Bodyweight exercises – they may be “old school” but they’re still the best!

An article on the BBC News website caught my attention this weekend, “Short bursts of intense exercise ‘better for weight loss‘”. The article went on to quote Dr Michael Moseley (whose articles I often feature in this blog), “In 2012, I tested three lots of 20-second high intensity workouts on an exercise bike, three times a week. My insulin sensitivity improved by 24%. In the programme, we again saw very impressive results with younger, unfit people …”

Committed Metafit fans will know that just three sessions of this HIIT workout a week can effect similar impressive changes to your body over a short space of time, using just simple core and bodyweight exercises. So what is it about these that make them so effective?

What are bodyweight exercises?

They are strength training exercises that use your own body’s weight to provide resistance against gravity. Bodyweight exercises can enhance a range of abilities including strength, power, endurance, speed, flexibility, coordination and balance. Exercises that use pushing, pulling, squatting, bending, twisting and balancing, such as press ups, burpees and squat thrusts are common bodyweight exercises. Those of you who are old enough to remember the “Superstars” programmes of the 70s and 80s will no doubt remember the infamous gym challenges involving squat thrusts and the parallel bar dips – two examples of tough but effective bodyweight exercises.

Did you know? One of the best things about bodyweight exercises is that you can do them in your own home as no other equipment is required.

What are the best bodyweight exercises?

There are many variations on standard bodyweight exercises, many of which we use in our metafit workouts, often introducing a jump or lateral movement to make the move more plyometric and harder, but the core group of exercises remains the same. Here’s “Mr Metafit” himself demonstrating just how some of these should be performed:

Squats and squat jumps. This exercise works all of the muscles in the lower body including the quads, glutes and hamstrings. It also provides an extra kick for the core as you need your deep abdominal muscles and back to keep your torso upright and perform this exercise correctly.

Press-ups. Working all the muscles in the lower body including the quads, glutes and hamstrings whilst also providing an extra kick for your core strength. Metafit press-ups use the full range of movement – your chest should touch the floor as shown below. It’s perfectly acceptable to drop to your knees to perform this move, just ensure you are still using the full range of movement to be effective.

Burpees. Yes, our favourite exercise! Combining cardio and strength into one, the burpee is a complex, total-body exercise that will work your upper and lower body at the same time with a strong focus on the core. (That’s why we love them so much!). Adding a tuck jump at the end makes the move more plyometric and even tougher!

Squat thrusts. Similar in many ways to a shortened burpee without the final jump phase, this tough and oft hated exercise (I wonder why?!) is a good all-body move, concentrating primarily on your hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes. This exercise is often poorly performed so it’s important to work on correcting your technique to ensure you gain the maximum benefit.

Lunges and lunge jumps. Again, often incorrectly performed, a true lunge should take the back leg to a 90° position, just off the floor. It targets the quadriceps and the glutes most intensely, but also hits the hamstrings, calves and core. Technique is important here as poorly performed lunges can lead to injury. Stepping lunges are just as beneficial if you prefer to take out the jump or if you have knee issues.

Mountain climbers. This exercise combines the difficulty of a plank with deep core stabilisation and alternating knee drives towards your chest. It benefits muscular and cardiovascular fitness by increasing strength, flexibility and blood circulation. Mountain climbers require you to engage your upper arm muscles, as well as your core and your legs.

Extended plank hold and plank variation. One of the best exercises for core conditioning, improving posture, supporting your back, enhancing overall movement and co-ordination and toning your abdominals. In addition to standard planks in Metafit, we also use “hot hands” and “pomel jumps” as great and effective variations on this core exercise.

Hot hands. With a strong core, you should be able to perform these as still and as SLOWLY as possible, almost like you are in slow-motion. This exercise is actually much tougher than it looks, and if your core isn’t strong you will find you tend to rotate throughout the body, particularly the hips, when you lift your hands – this is what you must aim to try and avoid.

Important Footnote:
It goes without saying that good technique is imperative to complete all these exercises well - it will not only help to prevent any injury or issues developing but also ensure you gain the maximum benefit from the exercise. There is no substitution for performing these exercises under the guidance of a qualified instructor - it's almost impossible for a beginner to be aware of their technique without proper instruction and correction.

