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Weights vs. Bodyweight?

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  • Weights vs. Bodyweight?

    I have a question for you guys that I've always been slightly curious of, and think I already know the answer here. Anyways, on with the question. Which is better: using primarily weights or using bodyweight exercises? I'm 17 years old, and averagely strong when it comes to someone my age and size. However, no matter how much I lift, I'm still not very skilled with bodyweight exercises (pull-ups, and bodyweight dips are rather tough for me to do more than a few properly). Also, when I do squats(2x5 at 205, last time) and overhead press, I feel a sort of pressure in my lower back, and definitely worry about that damaging the discs in my back and stunting my growth(I'm ~5'6"- so, all the height I can get is very appreciated), however, I've heard both that it can and can not stunt your growth(one of the biggest/strongest trainers in our gym tells me to try and stick to bodyweight and light weights to keep from stunting my growth).

    My question is, should I stick mainly to bodyweight exercises and/or light reps(i.e. doing pistol squats instead of weighted squats, pushups, pull-ups, etc. and using weighted vests or dumb bells when needed) or should I stick to my current regiment of lifting heavy weights. Currently, I'm leaning more towards the bodyweight exercises, but am not totally sure. I've heard many times from many people that it is rather hard to gain mass and very much strength-I could definitely use more of each - when sticking with bodyweight. What are your experiences and advice? I'm trying to go as Primal as possible here.

    Thanks for any replies!

    P.S. I'm going for a physique along the lines of my avatar (Brad Pitt in Fight Club-good luck right?) and want a functional, ripped, fighting physique.

    P.S.S I do not mean to completely cut out heavy weights, but mainly focus on bodyweight type exercises with the occasional heavy lifting (deadlifts, etc).

    EDIT: Just read Training Naked by Mark, and he states that training bodyweight is the way to go. So... how have your guys' strength and mass improved from doing bodyweight exercises?
    Last edited by Dedaw; 02-14-2011, 06:10 PM.

  • #2
    Based on your goal, and in my opinion an overall healthier approach, i'd say Bodyweight and some kettlebell training. I'm 44 and gave up weights over a year ago, I feel better, no injuries, and i'm in the best shape of my life. You can definitely build muscle on just Bodyweight exercises alone.

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    • #3
      Thank you. Exactly what I was looking to hear! I want to lose bodyfat and add some muscle to get that coveted "beach body", without injuring myself or overtraining either.

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      • #4
        I'd say include both. At 17 you still have the luxury of youth and a body that will grow and recover quickly.
        Even if you just stick with the big four compounds (or suitable variations) to build some mass and raw strength.
        As far as fighting physique goes, there are plenty of lightweight (155 lb) MMA fighters who can pull 500lbs in the dead lift.
        Just food for thought.

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        • #5
          Dude, you are 17. Put on some muscle and lift weights. It won't be any easier when you are 27, 37, 47... in fact you are in your prime now so if you are having some pains maybe it is just form. Personally I think bodyweight is mostly maintenance and doesn't do much for gaining unless you add weight via a dip belt.

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          • #6
            I'm not a dude, and I'm not 17, but this site may be of interest: http://oldtimelifting.com/articles/a-dirty-dozen/.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Dedaw View Post
              I've heard both that it can and can not stunt your growth(one of the biggest/strongest trainers in our gym tells me to try and stick to bodyweight and light weights to keep from stunting my growth).
              Strength Training for Kids: Weights Or Wait?

              Originally posted by Dedaw View Post
              I've heard many times from many people that it is rather hard to gain mass and very much strength-I could definitely use more of each - when sticking with bodyweight.
              First, you should try to find out how to stimulate muscle growth. Then learn how to apply that stimulus in a safe manner. However, how much muscle mass you're able to grow is completely dependent on your genetics.

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              • #8
                As my Olympic Lifting coach would repeat over and over, "If you want to lift heavy things, you have to lift heavy things." It's as simple as that.

                If you want to train to be able to lift just your body weight, then train body weight.

                Heavy deads and squats will build strength in ways that cannot be replicated with just body weight exercises.
                Striving to live a life extraordinary.

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                • #9
                  Going to respond to everybody as a whole, instead of individually. I was asking more along the lines of how well can I gain mass and strength doing only bodyweight exercises vs. weighted exercises. I will not completely cut out weighted exercises, but cut down on the use of them a lot. I want to know if I will be able to see decent gains in mass and strength. I will still incorporate some exercises like deadlift, squat, and cleans-because I absolutely love them- but not often because they hurt my back.

                  Spughy, thanks for the link. Definitely an interesting read.

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                  • #10
                    If your back hurts then you're doing something wrong, whether it's technique, or increasing too fast (muscular strength usually goes up faster than other soft tissue, eg ligaments and tendons), or something else. Lower back pain is usually a signal for limited mobility in either the thoracic spine, or the hips, which you'll want to fix.

                    Lifting weights will get you strength faster than bodyweight exercises, but as above, it might not be the best thing if your connective tissue can't keep up. Most weightlifting movements have a bodyweight analog of some sort, except for deadlifts -- I'm not really sure that good mornings count. As far as the physique you want, bodyweight ought to get you there. Check out Al Kavadlo's blog, he works almost exclusively with bodyweight.

