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Fundamental difference between bodyweight exercises and weight training?

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  • Fundamental difference between bodyweight exercises and weight training?

    I'm beginning to think that there is a fundamental difference between calisthenics (bodyweight exercises) and strength training with weights (dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells and machines). Why is that? Al Kavadlo mentioned in one of his posts about achieving pull-ups that in his early days as a trainer he would let people use machines (lat pulldown etc.) to work towards a pull-down, but it didn't really work as expected. A better way seems to be to try pull-downs from the start (for example as negatives, or try chin-ups first etc).

    I'm currently at a crossroads training-wise. One of my goals is to be able to do many push-ups, pull-ups etc.. This suggests that I should do many of those. But on the other hand I also used to think that barbell exercises like the bench press are good indicators of strength. Should I do both? Maybe there's some kind of synergy between push-ups and bench presses, but if one can't be a substitute for the other, do they perhaps even hinder each other - would I make more rapid progress with push-ups if I didn't do any barbell/dumbbell exercises for the chest area?
    Last edited by MikeEnRegalia; 04-09-2011, 11:55 PM.
    MikeEnRegalia's Blog - Nutrition, Dieting, Exercise and other stuff ;-)

  • #2
    Your pushups will progress faster doing lots of pushups, than when benching several times a week. Lots of pushups generally require muscle endurance while benchpress requires more strength (unless you're doing large amount of reps in which case you might aswell not do them), and trying to develop both at the same time could definately slow down gains in both. Max strength "is" also a factor for pushups however, so theoretically I might see a benefit in developing max strength: Could either be with isometric chest presses or 3 sets of 5 or less reps. Frequency would probably only need to be in the once every 7-10 days range, granted you're doing enough pushups.

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    • #3
      Bodyweight exercises improve your ability to perform bodyweight exercises. Weight training improves your ability to lifts weights. There is some crossover but both are important from a "daily life" standpoint i.e. as we all need the ability to both control our own bodies and lift stuff.
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      • #4
        You may enjoy the following thread at Coach Sommers Gymnastic Bodies forum: GymnasticBodies.com • View topic - Gymnastics and bodyweight S&C - supperior to weight lifting

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        • #5
          Both can build strength and muscle if you work them with "linear" progression.

          I think it's "easier" to measure max strength gains via barbells. Add 5 pounds, you got stronger by 5 pounds. With bodyweight, it's not as easy to measure unless you're adding a weight vest... but then is it really a bodyweight exercise? How much stronger did you get progressing from regular pushups to an inclne one arm pushup to a full one arm pushup? I don't know.

          I also think it harder to stick with an advanced bodyweight routine only... beacuse of that uncertinty and the patience it takes.

          All in, it really depends on what your goals are in selecting the methods/tools to use.

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          • #6
            As I understand it, I think the main difference is that when doing body weight excercises, there are a lot of other muscles engaging in the action. For instance, with pushups, you activate the core to hold your form and then use several different muscle groups to perform the actual push up. All in one go. You don't get that when training one muscle group on a machine.

            I think both are important though.

            In my personal experience, I am also trying to work towards doing a lot of pushups. I've been working on it since October, and at that time I could do maybe 3 modified pushups. Now, I can do well over 50, and 40 negative pushups. I can do a few proper pushups, but my form is not solid, so my trainer has me lifting a lot of weights and doing a lot of core excercises. She also has me doing a 5 min push up challenge 3x a week. 10 seconds - pump off as many as I can, take a 20 second break and repeat. Since I've become strong enough to do these, my progress has acelerated greatly! Oh, and she also has me lower myself into the 90 degree arm position and hold it to engage those particular muscles for as long as possible, then try to push back up.
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            • #7
              As one poster mentioned a few days ago...in general body-weight exercises build endurance, and weights build strength.

              Now, there is admittedly some cross-over as was mentioned above, but both are needed in my opinion. However, look at your goals and determine the best fit.

              My training incorporates both.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Phil-SC View Post
                As one poster mentioned a few days ago...in general body-weight exercises build endurance, and weights build strength.
                It depends on how you use them...

                Endurance - banging out a bunch of pushups is sort of the same as doing sets of 25 bench press
                Strength - banging out one arm pushups with your feet elivated and using a resistance band is just as much strength as banging out a set of 5 bench press.

