Body Weight vs Free Weights

Body Weight vs Free Weights

Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.


Body weight workouts or free weights?

That is the question fitness enthusiasts have been debating for some time, and here we explore both options in depth to help you choose which is the most beneficial for you.

In this article, we provide pros and cons of these popular methods of building muscle to make this decision simpler for you.

Body weight workouts that don't require additional equipment have quickly become popular due to their convenience and accessibility; you can do them anywhere at any time without needing a gym membership or expensive apparatus.

Exercise balls use your own body weight as resistance, making them excellent tools for increasing strength, flexibility and endurance.

On the other hand, free weights like dumbbells and barbells provide different kinds of benefits that could enhance training results.

Progressive overload with free weights allows for progressive overload, meaning that as your strength improves you can easily add on additional resistance which leads to greater muscle growth.

Body weight workouts may be easier but free weights offer greater versatility in targeting specific muscle groups - ultimately the decision between bodyweight workouts and free weights ultimately depends on your goals, preferences and access to equipment - so let's go through their pros and cons and make an informed decision together!

Pros of Body weight exercises

Body weight exercises use your own bodyweight as resistance, such as pushups, pullups and chin ups.

Increased Muscle Strength

Body weight strength training involves using your own body as resistance - such as pushups, planks, lunges and air squats - as resistance.

When performed correctly, these exercises can help build muscle in both upper and lower bodies as well as your core.

Bodyweight strength training also strengthens joints to enhance balance and mobility.

Bodyweight exercises provide an easy solution for beginners who may feel intimidated by free-weight areas in gyms.

Furthermore, they can be done anywhere and seamlessly fit into an already hectic schedule.

As part of these exercises, many are considered compound movements - which work multiple muscles and joints simultaneously - as opposed to isolated exercises such as bicep curls.

Pushups for example, target your chest, triceps and core simultaneously while improving balance and strengthening overall.

Recent research revealed that weight-bearing exercise stimulated bone-forming cells and led to stronger, denser bones for weight-trained women than in those who did not lift weights.

No matter if using bodyweight exercises or free weights, as your fitness level improves it is important that you progress by gradually adding heavier loads as your fitness level rises.

Bodyweight exercises such as one-legged pistol squats can help build lower body strength; however, you may reach a point when resistance becomes insufficient for further progress of strength gains.

At such points it becomes beneficial to seek assistance from either a personal trainer or workout partner to ensure proper form and avoid injury.

As a rule of thumb, the more challenging your movement or exercise is, the more muscle fibers it will stimulate.

To avoid muscle tears caused by lifting too much weight for your strength level and maintaining proper technique while training smart, both weight training and bodyweight exercises can contribute significantly to strengthening muscular strength gains.

For maximum effectiveness combine both types into your routine for the best results.

Increased Endurance

As these no equipment exercises allow for convenient workouts almost anywhere and they're easily customizable according to your fitness level, bodyweight exercises are an ideal way to build endurance quickly.

A push-up becomes more challenging by performing it on knees or adding ballistic movements such as clapping at the top of each rep - and because many compound movements work multiple muscles and joints at the same time, getting an amazing total body workout in minimal time.

These exercises also help build muscle strength while enhancing balance, flexibility, and overall body composition.

Furthermore, a recent study published in "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise" indicated that 45 minutes of vigorous bodyweight exercises increased metabolism for 14 hours post workout!

Bodyweight exercises force your muscles to work hard at stabilization, which builds endurance while strengthening your core.

This is important, because everyday movements such as walking or lifting groceries require both strength and endurance for success.

An effective exercise program should combine weight training and bodyweight exercises for comprehensive training of your entire body.

Weight training helps build muscle mass for endurance and strength gains; but bodyweight exercises play a significant role in providing an equally-balanced workout experience.

Researchers found that just 10 weeks of bodyweight exercises was enough to boost physical fitness among a group of young women, increasing aerobic capacity by 33%, improving muscular endurance by 11% gains and increasing balance by 26%.

Since they don't require equipment, bodyweight exercises are ideal for home, park and anywhere with some space available - as you grow stronger you can increase their challenge by adding sets and reps or by changing positions or speeds during movements.

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Increased Stamina

Stamina refers to your body's ability to sustain physical efforts over a prolonged period.

It enables you to walk up or down stairs without becoming short of breath or complete long distance runs, hikes and sports without becoming fatigued quickly.

In order to increase stamina levels, regular physical activity and diet is required in order to increase it and sustain or even strengthen endurance levels. In order to develop it further.

Body weight exercises can help build muscle and increase endurance. Pushups, planks, lunges and jumping jacks are some of the many bodyweight exercises available to you for free that can help increase both.

Plus they provide an efficient workout with both cardiovascular and strength training in one easy workout - perfect for adding high intensity intervals into any routine or working out anywhere there's space available!

Bodyweight exercises provide many advantages, including being able to gradually add resistance with every repetition.

But their level of difficulty may be difficult to manage; therefore it's advisable to work with a trainer or workout partner when first beginning bodyweight exercises to ensure proper form and avoid injury.

Body weight exercises offer more than resistance training; they also improve your balance. Many of these exercises utilize core muscles for stabilization during movement.

