You want your workouts to count. You want the most bang for your buck when you spend time sweating. Let’s face it, anyone who spends time exercising wants to know what will give him or her the best results in the time they have. So which one will help you get fit quicker: bodyweight moves or weighted exercises?
Strength Training 101
If you know anything about fitness, then you know we can all agree on one thing: weight training or strength training is an important piece of the puzzle. Why? For so many reasons, including that it:
- Boosts your metabolism
- Builds lean muscle tissue
- Helps you burn calories more quickly
- Strengthens joints and connective tissue
- Builds bone density
- Helps you look a whole lot better!
- Strengthens your heart and cardiovascular system
- Helps prevent a myriad of diseases
So knowing you should do it is probably not the debate. Making a plan to do it, however, is quite another. It seems like the strength training options are getting more numerous by the day. Barbells, dumbbells, medicine balls, TRX, stability balls…the choices seem endless and the options can become confusing. Do I go to the heavier equipment training and try barbells or dumbbells, or is it better to focus on bodyweight exercises?
The truth is that both bodyweight and weighted workouts are both good. They both work. They both build muscle. So in order to choose, it’s important to know who you are and what you want. Let’s take a look at both and match it up with your goals.
Benefits of 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.) Here are some of the benefits of bodyweight training that might match up with your goals:
- 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. Body weight is user-friendly. If you have a crazy schedule or just can’t get to a gym, bodyweight is for you.
- 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 bring the most seasoned exerciser to his or her knees! Plyometric split jumps or inverted V shoulder push-ups are killers.
- 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 body weight is for everyone.
- Bodyweight moves create opportunity for more cardio. When you aren’t fumbling with equipment you are allowed to move more quickly through your strength routine. This might add extra heart rate challenges and suit those looking for more cardiovascular results. Give me 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! If you are time-starved for working out, bodyweight is for you!
Benefits Of Equipment Weighted Training
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. Let’s look at the benefits of weighted training that might be aligned with your fitness goals.
- Weighted training builds more muscle mass and boosts your metabolism more quickly. If you want real results in terms of building muscle mass on your body, pushing barbells or lifting dumbbells is the quickest way to get there – without a doubt. Heavier weight with fewer reps adds new muscle mass versus lighter weight with higher reps which 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.
- Weighted training will get you to 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 through, 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 increasing your chances to lose body fat in a shorter amount of time. If this is your goal, weighted training is for you. However, keep in mind that body weight training still utilizes EPOC and still provides an efficient way to build strength, burn calories and lose weight!
- Weighted training makes progression more accessible. A fundamental part of exercise is knowing that you must continually challenge your body if you want change. Weighted training gives you more options for this. For example, if you reach your goal of bench pressing 80 pounds for 12 reps then you know the only way to get stronger is to move up to 85 or 90 pounds and start practicing bench pressing the new load. This is not accessible to body weight training. The only way to make gains with body weight 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 more quickly then weighted training is for you.
- 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 just no way to get bored! Your strength training with equipment can be varied week by week, or workout by workout always keeping your body guessing and your mind stimulated. If you thrive on change in your routine, weighted training is for you.
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 try and get some of both. 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. Something is more important than which something!
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