Updated: Oct 6
One of the big questions that occurs to people starting on the road to physical fitness is whether to do weight lifting or bodyweight training. Obviously the easy answer is to do both. It is also the right answer. However there are some clear differences between the two and it is wise to know them before committing yourself. Yoga is mainly done as a bodyweight training regiment. Nowadays, some people are starting to use weights in their training, but Yoga forces you to use all the small and undeveloped muscles in your body. Therefore, it may be dangerous to include weights in your practice without prior knowledge of what the purpose is. Hence, we decided to make it easy to learn the various benefits of both styles so you can make an informed choice between body weight V/S weight lifting training.
Bodyweight training is a general version of exercise that everyone should practice. It assures complete command of your own body and the ability to bend and move as you like, with little concern of damage. While weight lifting may not be ideal for the very young and the very old, anyone can do bodyweight training at any age.
Bodyweight training in general, and Yoga in particular, takes your joints through their full range of motion. You learn to balance your weight in uncommon positions and develop supporting muscles in the process. In later stages, you can practice weight bearing positions in these extended ranges of muscle movement. This helps you develop your flexibility and increases the elastic range of your muscles in your whole body.
This is an important point because one of the biggest features of weight lifting is that it builds muscles in isolation. An arm curl with a dumbbell does very little to develop your legs. Weight training builds muscles very nicely but the gains are more targeted towards muscle mass and not flexibility. This is why you have bodybuilders who are extremely strong and have massive muscles but cannot scratch certain parts of their backs.
Another benefit of learning balance and muscular control is that you develop "spatial awareness". Spatial awareness is the instinctive knowledge of how your body is positioned in any given moment and how it moves through space. To give you an example, let's say you tripped over something. Your body will instinctively know which way to move and which limbs to move to prevent damage or hurt. Children are often much better at this than adults, but regular Yoga practice will make your body supple and you can get back that freedom of movement that children possess. Another side benefit of developing spatial awareness is that you develop faster reflexes. Your body knows which way to move in any given situation without your brain taking the time to think it through. Yoga strengthens your neural network making brain signal processing much faster within your system.
Balancing in uncommon positions also develops the control you have over your body and lessens the risk of injury during daily movements. If your hands are strong enough to hold up your whole weight, then the chances that your torso, or head will hit the ground during a fall are considerably reduced.
A proper bodyweight training regiment will increase the strength in your major muscle groups as well as the twitch muscles, giving you explosiveness in any movement. If you throw in some plyometrics, which are all about quick and powerful contractions and expansions, such as jump squats or burpees, then your explosive power is greatly increased. This explosiveness also goes a long way towards making your reflex actions faster.
Weight training is targeted at getting muscles bigger and stronger. The gains in muscle mass and strength that can be had with weight lifting are far greater than bodyweight training. This increases your absolute strength and makes certain feats possible which bodyweight training will not do for you.
Certain occupations and goals require weight lifting as a necessity. A career as a fireman, or a powerlifter will most likely require you to do some weight lifting.
Weight lifting can also be great for the body if done properly. If proper breathing is followed, and the up-down cycles of lifting a weight are followed then the muscles involved are pushed to their max capacities very quickly. It is a much faster way to teardown and build up your muscles than bodyweight training alone. Weight lifting also provides the benefits to the cardiovascular system that you get with bodyweight training, especially with High Intensity Interval Training(HIIT).
We mentioned earlier how isolating muscles is a big feature of weight lifting. This can be viewed as a negative when you want a full body workout, however it is also a huge positive for training muscles that need work and not overworking muscles that do not need it. One place where weight lifting really outshines bodyweight training is in Rehabilitation. Damaged muscles can be much easily rehabilitated using targeted weight lifting regiments than using bodyweight training regiments. Your focus can be directed at only the muscles that need it, and modern machines make it very easy to isolate almost any muscle you may want to.
Certain poses with weight lifting which involve lifting weight over your head count as whole body workouts, which use a lot of your supporting muscles. The method of your weight lifting and the amount of time the weight is held aloft against gravity can make this every bit as strenuous as a full bodyweight training regiment. Cardio training and faster reps with less weight also help develop explosiveness and depending on the workout may help with flexibility also.
Both styles of training involve eating and hydrating properly. However, since weight lifting is a style that puts extra effort on your body in excess of a normal lifestyle, it can be argued that weight lifting involves closer attention to your diet to ensure that no caloric deficiencies occur. Also, if you have a low protein diet you will find your gains correspondingly reduced no matter the workout.
Both styles will help you attain your fitness goals. However, the body they build will differ in some respects. A leaner, more flexible and better balanced body can be had with bodyweight training. Weight lifting will get your body stronger and bulkier with much more mass in the muscles. It comes down to what you want. We recommend taking elements of each and building your own custom workout, that is tailored to your needs and wants.
One of the key differences between weight lifting and body weight training is relative strength and absolute strength. Bodyweight training targets your relative strength, that is, your strength relative to your weight. Weight training targets absolute strength, that is, your ability to move a given amount of external weight . To make this clearer, a person weighing 80 kilos, doing bodyweight training will be able to move his/her own weight effectively and explosively, but may not be able to bench press 150 kilos. Comparatively, a person of the same weight doing weight lifting, may be able to bench press 150 kilos, but may have trouble doing a front flip or a handstand.