The pictures above show the visual representation of the types of the body you can expect to get by bodyweight training and weightlifting. On the left, you can see the body I built solely with bodyweight training. On the right, you can see the body I built with weightlifting which happened fast because I had already built an excellent foundation by bodyweight training.
When I started bodyweight training, my goal was to build six pack abs. After I achieved my goal through my Ripped with Bodyweight program, I was delighted with the benefits I received from getting six pack abs. I was fascinated how building muscle improved my life in ways that were hard to imagine when I started strength training. So, I wanted more. I wanted bigger muscles.
I started weightlifting with the goal of adding more muscle mass above the foundation I built with bodyweight training. The hard work I put into bodyweight training paid off. A few months after I started lifting weights, I was deadlifting 460 pounds, bench pressing 275 pounds, squatting 365 pounds and military pressing 175 pounds. I managed to add slabs of muscle to my chest, arms, back, and legs. I got big.
I still keep utilizing both bodyweight training and weightlifting. I love them both. There are many similarities and differences between the two. This article will detail what you can expect with both types of training.
Bodyweight training is a fast and effective way to build muscle. Nevertheless, it has its limitations. You will not get big by doing bodyweight exercises. On the other hand, lifting weights is a better way to put on size. There is no Mr. Olympia winner who didn’t lift weights.
Think of bodyweight training as the foundation of building muscular size. I first built an excellent muscular foundation with bodyweight training then added muscle mass to my frame with weightlifting.
The Time Required To Start Seeing Noticeable Results
Whether you start bodyweight training or weightlifting, you will start seeing noticeable gains in a matter of weeks, thanks to a phenomenon called newbie gains.
But Lane, many people regularly train for strength but they don’t look muscular at all?
That happens because most people are not training hard enough. Most men who lift weights in the gym are wasting their time doing curls, working on machines and so on. Most men who do bodyweight training aren’t even trying. Reach a level where you can do 50 push-ups or 20 pull-ups in a row and tell me if you still don’t see your body changing.
Neither bodyweight training nor weightlifting is magic. You should train right, eat right, sleep right and push for progress. Otherwise, your body will not improve.
Progressive overload with weightlifting is straightforward. You just keep adding weights to the barbell, lift heavier and heavier dumbbells, or do more reps with the same weight.
Progressive overload with bodyweight training is a race against time. If you did 200 pushups in 10 minutes at today’s training, you should do 200 pushups in less than 10 minutes in your next training session if you want to achieve progressive overload.
Progressive overload with bodyweight training has a distinguished advantage in this respect, which no other type of training can provide (as far as I know). I call this the beauty of bodyweight training. As you get better and faster, training time gets shorter and shorter. In this sense, a man who trains 2 hours a week will have a much better body and physical conditioning than a man who trains 4 hours a week, provided that they both do the same sets and reps of the same bodyweight exercises. Look at the picture on the left above this article. I was actually training less than 2 hours in a week at the time I had that body.
In addition, you don’t need extra equipment for achieving progressive overload with bodyweight training. Whereas with weightlifting, you will need more and more weight plates and heavier dumbbells as you progress.
Winner: Bodyweight training
You don’t need to go to the gym for bodyweight training. I did bodyweight training in my house, parks, hotels, forests and Airbnb apartments. Bodyweight training is extremely convenient in that sense since the only equipment you need is a pull-up bar and that’s only when your training session includes pull-ups.
It’s also great for those of you who travel frequently because you don’t need to worry about finding a good gym everywhere you travel. Being able to train at home is also extremely convenient because you skip the time you spend on the way to the gym and back, not to mention the cost of joining a gym.
Weightlifting requires a good gym where there is a squat rack and a good variety of dumbbells. Most gyms at Airbnb apartments and hotels are useless for a solid weightlifting session because they are just showpieces which lack the necessary equipment.
Winner: Bodyweight training
The Frequency of Training for the Best Results
I found that training 4 times a week is the most efficient way to get what you want from both bodyweight training and weightlifting. Once you are satisfied with the body you build, you can maintain it by training 1 or 2 times a week with both types of training.
Weightlifting has more clearcut bulk and cut periods because it builds more muscular size than bodyweight training.
Bulking is not crucial to bodyweight training because you won’t get big. Unless you start your bodyweight training with an extremely skinny body, bulking will be the least of your concerns. On the contrary, cutting gets great results in bodyweight training because when you train hard and lose fat, it will uncover your six pack abs as you get to the levels of 8-10% body fat.
With weightlifting, you have more leeway for bulking. Eating 300-500 calories more than your daily maintenance calories is common when you are bulking to put on muscular size. Since you will inevitably gain some fat while packing muscle mass, a cutting period is bound to follow a bulking period.
Since you get to eat more during bulking periods and eating is fun, weightlifting is the winner here.
Both training types require compound movements to get the most benefit from your training.
Burpee is the king of bodyweight exercises because it’s the exercise which trains the largest muscle groups in your body.
Deadlift is the king of weightlifting exercises for the same reason.
