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Fitness & Sports

Bodyweight Exercises

If you are a teen who is interested in gaining muscle (or indeed, losing fat), there is the issue of whether or not it is a good idea to lift heavy weights in the gym to gain size. Now, this applies whether you are a male wanting to bulk up or a female wanting to add curves (yes, pushing some weight is the only way to do that – sorry, girls).

Traditionally, personal trainers say you shouldn’t be pushing and pulling heavy weights in the gym before you’re 18 because the growth spurt that comes with puberty means that human growth hormone (HGH) production in your body is naturally very high and you can easily gain muscle or curves using your bodyweight, without the need for the added weights that you will find in a gym.

I broadly agree with this opinion, although I think there can be some leeway as to the exact age you can start lifting weights. I think you could probably start lifting some lighter weights from 16 onwards – I think 15 is a bit early, really. I’d definitely wait until 16 before lifting anything, and for really heavy stuff like deadlifts and squats, I’d leave them until 18.

So I recommend that teens start with resistance bodyweight exercises. Just a few are –

Pushups, pullups, lunges, squats, one-legged pistol squats, hanging knee raises, burpees, mountain climbers, planks, etc.

Note that many of these have variations – for example, for “pushups” there are dive-bomber pushups, Hindu pushups, spider-man pushups, etc.

So how can you use bodyweight exercises for both muscle gain and fat loss, when you use the same exercises for both goals? Well, it depends on how you use these exercises. For muscle gain, you concentrate on good form, perform them with a full range of motion and up the volume (that means increase the number of sets you do). You can also lengthen the time to complete the negative portion of each rep (i.e. the eccentric part of the movement). For fat loss, you minimize rest times and do circuit training, in order to gain maximum fat burning potential from the workout. So, for example, you would complete 10 reps of all the exercises listed above with no rest in between, then rest 2 mins after you’ve done that, before performing 2 more sets of them. That should work up a sweat suitable for fat burning!

Oliver N Chapman