A lot of you know a bit about my fitness journey. I started really getting into fitness around 8 years ago now. I was naturally quite slim, did cardio and a few classes here and there. And then I got into weight lifting. After the first few months I was soooo happy with my progress. I had become really toned, I had proper abs and I was still slim.
So I kept going, lifting heavier and heavier, challenging myself, trying other workouts like crossfit, HIIT classes, and still doing some cardio too. After a while I had become too muscular for my own liking (and I must say that everyone has a different threshold to what they consider “too muscular”).
Any trainer that I would talk to about it would just dismiss it like I was crazy and that girls who thought weight training made them bigger were just delusional. It made me feel a bit st*pid for thinking that I was getting bigger. But I knew I was. I had taken measurements around my legs and they had increased in size significantly. I could no longer fit into my jeans and crop tops!
Whilst I actually enjoyed lifting weights, I just didn’t like the changes in my body. So I knew my exercise program needed to change. I stop lifting heavy weights and that is why I do the type of training that I do today.
WHY I PREFER BODYWEIGHT TRAINING OVER WEIGHTS
I LOOK LEANER
The main reason is because I prefer to look leaner and I feel like bodyweight training gives me a much leaner look compared to lifting weights. I am a mesomorph body type so I can gain muscle quickly if I try. If you are a different body type, you may not gain muscle as quick, or you may naturally have a lot of muscle. It’s important to know your body type and make sure you’re exercise for your own goals and body type.
After doing bodyweight training for a while, I am not as strong as I used to be, but I am definitely more flexible, I have a greater range of motion, I don’t have as many little injuries, I don’t get as sore, and most importantly, I’m more happy and confident now. I know I can definitely get stronger with bodyweight training only, but it hasn’t been my focus for now.
This is a photo of when I was doing heavier lifting compared to what I look like now. I had actually been a lot bigger previously but I didn’t like taking photos like this so I don’t have many good ones of me at my biggest. I know I don’t look overweight or really muscular, but I just didn’t feel myself and I wasn’t very confident.
I CAN DO TI WHILE I TRAVEL
I have been travelling constantly for the past year and sometimes it’s really difficult to get access to a gym. The style of training that I do is so easy to do when travelling because you don’t need any equipment and you can really do them anywhere.
I do like to travel with a pair of gliding discs, ankle weights and a resistance band for when I want to mix it up a bit. But I can still do these workouts without a gym membership. I really like that it’s free.
This is the equipment I use:
Buy ankle weights here
IT’S QUICKER THAN A GYM SESH
When I used to go to the gym, my sessions would always be at least an hour, not including the time it took me to travel there, park, put my stuff in a locker, etc. At home, it’s so quick. I get changed, set up a mat on the floor and start.
At the gym, I would warm up then do my weights circuit, finish with some stretching / foam rolling and it would take 45 – 60 minutes. At home, I can usually pump out a full body circuit in under 20 minutes.
I find it much more time effective. I do still love working out at a gym though so I try to do it when I can!
IT’S STILL CHALLENGING
A lot of people think that when you just do body weight training or use equipment such as ankle weights, gliding discs and resistance bands, that it’s easy. It’s definitely different, but it doesn’t have to be easy. There are many ways to make the workouts more challenging without lifting heavier.
For example, push ups – you can do all the different variations and still challenge yourself. But not just that. For any body weight exercise, you can do more reps, less rest between exercises, increasing time under tension (seriously, super slow push ups are HARD), and do more advanced exercises such as hand stands.
I also love adding in cardio (such as running) between bodyweight exercises to really lift your heart rate and get sweaty. Plus there’s nothing better than working out outside! Here’s a workout I did the other day!
IT HAS IMPROVED MY BALANCE, COORDINATION & CORE STRENGTH
All of the bodyweight exercises I do require more balance and coordination, compared to when I was heavy lifting. So these things have definitely improved. But core strength has also improved. Yes heavy lifting exercises such as barbell squats, chin ups and deadlifts all work your core. But so do push ups, planks and donkey kicks. And I find that now, I do actually dedicate a bit more time to core focused exercises.
