Strength Training Vs Bodyweight Training : Benefits, Myths & Advice

Vijeta Tomar

Chief Yoga Instructor, Pinaki Yoga

‘Skill is only developed by hours and hours of work’                                                                                                                                                  -Usain Bolt

Though we all are ready with hard work & dedication to achieve our goal, we are often confused about the better choices of training. In my previous article I have discussed ‘why the variations in training programs are necessary.’ So, today I am typing my thoughts into words to discuss our choices between two most common training programs that are, Bodyweight & Strength training, that will further help you to make your fitness journey easier and more comfortable.

Strength Training and Bodyweight Training

Strength training also known as weight or resistance training is a physical activity program that will help you to improve your muscle mass, build muscular strength, strengthen your bones and also lose weight.

People usually follow weight training to increase their muscle mass and for this reason, most of the time coaches prefer a Hypertrophy program to train their clients. Hypertrophy means increase in muscle mass or size with the help of physical activity. That increase in muscle mass happens when individual muscle fibers increase in volume.

So, now you must wonder what is there in exercise that lets these muscle fibers grow together? Actually, the muscle fibers are stimulated to increase in size after they are exposed to a certain level of mechanical loading. That external loading is provided to muscle through weight training exercises.

According to this principle of muscle building, it is clear that weight training is not the only possible solution to increase muscle fibers. The external load on muscles can also be provided by Body Weight exercises. Hence, the bodyweight workout is also considered as the strength training program. “The basic principle is to apply a load and overload the muscle so it needs to adapt and get stronger,” explains Neal Pire, CSCS, an exercise physiologist and the national director of wellness services at Castle Connolly Private Health Partners in New York City.

A Weight Training Posture

As we age we tend to lose lean muscle mass, which is a condition known as sarcopenia. Resistance training helps maintain and combat the loss of muscle mass by increasing muscle fibers in volume. Resistance training can also prevent osteoporosis by augmenting bone mineral density, decrease the risk of heart disease by lowering body fat, decreasing blood pressure, improving cholesterol, and lowering the stress placed on the heart while lifting a particular load.

Resistance training can be accomplished with traditional free weights and dumbbells, weight machines, body weight, elastic tubing, medicine balls, or even common household products like buckets full of sand or water.

Now let’s specifically talk about weight training that we call Gym Training. Fancy Gym equipment provides an ease to a beginner and they are beneficial when one has to perform the isolation movement. At beginner level there is a big fight with the weights, doesn’t matter if it’s a dumbbell or body weight. Working with dumbbells and machines it becomes easy to set your comfortable weight in your training program. The isolation movements like Biceps curl or pec dec fly, train a specific muscle which is again helpful to enhance the muscle mass and prevent whole body tiredness.

Rohit Tiwari said, ”Strength Training should be included as a lifestyle change and not just for a temporary objective like weight loss because without strength training the muscles eventually become smaller and weaker. It happens more so with age due to process called Sarcopenia which is loss of muscle mass due to no or low muscle activity.”- Rohit Tiwari, ACE CPT and Sports Specialist | Instagram

Bodyweight training on the other hand is a very useful formula for ‘anywhere- anytime fitness’. During the time of pandemic of novel coronavirus as India has recently gone through 3rd wave of covid-19, bodyweight exercises became the most useful and comfortable training program in the absence of Gym and Fitness centers. Not only this but these Trainings also ranked 2nd on ACSM survey of 20 Global fitness trends for 2014.

According to study bodyweight workout with drills that we called interval training, bursts of intense activity found to be more efficient and beneficial than cardio. Also, the minimum REST time in between exercises maintains the elevated HR level which is the major cause of calorie burning and weight loss. Where gym workouts which are equipment based, work on specific muscles with isolation movement, bodyweight workouts on the other hand include many compound exercises that have special benefits for the whole body.

Because of no equipment and machines you are free to take your move even more deeper that will further help you to improve your range of motion and increase flexibility. As bodyweight exercise also comes under strength training so it equally holds the list of benefits. It improves CV endurance, muscle strength and frequently changing positions keeps your heart rate elevated while body weight and gravity working together will further help to improve balancing, burn calories and reduce weight.

Me Performing Side Plank with Bodyweight

Current recommendations of ACSM suggest that school-age youth should participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. In addition to aerobic activities such as running and cycling, research increasingly indicates that regular participation in a youth strength-training program can offer observable health, fitness and performance benefits for children and adolescents.

Weight Training Programs


Hypertrophy is the most common weight training program that people usually perform to achieve their fitness goals. Muscular hypertrophy is the enhancement

of muscle size.

• Load: 70-85% 1RM for novice to

intermediate; 70-100% for advanced

• Volume: 1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions for

novice to intermediate; 3-6 sets of 1-12

repetitions for advanced

• Rest period: 2-3 min for higher intense

exercises that use heavier loads; 1-2

minutes between the lower intense

exercises with light loads.


Muscular strength is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to exert a maximal external force.

