Bodyweight vs. Barbells - the ultimate showdown

July 13, 2021

Bodyweight vs. Barbells - the ultimate showdown

Only an idiot speaks in absolutes i.e. if you believe the world is entirely black and white, then you’re a moron.However, there are a number of occasions in the lifting world that we love, where many individuals subscribe exclusively to a particular doctrine, be it the barbell or bodyweight training. The truth is, like most things (to say‘all things’ would put me in the category above), both bodyweight and barbell exercises can have a place in a well-rounded program. Given that the Corona virus has now left most of us without a gym, it seems a good time to explain the merits of bodyweight exercises now that none of us have a choice.


What is it good for?

Not ‘absolutely nothing’ as an amazing tune once said, but a huge number of things. It can be used for metabolic conditioning, for upper body strength training and to some extent the lower body. It can be used to introduce a novice to resistance training and to rehabilitate an injury. In short, it’s great and it works.

How do I use it?

The image below (Figure 2) shows a number of ways that one of the main-stay upper body exercises can be used, the push up. It can be scaled (made easier or harder) infinitely, from push ups from the knees to handstand and 1-arm push ups. Essentially, body weight exercises can be made as hard or as easy as needed. They can produce immense hypertrophy in the upper body and to some extent in the lower body. The only area where the barbell wins is loading up that lower body, something that, without external resistance, is extremely difficult to do.

Figure 2

Barbell training

What is it good for?

In truth, almost everything. I get a little emotional thinking about it as I haven’t touched a barbell in over 2weeks (fuck you ‘rona). If you’re healthy and have adequate technique, a barbell is all you need for a lifetime of gains (assuming you don’t get bored). However, for rehabilitation purposes and to utilise a novel stimulus, it often is sub-par to bodyweight training.

How do I use it?

Use one of our programs and have at it, kid. There are, not unlike bodyweight training, an almost infinite number of exercises, tempos, rep ranges and more to manipulate to get the most optimal training stimulus.However, in reality, pick 3 exercises or a program such as ‘Busy Bastards’, get strong, repeat.In summary, both a barbell and bodyweight training have their place in a well rounded program. An upper body session in a gym might go like:

  1. Barbell bench press supersetted with horizontal rows
  2. Overhead barbell press supersetted with pull ups
  3. Push ups for maximum reps
  4. Dumbbell rows

Whereas an upper body session at home would look like (buy a pull up bar):

  1. Arm push up training, aim for a total number of reps
  2. Pull ups for maximum reps
  3. Push ups supersetted with horizontal rows
  4. Core training

Keep it simple, keep it effective and stay safe out there.

Big Love, TT

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