progress to regular pushups and then to decline, diamond and Spider-Man pushups. Progress to squats by doing deep squats, Bulgarian split squats and pistol squats.
Plyometrics are another effective way to add challenge to your body-weight workout as well as to increase your calorie burn. Exercises that involve jumping or other explosive movement are considered plyometric. Examples include jump squats, box jumps, jump-switch lunges and plyometric pullups.
Arranging your workout in a circuit, moving from one exercise to the next with only a short rest break between, can torch some serious calories because it keeps your heart rate elevated just like cardio exercise. You can also add cardio to your circuit workout by jumping rope or doing jumping jacks between body-weight exercises.