Weight Training vs Body Weight Training

OK. There is a lot of debate about which of these training methods is the most effective, can get you to your goals quicker, and which is the safest.

Weight Training is generally used for strength and bulk. Lifting weights that are heavier than your own body weight will tear more muscle fibres and therefore allow greater scope for growth. If your goal is to increase size and strength, then you will need to be lifting weights.

Body weight training is generally thought of as being used by beginners. However this is depending on the intensity of the exercise, and the difficulty of activities. It is considerably safer, and increases muscular endurance. So if you are looking for a more toned physique, body weight training is the way to go.

What is a muscle fibre?

A muscle fibre is a basic component that allows you to create force. To a singular muscle cell, there is no recognition between whether you are lifting a barbell or your own body weight. Resistance is resistance to a singular muscle fiber, and therefore your muscle will contract in the same way if you were lifting a weight as it would with your body weight. (e.g barbell bench press and push up).

Increasing the resistance/Load

The way that you increase the load and difficulty of an exercise determines how your body will react to these two training methods. To increase the difficulty of weight lifting, you simply add more weights. For body weight training you can increase the repetitions of an exercise, but after a while this will just become a muscular endurance exercise rather than a muscle building one. You can increase the difficulty of body weight training by adjusting each exercise.  This can be done by using differing variants such as distance traveled, e.g. a push up with a clap, increasing the load, i.e one arm push up, or just by increasing the difficulty of an exercise, i.e diver bomb push up.

With weight training it can be a lot more convenient to increase the difficulty of the exercise. You just add weight and the basic movements will always remain the same. Body weight training can be slightly more challenging. A one arm push up is more demanding of the pectoral muscles, but also on the core.

The major objection that people hold against body weight training is that you cannot dramatically increase the demands of the exercises. You are limited to only your own weight. Whereas you can continually add weights to a barbell. The best training method for you depends entirely on what your own personal goals. If maximal strength is your target, then weight training is the method of training you should use. If you are looking for an improvement in general performance and your body’s ability to move more dynamically through space, then body weight training is the method you should train with.

Like I have mentioned above, the progression with weight training is far simpler than with body weight training. There is no clear multiple of difficulty when it comes to body weight training. Once you have mastered the push up, there will be a time period to adjust to a new, advanced exercise, so the scale for progression is slightly slower. If you have lifted 70kg on the bench press, your next target is more likely to be 75-80kg. So the progression is much more clean cut and clearer.

So to summarise, if you want to increase strength and progress quickly, weight training is a great form of training. If you are looking for a leaner physique, be more agile and dynamic, then body weight training is the way to go. The training depends on your own goals, how you are looking to progress, and basically how your body reacts to different training methods. Find which is best for your own body, and push on from there.