Can I Get Strong Using Only Bodyweight Exercises?

When people think about getting strong they tend to think about lifting weights.  While lifting weights is certainly an effective way to build strength, I would argue that bodyweight exercises are as good if not better for getting incredibly strong.  Here are four reasons why.

1. Strength is More Than Muscle

It is easy to think that muscle = strength, but it’s not quite that simple.  Muscles are connected to bone by tendons, and a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.  Lifting weights will give you strong muscles, but your connective tissue also needs attention.  Bodyweight training offers the complexity and variety of movement patterns that the body needs to build strong joints and tendons, not just muscles.

2. They Highlight and Target Your Weak Points

Take the pistol squat for example.  It is a challenging strength move to be sure.  However, it will also challenge your balance and flexibility.  What this does is it forces you to slow down and deal with your weak areas.  This can be challenging as most of us just want to blaze ahead and push through, but dealing with areas of weakness will help prevent injury in the long run and also make it easier to achieve your goals down the road.  Too many people get injured because they didn’t slow down and listen to their body.  It’s important to set your ego aside and set your eyes are your long-term health.

3. They are Holistic

Your body was meant to move as a single organism, not as individual muscles moving in isolation.  Bodyweight exercises challenge your whole body.  This is important because your body is chalk full of muscles, big and small.  Bodyweight training not only challenges your major muscle groups, but your smaller stabilizer muscles as well.  This is because these exercises progress through varying angles and patterns, rather than just by adding more weight to the same movement pattern.

4. They are Scalable

It is incredibly simple to progress when lifting weights; every week throw five more pounds on the bar.  While it may not be as straightforward to progress with bodyweight exercises, it is just as effective.  Are push ups too easy?  Try working toward a one-arm push up.  Are pullups a breeze?  Muscle ups will provide a new challenge.  What I love about bodyweight exercises is that each progression is a little different, which adds nice variety and helps keep you engaged.  And no matter how strong you are, there is always a harder progression!

All that said, I am not against lifting weights.  Both bodyweight exercises and weights have their limitations and advantages.  I encourage you to find a combination of both that will help you move toward your goals.

What are some of your favorite bodyweight exercises?  Let us know in the comments below.