Here’s the low down…
When you want to gain strength and increase muscle mass (hypertrophy), we work towards the idea of progressive overload. The Progressive Overload Principle states that in order for a muscle to grow, gain strength, increase performance, or for any other similar improvement to occur, the human body must be forces to adapt to a tension that is above and beyond what it has previously experienced. This can be achieved by both body weight exercises and weight lifting.
Body Weight Exercises
Body weight exercises use only your own body as resistance. There is no equipment. There are different types of exercises to do but they will not isolate one muscle group. All movements are multi-joint exercises, meaning they work several different muscles at one time. The advantage of body weight exercises is that they allow you to increase your balance, agility and flexibility as you increase your lean muscle mass. Since you are only using your body as resistance, there is a lower chance of injury than if you were to use weights as resistance.
As opposed to using weights, body weight exercises allow you to gain strength by performing the same exercise in different way. What does that mean in laymen’s terms? You will use variations of one exercise in order to increase the difficulty of the exercise and gain more muscle. Progressive overload is achieved as your difficulty increases. For example, the progression for a front squat would move along to a Bulgarian split squat and then eventually a pistol squat. There is however a catch. You will have a period of time where you may have mastered a front squat but the progression to the Bulgarian split squat is too difficult, even with modifications. There will be a time period where you may see no outward progress while your body is learning this new skill.
The resistance level of body weight exercises can be determined by body position. You can alter your resistance and difficulty level by altering your body position and/or angle and using gravity as your “pull,” but the amount of variety in your exercises will be limited.
One of the biggest advantages of bodyweight exercises is that you can do it anywhere. Workouts can be completed at the gym, home, park, beach, a hotel room, etc. There is no equipment required except your own body. It’s also free. The only thing you are investing in is your body.
Weight Lifting Exercises
Weight lifting exercises allow you to increase lean muscle mass at a quicker rate than bodyweight exercises. It also allows you to isolate muscle groups due to the equipment that you use. When you want to gain strength and increase muscle mass (hypertrophy), we aim for progressive overload by using gradually increasing weight. The ability to overload by increasing weight size can be endless and quicker. Just as bodyweight exercises give the advantages of balance, agility and flexibility, weight lifting provides the advantage of increased metabolism, bone density, tendon strength.
One disadvantage of weight training is the potential of damage to your joints. Muscles and joints work together as you try to lift to grow your muscles. Joints can be affected after numerous years of training. Joints can become weaker if proper technique isn’t practiced or if you constantly lift heavy weight. As this occurs, it can lead to joint tears or conditions such as arthritis or tendonitis. By practicing proper form and alternating between light and heavy weights, it is possible to alleviate this problem. Another disadvantage of weight training is cost. Whether you buy a set of dumbbells at home, build a home gym or invest in a gym membership, it’s still money out of your pocket. It can get pricey over time as the need for better equipment may increase the amount of money you pay for a better equipped gym.
Which do you choose?
There are advantages and disadvantages to both body weight exercises and weight lifting exercises. Ultimately your choice depends on your end goal and the amount of money you want to spend on equipment.
Body weight exercises will help you to increase strength, balance and flexibility. The potential for injury is lower. It costs next to nothing, just the price of a good pair of shoes and workout clothes. It does have limitations on exercise variations, the resistance is always the same – your body weight. You aren’t lifting large weight loads, so you won’t get big and bulky. Your joints will learn to adapt easily and the strength in your joints can actually increase.
Weight lifting will help you to gain more lean muscle mass, increase bone density and tendon strength. You can isolate muscle groups so you can choose how to “form” your body by the exercises you choose to perform. There are endless amounts of equipment and variations as well as the potential to increase the amount of weight lifted. Obstacles of weight lifting include an increased risk of injury to your muscles or joints and the cost of equipment and facilities.