• Load: 60-70% 1RM for novice to intermediate; 80-100% for advanced

• Volume: 1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions for novice to intermediate; 2-6 sets of 1-8 repetitions for advanced

• Rest period: 2-3 min for higher intense exercises that use heavier loads; 1-2 minutes between the lower intense exercises with light loads


Power is defined as the optimal amount of work performed in a given time period. Muscular power is the highest power output attainable during a particular movement, and is required in activities of daily living, sport, and work. For optimal improvements in muscular power, a light load of 0 to 60% of 1RM should be used for 3-6 repetitions over one to three sets per exercise.

• Load: 30-60% 1RM for upper body exercises; 0-60% 1RM for lower body exercises.

• Volume: 1-3 sets of 3-6 repetitions per exercise

• Rest period: 2-3 min for higher intense exercises that use heavier loads; 1-2 minutes between the lower intense exercises with light loads


Local muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle or a muscle group to repeatedly exert a submaximal resistance.

• Load: lower than 70% of 1RM

• Volume: 2-4 sets of 10-25 repetitions

• Rest period: 30 seconds to 1-minute between each set

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that a strength training program should be performed a minimum of two non-consecutive days each week, with one set of 8 to 12 repetitions for healthy adults or 10 to 15 repetitions for older and frail individuals. Eight to 10 exercises should be performed that target the major muscle groups.

Bodyweight Training Programs


Yoga is a mind body connection program that works on both your muscles and mind & connection between them. If we only talk about its physical benefits then it includes a lot of bending, twisting, inversions and many such intense postures that will majorly improve your muscle fibers and range of motion. To perform these postures needs a lot of effort to control your body weight against gravity and sometimes an elastic body to perform that posture accurately. Some of the postures like Eagle pose, Split pose, Dancing Shiva and Shiva pose needs major lower body flexibility that improves gradually after practice. Many inverted postures like Handstand and Headstand need a lot of strength in your muscles to bear your own body weight by your arms or your neck. On the other hand, postures like flying crow, falling angle and crane pose need a lot of concentration and balancing skills including your core and full body strength. Yoga is a complete package that can be used to grow muscles and achieve all fitness goals.

Some of the traditional yoga programs includes,

Power Yoga

Hatha Yoga

Vinyasa Yoga

Iyengar Yoga

According to me “yoga is not only limited to physical postures, it’s an experience which is even beyond our senses and opens up new dimensions in life. Yoga is a perfect program for those who wants physical, mental and spiritual benefits from their training” – Vjeta Tomar, Yoga Trainer & Educator | Instagram | Youtube


Calisthenics is a powerful physical activity based on completely bodyweight with no equipment at all. Calisthenics training of all body and mind working together to the perfect symphony of mobility, stability, strength and play. Based on all push and pull movements. Calisthenics includes most of the natural form and combines strength training and basic gymnastic movements that can be done anywhere. To be successful in calisthenics you must learn to use the body as an integrated unit instead of individual and isolated muscles. Calisthenics Framework is based around two central pillars: Movement and Strength. Calisthenics required to transfer force from hands to feet means a huge potential return when it comes to functional movement and robustness.

Many of the calisthenics programs include push and pull movements where there are Different variations of Pushups, Pull Ups, Human flag, Handstand and more.

A Calisthenics trainer performing inversion

Calisthenics is good for those who like explosive & vigorous workout with the play and fun in their training. Those who aren’t afraid to use their body’s maximum strength and implement impossible movements that take a lot of potential and effort generally.


Functional training is a purposeful training for movements, which is designed for or capable of a particular function or use. Functional training used to train a person how to handle their own body weight and it combines movements and balance. Its  complete body training for warm-up, power development and strength development.

FST is a sports general training and can also be called dynamic strength training. Most of our body weight training comes under FST like calisthenics, HIIT, Tabata etc. which includes multiplanar and multi joint movements with full range of motion. It helps to improve biomechanical efficiency and also increases fitness levels in agility, flexibility, power etc.

Any FST program is good for those who are at beginner level and looking for training for muscle building and weight loss and don’t want to use external equipment or machines. FST is suitable for all age groups based on their level of training from mild to moderate to vigorous.


This is the training program essential for athletes who jump, lift, throw in which it requires agility and power. Agility is the quick responding skill that requires a lot of sports like tennis, badminton etc. It is a muscuo-skeletal system that provides movement and posture. In sports, eccentric contractions are immediately followed by concentric contractions, like spring coil compressed energy in the spring is released when it uncoils. Athletes like jumpers, sprinters and others who rely on speed & strength don’t spend much time on the ground because they know that energy stored during a potential eccentric phase of muscle contraction is partially recovered during concentric contraction. This conversion of negative eccentric energy into positive concentric energy is called Amortization. This conversion or coupling of eccentric-concentric energy takes within 1/100th of a second, world class high jumpers are on ground barley for 0.112 seconds.

A plyometrics training for sports fitness

Plyometrics focuses on how to further shorten this Amortization which is also called “Stretch-Shortening Cycle – SSC”.  

