Fitness tips: What are the benefits of resistance workouts and using your own body weight?

April 8, 2014 - Fitness

resistance 176981315If you’re overweight, weight resistance training can be a good route back into fitness. Here, we ask the experts how to get started.

If you’re interested in working out with weights, but you’ve never tried it before, you might be a bit daunted about hitting the gym. It can be difficult to know where to start with weights, but there is one easy alternative that will also give you a lower risk of injury, and that is using your own weight.

Weight resistance training involves using the weight of your body in workouts. It can be ideal for people who are overweight, because it gives the greatest possible workout with minimal risk.

Why to do it
‘Body weight training is great as your body is probably heavier than any weight you could lift,’ says creator of The City Workout Kelly Du Buisson. ‘It’s very weight-bearing, which strengthens bones and joints but doesn’t put any undue stress on the body, so your form is often better and risk of injury is reduced. Body weight can often be more powerful, and the more forceful an exercise the more fat burning hormones are produced.’

Laurel Alper, Fitness and Exercise consultant, agrees. ‘Bodyweight exercises are functional movements, which mean you are performing exercises that you do in real life, and if you build up strength gently you are less likely to cause injury,’ she says. ‘In addition, most bodyweight exercises are great for beginners. You will need to gently build up the strength needed to perform tougher movements like pull-ups, which will also help avoid injury. Body-weight exercises ensure that your smaller postural and stabilising muscles come into play, so you are working lots of muscles at once.’

What to do
‘Unless you are training for a specific sport, the type of resistance training you do depends on a variety of factors,’ explains Laurel. ‘For the recreational exerciser, it is best to vary your weight training load by incorporating bodyweight, resistance and machine exercises.’

Kelly recommends a short circuit of press-ups, burpees, planks and squat jumps to raise your heart rate and fatigue your muscles. ‘Just doing cardio or just weights often doesn’t produce both results like body-weight training can,’ she says.

‘Some movements will suit you better than others,’ advises Laurel, ‘and it is critical to learn the correct techniques, including how to engage your core muscles, balance and posture, to ensure you lower your risk of injury when exercising. By its nature, weight training shortens muscles, but this can be counteracted by pilates or yoga.’

Where to do it
If you are overweight or have joint problems it might be better to start your workout on machines in the gym, as these support your body, usually in a sitting position, according to Laurel. ‘However, the beauty of bodyweight exercises is that they can be done at home with minimal equipment and you can even do them on business trips or holidays,’ she says.

To get the best from your resistance workout and to build strength it is important to do your exercises correctly. ‘It is vital to engage your core to enable lifting and to avoid injury,’ says Laurel. ‘Exercises can be harder for beginners to learn as well as actually performing the moves.’

Remember to consult your doctor before you start a new regime and head down to your local gym and ask an expert to avoid injury and get the best moves for your needs.