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Bodyweight vs. Weight Training Exercises

Bodyweight vs. Weight Training Exercises

Written By:
Expert Review By: Steven Cleark&

This Article Seeks to Guide:

  • What are bodyweight exercises and weight training exercises, and how do they differ?
  • What are the benefits of bodyweight training?
  • What are the benefits of weight training?
  • Which exercises are better?

One of the most debated topics in the fitness world is which is more effective between bodyweight and weight training exercise. If you are new to the fitness world, given the overwhelming two options, you may get confused about which route to take. Both sets of training exercises have potential benefits and drawbacks. We here examine both categories, giving you comparisons and differences that will help you determine which one works best for you.

Bodyweight Exercises

Let's start with the simpler of the two; bodyweight exercises. Bodyweight exercises are those that utilize the body's weight and gravity to create resistance for training. Bodyweight exercises do not require any equipment.

Advantages of Bodyweight Exercises Over Weight Training

Bodyweight training has the upper hand for the following reasons:

# Convenience

One of the most significant advantages of bodyweight training is that you can do it anywhere, anytime—no need to go to the gym or carry equipment everywhere. Whether at home, school, or the office, you can always sneak in a few exercises between your schedules to keep you in shape. 

# Cost-effectiveness 

The fact that equipment is unnecessary in bodyweight exercises saves you bucks. Weight training involves complicated equipment, some of which cause thousands of dollars. Besides, weight training sometimes requires a gym membership, which is costly too. If bodyweight exercise is effective in your fitness goals, why spend a lot of money? 

# Customizable

From beginners to seasoned pros, there are many variations to bodyweight exercises that can fit everyone from different fitness levels. The difficulty can be increased by modifying the exercises or increasing the reps and the tempo.

# Works the Whole Body 

Most bodyweight exercises work various groups of muscles simultaneously, giving strength to the whole body.

Types of Bodyweight Exercises

We can classify bodyweight exercises depending on which part of the body they work, and they include;

Upper Body Exercises 

The 6 major muscles in the upper body that exercises work are:

  • Deltoids or shoulder muscles
  • Pectorals or chest
  • Biceps
  • Triceps located at the back of your arms
  • Latissimus dorsi or lower back muscles
  • Trapezius or the upper back muscles

Compound bodyweight exercises that work the whole upper body include:

Lower Body Exercises

The muscles involved in lower body exercises are:

  • Quadriceps or "quads"- muscles that run down the front of your thighs.
  • Glutes located in the buttocks.
  • Hamstrings- muscles that run at the back of your thighs.
  • Soleus and Gastrocnemius, also known as calves.

The bodyweight exercises that work these muscles include the following:

Core Exercises

These are crucial muscles that help maintain your body posture and support your trunk. They comprise of the following:

  • Abdominals, which include your abs
  • Erector spinae muscles that run down your spine

Common exercises for the core include;

Weight Training Exercises 

Weight training also utilizes gravity, but with the help of equipment such as dumbbells and weights to oppose the force generated by contracting muscles.

Benefits of Weight Training

Weight training is perceived to be advantageous because of the following reasons. 

# Perfect for Muscle Building

Both free weights and weight machines are better at improving muscle mass. Loading muscles achieve muscle growth with resistance which tears muscle fibers. The torn muscle fibers are repaired through muscle protein synthesis, which causes them to increase in size. Weights are better at overloading muscles with resistance.

# Weight Target Specific Muscle Groups

Weight machines can pinpoint muscle groups you want to work on. It is easier to build specific muscles than body weight, which involves the compound movement of different muscles.

# Stronger Bones

Weight training exerts more force on bones and muscles, which increases bone density. Increased bone density reduces the risks of bone fractures and joint issues. 

Types of Weight Training Exercises

Weight training can be achieved through free weights or weight machines. Free weights are equipment in strength training that are not attached to anything and can be easily picked and moved around. Free weights include dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, and resistance bands. Weight machines combine gravity and other machines to create resistance for training.

The drawback of free weights is that a person is more prone to injuries. When one lifts more weight than the body can handle or uses incorrect form, it may cause severe damage.

Weight Training Compound Exercises

Upper body workouts

  • Bench Press- Targets the chest. The secondary muscles are the shoulders and triceps.
  • Barbell Row- Upper back is the target muscle, while abs, biceps, lats, Lower back, and shoulders are secondary targets.
  • Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press- Primarily focuses on shoulders, traps, and triceps.
  • Dumbbell Curls- Works the biceps and forearms

Lower body workouts

To make your efforts more productive, do 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps of the upper body exercise as a beginner. As for the lower body, 2-3 sets of 10-20 reps ensure efficient workouts.

Which is Better: Bodyweight or Weight Training Exercises?

Both exercises are helpful in your fitness routine. When considering the better option, there are two factors that you should keep in mind to help you decide which one works best for you.

  • Personal fitness goals- If your goal is to bulk up, weight training is better because it increases muscle size faster. For weight loss,  a combination of the two is ideal.
  • Physical condition and limitations- if you have any physical condition, it is good to research or seek advice to know which exercise you can perform easily.


In conclusion, it is clear that both forms of exercise are helpful in their unique ways. Bodyweight training has the advantage of convenience and cost-effectiveness, while weight training is perfect for muscle building. Choosing what works best depends on your preference, but combining the two may be the perfect route.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I build muscle with bodyweight exercises alone?

    Yes. Bodyweight exercises can help increase muscle mass. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found no significant difference in muscle mass and strength among participants who undertook push-ups and bench presses.

  • Can I do bodyweight exercises every day?

    It depends on your fitness level. Exercise can cause muscle soreness, making it difficult to continue. Listen to your body to avoid overtraining yourself and risking injury. Take a day or two off to allow your muscles to recover.

  • How can I increase the difficulty of bodyweight exercises?

    You can increase the difficulty by increasing the number of reps and sets. Bodyweight exercises can also be modified by doing different variations of the exercise. Slowing the tempo also increases the difficulty.

  • What are the benefits of resistance machines for weight training?

    Resistance machines are less prone to causing injuries compared to free weights. The machines are also better at targeting specific groups of muscles to work on.

  • What is the difference between compound and isolation exercises?

    Compound exercises work different muscle groups simultaneously, while isolation exercises target specific muscles.

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