Advantages of Body-weight Exercise
Advantages of Body-weight Exercise. At this point it is perhaps worth examining why body-weight exercise is so good for injury prevention and rehabilitation, and why traditional methods are not as effective as they could be. A key reason for the latter is that traditional methods of injury prevention and rehabilitation rely on isolating the targeted body part. Ideally, in order to protect against injury, the body area in question should develop strength through a functional range of motion (ROM). The movements should also focus on supporting and stabilising muscles, and not just on the movement muscles.
Traditional physical therapies rely on isolated movements, corrective body-weight exercise and other practices that do not always maximise rehabilitation by developing multiple body areas in a functional way. The goal of rehabilitation should be simple: to make the body as strong, mobile and injury free as possible. If this goal is achieved, the potential for injury will be reduced, and the rehabilitation of an existing injury will be much quicker.
Take the example of someone who has an injury that prevents them from squatting properly or performing lower body movements. The traditional route would be to introduce some stretching to aid flexibility, build strength using some exercise machines, and perhaps incorporate some movements to encourage the correct firing of the muscles in question. These approaches are all fine in theory but do not address the root problem and client aim of being able to squat.
Consider an approach that involves a variety of methods to achieve the aim, but with the fundamental movement at the heart of the programme. In the example above, this would involve squatting-based movements as early as possible, with different progressions built in. Developing the squat through a squatting-based activity would take care of the strength, mobility, flexibility and muscle firing patterns together in a single coordinated method.
Physical therapies, personal training and gym environments can sometimes focus on expensive or complex equipment for the prevention and rehabilitation of injury and body-weight. This may require ongoing access to such equipment or specialist knowledge in order to achieve your rehabilitation or training goals. In this article we present an alternative option, where most of the movements can be performed either without any equipment, or with equipment that is relatively cheap and readily available. This means that the body-weight exercises and methods outlined in this book can be performed in most places, from the home to a hotel room, and are not limited to times of access to specialist apparatus or knowledge. You will see, however, that throughout this book we do advise you seek specialist health or medical attention whenever you are not able to easily identify the cause of your pain or dysfunction. We acknowledge that in these instances there is no substitute for an expert face-to-face opinion.
Another advantage of using body-weight exercise for the prevention and rehabilitation of injury is that the movements used are based on naturally occurring movements. Moving the joints of the elbow, knee, hip and shoulder through a large range while under load is common in children, but in many cases the ability is lost as we get older. Replicating this movement during exercise in adult life is a logical way to restore functional movement at the joints. Squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling, twisting and stretching are all naturally occurring movements that are used to advantage in body-weight exercise. In many weighted exercises the goal is to move external weights in ever more elaborate ways, none of which truly replicate the natural human movements that all of us engaged in regularly as children.
Body-weight exercise can be good for maintaining motivation and interest in exercise in general, owing to the large number of possible exercises that are available. Movements can be joint specific, such as a wrist support, or involve lots of large muscle groups, such as the jump squat. The important thing is that it is very difficult to become bored when you have such a vast number of possible movements to perform in each workout. There are also many different ways of performing body-weight movements, including singly, in circuits, for a period of time, for a number of repetitions, in a progression towards a specific movement, and so on. This means that, even if the same exercises are used, there are many ways to perform those particular body-weight exercises. For example, if we take an body-weight exercise like the pull-up, there are easily 20 or more different variations that can be performed. Of course, not all of these will be suitable for injury prevention, and some may be beyond your current ability, but the important fact is that a wide range of possibilities and variety is available.
Progression and Regression
Another great feature of body-weight exercise is that the movements can be made more difficult or less difficult without the need for adding new equipment. Making an exercise easier is known as regression, and is a very useful concept when injured or after a period of detraining. It can also be useful for those who have never exercised but are keen to make a start. If we take the push-up as an example, this can be made easier in many ways, for example by altering the angle of the body, by dropping to the knees instead of balancing on the toes, and even by reducing the ROM. Conversely, increasing the difficulty of an body-weight exercise is known as progression. If again we take the push-up as our example, we could increase the ROM, slow down the movement or place the feet on a raised platform, all of which will make the body-weight movement more difficult.
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