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                    • #11
                      If you can master the palanche push up and the one-leg pistol squat then move up to lifting a some weights. Otherwise, I would focus on body weight with added dumbells/kettlebells until fatigue (loss of good form) is generally in the 12-15 rep range, then dial it back to 10 reps for a couple of weeks and add a little weight each week, but don't push the reps up. Look at it as an "on-ramp" program to get your form down and strength up before going into a more agressive weight training program. Look into Rippitoe's "starting strength" program for how to launch into weights when you are ready.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by AndreaReina View Post
                        If your back hurts then you're doing something wrong, whether it's technique, or increasing too fast (muscular strength usually goes up faster than other soft tissue, eg ligaments and tendons), or something else. Lower back pain is usually a signal for limited mobility in either the thoracic spine, or the hips, which you'll want to fix.

                        Lifting weights will get you strength faster than bodyweight exercises, but as above, it might not be the best thing if your connective tissue can't keep up. Most weightlifting movements have a bodyweight analog of some sort, except for deadlifts -- I'm not really sure that good mornings count. As far as the physique you want, bodyweight ought to get you there. Check out Al Kavadlo's blog, he works almost exclusively with bodyweight.
                        He has along the the lines of the same physique I want, so there's hope there.

                        As far as the lower back pain, you just reminded me of something that could be a huge part of my problem. I was born ass-backwards(literally) and my mom had to go into an emergency c-section. Afterwards, I had to wear a hip brace for several months. And deadlifts don't bother my back too much, which seems weird to me.

                        Seems so far that the answer is to go bodyweight with a little weights thrown in there. Thanks guys!

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                        • #13
                          I think you can gain mass doing it either way. With weights its easier to see progress. (Adding plates to bar means your getting stronger, and in turn bigger) With Bodyweight youll have to master the pushup, pullup, body rows, pistols, GHR, HSPU. Then you can do a few things...work on harder variations of those moves. ie. planche pushups one-arm chins etc. IF you don't have the patience to master the skills, you could get a weight vest and continue to add weight but do bodyweight moves. Which then becomes as Brad Pilon says, body movement exercise. ONe last thing is alot of people with bodyweight will get to the point where they are doing 50 pushups a set. AT that point you are not going to get much stronger or put on size if thats your goal. If you want to get strength and size I recommend staying 5-8 rep range. So find a way to make pushups hard in that rep range and your fine.

                          BTW lifting weights won't stunt your growth.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Dedaw View Post
                            Going to respond to everybody as a whole, instead of individually. I was asking more along the lines of how well can I gain mass and strength doing only bodyweight exercises vs. weighted exercises. I will not completely cut out weighted exercises, but cut down on the use of them a lot. I want to know if I will be able to see decent gains in mass and strength. I will still incorporate some exercises like deadlift, squat, and cleans-because I absolutely love them- but not often because they hurt my back.

                            Spughy, thanks for the link. Definitely an interesting read.
                            To answer your question of whether you can gain mass doing bodyweight work: Go to youtube, type in "littlebeastM" it's this dude Metin that I know from the Bar-Barians forum, he's now 220 lbs doing strictly bodyweight work, he started young around 16 or 17 too and progressively gained weight and does very impressive bodyweight feats. His channel is full of cool shit to look at and try out, also check out the channel "Calisthenics Camp" which is Metin and this guy Daniel also from the same forum who got together to provide instruction to up and coming calisthenics enthusiasts.

                            PS: Metin trains with weighted vests and stuff, just because you're not actually lifting a bar-bell loaded with plates or picking up dumb bells does NOT mean you can't strap weight onto your body. Once you're able to get 10 pull ups and 10 dips you should start adding weight to both, same with pistol squats. It will trick your body into thinking you're heavier so it will develop the muscle, the tendons, joints and bones will strengthen and if you're eating plenty of food and getting PLENTY OF REST -- you will certainly grow. At your age, there's no way you won't.

                            Here's a video of Metin doing some heavy work. This video is all about doing the basics and doing them heavy, watch and learn young grasshopper:



                            EDIT: I realize you're not after Metin's physique, but the point I'm trying to make is you can make bodyweight exercises more difficult and heavier by adding weight or playing with leverage. Do yourself a favor and start training for a handstand, trust me on this one.
                            Last edited by iniQuity; 02-15-2011, 05:53 AM.
                            I used to seriously post here, now I prefer to troll.

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                            • #15
                              I'm certainly no expert, but I think the body "style" you're going for would be best arrived at with body weight stuff. That said, definitely keep your weighted routine in there, but perhaps only do dead lifts and squats and only once a week or something. On Mondays and Weds, use the SimpleFit routine.

                              Here's Cheapo's link to SimpleFit instead of the actual link, since he explains it well.
                              August 2010: 207 lb, 37" waist, 25+% BF | Currently: 177 lb, 33" waist, ~15% BF

                              I have a new site up and will soon be blogging at The Wayward Mind. (My journal is semi-retired at this point)

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