6 Bodyweight Exercise Myths You Shouldn't Believe

6 Bodyweight Exercise Myths You Shouldn't Believe

Like many, you may think that bodyweight exercises are “easy” or “beginner” level because they don’t require fancy equipment. Still, using your body to train not only saves money and space, but it is also highly effective. To shed some light on the benefit of bodyweight exercises, here are some common bodyweight exercise myths that simply aren’t true.

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Myth 1: You Can’t Build Muscle

bodyweight myths - man doing squats at home

“To build muscle with bodyweight exercise, you have to work to the point of fatigue, where you cannot do another repetition,” explains personal trainer Pete McCall, ACE, NASM, host of the All About Fitness podcast, and author of Smarter Exercise: The Science of Exercise Made Simple.

To gain muscle with bodyweight exercises, perform each movement to its full range of motion. There is no need to add weight to your basic squat if you perform the move with precise form. As McCall suggests, your muscles will fatigue when you use immaculate form and do sufficient reps.

“Muscles grow as a result of mechanical overload or metabolic fatigue,” McCall says.

Mechanical overload is merely working a muscle to the point of technical failure (the point where you can’t perform another rep with good form). Metabolic fatigue occurs when a muscle exhausts the available supply of ATP, which it produces from a variety of substrates during strength training, including creatine and glucose/glycogen (energy fuel reserve). Pushing a muscle to metabolic fatigue can trigger growth, but that growth is not a result of increased glycogen storage.


Myth 2: You Can’t Lose Weight

Although there are more than two training protocols that can lead to fat loss—these two bodyweight training protocols are especially good at shedding extra pounds:

  1. Circuit training—Performing a series of exercises back-to-back increases the intensity and the metabolic cost, leading to more calories (and fat) burned. Compound, multi-joint movements give you the greatest return on your effort, as they engage the most muscle (AKA “metabolically active tissue”).
  2. Bodyweight HIIT workout—HIIT workouts are exercises that involve brief bursts of high-intensity intervals followed by periods of low-intensity recovery. Bodyweight HIIT workouts (like Plyo push-ups) keep your metabolism elevated for hours after your last rep so that you burn more total calories.


Myth 3: You Can’t Increase Strength

bodyweight myths - woman doing plank outside

You don’t need weights to build strength when you perform bodyweight exercises. To increase muscular endurance, use your body weight as a form of resistance, and perform additional reps in your workout routine.

Endurance strength allows you to maintain a consistent level of muscle force over some time. To help you understand, right now, you can probably do about 20 bodyweight squats, and; in a few weeks, you may do 40 or 50 squats—that’s increased endurance strength.


Myth 4: Not Feeling Sore Means It’s Not Working

No matter what type of workout you do, being sore isn’t a sign of an exercise “working,” nor is it a sign of a “good” workout.

There is very little evidence that muscle soreness is the lead indicator of muscle growth. Studies show that the idea of “no pain, no gain” is a false way of thinking because soreness happens when microtrauma (muscle overuse) happens—the inflammation process starts, which can occur whether or not you lift weights.


Myth 5: You Can’t Adjust Resistance With Bodyweight Exercise

bodyweight myths - elevated push up outside

There are plenty of ways to make bodyweight exercises harder or easier. One way is to change the angle and leverage, McCall says. You can do push-ups with your hands elevated on a step or bench to make them easier or with your feet elevated on a box to increase the challenge.

Playing around with tempo, slowly lowering, and then exploding up may also add resistance and challenge to any workout.


Myth 6: You Don’t Need Rest Days

What qualifies as a “rest” day depends solely on you. Treat bodyweight training like any other type of training, which is to say that you need sufficient recovery time between workouts to perform at your peak and optimize your results. Try alternating your harder workouts with active rest days.

“You can do bodyweight exercise every day,” McCall says. “But switch up the modalities, so you are moving differently, at different speeds and different ranges of motion.”

Looking for some at-home bodyweight exercises? Check out all our exercise programs on Openfit today!

brittany risher


Brittany Risher is an accomplished content strategist, editor, and writer specializing in health, mental health, and mindfulness content. After earning her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from Northwestern University, she worked at Men's Health, Prevention, Women's Health, Shape, and Greatist before going freelance three years ago. Today she works with brands and publications, helping them create content that engages their audience and builds brand loyalty. Considered a "Swiss Army knife for content," Brittany helps with all things content, from editorial strategy and project management to editing and writing. Her clients include Sonima, Men's Health, Women's Health, SELF, Elemental, ZocDoc, Yoga Journal, Everyday Health, My Fitness Pal, and Centennial Media. Follow her on Twitter.