Thoughts to Consider with Body Weight Exercise
There is a reason gymnastics is NOT easy. Body weight exercises are hard.
It is kind of odd, but I agree and disagree with this statement.
On one hand, the merit of performing body weight exercises positively influences correct patterns of movement through control of the body. On other hand, body weight exercises, if not properly regressed, can be very hard.
Let’s take the push up. I would bet less than 50% of high school boys and girls can perform a proper push up. It may even be less than 75% or more that can’t do a proper push up.
How about a pull up? I would guess 98% of high school students can’t perform a proper pull up. Obviously, these are two of the more difficult body weight exercises, but my point being not all body weight exercises are easy enough for athletes to learn with or start with first.
When executing a push up, there is a plethora of regressions that make the push up very easy to perform. One of the easiest versions would be a wall push up. Followed by a 25-degree lean push up, until you advance to the kneeling floor push ups and eventually a full push up.
The same type of regressions can be made for the pull up. If we took a 5 lb-20 lb dumbbell and taught an athlete how to perform a proper half kneeling one-arm shoulder press, a training bar bench press, or even a light lat pull down, then then athlete gaining will gain confidence, stability, and of course baseline strength.
Understanding Body Weight Exercises
We need to understand body weight exercises should not always be the first exercises all athletes begin with. Many times, they are a good option, however some of my beginner athletes have gained more with a pure bench press, using a 15 lb training bar. It benefited them by grooving their movement pattern in the first session. They progressed over the weeks by being able to take the bar off the rack, set their shoulders and feet properly, lower the bar with great positioning and control, and press the bar back up in the proper pathway. All without my help.
This is a great starting point, compared to me having them attempt a push up regression in which they typically hate doing and struggle at. After 3-4 weeks of strengthening their shoulders, chest, arms, back, and core while performing the bench press, they now can perform a regression of the push up quite well.
Body weight exercises for starters is an option, but not always the answer. Use your knowledge of strength building to decipher the best starting point for you athletes. Don’t forget about compliance being a big influence.