Bodyweight vs. Weighted Workouts: Which Is Better?

By: Chris Freytag, CPT // November 16, 2015

First things first, we should make one thing clear: strength training, no matter how you do it, is important for a healthy body. Strength training speeds up your metabolism, decreases body fat and can reduce the risk of degenerative diseases.

But we get it. If you’re spending time exercising, you want to make sure you’re getting the best results with the time you put in. You want to match your workout with your goals.

In this article, we’ll show you the benefits of both bodyweight and weighted exercises, and let you decide if one will help you meet your goals better.

Over 50? Be sure to check out our best strength training exercises for women over 50.


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    Bodyweight Training

    Bodyweight training has been around forever. Think about it, probably the most utilized strength exercise out there is a good old basic push-up.

    Bodyweight exercises are an effective way to strengthen your muscles as well as keep you in check when it comes to how strong you are versus how much you weigh.

    In other words, you might have the biggest biceps and chest muscles in the world but if you weigh too much you won’t be able to perform a push-up.

    Benefits of Bodyweight Exercises:

    1. Bodyweight exercises are free. You don’t need a pricey gym membership to use your own bodyweight to train. Your own weight is free of charge!
    2. Bodyweight can be done anytime, anywhere. You don’t need equipment, so you aren’t constricted by WHERE you work out. Pump out push-ups in the basement. Blast burpees in your hotel room. Perform tricep dips on a park bench. Do walking lunges across your driveway. Bodyweight is user-friendly. If you have a crazy schedule or just can’t get to a gym, bodyweight is for you.
    3. Bodyweight crosses all fitness levels. The beginner will find that bodyweight moves, done in the proper modification, will be a gentle way to ease into resistance against your muscles without extra load. A kneeling push-up or basic unweighted squats are great moves to start with! But be aware: bodyweight moves are not for beginners alone. Bodyweight can be turned into challenging workouts that can challenge even the most seasoned exercisers. Plyometric split jumps or inverted V shoulder push-ups are killers.
    4. Bodyweight moves mimic real life moves. We call this “functional training” in the fitness world. Basically you are teaching your muscles to be strong and to move in ways they will need to in real life. Squatting down to pick up a load of laundry or lifting your own body off the floor should you fall: these are important things for your body to rehearse and know. Everyone needs to be functional, so in this case bodyweight is for everyone.
    5. Bodyweight moves create opportunity for more cardio. When you aren’t fumbling with equipment, you can move more quickly through your strength routine. This might add extra heart rate challenges and suit those looking for more cardiovascular results. Do 10 push-ups, then go right to 10 burpees and immediately follow with 20 forward lunges, and you’ve got yourself a killer cardio and strength workout combined!

    Equipment Weighted Training

    Woman using dumbbells

    Dumbbells, barbells, medicine balls… weighted training is a popular and mainstream way to gain strength and build muscle. The variety of ways to train with weight is vast and the results can’t be denied. Lifting weights builds muscle, plain and simple.

    Benefits of Weighted Exercises:

    1. Weighted training builds more muscle mass and boosts your metabolism more quickly. Heavier weight with fewer reps adds new muscle mass, whereas lighter weight with higher reps focuses more on muscle endurance. If you really want to see results in terms of metabolism-boosting muscle mass, then lifting heavier weights is the winner for you.
    2. Weighted training helps you reach your weight loss goals more quickly. EPOC (“Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption”) is the response your body has to a good workout. When the body finishes a workout, it is searching for oxygen even after you are done, and when the body searches for oxygen it does so to burn fat. The EPOC rate is higher the harder you work, so lifting heavier weights is going to make your fat-burning system turn on higher and for longer. If weight loss is your goal, weighted training is for you. However, keep in mind that bodyweight training still utilizes EPOC and still provides an efficient way to build strength, burn calories and lose weight!
    3. Weighted training makes progression more accessible and customizable. Weighted training gives you more options to continually challenge and change your body. For example, once you reach your goal with weight training, you can easily increase the weights. However, when bodyweight training, your weight is a constant (in general). You can’t vary your weight day by day. The only way to make gains with bodyweight is by performing more reps or more sets. With equipment, you can be constantly moving up to the next heavier piece. If your goal is to continue getting stronger, faster, then weighted training is for you.
    4. Weighted training has huge variety. Walk into a fitness center or gym nowadays and the variety of ways to get stronger is overwhelming. Barbells, dumbbells, ropes, machines, medicine balls... there is simply no way to get bored! Strength training with equipment can be varied week by week, or workout by workout. Thus, always keeping your body guessing and your mind stimulated. If you thrive on change in your routine, weighted training is for you.

    So Which Do You Choose?

    The bottom line is this: equipment weighted training and bodyweight training are both excellent ways to build strength and help you reach your fitness goals. Any trainer worth their salt will recommend you incorporate both into your routine.

    In a perfect world, changing up your workouts throughout the week is going to challenge your body and help you reach your goals more quickly. But since we don’t live in a perfect world, it is more important to answer the question, “Will you do it?”.

    The bottom line is that the only exercise program that will work is the one you will do. So clarify your goals, your reality, your lifestyle and your fitness level and choose what’s right for you.

    READ THIS NEXT: The Busy Woman Strength Workout

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    on Reply

    I have a question! I would like to slim down my upper body and focus on toning, without bulking up my shoulders or laterals, while building more muscle on my lower body. How can I do this effectively? I was thinking holding 10 lb weights while doing squats or lunges, but wouldn't that build muscle in my shoulders and lats? (I'm pretty broad-shouldered with already enough muscle and I definitely do not want more bulk in this area.)

      on Reply

      Hi Christie - Pilates and Yoga are great workouts for toning and slimming. Check out these articles for more info:

    on Reply

    I was actually wondering that question for quite some time. Thanks for clearing that up :)

    (This will help us personalize your experience so that you can get the best advice possible from us!)
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