There’s a lot of extremism in the fitness world, and many people seem to think that body weight exercise and weight training have to be mutually exclusive. One idea out there is that body weight training is the “more natural” approach to fitness. While it’s true that the weight machines you see in most gyms are relatively new, the truth is people have been lifting heavy things for fitness purposes for a hell of a long time. Picking stuff up and putting it down has made people strong for centuries.
So, which is better, body weight exercise or weight training? The answer is neither is better. In fact, often you will get more benefit if you use both approaches together
The combination of bodyweight training and weight training can work together to reach your goals. Here are some other examples:
- Rock Climbing – The primary skill rock climbers need to build is the body weight pull, but they can also use weight training as supplemental strength training for areas that are a bit neglected, such as overhead pressing and low back work.
- Jumping – If you want to improve your jumping technique, you’ll have to train the jump itself, of course, but practicing explosive weighted exercises, such as the front squat or back squat, will help you build the gross motor strength needed for the jump.
Creating a Successful Combination Program
Once you have figured out what your particular training goal is, you can decide if combining body weight and weighted training will be the best approach to help you reach that goal. There are many ways to create a training program, but I will give you two sample routines below to give you an idea of how to incorporate body weight training and weight training into a program, depending on your specific goal.
Sample Program for Hypertrophy
For this routine, I’m going to use hypertrophy as the training goal. If building pounds of muscle is a goal of yours, training with body weight alone is not the most efficient way to go about it. The type II muscle fibers, which are most amenable to large size increases, require significant tension and load to adapt and enlarge. This is best done through heavy progressive weight training. You can fiddle around with angles and leverages for body weight only training if you want, but the fastest and simplest way is through big, basic barbell and dumbbell training.
However, body weight training can be a great supplement to weight training for muscle growth. To hit all the bases for maximal hypertrophy, you’ll want to work on a variety of rep ranges and rest period protocols. Combining heavy lifting for lower repetitions with body-weight exercise for moderate and high rep ranges gets that job done well
- Squats: 8 sets of 3. Increase weight to your heaviest weight on the last set. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.
- Single leg squats: 3 sets of 10-15. Rest 60-90 seconds between sets
- Military presses: 5 sets of 5. Increase weight to your heaviest weight on the last set. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.
- Handstand holds against the wall: 5 sets of 1-minute holds. Rest 1 minute between sets.
- Alternating dumbbell curls super-setted with tiger push ups: 3 sets of 6-8 reps for the curls and max reps for the pushups. Rest 2 minutes between sets.
Left: Tiger push up top position; Right: Tiger push up bottom position.
- Bench presses: 5 sets of 5. Increase weight to your heaviest weight on last set. Rest 2-3 minutes between sets.
- Wide grip parallette push ups: 4 sets of 12-15. Rest 1 minute between sets (pictured right).
- Weighted dips: 5 sets of 8, using the same weight for all sets. Rest 2 minutes between sets.
- Hanging leg raises, super-setting with jumps from full bottom squat position: 3 sets of 12-15. Rest 2 minutes between sets.
- Deadlifts: 6 sets of 3. Increase weight to your heaviest weight on last set. Rest 3 minutes between sets.
- Chin ups: 5 sets of max reps. Rest 1 minute between sets.
- One-arm dumbbell rows, super-setted with push ups: 3 sets of 6-8 reps for the rows, and max reps for the push-ups. Rest 2 minutes between sets.
If hypertrophy is your goal, this sample program will definitely get you on the right path. Obviously you’ll need to tinker with weight loads and rest periods, but the rep ranges and order of exercises will work your muscles to the fullest.
In this post I’ve given you a few examples of using body weight training and weight training together in one program, but there’s another great way to use both, and that is to cycle them. If you feel better using one modality at a time, but want to get the benefits from both, you can follow a strictly body weight program for a given goal and a given period of time, before moving on to a weight training program for a different goal and time period.
Have you tried using both?
Dr Spencer Charlet
Chiropractor in Mooresville, NC