I’M NOT AS SORE
Some people like being really sore after a workout. It is a sign that you have worked out hard. But man it makes it difficult to do things like sleep, wash your hair, sit on a toilet seat, or even back it up for another workout the next day.
With the bodyweight exercises, you don’t get as sore, so I can exercise almost everyday if I want, and I don’t wake up feeling like my body has been hit by a truck!
If you’re interested in the bodyweight training, you can check out my Full Body Resistance Workout here.
I’m not saying that lifting heavy is bad – it has sooo many great benefits for your body. But it’s really a matter of personal preference. I think everyone should do some form of resistance training. But whether that’s heavy lifting or bodyweight exercises, the choice is up to you and just depends on what type of exercise you prefer and what your goals are :) xx
Apologies if I missed it but what weight range of ankle weight would you recommend? I think my current ones are 2kg per weight and a bit heavy.
Thank you :)
We usually recommend lifting up to 5kg and increasing the repetitions to make the workouts more challenging. As for the ankle weights, the ones Rachael uses are 2.5lbs each! xx
Love this blog. I have a recurring elbow injury from weight training and I have started pilates. My instructor told me that I had overworked my upper body so I have left the gym, purchased a resistance and pilates machine and never felt better. I’m getting leaner and straighter as I too bulk up too easily.
My PT thinks I’m crazy and I was so glad to find your blog. Today everything seems to be about weight lifting and it’s refreshing to know that someone else feels that it isn’t. I run 3 days a week and do clinical pilates and resistance training every alternative day. My body is getting more balanced in shape and my abs are stronger and my back straighter (I have a kyphosis).
Hi Jessica, I’m sorry to hear about your injury but so glad you have found a workout style that suits you! Good on you for listening to your body and doing what you think is right :) I’m glad I could help too! xx
Do you do resistance training every day? And if not, how many times per week do you do it?
I love all of your blogs and advice. I have your ‘Skinny Legs’ guide for endormorphs too and definitely agree that when I followed your tips for my body shape, my legs were definitely slimmer.
Since I began on my fitness journey, I had a recurring hamstring injury that would never go away. No matter how many lighter weights and bodyweight exercises I did I could not stop the ache and tightness in that area. Three months ago I started with a PT, and it is the first time in two years (since I started running) that my hamstring has not bothered me i.e. has not ached or felt tight. However, my thighs in particular are changing in ways that I’m not entirely happy with unfortunately.
It’s a real Catch 22! I either like the way my legs look, but have constant injuries, or I feel great, but I’m not happy with how I look.
Is there a way to work with my PT (once a week), and your guide to get the best of both worlds?
Hi Shantel! I’m sorry to hear about your constant injury. It could be because you were doing some exercises with incorrect form and the PT has been helping you do them correctly? I think you could continue with the PT once per week and ask them to do boxing or a full body HIIT circuit with you rather than doing traditional weight lifting which might make your legs bigger. I hope that helps! Good luck xxx
Thanks so much for posting this as I have been asking… your guide is called steps to skinny legs does that mean it just focuses on legs?
Hi Mel, you’re welcome! All of the workouts are full body so you will also work your upper body and core. But it has a focus for helping you slim down your legs, and also tone up your entire body without bulking up :) xx
Brilliant post. I share the same sentiments as you actually. I’ve stopped lifting for the same reasons and noticed that doing simple fasted power walking alone makes me feel so energised and happy. No need to lift heavy to get that adrenaline rush *for me at least*. I am hoping your exercises could help me become leaner, stronger and more super model body like ;) oh and not forgetting one day I aim to be able to do a handstand! Thanks for sharing your thoughts x
You’re welcome Sally! Thanks for your comment – it’s always nice to hear from women who are supportive and have the same experience :) xx