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Bodyweight Exercises vs. Free Weights

Bodyweight Exercises vs. Free Weights

Pete Owen

If you are undecided on whether to train using bodyweight exercises or weights, you need to sit down and ask yourself what you want out of your training. What are your goals? Are you more interested in general aerobic fitness, or more interested in size and strength?

The differences between the two vary greatly, and the results you can expect to get will do too. To avoid wasting time and effort in your training, it is therefore important to determine what’s your goals are or you will have a very hard time reaching them.

As a general rule of thumb… if you are interested in building actual strength and size, you need to use free weights primarily.

The effectiveness of weight training and is based upon the principle of progressive resistance, and while it is perfectly possible to apply progressive resistance to bodyweight exercises it is far more difficult and awkward — and very limited.

Progressive resistance simply means overloading the muscle fibres by adding more weight (resistance). This is an unbreakable law when it comes to developing muscular size and strength.

Naturally, what could be simpler than adding a plate to a barbell or dumbbell to add progressive resistance? How would you add weight to a bodyweight exercise if you are not using weights? It requires a little more thought and you are much more limited.

I know many people swear by bodyweight exercises for building muscle and look upon weight training as if it is unnatural, and this may be their reason for wanting to build muscle without using weights. Of course, in my mind this is completely ridiculous and false — but we will not get into this argument in this article.

Generally, bodywork exercises will help to build far better muscular endurance than weight training will – for instance, 100 push ups, etc — but the muscle size you’ll develop along with actual strength (i.e. lifting a washing machine) will be very limited. This is just how it is.

And, may I ask, if you do begin adding progressive resistance to your bodyweight exercises what is the difference between adding paperweights and books to a backpack while you do push-ups or are simply using a barbell with weight plates on it and performing the bench press? In my mind there is no difference whatsoever other than practicality and the limitless potential of using weights.

Of course, do not get me wrong… you can build a fair amount of muscle and a very respectable bodily using bodyweight exercises. If you have done very little physical activity like this in the past, you can develop a good bit of muscle in the beginning with bodyweight exercises as the muscles make their ‘beginner gains’, but this will quickly taper off unless more resistance is added.

If all you want is a little muscle, and are more concerned about endurance than size and actual strength, then using weights may be slightly redundant, as there are enough bodyweight exercises you can do to work out your entire body very well indeed.

You may even want to have a little of both, in which case it’s all about deciding which balance to apply to your program depending on which kind of results you wish to get the most of.

Whatever you decide to do – kudos to you for deciding to do something to improve your body and health – you’re one of very few, and I wish you great luck and success.