Want to find out more and experience the whole range of bodyweight exercises? Why not come and join us for a Metafit session and discover how just 25 minutes can change the way you think about exercise? It could also change your life!

Are you REALLY doing HIIT?

Love love love this article from Metafit Australia and simply had to share! There are many people who seem to think that back to back so-called High Intensity workouts are the best way to up their fitness and strength, but that’s simply not the case. Discover why the short sharp intense Metafit workout is one of the best ways to deliver a true HIIT workout …

Most people who claim they do high-intensity interval training often focus more on the ‘interval’ part than on the ‘high intensity’ part. Let’s get one thing straight – there’s nothing wrong with regular interval training. You do the exercise for a period of time, then rest and repeat the exercise again, thus forming intervals that are great for your heart health, circulation, and overall conditioning. But doing exercises with high intensity is where the magic happens.

Most people are drawn to HIIT because it’s short and it’s a type of cardio that doesn’t require any equipment at all to have a good total body workout. The question is, how do you know you’re doing HIIT right? Well doing HIIT on your own is very difficult and most people will never achieve the right intensity so a much more effective way is it under the guidance of a qualified Metafit coach or personal trainer.

What qualifies as high intensity?

After each interval, you should be out of breath, drenched, and thinking to yourself “Thank God it’s rest time, I couldn’t go on any longer”. Your body will treat that rest time as a quick recovery, giving you the chance to steady your breath and gather just enough energy to perform the next interval. To illustrate how hard you have to work in those short intervals (that usually last anywhere from 15 to 45 seconds), it’s worth noting that some researchers doubt that the general population could successfully adapt to the extreme nature of HIIT. However, in Metafit we challenge that belief. The general population can absolutely achieve the right intensity (90% + MHR) with expert coaching, correct programming (exercises, work to rest, duration) and determination.

Don’t underestimate the rest periods

This is such an important thing to note because people usually think that if they push themselves harder and harder with no breaks whatsoever, they will somehow achieve better results. Wrong! The rest periods are what makes HIIT work! In order to really perform at your maximum intensity, you have to give your body a chance to recover! If you just go on doing something so extreme for long, your body will slowly decrease the energy levels, which can lead to serious injuries and won’t help your fitness goals in the long run. The whole point of the rest period is to allow your body to tap into the energy supplies it has, and ‘produce’ the amount of energy you need for your next interval. Without that break, you’re not giving your body a chance to regroup and prepare itself for the hard part. Remember, it’s called high-intensity interval training, and not just high-intensity training for a reason. By going through those high cardio – low cardio intervals, you’re making the most out of your workout, whether the goal is to lose fat, increase explosiveness, or simply improve your general health.

Longer is not necessarily better

Now that we’ve established that your workout should be rough and leave you breathless and sweaty, there’s another aspect of this exercise regimen you should take into account when planning your workout – it’s length. If you’re really making your body go through intense energy bursts where you’re giving it your all, it’s impossible to perform those intervals for longer periods of time. There isn’t a professional athlete in the world that could or would want to do HIIT for an hour. You’ll come across various 45, 60, or even 80-minute ‘HIIT’ workouts on the internet that deserve a healthy amount of suspicion, to say the least.

The ideal length you should go for is anywhere between 6 and 25 minutes, no more. If you do it right, you’ll give your body an excellent, fat-torching routine that will leave you feeling energised and oh so alive! The easiest way to choose the optimal length is to simply listen to your body and find what feels good for you.

Which exercises to choose

It’s not only the way you do it but what you do that counts. You should aim for bodyweight, explosive, full body moves that simultaneously engage most of the main muscle groups in your body to get an optimal result. Giving the limiting length of the intervals, it’s hard to imagine an average person being completely out of breath by the time they finish 20 seconds of squat pulses, triceps dips or crunches. Try doing burpees, squat jumps and sprints movements and you’ll see that you’ll pretty much max out at about 20 seconds or so.

