If you are just starting out in strength training, whether to train competitively or just increase your functional strength and ability, there are a number of different ways you can go about it.
The two most popular are weight lifting and body weight exercises.
I have personally used and loved them both, but in my mind there is a clear favorite if you are just starting out.
The many pros of body weight training
Let’s take a look at a couple of the pros of body weight exercises, because there certainly are many.
The first, and biggest in my opinion, is that they can be entirely free!
Whether you are doing pushups, sit-ups, body weight squats, or any number of other body weight exercises, you can do them for free, with no equipment, and very little space.
And on top of that, you can take them with you!
Going on a trip and don’t have access to a gym? Doesn’t matter! You can do your entire workout in the comfort of your hotel room.
On the road? How about the rest stop along the highway? (Possible but NOT recommended!)
Affordability and portability are big time pros and, if you don’t have the money to spend on dumbbells or other equipment right away, these should make body weight exercises your go-to.
Why do I prefer weightlifting?
For one reason and one reason only.
That reason being the way it builds the most important strength I think we can develop. A strength which is also usually sorely underdeveloped due to lack of attention.
There are plenty of grip strength training exercises you can do, but in my estimation there is no substitute for incorporating grip strength training into every exercise movement you do. When you lift a weight, this is exactly what you do.
Curls? You’re gripping the weight.
Bench press? You’re gripping the weight.
Squats? You’re gripping the weight.
No matter what you do, you’re gripping the weight. So even if you don’t have time to do additional grip strength training, you always are when lifting weights.
Unlike pushups or body weight squats.
(Disclaimer: yes, I do realize some body weight exercises, like pull-ups, work with rings, rock climbing, etc., build great grip strength. In this article I’m only referring to body eight exercises done without equipment.)
Why is grip strength so important?
Because it is one of the most functionally useful strengths you can have. And when you train for functionality, you generally feel much better physically and mentally. And look pretty good too!
There are a handful of muscles or areas of the body that we recruit regularly for virtually everything we do.
Not so much.
I know what you’re thinking. They why do people seem to spend so much time on chest and biceps?
Because they are aesthetically pleasing.
Aesthetics are important too!
Think about your hair. Is it not purely aesthetic? It has no functional use whatsoever and you can go without it. Yet you spend time on it every day (assuming you’re so fortunate to have any).
So if you feel the need to pay attention to your hair, you can pay attention to muscles like the chest and biceps as well.
Very functional muscles
Now back to the task at hand, the areas you use most regularly for life tasks are your shoulders, feet, legs, and, you guessed it…
So never skip leg day, work your shoulders and keep them healthy and limber because they are involved in literally every upper body task, and strengthen that grip!
Everything you do that uses your upper body requires the use of your hands.
Carrying heavy groceries, doing yard work, pulling up weeds, using a screwdriver, changing your car battery, etc.
All these, and more, require grip strength. And the more you of that have, the easier and more comfortable all these tasks become.
Go ahead and try any of those tasks without your hands and see how well you do!
This is why I prefer weight lifting to body weight training.
Not only do you recruit your grip for all exercises, you can also use the weights to train your grip.
Train to make your hands so strong that nothing ever slips out of them again. Train to be able to hold things for days, build any piece of furniture, carry any piece of furniture!
Make all your tasks much easier and supercharge your confidence.
So, while you are training for aesthetics (because let’s face it, we all exercise to look and feel our best) don’t forget the importance of your most functional areas:
These areas when strengthened and healthy, make the whole body work more effectively, efficiently, and with the most confidence.
Trust me, when you start walking around with that natural physical confidence that comes from being physically strong, mental confidence is coming up right behind you.
And you don’t have to be Lou Ferrigno-strong, mind you. Just competently strong to walk upright with capability and confidence in yourself.
When you add mental confidence to your physical confidence (they do work together), everything works better.
Head to toe.
One more benefit…
In addition to a greater emphasis on grip strength (which you can also train with dumbbells) I personally prefer the ability of weights to focus in on certain areas more easily than body weight exercises.
Typically, when working with dumbbells, you don’t need a large footprint of space to work in. You really only need a space as wide as yourself.
No need to get on the floor, get into odd positions to create added resistance, etc.
With the exception of the bench press, you pick a muscle and there is at least one dumbbell exercise you can use, standing up. Always being on your feet also keeps your legs and feet in the game at all times as well.
Lots of great choices – and you can mix and match!
Like I said, there are a lot of pros to body weight exercises. One additional pro is that many may recruit your core more so than some weight lifting exercises do, so perhaps a combo is best for you.
Or, whatever is the most fun!
Which, let’s be honest, could actually be the top reason I choose lifting weights.
I really enjoy it! Which means I am happy to do it regularly.
I’d miss it if I didn’t!
No matter, if there is a form of training that makes you feel the same way, builds you up, and is safe, then learn how to do it, then do it safely AND consistently!
But no matter what you choose, remember to show some love to those digits!
They are your unsung heroes.
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