Simple Bodyweight Training Improves Cardiorespiratory Fitness with Minimal Time Commitment: A Contemporary Application of the 5BX Approach

Int J Exerc Sci. 2021 Apr 1;14(3):93-100. eCollection 2021.


Bodyweight training (BWT) is a style of interval exercise based on classic principles of physical education. Limited research, however, has examined the efficacy of BWT on cardiorespiratory fitness. This is especially true for simple BWT protocols that do not require extraordinarily high levels of effort. We examined the effect of a BWT protocol, modelled after the original "Five Basic Exercises" (5BX) plan, on peak oxygen uptake (VO2peak) in healthy, inactive adults (20 ± 1 y; body mass index: 20 ± 5 kg/m2; mean ± SD). Participants were randomized to a training group that performed 18 sessions over six weeks (n=9), or a non-training control group (n = 10). The 11-minute session involved five exercises (burpees, high knees, split squat jumps, high knees, squat jumps), each performed for 60-seconds at a self-selected "challenging" pace, interspersed with active recovery periods (walking). Mean intensity during training was 82 ± 5% of maximal heart rate, rating of perceived exertion was 14 ± 3 out of 20, and compliance was 100%. ANCOVA revealed a significant difference between groups after the intervention, such that VO2peak was higher in the training group compared to control (34.2 ± 6.4 vs 30.3 ± 11.1 ml/kg/min; p = 0.03). Peak power output during the VO2peak test was also higher after training compared to control (211 ± 43 vs 191 ±50 W, p = 0.004). There were no changes in leg muscular endurance, handgrip strength or vertical jump height in either group. We conclude that simple BWT- requiring minimal time commitment and no specialized equipment - can enhance cardiorespiratory fitness in inactive adults. These findings have relevance for individuals seeking practical, time-efficient approaches to exercise.

Keywords: Interval exercise; peak oxygen uptake; physical conditioning.