Ross Clifford, co-author of Bulletproof Bodies: Body-weight Exercise for Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation, reflects on the wider effects of body-weight exercise.

Each year the fitness industry charts the most popular fitness trends. There are many of these charts available, including one compiled by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Body-weight training first appeared in the ACSM chart in 2013, entering at number 3, before rising to the top spot in 2015. Since then it has maintained a top 5 place within the fitness trends chart through to 2018.

The first appearance in 2013 did not signify the arrival of a newly invented format or technology, but rather a re-appreciation (and perhaps re-branding) of an age-old form of exercise training. People have been using body weight exercise for centuries to improve their strength or appearance. This is perhaps most obviously recorded from studies of military training techniques. The evidence of this is still plain to see today, with military disciplines across the world basing their physical training around body weight exercise. But you don’t have to be in the modern armed forces to benefit from body weight exercise, and such training is so much more than push-ups and pull-ups.

This ‘back-to-basics’ training style could not be more current. It requires minimal (if any) equipment, making it affordable and accessible for most. All you need is a good imagination, and if you don’t have that then you can always get a copy of Bulletproof Bodies and we’ll do the creative part for you.

There are of course many other places you can learn body-weight exercise and be motivated to develop yourself with its use. These sources include books, training camps and seminars, and web-based communities that will take you (if you are willing to work hard) from the plank and push-up to the human flag and muscle-up. The focus here of course is strength. Developing muscle and grouping exercises to achieve this strength in target muscle groups. Both authors (Ross and Ashley) have used body-weight exercise for just this purpose, with Ashley developing a particular level of expertise in this form of training.

But, there is more to the locomotive system of the body than muscles, and once you take this view you will never look back. Those muscles you are training are attached to tendons which are in turn attached to bone. This causes the bone to move relevant to other bones at joints, and these joints are reinforced by ligaments and joint capsules. All of these structures can be subject to injury, strain and dysfunction. As you read this you may be experiencing pain or reduced function from such an issue.

The authors of Bulletproof Bodies (that’s me and Ashley) have re-examined many well-known body-weight exercises and have focused them on commonly seen musculoskeletal injuries, targeting those body structures mentioned above. We have taken the time to explain these injuries and the need-to-know anatomy so that you might better understand your own body. Going a stage further we have selected key exercises to target these problem areas and have then developed a range of training programmes for different physical ability levels.
If nothing else, when put in to practice Bulletproof Bodies will deliver what all other body-weight resources deliver – increased muscle strength and aesthetics. But we believe that it will deliver more, by developing strength and resilience in a range of tissues and structures. Who wouldn’t want to ease those current aches and pains and stave off new injuries?

Ross Clifford is a UK registered Physiotherapist and a university lecturer.