I guess it depends on the results of the objective assessment.
I am big proponent of performing a needs assessment to address what is necessary first and then I can make a determination as to how I will approach exercise programming.
If it turns out that the client needs to increase his ability to carry is body weight than I’ll put together an exercise program with that in mind.
Thanks for your question.
I incorporate various body weight exercises for all clients, novice to advanced in order for them to focus on body awareness, that is being aware of every part of their body at any given point in time, in any given position within an exercise. I find this very important especially for beginners before I progress them on to free weight training.
You see with weight lifting exercises, you use “weight awareness”, that is where the weight is at all times more than where your body is. As long as the weight is lifted and into the correct position(s), the body will naturally follow. However, with bodyweight exercises you take the weights out of the equation. To perform a challenging exercise such as handstand push-ups or one-legged squats, you have to be focusing on every part of your body.
I personally believe that body weight exercise can serve a useful purpose in literally every workout routine regardless of what the goal is.
I would even start an advanced client with body weight exercises to check their form before trying any external resistance. If they can’t do 15 reps of any bodyweight exercise, I know there is no point in adding weight to a similar movement because they probably wouldn’t gain any advantage from the weights. After they can do 15 reps I add a few pounds and work to increase reps before I add any more. For exercises that have no body weight equivalent, I would start as light as possible.
I think that it’s important to be able to at least move your own weight. As far as being functional in everyday life, it’s essential in my opinion, to be able to support yourself in a variety of positions for both short and extended periods of time. I’m comfortable with the fact that if I were hanging off of a ledge, I could save my own life by pulling myself up. That’s an extreme example, of course… Hopefully…
As far as applying this to clients, it does depend on the initial assessment. Part of the ACE IFT model deals with functional movement and building a strong foundation for exercise. If the client excels in balance, stability, and muscular endurance, and can perform a variety of functional movements with ease and correct form, then it may be OK to get into the traditional training early on (using equipment). It depends on the overall level of experience and fitness prior to starting our professional relationship. I must say, however, that body weight training is something that is never ignored, simply reduced in frequency. After weight training for a while, for instance, it may be very beneficial to include more body weight exercises as a welcome change. I think that in general, exercises using body weight are able to activate a wider variety of muscle groups with an appropriate load. You don’t have to worry about TOO much weight being focused in a specific area, most of the time. It’s much easier to not have to worry about so much about proper strength ratios and relating that to weight lifted, for example. Body weight exercises are also easily modified if need be.
It would depend on the training goals. While I agree that bodyweight training is great, I do believe it can be mixed in with free weight training to enhance and increase strength.
The other thing is that you might have a client who is weaker with bodyweight exercises but if you add other resistance training, the client gets to see results and still has a sense of accomplishment rather than feeling like failure because he or she cannot do a pushup or pullup.