Over time, developing this stability through body weight exercises will enable you to carry out other activities and exercises more effectively.

If you find yourself gasping for breath while climbing stairs or trying to complete household tasks, this may be a telltale sign that your stamina is diminishing.

Exercise and lifestyle modifications may help boost it so that you feel better throughout the day and complete everyday tasks more easily.

Bodyweight exercises typically activate more muscles than free weight or machine exercises; however, which specific ones they engage depends on the exercise being performed.

For instance, seated row on a weight machine targets the latissimus dorsi muscle while pushups focus more broadly on all upper-body muscles such as the biceps and triceps.

Improved Balance

Body weight exercises like push-ups, planks and lunges can be done anywhere without needing equipment.

They require balance and core strength in order to perform correctly - an integral component of yoga, Pilates and tai chi.

Working on balance can improve control over movements as well as your posture.

Free-weight exercises can be hazardous if performed without proper guidance and assistance from a trainer or workout partner, particularly if new to strength training.

When lifting and holding one or more extremities in the air -- like bench presses -- proper technique must always be observed and utilized for safety's sake.

Bodyweight exercises differ by not placing all your bodyweight at risk and allow you to slowly progress to more advanced moves without risk of injury.

As a result, they're great way to build form gradually - for instance if you can't do full push-ups on hands and toes, consider adapting this exercise by placing hands on chairs, tables, walls or anything sturdy for additional support if you can't manage full push-ups without assistance from these surfaces.

Cons of Body Weight Workouts

Body weight workouts offer an affordable alternative to using weights when building muscle.

Exercise sessions can be completed anywhere a space allows - such as your bedroom, kitchen or local park) without the need for equipment other than a mat; making this method of strength building and flexibility training both straightforward and accessible.

Bodyweight workouts do have their share of drawbacks that may compromise their effectiveness.

One is their limited progression - only so many reps of an exercise before hitting an immovable plateau in strength development can be accomplished before this becomes unsustainable for those who are seeking rapid muscle mass gains.

Furthermore, few exercises exist specifically targeted towards targeting certain muscles (such as posterior chain or thighs) which could create an imbalance between those being targeted and de-trained.

Finally, bodyweight workouts tend to use closed kinetic chains; meaning your movement is restricted by joint angles rather than open kinetic chain movement found in weightlifting that allows a greater range of motion.

Overall, bodyweight workouts offer numerous advantages if you're seeking an economical and convenient way to build strength and increase mobility without needing too much gear. More experienced lifters may prefer weighted workouts in order to continue growing stronger faster. 

The Pros and Cons of Free Weights

Free weights like barbells and dumbbells tend to get overlooked at gyms, while more visible machines draw all of the focus.

But free weights work more muscle groups per pound and allow users to move through multiple planes of motion more closely mimicking real-life movements which help improve balance, posture and core strength.


When performing free weight exercises such as squats or bench presses, your body must work to balance and stabilize the weight.

This requires all your arms, legs and core muscles to work in sync to lift and execute the exercise - mimicking real life movements such as lifting heavy bags from grocery store or unloading items from car.

Free weights provide more movement options, helping strengthen and accelerate neuromuscular and muscular gains.

Machines tend to focus more narrowly on specific muscle groups - for instance, a prone hamstring machine will target only your hamstrings; by contrast, weighted squats target both quads and hamstrings at once.

Free weights offer many advantages over machines, including being less bulky to store in your closet or home gym.

However, they may be intimidating for beginners and could result in injuries if using weights too heavy or without proper form.


Free weight training enables you to perform a range of exercises designed to target individual muscles, as the movements mimic how your body moves in real life; machine exercises tend to focus solely on certain muscle groups with limited ranges of motion.

Example: when performing dumbbell shoulder presses, stabilization of the weight requires engaging various muscle groups in your body in order to complete it successfully.

On the other hand, machines tend to work shoulders through fixed range of movement without much stabilization necessary from you as an exerciser.

Free weights may seem intimidating for newcomers, but they're actually an invaluable training tool.

No gym membership or expensive equipment is required to start lifting free weights at home; beginner dumbbell sets are readily available online!

Just ensure proper technique is used until you master each move - this will prevent injuries while simultaneously increasing effectiveness of training sessions.


Free weight exercises require your body to fight gravity while simultaneously balancing a heavy load, helping your core muscles strengthen.

Furthermore, since free weights allow for natural range of motion movement during movement, free weight exercises develop greater power than machines do.

Machines are often tailored for people of a certain body type and tend to force your muscles down an ineffective path of movement that may not suit everyone.

As such, you could potentially miss out on developing strength in both smaller and larger muscle groups.

Free weights include dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells that can be moved or stacked for various exercises.

They tend to be cheaper and take up less space in your home gym, making them an economical way of starting resistance training.

They can help build stronger and more muscular arms, legs and back -- key elements for decreasing injury risks -- as well as increase bone density to decrease osteoporosis risk with age.

Regular strength training using free weights may even increase bone density thereby decreasing risks as you age.


