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Are bodyweight workouts effective?

By Rachael Attard, Updated Oct 11, 2020
are bodyweight workouts effective

Whenever I hear from someone who wants to transition to my workout plan after working out a lot using heavyweights, I get the same question – Are bodyweight workouts really effective?

Most of the girls who reach out with this question are worried that if they start using light weights or just their bodyweight to do workouts, they won’t be strong as strong or look as toned.

I’VE BEEN THERE TOO!

Ladies, if you’re asking this, trust me — I understand this question! I’ve wondered the same thing before too. As you might know, I used to work out with a trainer who had me lifting heavy! I didn’t like the way this impacted my body because I felt like I bulked up too much, but I was also nervous to transition to lower weights.

However, the transition was really wonderful for me. I love the way low weight, high repetition workouts have toned my body while letting me stay lean! You can read more about my relationship with lifting heavy and I why I stopped using heavyweights here.

But I know that your goals might be different than mine, so here are some more specifics about how bodyweight workouts impact your body so that you can decide what’s best for you. :)

bodyweight workouts for women

RELATED POST: WHY I PREFER BODYWEIGHT TRAINING OVER WEIGHT LIFTING

DO BODYWEIGHT EXERCISES BUILD MUSCLES?

Yes, any type of resistance training builds muscle. You can build muscle while lifting really, really heavy, and you can build muscle with just your bodyweight.

But bodyweight exercises won’t make you bulk up in the same way that heavyweights do. Instead, bodyweight workouts will help you tone your muscles without adding muscle bulk.

Now, I will admit that training with your bodyweight won’t make you as strong as training with heavyweights. And, for some people, this is a deal-breaker. Some women love the feeling of hitting new weight lifting personal records!

But, for me, this wasn’t essential. I was still able to be fit and strong without lifting heavy! Bodyweight training still has lots of health benefits and will still help you become stronger over time. Some of the benefits of bodyweight exercises are:

  • Increased endurance
  • Better mind-body connection
  • Improved balance and mobility

You don’t need to lift heavy to see these benefits!

RELATED POST: HOW TO LIFT WEIGHTS WITHOUT GETTING BULKY

are bodyweight workouts effective

SOME DIFFERENT TYPES OF BODYWEIGHT WORKOUTS FOR TONING:

PILATES STYLE WORKOUTS: Pilates workouts might look easy, but they can actually be really challenging, even if you’ve been working out for a long time! Pilates workouts work muscles that are hard to get with traditional weight lifting, so they can really help create a round booty, lean abs, and toned arms.

BOXING: Boxing is both a cardio and resistance training workout! I love that I can get two types of training in with it! You’ll probably notice boxing tones your arms and legs quickly, and it will also help you with balance.

LIGHTER BODYWEIGHT RESISTANCE WORKOUTS: These are the types of workouts in my 3 Steps to Lean Legs Program. Doing high-rep, low weight resistance workouts can help build a little muscle (which you need for toning) without the bulk.

These are the girls who did my Program and achieve great results with bodyweight workouts:

RELATED POST: THE FEMALE GUIDE ON HOW TO GTE LEAN AND TONED WITHOUT GETTING BULKY

ARE BODYWEIGHT EXERCISES ENOUGH TO LOSE WEIGHT?

Bodyweight exercises can definitely help you lose weight. They help boost your metabolism (yay!), which means that your body will be more efficient at burning calories. But the most effective weight loss plan is a combination of resistance workouts and cardio workouts.

HOW RESISTANCE TRAINING HELPS YOU LOSE WEIGHT

When you do any type of exercise, you burn calories. But the advantage of resistance training is that it increases your lean muscle mass and your basal metabolic rate (BMR).

In other words, doing resistance training of any kind (even with just your bodyweight!) will help your body become more efficient at using calories, even when you aren’t exercising.

bodyweight workouts for weight loss

CARDIO IS IMPORTANT TOO

But, if you want to lose weight, you really should be doing more than just bodyweight workouts. Make sure that you’re doing cardio exercises, like walking or jogging, too.

