There are many ways to increase your strength and improve your body. There is no one right or wrong way to go about it. Cardio exercise increases your cardiovascular health and muscles required to do that task. Bodyweight training increases your strength using just the weight of your body, just like it sounds. Weight lifting builds your muscles by getting them to perform lifts outside of their everyday range of weight. Which one you choose will depend on what your fitness goals are and there’s also no reason that you should limit yourself to just one type of exercise. Your workout can be tailored to include a combination or all of the above to get you where you want to be in the most efficient way for your body.
Workouts that are done using just your body include such exercises as push-ups, pull-up and bodyweight squats. They are convenient exercises to do as you don’t need any equipment or a gym membership for them. You can do them anywhere you have the time and space to do so. For instance, when I was doing my 100 push-ups every day for 100 days, I would often get a few in during bathroom breaks at work. There is also less chance of injury dong bodyweight exercises as you aren’t asking your body to do or lift anything more than it does naturally. Bodyweight exercises are available to people with all levels of fitness. Often, it’s where people start when they begin exercising.
Building Muscle With Bodyweight Workouts
Many people believe that bodyweight exercises won’t build muscle or give you that toned physique you’ve been working for. This is another weightlifting myth that has gotten out there into the population and not been squished yet. It may take a little more work to build muscle without lifting heavy weights, but it can certainly be done. As you go through your workout, you just have to add more reps and do the exercises with more intensity. The key is to increase the resistance that your body is meeting as it does the exercise. This gets harder as your strength, form and fitness improve. There is also the issue that as you work out, you lose fat. So the amount of weight you’re training with may actually decrease as you get stronger.
Along with increasing the resistance your muscles are meeting, you can also increase the “lever”. This is the done by changing your workout to include more challenging exercises or to change the way you perform an exercise in order to make it more difficult. If push-ups are just too easy, try elevating your feet so that you’re doing them at a more extreme angle or learn to do them with just one arm.
Building muscle mass, like any weight or shape change, is also linked to your diet. To build muscle you need to increase your calories and eat the right kinds of food to support your growth. Even if you prefer to do bodyweight exercises, the occasional weight lifting workout can be a good way to do a checkup on your strength progress, if that’s part of your fitness goals.
Using weights to increase your strength is probably the most well known way of doing it. If you want to bulk up and build muscles, you go pick up heavy things. However, weightlifting has many more benefits than just building muscle. It actually increases your bone density, making your bones stronger and less prone to osteoporosis later in life. It also has some cardiovascular benefits, though not as much as cardio-based exercises like running or swimming.
Increasing resistance your muscles meet when exercising is pretty straightforward with weightlifting. You simply add more weight. This also makes your progress easy to track and improve as you always have a quantifiable number to work with. I know that last week my deadlift was 70kg so anything more than that is improvement.
With weightlifting, you can isolate certain muscle groups to focus on during a workout. This means that you have much more control over your end results than with bodyweight exercises, which tend to use the whole body rather than a specific muscle group.
So Which Is Better?
Well, the answer to this depends on what your definition of better it. Building muscle and strength comes down to progression overload. This is your body’s adaption to the stress you are placing on it. This adaption will happen regardless of whether you are lifting weights or using your body as your tool. So theoretically, at equivalent weights, there is no difference between the two forms of exercise. The difficulty comes when you reach the point of not not being able to cause equivalent stress using your body weight as you can by adding more weights to your lifts.
While weightlfiting can provide a much smoother progression that you can track easily, bodyweight workouts have the extra advantages of developing balance, core strength and flexibility that lifting weights doesn’t. Overall, both have their benefits and up to a point, there shouldn’t be a significant difference in strength gains. As long as you modify your bodyweight exercises to increase the difficulty as your body adapts to each move.
To start with, and for a reasonable amount of time, both bodyweight and weightlifting workouts will be able to provide you with similar results. However, your bodyweight is finite. With weight training, you can always add more weight to the bar, making it exceed your bodyweight by (some guys deadlift 4 times my bodyweight). This means that there is a limit to what you can achieve with bodyweight training in terms of muscle growth and strength increase. The limit of bodyweight exercises for strength training is reached when you start relying on other skill rather than your strength to complete the exercises, such as balance or flexibility. At this point, progress will become slower than weightlifting.
At the risk of being non-specific, the answer to “which is best?” is “it depends”. It depends on what it is you’re looking for from your workout. If you want to build massive muscles and lift super heavy things, then weightlifting is for you. If you want to be strong and fit, develop your core strength and flexibility while gaining strength, then bodyweight training is going to be your thing. Both exercises have their merits and limitations. However! There is absolutely no reason whatsoever that you can’t do both. Many bodybuilders still do bodyweight exercises like push-ups and dips to develop certain muscles and skills. In my opinion, combining the two is going to get you the best results, but again, it depends on what results you’re looking for. If you’re not sure how to get the most from your workout or you’re not sure what your fitness goals should be, I’d be happy to help to set those goals then work on smashing them. Just hop over the the Get Your Ultimate Body page to get in touch!