Strength training with free weights can be intimidating for beginners, particularly since these exercises typically take place in open areas of a gym and make it easy for experienced fitness fans to judge those just starting out as they lift heavy barbells and dumbbells.

However, free weights have many advantages for exercising with them. Free weights force the body to engage stabilizing muscles more often in order to execute an exercise properly, helping you burn more calories while strengthening core muscles at the same time.

Furthermore, these exercises offer variety by targeting various muscle groups at once.

Free weights have the potential to be hazardous if the body loses balance, leading to drops that could harm either you or another individual.

Therefore, in order to use free weights safely you will need to learn how to do them correctly before beginning any exercises with them.

For best results it's recommended to incorporate both free and weight machine exercises into a balanced workout regimen; that way you will develop strength quickly while building muscle more efficiently without overtraining.


Isolation movements focus on one muscle group at a time. While it may seem unnecessary, isolation exercises can fill gaps left by more generalized exercises that cannot provide as much benefit.

Example: Conducting a basic body weight squat or goblet squat requires you to balance a barbell while simultaneously moving legs and hips through its motion - more challenging than simply raising weight on an extension machine!

Furthermore, functional training such as this engages stabilizer muscles within your core that help improve overall strength and stability.

That doesn't mean isolation movements should be disregarded altogether; rather, their inclusion should be done with care.

When adding them into a workout plan, do so gradually - perhaps as the final phase - using heavier weights that challenge all major muscle groups and aim at challenging all major muscle groups.

Newcomers to gym may benefit from starting off using machines as they provide greater safety and stability for beginners; be sure to train opposing muscle groups regularly so as to prevent imbalances from developing.

Cons of Free Weights

While using free weights is an effective and great way to gain strength or increase physical performance, they can also be expensive if you opt to purchase your own barbells, dumbbells or kettlebells and take up valuable storage space.

Free weights come with an increased risk of injury. Improper technique may lead to muscle strain or even cause someone to drop the weight on themselves; for this reason, a spotter should usually be present when using free weights and learning the proper form before exercising solo.

Free weights pose greater injury risks and require more equipment and space than weight machines; this may present difficulties to clients exercising at home or within small gym spaces.

Which is Better For Building Muscle - Body Weight Workouts Or Free Weights?

When it comes to building muscle, there is often debate as to which approach is more beneficial: bodyweight workouts or free weights.

The answer depends on your goals and commitment level - body weight workouts could be better depending on these two factors alone!

Both bodyweight workouts and weight training offer effective methods of building muscle, but each has unique advantages.

Bodyweight workouts may be done anywhere without equipment limiting range of motion or number of repetitions possible - making for more challenging workouts than standard gym programs!

Bodyweight workouts provide an effective means of targeting muscles that may be hard to access with other forms of exercise equipment, while simultaneously building balance and stability through their entire kinetic chain - something particularly helpful for people suffering from back or neck injuries or joint issues.

Free weights can be challenging to use and may lead to overtraining, making them better suited for experienced weight lifters or those working with a trainer to assist them with their form.

Weight training stands out from bodyweight workouts by providing the opportunity to gradually increase resistance as your strength increases, known as progressive overload.

This fitness principle means challenging your muscles on an ongoing basis in order to see results; using various weights such as barbells, dumbbells or kettlebells with increasing reps/sets or adding exercises all contribute to increasing both strength and muscle mass.

Weight training can also increase the rate of body fat loss. Muscle has the power to burn more calories at rest than fat does; thus accelerating weight loss.

When combined with healthy eating habits, this method may help you reach your weight goals much more rapidly than just dieting alone.

When it comes to free weights, several factors can impact how quickly you gain muscle. Your age, genetics and level of activity you have had before all play an integral part.

As a beginner it may take up to 12 weeks before seeing results but as your strength increases your gains will accelerate exponentially.

Weight training can do more than build muscles: It also offers numerous health benefits, from improved joint health to maintaining weight and flexibility, digestion aiding balance issues and even helping prevent bone loss as you age.

One study demonstrated how weight training can increase bone density and decrease risk of fractures - something particularly helpful for older adults.

Weight training alone won't get the job done; adding in plyometric or speed-focused exercises can also help build more muscle while burning more calories.

While such advanced workouts might bring better results, even basic bodyweight workouts can still provide great results with support from quality equipment such as adjustable dumbbells or resistance bands.


For optimal fitness results, any well-rounded fitness program should include strength training.

Both bodyweight exercises and weight machines provide effective ways of building muscle; choosing which is the most appropriate depends on your experience level, workout preferences, and fitness goals.

Progressive resistance increases can help increase muscle size or burn fat more efficiently - this can be accomplished using either free weights, body weight exercises or TRX suspension systems.

Bodyweight exercises don't require equipment and allow you to target muscles throughout your entire body, making them an excellent way for beginners.

Executing bodyweight exercises properly requires good form, which may lead to injury if performed incorrectly; trainers recommend beginning with basics such as pushups and planks in order to master form before moving on to more advanced bodyweight exercises.

Bodyweight training can also help strengthen bones, according to research published in Frontiers in Physiology.

Weight-bearing exercises like bodyweight squats and lunges stimulate bone-forming cells that may prevent osteoporosis.

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