Q: What is this “bodyweight strength training” I am hearing about?
A: Bodyweight strength training is exercise that uses your own body weight for resistance to work your muscles instead of weights or resistance bands. For example, you can strengthen your arms with exercises like push-ups (standing and pushing against the wall, or regular or bent-knee on the floor) and chair dips. You can strengthen leg muscles by getting up and down from a sitting or squatting position, depending on your current level of fitness and balance. Other leg-strengthening exercises that use only body weight include leg raises, wall-sits and lunges. You can strengthen your abdominal muscles with sit-ups, which can be done in many different variations to focus on different areas of your “abs,” as well as exercises such as “planks” and “bridges.” By changing how far you work against your body weight and how long you hold the resistance, variations of these exercises can be used by people who have been sedentary and have little strength as well as by people who already have developed good muscle strength from regular exercise. You can find examples of these bodyweight strength training exercises and instructions from several trustworthy websites, such as the American Council on Exercise’s workout guide in three phases and the Senior Health section of the NIH website. You might also find it helpful to get personal instruction on how to do these exercises and adapt them as you grow stronger by meeting for even a few sessions with a qualified trainer at a YMCA or other fitness center in your community.