Push-up, pull-up, sit-up, squat and lunge are other efficient, compound bodyweight exercises which you will do over and over in your bodyweight training journey.
Squat, bench press and the military press are other efficient, compound weightlifting exercises which you will do over and over in your weightlifting journey.
All the exercises I mentioned are simple yet extremely effective for building strength.
Fat loss is a matter of caloric deficit.
Both types of training burn calories during training but the beauty of building muscle shines in the times when you are not training. You don’t want the fat burning process to come to a halt the moment you stop training. Both bodyweight training and weightlifting build muscle mass. Building muscle will speed up your metabolism.
Muscles are calorie burning machines. Muscles burn calories even when you are sitting on a couch doing nothing. The more muscle mass you have, the faster your metabolism will be.
We already established that weightlifting will build more muscle size. The more muscle size means more fat loss.
Building muscle via bodyweight training requires a high number of reps since the weight of your body is limited. You can’t do just 5 push-ups and call it a set because that will not do much to stimulate muscle growth. On the other hand, doing 5 reps of deadlift with a heavy weight is a great way to stimulate muscle growth.
Doing 200 pushups and 150 burpees in a single training session is possible. You are racing against time to do a fixed number of reps with a fixed amount of weight (your bodyweight). Getting faster and faster at completing your bodyweight training reps builds you tremendous endurance.
Building muscle via weightlifting requires a low number of reps with heavy weights. While it’s not advisable to wait forever between sets, training time is also mostly fixed. This style of training still builds a competent level of endurance but it simply won’t compare to the endurance you can build with bodyweight training.
Winner: Bodyweight training
Risk of Injury
Risk of injury is low both at bodyweight training and weightlifting as long as you don’t skip the proper warm-up session before you start training.
Nevertheless, bodyweight training is more forgiving in the case of less than perfect form.
Weightlifting has a learning curve especially for the exercises such as the deadlift and the squat. It takes a few training sessions of doing squats and deadlifts until you can start performing the exercises with the correct form. Otherwise, you risk injury. It’s not difficult to learn the lifting techniques so the learning curve is not steep at all but still, bodyweight training is slightly safer in that sense.
Moreover, you don’t need to worry about a spotter for bodyweight training. And, there’s no risk of dropping weights on your feet.
Winner: Bodyweight training
Building muscle is difficult whether you do it with bodyweight training or weightlifting because both training methods need you to push yourself to your limits.
The important point to note here is that you don’t want a training session to be easy. When you have the fitness level to do 100 push-ups in 5 minutes, of course, it will be easy to do 100 push-ups in 20 minutes but that kind of training will get you nowhere. You should push your limits to do 100 push-ups in less than 5 minutes. Surpassing your personal records is tough but required.
Similarly, when you can bench press 250 pounds, bench pressing 125 pounds is easy. But you want to bench 255 pounds and that’s certainly more difficult than benching 250 pounds.
Both bodyweight training and weightlifting are types of strength training.
- is the best exercise for fat loss
- decreases stress and fights depression
- helps prevent cancer
- prevents cardiovascular disease
- keeps you lean and improves metabolic health
- fights aging
- increases testosterone in men
With both types of training, you will get all the health benefits of strength training.
Attractiveness and Popularity
Before I started bodyweight training I was fat and out of shape. Not surprisingly, I was more or less invisible to women in public surroundings.
5 weeks after I started bodyweight training, my colleagues at the workplace started to compliment on my physical improvement. My friends and family members also took notice. After I finally built a lean body with six pack abs, I was getting more attention from women but the real difference in their reaction was happening when I was already alone with one of them and took my shirt off before sex. While my muscle mass was impressive when I was naked, I looked closer to a normal guy when I put a shirt on.
After I got what I wanted from bodyweight training, I started to lift weights. Lifting weights allowed me to put on pounds after pounds of muscle on the muscular foundation I built with bodyweight training. This time everything was better. I no longer needed to take my shirt off to impress the girls I wanted to impress.
When I grew more muscular size with weightlifting, I got more compliments on my physique. Girls look at me more in public. Random men ask me for tips to grow muscle. My popularity and confidence skyrocketed.
Of course, none of these things would happen if I didn’t already put in the work to build my excellent muscular foundation with bodyweight training. But, bodyweight training has its limits when it comes to size. I am thankful for bodyweight training to make weightlifting extremely efficient to build more muscle mass on my frame.
Conclusion and Final Recommendation
I love both bodyweight training and weightlifting. The similarities between both types of training are a lot more than the differences between them.
I still use a mixture of bodyweight exercises and weightlifting exercises in my regular training schedule.
Whatever your training goals are, I hope this comparison gives you an idea of what you can expect to get with both types of training.
If you are a newbie, I highly recommend you to start strength training with bodyweight training. After you build a lean, muscular body with six pack abs, you can switch to lifting weights and put on slabs of muscle on the solid muscular foundation you built with bodyweight training.
Related: How to Lift More Weight in the Gym