5 Bodyweight Exercise Myths You Shouldn’t Believe

If you stress about the days you’re unable to get to the gym for strength training, it’s worth remembering dumbbells and barbells aren’t the only tools that can build muscle. Yoga is often noted for its strengthening capabilities — but is using your own bodyweight as resistance really enough to make up for a lack of gym time? The truth is you can get a fantastic workout by pulling, pushing, and lifting your own weight with no equipment at all. If you’re still worried these exercises won’t show results, we’re going to put your mind at ease by debunking these bodyweight exercise myths.

1. You won’t build mass

Man doing acrobatics

You can still build mass with just your weight. | iStock.com

Whether you’re using the monkey bars on a playground or the staircase in your apartment to perform your favorite bodyweight exercises, you can definitely build muscle mass. Breaking Muscle explains that your body doesn’t care whether or not you’re using the latest and greatest equipment. All that matters is you do something that challenges your muscles.

Your diet really comes into play when trying to build mass as well. You can do 100 push-ups and pull-ups everyday for your strength, but if you’re not getting the right nutrition, then you won’t get the mass you’re looking for. Think more calories and protein in your diet, particularly after your workout, to stimulate muscle growth. Sleep helps repair and build the muscles you just worked as well, so after your bodyweight workout, make sure you’re getting at least eight hours of sleep.

2. You won’t build strength

man using dumbbells to perform a plank exercise

You’ll see strength gains. | iStock.com

While traditional bodyweight exercises like push-ups and pull-ups come to mind for strength training, it’s time to think outside of the box to really up your gains. Bodybuilding.com says you should aim to find something that challenges you immediately — you should have trouble doing more than five reps of the exercise. If push-ups are easy for you, try using just one arm. If regular squats are a breeze, try pistol squats for more core and leg work. Bodyweight exercises allow you to modify your workout quickly and easily, so you’re always capable of becoming stronger.

3. You can only do them at home

Man doing push-ups at the gym

Feel free to take these exercises anywhere. | iStock.com

While the beauty of bodyweight exercises is that they can be performed anywhere (like your own living room or even outside), they can also be performed at the gym. You can use some of the gym equipment for elevation purposes to make your bodyweight workout more effective, too.

Men’s Fitness explains that one of the best bodyweight exercises you can perform is the dip. While you can try performing triceps dips on the ground, you’ll get the most out of this exercise if you can elevate your upper body and sink deep into the move. The benches at the gym are perfect for this. Similarly, if you want a tough variation on the traditional push-up, try suspended push-ups. Using the suspension trainer at the gym, you can strengthen your shoulders, abs, and arms with the added difficulty and instability of the suspension trainer — and the only weight you’ll be using is your own.

4. You can’t increase resistance

Male athlete performing a plank

There are many ways to increase the resistance. | iStock.com/MeikePetri

In general, bodyweight exercises activate more muscles during your workout, so increasing resistance is as easy as elevating your body or switching to a single arm or leg. Creating resistance with weights is one way to work your muscles, but creating resistance using the natural force of gravity against your own body is just as, if not more, effective.

In addition to changing your movements during your workout to up the intensity, The Beachbody Blog suggests balancing as you transition to different exercises. Going from a push-up position to a side-arm balance, for example, requires core strength, as does going from a regular plank position to a side plank.

5. You shouldn’t take a rest day

Man performing side planks as part of his fitness routine

Rest days are still important. | iStock.com

You’re probably used to taking a rest day or two when you’re training with machines and weights, and this rule still applies to bodyweight workouts. You may actually be using more muscles when you forgo weights. So do your body a favor, and allow it to rest at least one day a week. Even if you’re just practicing sprints or jump squats, those muscles need a break. Taking a rest day is key to preventing an injury that can leave you sidelined. Plus, overtraining is bad for your mind, body, and sleep patterns, so take that rest day.