Bodyweight exercises have be proven to be an incredible way to get yourself into awesome shape, without equipment.
Just ask anyone who has served in the military: they’ll be able to tell you that, if done correctly, you’re able to get a great workout from bodyweight exercises…almost anywhere. No gym required.
They’ll also be able to tell you that bodyweight exercises can also be done frequently, without too much risk of burning yourself out. Of course, this will depend on the individual.
Someone just starting out with fitness will need to take it a little easier, and build up from there. Going too hard too soon just results in injury, pain and loss of motivation. Trust me. I’ve been there.
How often should we be exercising?
We can all agree that exercise is important for health. There’s so many benefits, ranging from improved immune function to a greater longevity of life.
But when it comes to exercise frequency, how much are we really talking about?
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend the average adult gets a minimum of 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. By raising the intensity of this exercise, their recommendation then reduces to 75 to 150 minutes a week.
This is a baseline, remember.
We can certainly workout more and the more exercise we do, the more benefits we are likely to see.
That is, as long as we factor in rest days – even with bodyweight exercises.
Why do we need to have rest days?
If you’ve got time, this TED-Ed video sums up why we need to rest our muscles.
We all need to have days where we don’t do any intense training. For the fitter individuals amongst us, this might be one rest day per week.
For those who are less fit, then we might be looking at 2-3 rest days per week.
Rest days are vital. They allow our bodies to recover from the hard work we’ve done during the exercise period.
A good way to visualize this is by remembering a key fact:
The gains in terms of strength and endurance don’t happen to our bodies during the exercise itself. These gains happen after the exercise.
When we work out we break down muscles fibers, more significantly with strength training.
The body then needs to repair these muscle fibers and when it does, it will generally build them back in a stronger, more efficient state than when they were broken down.
Without rest days, our bodies never get the chance to repair themselves, and eventually we become run-down and no longer see benefits from working out.
It also helps to understand the science behind why our muscles get tired during the workout. This video from TED-Ed explains it much better more succinctly I can in any post.
How much rest do we need after a bodyweight workout?
This is going to depend on the type of workout. Anyone who has taken my course (Bodyweight Workout Training Program) will know that there are many different ways we can setup a bodyweight workout routine; it all depends on what our goals are.
A strength-focused workout usually results in muscles that need a little more recovery time. Whereas a muscular endurance workout doesn’t break down the muscles fibers to the same extent. Therefore the muscles need rest less often with this kind of workout.
Workouts which focus more on the cardiovascular system, such as High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), needs less rest again and fit folks can usually perform HIIT training on consecutive days for up to 6 days in a row, before taking an essential full rest day to recuperate.
Can we work out everyday, even with strength-focused bodyweight programs
If you’re focusing on building up muscular strength, but still want to workout every day, there is a widely used method which works perfectly.
It’s pretty simple, we just split up the target parts of our body over different days.
So, for example on day 1 we might focus on upper body exercises (pushup, pullup, dips, table rows etc.). Then on day 2 we focus on lower body exercises (squats, lunges, glute bridges etc.).
This type of split is the most simple, but is effective at giving a whole body section a day’s rest while keeping you training.
You could also add in core (abdominal muscles) focus on the third day (plank, crunches, leg raises etc.) to give your muscles more of a break between workouts.
Mixing it up with a cross training program
Perhaps the best way to approach your training is with a cross-training mindset.
This is pretty simple and just means that no one single training method is focused on too heavily.
By using a cross-training approach, we can workout every day (with one rest day per week) because the body is exercised in different ways each day.
This means that we aren’t placing too much stress on any one part of the body.
Here’s an example of a cross-training program over a week:
- Day 1: Upper Body Strength Bodyweight Workout
- Day 2: Bodyweight HIIT Workout
- Day 3: Steady State Cardio 60 minutes: Swim/Bike/Jog etc.
- Day 4: Lower Body Bodyweight Workout
- Day 5: Bodyweight Circuit Training – Muscular Endurance Focus
- Day 6: Core Workout
- Day 7: Rest
That’s a very wholesome cross-training program and as you can see, keeps you busy most of the week!
Bodyweight training comes with many advantages.
It can be done frequently, although how frequently depends on your training goal and fitness level.
If you are looking to workout everyday, cross-training can be a great way to rotate the body through training styles. This minimizes stress on muscles and joints whilst getting you in awesome shape.