"Bodyweight exercises have been around forever for one main reason: they work," exercise physiologist and Bowflex fitness adviser Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, told POPSUGAR. And yes, in case you were wondering, that goes for weight loss, too.
First of all, Tom said, bodyweight exercises are extremely accessible: they're free, you can do them anywhere and anytime, and they can be modified if you're a beginner and made more challenging as you get stronger (we'll get into how to do that in just a bit). One of the key components of weight loss is consistency, Tom explained. Convenient, adaptable bodyweight exercises make it easy to fit in a workout anywhere, which helps you stick to your fitness goals.
Bodyweight exercises are also often incorporated into high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which Tom said "is an extremely efficient way to decrease body fat," and build strength. You can do HIIT with both cardio and strength training, and because HIIT workouts are typically pretty short (you can only maintain max-effort work for so long!), you can often be done in 30 minutes or less. That convenience and low time commitment makes bodyweight HIIT circuits easier to stick with than, say, weightlifting for most people. Try this 30-minute, no-equipment HIIT workout to see for yourself.
Should You Switch to Weights From Bodyweight Workouts?
That means, yes, you can lose weight doing bodyweight exercises. As you build up your fitness and start to burn fat, though, you'll need to find ways to increase the difficulty of your moves. Progressive overload, a term usually used with weightlifting, applies to bodyweight workouts as well: you need to increase the weight you're lifting in order to keep challenging your muscles and body.
So how do you increase the intensity of a bodyweight workout without moving to weights? Tom recommended adding plyometric (jumping) moves as a "simple way to increase the intensity and up the calorie burn." This might mean you swap regular bodyweight squats with jump squats, regular lunges with jumping lunges, or even push-ups with plyometric push-ups. These moves are meant to be challenging, so it's fine to take your time building up to them. Try this plyo circuit when you're ready.
Not that we're warning you off of weights. "Since both variation and progressive overload are important factors in a well-balanced workout program, combining bodyweight exercises with weights is an extremely effective strategy for success," Tom told POPSUGAR. Lifting weights can boost your metabolism and increase your fat burn, so it might be worth throwing a day or two of weight workouts into the mix if you're trying to lose weight. Here's a four-week workout plan for weight loss to help you figure out exactly what to do.
Of course, losing weight is also dependent on the food you eat. Sticking to a healthy diet (here's a two-week eating plan to get you started) will lead to better performance in your workouts and better weight-loss results overall. That, plus consistent workouts, of which bodyweight exercises definitely play a role, makes a combination that'll push you toward your weight-loss goals.