Should I do weight training or bodyweight training?

Written by Elly McGuinness

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At times, you may have found yourself wondering whether you should be doing weight training or bodyweight training (or a combination of both) as part of your fitness program.

Both are forms of resistance training and both can be included in your plan. Whether you choose to focus more on one versus the other will ultimately depend on your goals, preferences, and lifestyle.

Is bodyweight training mostly for beginners?

Both bodyweight training and weight training (lifting an external load) can be used for beginners. Basic bodyweight exercises can be useful when you’re working on technique or learning a new movement. Machine weights can also be useful for beginners because they can guide you through basic movements that you’re not yet ready to load with free weights.

However, bodyweight training isn’t only for beginners. There are endless options for advanced bodyweight workouts. The main difference between advancing a weight training workout versus a bodyweight workout is the method of progression.

How to advance a weight training workout

If you are doing a weight training workout, the most common way to take it to the next level is by adding weight. You could also change other variables in your program. Here are some examples:

  • Add extra sets
  • Add extra reps
  • Decrease rest time
  • Use a more advanced training technique such as pyramids or supersets
  • Do a version of the exercise that requires more stability (e.g. progressing from a machine to a free weights version)

If you’re manipulating variables such as sets, reps or rest time, check with our at-home personal trainers to make sure the adjustments are suitable for your desired goals.

How to advance a bodyweight training workout

With a bodyweight workout, you don’t have an external load to work with so you need to make the exercise more difficult in another way. You could certainly add extra sets or reps, or decrease rest time between exercises like you can with weight training.

However, with consistent training, this approach will reach its limitations. Therefore, the most common way to progress your exercises is by learning more advanced versions of them.

Push-ups are a common choice for a bodyweight exercise. Here is an example of how you could progress them. They are ordered from easiest to hardest.

Push-up progressions

  • Wall push up
  • Box push up
  • Half push up
  • A Full push up with upper body raised
  • Full push up on the floor
  • Full push up with feet raised
  • Diamond Push up on the floor or clap push-ups on the floor

If you know how hard diamond push-ups or clap push-ups are then you’re probably getting an idea of how hard you can make your bodyweight exercises. And yes, you can progress beyond a basic diamond push up or clap push up if you’re at that level (ask our at-home personal trainers how!).

Make sure you also check out this post which covers bodyweight progressions in more detail.

When to choose weight training versus bodyweight training

Weight training and bodyweight training can both have a place in your program. Both of them can help you improve strength and coordination, and build muscle size and bone density (among other benefits).

Ultimately, the decision to do weight training and/or bodyweight training will come down to three main factors:

  1. Goals
  2. Lifestyle
  3. Preferences

Training choices based on your fitness goals

If your number one goal is to get bigger muscles then weight training should definitely feature as your primary form of resistance training. Similarly, if you are a powerlifter or want to get into powerlifting, then weight training should take the number one place in your program because it is specific to your goal.

That doesn’t mean that bodyweight training can’t feature at all in your program, and you could certainly get some added benefits from including it.

You can still build muscle with bodyweight training!

It also doesn’t mean that you won’t build any muscle if you choose to do bodyweight training without any weight training. Just think about the physique of a professional gymnast who primarily does bodyweight training and may rarely (if ever) lift external weight at all.

If you’re looking to improve strength in general then bodyweight training may be the perfect primary approach for you. Bodyweight training can be great for improving general athleticism, co-ordination and also cardiovascular fitness, since it can include a wide range of exercises and movements (including running, jumping, skipping, mountain climbers, etc.)

Training choices based on your lifestyle and preferences

If you’ve got a gym membership and it’s convenient for you to go regularly then the simplicity of being able to increase your load with machine weights or free weights might really appeal to you. Same goes if you’ve got a good home gym set-up.

It’s easy to measure your progressions when you’re using weights. You could also choose to mix things up with some bodyweight training, either in the gym or anywhere else that you choose to do so.

When weight training isn’t practical…

If you’re more of an ‘anywhere’ workout sort of person then bodyweight workouts are a great choice for you. There are many bodyweight workout choices that require minimal or no equipment and you can do them in virtually any location.

Even if you like your weight training workouts it might be more convenient to do bodyweight training when you travel or go on holiday.

Enjoy your workout and make sure it’s personalized

Your choice of training should also be something that you enjoy. This will help ensure that you’ll repeat it enough in order to get the results you’re after!

If you’d like a bit of advice to get the perfect mix of weight training and bodyweight training into your plan then get in touch with our professional at-home personal trainers. They’ll set you up with the perfect program to suit your goals, lifestyle, and preferences.

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