These workouts don’t help increase your metabolism the same way resistance workouts do, but cardio workouts are incredibly efficient at burning calories and burning fat. They are key to helping you lose weight and stay slim!

If you want to learn more about how resistance workouts and cardio help you lose weight, read this article. I explain it in more detail. :)

ARE BODYWEIGHT WORKOUTS BETTER THAN WORKOUTS WITH WEIGHTS?

The answer to this is going to depend entirely on you and what your goals are. Here are some of the reasons why I prefer bodyweight workouts. If you find yourself relating to what I’m saying, consider switching to bodyweight exercises. :)

BODYWEIGHT WORKOUTS HELP ME FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH MY BODY.

There’s a myth in the fitness industry that women can’t get bulky. But, in my experience, this just isn’t the case. “Bulky” is very subjective. What may be bulky for your friend doesn’t have to be bulky to you.

Lifting heavy weights made me bulkier than I liked, especially in my legs and in my shoulders. I’ve talked to so many women who have experienced the same thing.

Doing bodyweight exercises alongside cardio helped me slim down while also toning my muscles. Instead of looking overly muscular, I began to look leaner and feel good in my own skin.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to build a muscular body. I really admire women who enjoy this because I know it takes a lot of hard work! But it wasn’t for me, and it is ok if it isn’t for you either! :)

BODYWEIGHT WORKOUTS HELP BUILD FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH.

I work out for so many reasons! As I’ve mentioned, I workout because I like the way I look when I exercise consistently. But I also do it because it helps keep me healthy and strong. Exercise helps with balance, coordination, heart health, and so much more.

Bodyweight exercises are great for helping me maintain a healthy body. I don’t need to be able to lift heavy weights to still be a fit, strong person.

are bodyweight workouts effective

BODYWEIGHT EXERCISES SHOW ME I DON’T HAVE TO WORKOUT LIKE MEN.

There’s a common misconception that men and women should train very similarly. But, in my experience, men and women tend to have different goals for their exercising.

Men often want to workout to build muscle bulk, and so they must focus on eating more calories and lifting as heavy as they can. Even if they need to lose fat, they tend to do that and then start gaining back the weight with muscle mass.

When I talk to women, most of the time I hear them wanting to start working out to lose weight, to tone up with a perkier butt or defined abs, or to just get healthier overall.

Bodyweight workouts help women achieve these things! You don’t have to work out the same way you see most men working out if that training style doesn’t match your goals. :)

If you want to learn more about this topic, I’ve written an entire post about why I think it is okay for women to train differently from men if they want to.

BODYWEIGHT WORKOUTS ARE CONVENIENT.

I love that I can work out easily anywhere! If I travel, I can go for a walk or a jog and do bodyweight workouts in my hotel room. I don’t need a gym membership — I can workout in my bedroom!

Many people I’ve talked to have told me that they are more likely to commit to bodyweight workouts because of how convenient they are to do.

bodyweight workouts for women

HOW TO TRANSITION TO BODYWEIGHT WORKOUTS

If you’re somebody who has loved lifting heavy weights, you love the way it makes you feel, and you enjoy building a very muscular look, that’s great! Keep doing what works best for you!

But, if you’re wanting to get leaner but scared to give up weights, try giving them up gradually. For example, slowly decrease the weight every couple of weeks until you start working with just your bodyweight. If you’re using weights, I suggest still doing high reps (about 10). I like to do 10-15 reps for bodyweight exercises.

Remember, you can continue to be a fit, healthy person without heavy weights! You can keep challenging yourself and improving your fitness levels while also achieving a leaner, feminine look.

Thanks for reading! I love answering your great questions, so please keep asking them. :)

Love Rachael xx

Picture of Rachael

Rachael is an Australian born certified personal trainer and nutritionist who holds a Bachelor degree in Science.

After struggling for years to find an exercise and diet program that is tailored to women striving for lean and toned body with no bulk she designed her Lean Legs Program. This program is tailored to each body type and focused on helping women get toned but feminine bodies, without getting bulky.

Her mission is to empower women and help them stay in shape in a healthy and balanced way.

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