Body Weight vs Free Weight – Which is Better?
An age-old question(pretty sure anyway)
What is better, Bodyweight exercises, or free weight exercises. This is not really a difficult question, but the answer is very dependant on what you want to get out of training. You generally have two camps in the workout world.
The “I want to get BIG” camp
The “I want to get STRONG” camp
both are noble quests, and both can be achieved using either method. But what will work better for you, and how do you get big from push-ups?
Well, we are going to answer all of this! First, let’s analyze Bodyweight exercises.
What Bodyweight exercises do to your body
Bodyweight exercises generally are easy to have access to. You know, because all you need is your body most of the time.
There are many different types of training when it comes to body weight. a few common ones will be:
- Bodyweight Strength training
Bodyweight movements are generally very easy to start, and then gradually move into more difficult movements. As an example, You might be able to do push-ups now, but gradually to could move into four finger push-ups and remove a finger everytime you hit a milestone with your pushups. Like when you are able to do 30 four finger push-ups in a row, remove one finger. and on and on.
Removing a finger from push-ups isn’t the only way you could make it more difficult. You could also add leg movements like in a Spiderman push up. In a spiderman push up, you bring one knee all the way up to your elbow while at the lowest portion of the push-up.
This stuff gets crazy.
Bodyweight exercises provide mastery over the body. It allows you to do things people would normally deem impossible. Like a handstand push up. Or a pistol squat. (a squat with only one leg, touch your butt to the floor)
With mastery of the body comes many things. Most would agree that bodyweight training requires more will than free weights. If you disagree, definitely shoot me a comment below.
A lot of the same benefits from free weights can also be found in Bodyweight movements. Here are just a few.
- Denser bones
- Improved joint structure and lubrication
- body fat reduction
- increases overall strength
The main problem people have with bodyweight exercises is the lack of progression. What’s the point of doing 100 push-ups and you could bench 250 8 times and have the same effect? This argument is interesting, the implication is that push-ups are easy. Although I can’t disagree. This argument is made through lack of knowledge. There are many variations of the push up that make it much more difficult. In fact, there are variations of the push up where your legs don’t touch the floor.
Pros and Cons of Bodyweight Training
- Mastery over the movements of the body
- A stronger body
- A toned look, still very strong, but not as big as free weights
- incredible manipulation of your own muscle
- Better joint function
- little or no equipment needed(No Gym)
- Less likely to injure yourself
- Fun and rewarding
- Not as Big as Free Weights
- Extremely difficult movements take time to build up to
- Takes more time to build size
What Free Weight exercises Do To Your Body
Free weights are known for a few things. For one, a famous study indicated that they increase bone density(More so than Bodyweight) and that it will take less time and effort than bodyweight.
Free weights are really useful because they are so easy to get started with. Think of the basic curl, a great isolation exercise for your bicep, and it’s easy to up the weight, which then leads to more muscle recruitment and growth(As long as you don’t overdo it.)
Beside just upping the weight, there are two common schools of thought when it comes to weightlifting.
Lots of reps, low weight
High weight, low reps.
Both are effective, but maybe one works better for you.
For low weight, high reps, you’ll find that your muscle endurance is better. It builds a great mind-muscle connection and is very useful for a lot of reasons. You will also find that 20 lbs are a lot heavier than you think.
One useful method for this type of working out is a break that still works that same muscle but recruits more muscles to make it easier. an example might be
Barbell curls with 40lbs for as many reps as you can.
and then dumbbell hammer curls when you can’t curl the bar anymore. Then you would work another muscle and get back to curling the bar.
This is called active recovery. You still use the muscle while you are recovering from lifting.
In the other camp, we have heavy lifters.
It works like this, you find the heaviest amount you can lift about 4 times, and then you rest for crazy periods of time, but in that time you are working another muscle. Like switching from the bicep to the tricep.
This type also has a form of active recovery. Say you have curled 120 lbs on the bar four times. You would then go into an exercise that still used the bicep, like a weighted pull-up. You do the weighted pull up 3-4 times and move on to another exercise that recruits similar muscles.
Bodybuilding is not difficult to understand, but it does require that you have dedication and access to a gym or home set of equipment. You also have access to what people would normally refer to as the essentials
- Weighted Squats
- Bench Press
These exercises are key with free weights. Especially weighted squats and deadlifts. Those are some of the most fundamental exercises with free weights. They recruit massive amounts of muscle and are generally very difficult.
However, there is still a downside.
You are loading up the spine in both exercises. With all of the weight you are under, it can be very easy to injure yourself. Consider having another person on your shoulders and squatting. That’s basically the weighted squat.
There are ways to avoid the loading of the spine. The solution comes with weight machines. There is a squatting machine that works at an angle to avoid loading the spine. and a lower back machine that only loads the weight when you put pressure on it.
But, we are talking about free weights, not machines. This is possibly the biggest downside of free weights.
Pros And Cons Of Free Weights
- Faster Muscle Development
- Better Bone density
- Fun and rewarding
- You can get BIG with weights
- Better Isolation exercises
- Not as difficult as advanced Bodyweight exercises
- More likely to injure yourself
- Joints don’t like to be loaded with weights(Could lead to injury)
- Mind muscle connection is harder to build
- You have to have equipment/Gym membership
- Gym intimidation is hard to get past starting out
In comparison, you will have to choose for yourself. My preference is Bodyweight. For me, I just don’t want to be in a gym. I’m pretty socially anxious. But it could be totally different for you!
Find what you like and what works for you. it might be totally different than you think. I want to hear from you! Let me know what you think of free weights and Bodyweight exercises down below!