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New research says bodyweight exercises could build as much muscle as barbell back squats

Article written in the men's health link

This is not a new concept however new research has confirmed further that body weight exercises like those used in Pilates and kinesiology compound exercises can indeed be highly effective for building muscle and improving range of motion. There is more risk of injury and poor technique using weights. Here's an overview of the evidence supporting their benefits:

Muscle Gain

1. **Progressive Overload**: Body weight exercises can provide progressive overload, a key principle for muscle growth. Techniques such as increasing repetitions, adjusting leverage, and incorporating more challenging variations (e.g., transitioning from push-ups to one-arm push-ups) can increase the intensity.

2. **Muscle Activation**: Studies have shown that body weight exercises like push-ups, pull-ups, and squats can activate muscle groups similarly to weightlifting exercises. For instance, a study found that muscle activation in push-ups can be comparable to bench presses when performed with proper technique and increased intensity (e.g., by elevating feet or adding a weighted vest) .

3. **Compound Movements**: Many body weight exercises are compound movements that engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, promoting overall muscle development. Exercises like pull-ups, dips, and lunges effectively target several muscles, enhancing muscle hypertrophy.

Range of Movement

1. **Flexibility and Mobility**: Body weight exercises often require and promote greater flexibility and mobility. Movements such as yoga poses, dynamic stretches, and full range-of-motion exercises (like deep squats and lunges) enhance joint flexibility and muscle elasticity .

2. **Functional Strength**: These exercises improve functional strength by mimicking natural movement patterns. This can lead to better coordination, balance, and overall body control, which are crucial for a full range of motion .

3. **Injury Prevention**: Enhanced range of motion and flexibility from body weight training can help prevent injuries by ensuring muscles and joints are more adaptable and resilient to stress. This is particularly beneficial for maintaining long-term joint health.

Additional Benefits

1. **Convenience and Accessibility**: Body weight exercises can be performed anywhere, without the need for specialized equipment. This makes them more accessible and easier to integrate into daily routines.

2. **Low Cost**: Without the need for gym memberships or expensive equipment, body weight training is a cost-effective way to maintain fitness.

3. **Scalability**: These exercises can be easily modified to match any fitness level, making them suitable for beginners and advanced athletes alike.


While weights and resistance training equipment can certainly enhance muscle building and strength, body weight exercises offer a versatile, effective, and accessible alternative. They provide ample opportunities for muscle gain, improved range of movement, and overall functional fitness. Incorporating a variety of exercise modalities can yield the best results, catering to different aspects of physical health and performance.


1. **Muscle Activation in Push-Ups vs. Bench Presses**: A study comparing the effectiveness of these exercises.

2. **Flexibility and Mobility through Body Weight Training**: Research highlighting the benefits of exercises like yoga and dynamic stretches.

3. **Functional Strength and Body Control**: Evidence on how body weight exercises improve coordination and balance.

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