There seems to be an almost cult-like following inside the body weight exercise community promoting the belief that the benefits of body weight exercises far surpass those of weightlifting. Whoever thinks this is drinking WAY too much Kool-Aid. Although using your own body weight to get ripped fast is extremely effective, this perspective is like saying running is a more effective exercise than swimming. The best way to train is to utilize a combination of both.
HOWEVER…If someone had a gun to my head and said, you can only use one type of exercise (Yeah, I’m scratching my head wondering how this would ever happen too…), I would choose body weight. Here is why:
Traditional weight lifting typically incorporates one or two major muscle groups per exercise session. You work out a muscle, wait for recovery, then begin again. With body weight exercises you don’t need to wait as long because you are using many muscles during each exercise. This way, you fatigue more quickly and don’t need to spend as much time exercising.
Other than the time benefit, targeting more muscle groups via body weight exercises helps you develop a more full look. A lot of bodybuilders who use traditional weight lifting end up with developed chest muscles and biceps but puny chicken legs. The reason is because they work out what they can “show off”. With body weight exercises you are working the whole body all at once.
Many positions in traditional weight lifting cause an undue amount of pressure on your joints. If you’re not careful you can blow out your shoulder, for example, by using too much weight on a bench press. The same muscle group can be worked out using the body weight pushup and you end up strengthening your shoulder instead of weakening it like with weights.
There are however two sides to every coin. One major downfall of body weight exercises is the fact that it is more difficult to isolate a particular muscle. You will not end up looking like Arnold by doing only body weight. You have to use weights to rip apart and overload the muscle fibers in a concentrated way.