                Ring dips, pistol squats, muscle ups... all strength imo... not endurance (unless you're a beast).

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by arthurb999 View Post
                  It depends on how you use them...

                  Endurance - banging out a bunch of pushups is sort of the same as doing sets of 25 bench press
                  Strength - banging out one arm pushups with your feet elivated and using a resistance band is just as much strength as banging out a set of 5 bench press.



                  Ring dips, pistol squats, muscle ups... all strength imo... not endurance (unless you're a beast).
                  I agree...you are correct... a lot matters in the "in the how you use them" part.

                  However...my point is "in general, with all things being equal". As I said above, there are some crossovers. However, for BW push-ups, pull-ups, burpees, planks, etc....unless you add weight to the equation (like with weighted sit-ups), at some point the strength gains will level out, and endurance/aerobic ability will be the primary thing that is built. Again...it will not be the ONLY thing. :-)

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Coach Palfrey View Post
                    Bodyweight exercises improve your ability to perform bodyweight exercises. Weight training improves your ability to lifts weights. There is some crossover but both are important from a "daily life" standpoint i.e. as we all need the ability to both control our own bodies and lift stuff.

                    Couldn't have said it better myself, Coach!
                    "In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they couldn't be more different."

                    "You can have anything you want, but you can't have everything you want."

                    My blog: http://www.AlKavadlo.com

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                    • #11
                      Thanks for the responses so far!

                      I understand the notion that bodyweight exercises improve your ability to perform bodyweight exercises and the same applies to weight training and other forms of exercise (the specificity principle).

                      My goal is to lose some more weight and then become good at bodyweight exercises like Al is performing in his videos. As far as strength training is concerned, I guess I care much less about my ability to bench press x times my body weight now than I did two years ago when I started working out. I think the question is: Should I ditch the barbell/dumbbell/lat-pull exercises completely in favor of bodyweight exercises, considering my goal? Right now I'm thinking about keeping the barbell squats and deadlifts, but ditching the bench press, lateral raises and lat-pulldown/seated rows in favor of push-ups, dips, pull-downs/chin-ups and australian pull-downs. I'm already doing planks for the core - and I think I'll keep the hyperextensions with dumbbells.
                      Last edited by MikeEnRegalia; 04-10-2011, 09:08 AM.
                      MikeEnRegalia's Blog - Nutrition, Dieting, Exercise and other stuff ;-)

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by MikeEnRegalia View Post
                        I understand the notion that bodyweight exercises improve your ability to perform bodyweight exercises
                        Originally posted by MikeEnRegalia View Post
                        My goal is to...become good at bodyweight exercises like Al is performing in his videos.
                        Originally posted by MikeEnRegalia View Post
                        I think the question is: Should I ditch the barbell/dumbbell/lat-pull exercises completely in favor of bodyweight exercises, considering my goal?
                        I think you answered your own question - seems like a no brainer.
                        "In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they couldn't be more different."

                        "You can have anything you want, but you can't have everything you want."

                        My blog: http://www.AlKavadlo.com

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                        • #13
                          ^ I guess that sometimes when you're at a crossroads the mere act of explaining the question and the alternatives to others can bring you closer to the answer. ;-)

                          Well, the only real problem I'm left with is that I can't perform pull-ups at home - I live in a small place where the doors can't be fitted with pull-up bars. What I'm thinking about now is getting one of these:



                          Of course I could also get a wall-mounted pull-up bar, which would be a bit cheaper. Of course neither wall bars nor wall-mounted pull-up bars would allow me to do muscle-ups or dips or any of the advanced stuff. Which wouldn't be a problem in the beginning anyway, since I'm currently at a point in the progression where I'm working towards being able to perform even one pull-up. ;-)
                          Last edited by MikeEnRegalia; 04-11-2011, 01:31 AM. Reason: typo
                          MikeEnRegalia's Blog - Nutrition, Dieting, Exercise and other stuff ;-)

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                          • #14
                            One of the reasons you need to do whatever it is that you want to get better at is that an immense amount of the adaption required is neurological. Your nervous system has to be trained to fire the muscles first correctly, then efficiently, in order to get better at something.
                            Lifting Journal

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                            • #15
                              I'd buy a power tower and a set of woody bands...

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