Plyometric exercises are typically used by sprinters and power athletes to develop their fast twitch muscle fibers and improve their speed and agility. By incorporating plyometric exercises into training programs, one can harness the speed and force of movement for improved performance and daily activities.

According to Rahul Kharbanda, Plyometrics is the most common training program applied to sports specific training. As he trained many athletes, he further said “plyometrics is the key factor to improve performance of many athletes and sports persons.” – Rahul Kharbanda, High Performance Coach | Sports Nutritionist | Instagram


High intensity interval training (HIIT) is an advanced form of interval training and an exercise strategy alternating periods of short, intense anaerobic exercise with less intense recovery periods. HIIT promises the best workout in the least amount of time. Recently, fitness professionals voted HIIT one of the top fitness trends for 2020 in a survey by the American College of Sports Medicine.

A recent study compared participants who did steady-state cardio for 30 minutes three times a week to those who did 20 minutes of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) three times per week. Both groups showed similar weight loss, but the HIIT group showed a 2 percent loss in body fat while the steady-state group lost only 0.3 percent. The HIIT group also gained nearly two pounds of muscle, while the steady-state group lost almost a pound. Training intervals once per week can improve body composition along with conditioning levels.

The findings were telling: Less intense training programs with shorter intervals carried the least health benefits, while interval training studies reporting the greatest increases typically used longer (three- to five-minute) intervals.

HIIT is the best training program for athletes and for those who want to add a few days to improve their CV endurance and want more benefits for the body than simply performing cardio outside.

HIIT training programs are specifically designed for the client by his/her coach based on their limits and fitness abilities. Some of the exercises from HIIT can be



Jumping Squats

Box jumps

A lady performing box jumps

Tabata is another form of HIIT training. According to Nitesh Tyagi- Certified fitness coach, “It is a unique form of cardiovascular exercise that delivers more health benefits than virtually all traditional physical exercises” He further described that his tabata training program includes 8 rounds. Each round consists of 20 seconds of intense activity followed by 10 seconds of rest”. Regarding tabata benefits he said that “Tabat is an amazing workout that helps to burn fat, puts lots of stress on your body and as a result you burn more calories’ ‘. Nitesh already trained 2k+ students with HIIT and Tabata training programs | Instagram

Limitations & Benefits of Weight Training & Body Weight Training

Weight Training


  • Practitioner will be completely bound to the set of equipments
  • Lifting heavy weight with bad posture leads to severe injury
  • Need lot of equipment investment so expensive too
  • Heavy weights may impact your flexibility as more contraction provides stiffness to the muscles that further impact your range of motion.
  • Mostly work with isolation movements, train only one muscle at a time.
  • In a gym environment, using the same equipment by multiple people is not safe during the time of covid-19.


  • Provide more strength and more muscle mass.
  • External load can be set according to your ability
  • Machines, in a lot of exercises, provide safety and security at beginner level.
  • Based on isolation movements so provide more fatigue to a special muscle which is good for muscle building.
  • Helps in bone strengthening and prevent osteoporosis.

Bodyweight Training


  • Weight training is working against resistance, producing force against some kind of obstacle. In body weight training, your maximum resistance is, well, your own body, plus any force you can generate by dropping your body through the air and sometimes its gravity. This works pretty well for upper body muscles, because they are relatively small and your body is relatively heavy. But for any muscles that are large (like legs and hips), it’s hard to do much for them with simple body weight.
  • Progression is hard to achieve. In weight training you can achieve it by adding more weights in your workout. But in body weight it’s not possible to add on extra weight because all you have is your own body weight. And then again either we use some set of dumbbells or we have to change the movement.
  • With bodyweight muscle can’t maintain that level of strength that it can with weight training.


  • Involving a lot of free movements provide a sense of freedom to the practitioner.
  • Improve range of motion and hence improve flexibility.
  • Not bound to equipment’s and gym’s social distractions.
  • Being free weight or minimum weight workout there is less chance of Coronavirus.
  • Due to no equipment usage apart from your bodyweight it’s one of the minimum expense or free of cost workout.
  • Bodyweight workout is an easy ‘at-home’ workout that can be done ‘anytime-anywhere’.

Weight Training vs Bodyweight Training : Which one is better?

This is the question I am facing from many years of my coaching experience. Every training program has its own benefits. We can’t depend on just one training program to achieve all 16 fitness goals.

So accordingly, people who are new to the fitness life and never been to any training program can start with simple bodyweight routine and later add strength training in some of their training days.

Me performing weight training & bodyweight inversion

For all those who have been to any of the training programs earlier, it’s recommended to have 3 days per week for strength training and 2 days can be dedicated to any bodyweight program.


Strength training & Bodyweight training both are important to achieve many fitness goals. You should prepare your routine through a certified trainer, who will further help you maintain your postures during exercise and will take care of your progress. Providing variations and working on different training programs, always help to improve the overall fitness, health and also reduce the chances of overtraining and injury.

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