Is the human body more versatile than a set of free weights or a weight machine?
One of the biggest myths about body weight training is that it is limited in scope and therefore can only bring you limited benefits.
I often hear people talk about how convenient and economical calisthenics can be. Then they add a “BUT” and go into why it’s limited. That you can only do a few exercises, or that you can only add so much intensity.
So then obviously, the solution to such limitations is to use free weights with all of their adjustments and versatility.
I used to think along the same lines, but over the past 5 years I’ve come to believe the opposite is true.
I now believe that calisthenics offers just as much, or even more, versatility than free weights or machines.
Body Weight exercise is crazy versatile. There is so much more to it than push ups and crunches. Unfortunately, most folks are only taught about .05% of how to truly train through body weight exercise.
Heck, Martin Roony’s push up app has over 120 push up variations alone! And that’s just the push up, there are also just as many variations of pull ups, squats, lunges and mobility movements.
Plus you have so many cool toys to play with. Add in some simple straps and a cinder block and the possibilities explode. Plus you have so may different modes of body weight exercise. You have calisthenics, loaded calisthenics, progressive calisthenics, Yoga, Pilates, Qigong, martial arts, running, walking, crawling, and jumping.
Free weight and machine training is also very versatile, esepcaily when it comes to cable machines. You can certainly do 101 different variations of almost every exercise, just like with body weight exercise.
However, I would argue that the versatility is often the result of artificial movements.
Take for example the bench press vs the push up.
The push up is a very natural action. Anyone who’s lying on their belly and goes to stand up does some sort of push up motion. It’s also the foundation to all crawling movements.
The bench press isn’t something that’s easy to do without the right equipment. I once tried to replicate a bench press motion with stones. I didn’t have a bar, plates or a bench with a rack. It was just me and the rocks.
Lying on the ground and trying to get the stones on my chest was a bit of a hassle. Plus I couldn’t use all that much weight. The size and the shape of the stones made it difficult to get the rocks onto my chest before I could start pressing them.
Sure I could do the move, but only with a fairly light stone. The heaviest stone I could get into position was only about 2/3 of the weight I would be ideally benching.
At the heart of weight lifting are 3 primary movements:
-Picking the weight up.
- Carrying the weight.
- Pressing the weight over head.
These are great exercises for sure, but when you take away all of the artificial benches, racks, stands and supports almost all weight lifting moves fit into one of these three categories.
I’m not a hater of the weights, just a lover of the body weight stuff. I’m just trying to turn the public perception that when it comes to versatility, body weight is either on par or above and beyond weight lifting when it comes to variety and versatility.
In my next post I’ll covert why body weight exercise offers more potential in increasing resistance than free weights.