Bodyweight VS. Weightlifting

Bodyweight or weightlifting?

This is the debate that has gotten many fitness enthusiasts the world over up in arms. Some swear by exclusive bodyweight training, while others claim weightlifting as the be-all and end-all in the strength and conditioning realm.

There are fanatics on both sides of the fence, and things are getting bloody.

Bodyweight practitioners celebrate harmonious physical development and the acquisition of functional strength as the chief benefits of their regime. On the other hand, staunch advocates of weightlifting are adamant that nothing can rival the sheer muscle gains and the absolute strength increases that the barbell imparts.

Let us all take a step back and look at the bald facts.

Bodyweight training will endow an athlete with a high power-to-weight ratio, meaning a practitioner of this training system will be hellishly strong for his weight. The barbell will grant an accomplished lifter enormous absolute strength as he puts up heavier and heavier weights.

The equation becomes complicated because of perception.

Bodyweight fanatics who slam weightlifters as being either fat or muscle-bound are viewing the weightlifting community through lenses that focus too much on the modern bodybuilding and powerlifting scenes, which are full of lifters who train exclusively for either physical bulk or for absolute strength. These men may lack in the power-to-weight ratio department, simply because it’s not part of their agenda.      

Weightlifting zealots who criticise the lack of absolute strength in bodyweight practitioners are probably looking at the average dude doing crunches and push-ups for conditioning, which are good for general health and fitness purposes but don’t really give you much strength. These men are not looking to up their power-to-weight ratio, and their levels of raw strength will naturally be a far cry away from that of the serious lifter.

This debate practically didn’t exist back in the first half of the last century, because almost all of the strongmen back then trained with a mixture of bodyweight and the barbell. Many of them excelled equally at both, and preached the benefits of both forms of training without bias or prejudice.

Another factor to consider in this debate is the suitability of a person’s body type to each system of training. There will naturally be fellas who can chin themselves endlessly and chaps who can put up staggering weights, without nearly as much training as those who can accomplish only a small fraction of their achievements with the same amount of effort.

I won’t go into the details of the different body types here, cos that’s probabaly gonna take another full article to elucidate.    

My personal take on this argument is simple. Why not do both? I always had trouble comprehending exclusive mindsets.

If you have the time and resources, by all means do both bodyweight and barbell exercises. However, with that being said, there are some important points here that I must highlight:

1. It is only logical that you learn to handle your own bodyweight first before taking on external weights. There may be some exceptions to this rule, but I’ll cover that in another post. Make sure your body, especially your joints, are sufficiently-conditioned before you start on any heavy barbell work.

2. If you only have the time and resources to do one of the two, stick with the bodyweight stuff. Unless you’re a master of the full-body and highly-compound Olympic lifts, the practice of bodyweight skills will make you more functional and coordinated as compared to isolation lifting techniques.

3. Last point – most of the bodyweight AND the barbell stuff may not be sufficient to meet the requirements of becoming a true cardiovascular workout, so make sure you incorporate some specific drills or some other sports activities (like running, biking or swimming) to work on your lungs and to improve your overall endurance.

Ultimately training is about doing what works for you. You can choose to base the core of your programme around lifting, with bodyweight training as a supplement, or vice versa.

And this from martial arts legend Bruce Lee:

“Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.”

Intelligence and discernment are two of the greatest weapons in an athlete’s arsenal.

Use them well, and use them wisely.

~ This post is written by Lionel Ng, part-time Personal Trainer & full-time Fitness Enthusiast. ~