You might think that your typical HIIT workout focuses too much on the lower body, but don’t be fooled; one, quads and glutes are the largest muscles in the body, therefore they will burn the most calories when being trained, and two, in order to do a high-intensity burpee or jumping lunge the right way, you need to activate your core to keep you balanced and safe. Don’t worry, you’ll be doing a total body routine, without even noticing it or focusing on specific abs or arm exercises. That’s the beauty of HIIT.

Less is MORE

Falling in love with HIIT is easy. It’s quick, effective, and the results start to show fast – really, really fast. You might love it so much, in fact, that you’ll find yourself trying to fit the fourth or even fifth HIIT in your week, in order to achieve even faster results. Don’t do it! Aim for 2 or 3 HIIT workouts per week, max. Even just one quality HIIT workout per week will do wonders for your athletic performance. Your body needs time to recover properly; you should cherish it and work with it, not against it. Feel free to do some weight lifting, yoga, pilates or light, steady-paced cardio on your off-days. This will compliment your HIIT routine perfectly, and keep you safe from injuries and stress. If you overwork your body, it will likely recover slower than usual, causing you to have less energy to begin with, so you won’t be able to make your intervals intense and brutal, which will render your whole HIIT routine useless, not to mention the probable muscle tears and Achilles tendinitis that often go along with lower performance.

In the end, HIIT will make you appreciate what your body can do as well as boost your overall health and wellbeing, as long as you do it right. Ready, set, HIIT! 

Thanks to Metafit Australia.

Metafit is an absolute gem of a workout and is one of my all-time favourites. It's simply one of the quickest ways to visibly improve your fitness and strength. I am fully certified to teach both the standard Metafit workout and also the circuits based MetaPWR workout.

Come and Join the Fitness Revolution!

Metafit classes at Xercise Gym Haxby and Poppleton Road Primary School. All ages and fitness levels are welcome!

In just 30 minutes you can start to change your life. Are you ready? It’s going to be tough but I can guarantee it will be worth it. The journey starts here …

Remember: excuses don’t burn calories!
Metafit is designed to be tough and intense but the beauty of it is that it’s over and done with before you know it. Work flat out and by the end of the workout you should be exhausted. But that’s just the start of it …

Burn calories for up to 24 hours after your workout!
Workouts are usually around 22 minutes long. and if you work flat out you can expect to burn around 200+ calories. BUT, it’s the afterburn effect that is really important here. Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) can last for up to 24 hours after exercising – during this time your metabolic rate is boosted and your body continues to burn more calories and more fat. The more intense the workout, the greater the effects will be.

Work hard – play hard!
The idea behind a good high-intensity workout is to go all out – think sprint vs. jog. To achieve true high intensity, use full-body movements that tax your cardiovascular system and build strength endurance. For example, burpees, squat jumps, sprints. Bodyweight exercises tend to be the most effective for maximum output. If you can talk while you’re doing high-intensity intervals, then you’re not working hard enough. Conversation during your workout should be impossible!

Checkout the video below to see the sort of exercises that are included in Metafit workouts … 

Work hard but don’t cheat afterwards!
It’s true that one of the benefits of HIIT is that it triggers the “afterburn effect” (Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption – EPOC) which helps boost your body’s metabolism for hours after a high-intensity workout. But, afterburn is not a licence to eat everything you desire.

So remember! If you indulge in a huge cheat meal after every workout, you will never see the results you want. Don’t use HIIT to justify poor eating habits; instead, clean up your diet and not only will you have more energy for your workout, but you’ll start seeing the results – and what amazing results they will be!

You’re never too old to start Metafit!
Whether you’re 20 or 50+, a solid Metafit session is all relative to your personal level of fitness. I will adapt the exercises to suit you – the aim is to get your heart rate up to near maximal levels during the intense sets, before recovering during the short rest periods. We have all shapes and sizes in our classes and different fitness levels. And, the fitter you get, the harder you can work out!

Here we are at Xercise Gym Haxby in our Christmas T-shirts! Metafit class, Xmas 2017.

You will feel like an absolute winner afterwards. If you’ve worked yourself to your maximum during the workout, you will feel completely exhausted but elated afterwards. It’s a great feeling, particularly when you can actively see your fitness levels improving week by week.

7am metafit class at Xercise Gym, Haxby. Xmas 2017.