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Bodyweight Training Vs Weight Training

Is One Actually Better Than The Other?

Posted by begadsaeed - June 16th, 2015

First of all though, let's take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of both training methods.


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Weightlifting

Progressive overload is achieved through incrementally adding small loads to exercises. Progressions are very smooth, and the basic mechanics of the exercises remain the same.


Big compound movements are often closed kinetic chain exercises (which are considered safer), but isolation exercises (and also a few compound lifts) fall under the open kinetic chain category, which somewhat increases the amount of shearing forces placed on the joint.


Central Nervous System (CNS) gains are experienced very quickly at first due to the consistent mechanics of the exercises performed and their limited number. As you get better, it becomes increasingly harder to maximize your CNS gains (something which most beginner programs completely ignore). Note, however, that whilst these movements may be simple to learn, their subtleties are hard to master.


The greater variety of isolation exercises means you have more control over the way your body looks and develops than with bodyweight exercises. These isolation exercises are seldom used in beginner programs, however.


Bodyweight Training

Progressive overload is achieved through exercise variations, making use of leverage and mechanical disadvantage. Progressions are perhaps not as smooth as in weightlifting, but arguably the constant changes from one exercise variation to the next target muscles from different angles.


Most exercises are closed kinetic chain exercises and these are generally considered safer and more functional. It is worth noting, however, that some advanced movements such as back levers and one arm chins place a lot of stress on tendons, and connective tissue of the joints involved.


CNS gains reoccur frequently – the constantly changing nature of exercise progressions means that each variation has slightly different mechanics than the previous one (basic programs consist of often well over 50 different variations of 6 or 7 basic exercises). These constant changes place far greater demands on coordination, proprioception, balance and flexibility than weightlifting does. Rapid CNS gains therefore happen with each new variation, arguably resulting in increased strength and muscle mass.


Most exercises are compound exercises, which are widely considered to favour muscle growth far quicker than isolation exercises.


Until What Point Can You Expect Similar Gains Between Weight Training And Bodyweight Training?

Well, your body weight is finite, whereas you can generally add more iron onto a barbell than it is humanly possible to lift. So yes, there is a limit to what you can expect from bodyweight training in absolute terms of strength and hypertrophy.


Gains experienced will be very similar between the two, however, up to the point where bodyweight exercise progressions stop increasing in a smooth, linear manner, and where they start relying too much on other skills such as balance and flexibility, or when you have to consciously slow down your progress to give tendons and connective tissue time to adapt to the stresses placed upon them by the exercises.


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You can obviously carry on making strength gains past that point with bodyweight exercises only, but they will be slower than what you would expect from a weight lifting routine. You will develop other skills though, such as greater agility and proprioception, balance and flexibility, and generally a stronger core.


What About Deadlifts? (Scott's Best Friend :D)

There is no bodyweight equivalent, right?


There are however a variety of posterior chain exercises that can be trained, such as bridges, hip thrusts, single leg deadlifts, glute ham raises and reverse hyperextensions. Most bodyweight beginner programs glance over them because they are not simple to progress. It does not mean they cant be trained though!


Still, they're not like deadlifts.


So Do We Have To Choose? Is One Really Better Than The Other?

  • IF you do not have easy access to a gym, you want to make best use of what you can find at home, and you are worried you will not gain strength or mass, I hope this article will have alleviated your fears. If it hasn't, you really need to get off your butt, start working out and stop theorizing!

  • IF you are a bodybuilder who struggles to perform some basic bodyweight moves such as pull ups or muscle ups, and you need to salvage your ego by establishing the superiority of your training methods. I feel sorry for you. I doubt you will have read this far, but just in case you did: Congratulations! Hopefully you now appreciate the benefits and limitations of bodyweight training a bit better than most!

  • IF you are one of the 'strictly bodyweight' purists I mentioned above, I feel sorry for you too – your views are preventing you from optimizing your progress. Weights can actually be used for a variety of valuable purposes such as: pre-exhausting a certain muscle group before training a compound movement or balancing your own bodyweight in exercises such as pistol squats.


Conclusion

If you are a newcomer to strength training and do not have access to a gym, don't worry. You can experience similar gains at home up to quite an advanced level. You can also still make gains past that point, but they will be of a different nature, focusing more on skill and agility, and your progress in terms of pure strength will be slower.


So by now you should understand when it comes to bodyweight and weight training, the reality is you should be doing both. You shouldn't focus on mastering one or other. If you are fit, then you should fit anywhere.


Don’t hesitate to ask any question or contact me.


Have a good day!


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MEMBER COMMENTS

Adawg38

Another great Article. I never outcast my BW exercises but do prefer and mainly do weight training. However, I do have a nice BW routine in my arsenal for the days I can't get to my gym and it also is a nice change up then too.

GraaY94

Great article man! Some of those 'strict training' guys are wierd, I seen some dude comment on YouTube "nah not really a gym guy, just gonna stick to calisthenics  and body weight training" - like what is he stupid? Most of the exercises are variations of each other, lat pull downs and pull ups are both back building tools at the end of the day, its about building a body, not how you build it lol

AnabolicAliens

The great thing about bodyweight training is the ability to change angles, or do things to increase the load without actually adding weight. A perfect example is the pistol squat. Extremely hard to do, but can build some serious strength and size with jsut bodyweight :)

Scott_Herman

damn right~  and you can easily modify it as you get tired or if you can't do the reps on your own yet

Hawk_Given

Great article @begadsaeed!  I really enjoyed the comparison and that it is more of a positive symbiotic relationship between bodyweight exercises and weight training exercises.  Doing these types of exercises increases your endurance and strength.  Not having both is serving yourself an injustice.

Look forward of more articles from you!!  Good Job!!

Scott_Herman

I agree @hawk_given, @begadsaeed always writes great content!  Looking forward to more for sure!

ohawkey

I always have dips and pulll ups in my training. Any other bodyweight exercises I should try? I've always wanted to do a front lever but no idea how

ohawkey

@kevinkoprol thats impressive! i'll check out your article


begadsaeed

Start by jumping pull up man, then get to moving your hands closer step by step you will get it safe.

Idris

This is great article! I think it depends on the person! And what results they are looking for and want to achieve for themselves.

begadsaeed

Yes of course brother, it depends also on your muscle tissues nature. And how fast you will respond to which.

Idris

If you eat big, your body gets big. With combination of sleep, water and rest!

energon19

That feel when you pump out 5 muscle ups at the park and kids be like "MAN!" 
Both of them have their place in a training regimen. I enjoy both of 'em!
Nice article man! :)

begadsaeed

Thanks brother so much! :)

kevinkoprol

Great article man! I love bodyweight exercises, and I am pretty good at them. But I usually only train with weights, it helps me with getting a more well-rounded physique.

begadsaeed

More well shaped , better size and more control man.

Scott_Herman

@begadsaeed, you always deliver quality content bro!  Love it!

begadsaeed

Thanks brother, I'm learning from the best man!

Whisper

very good stuff! Keep the articles coming!

begadsaeed

Thanks Kostas !!

>>>>>>