You may have heard the term “resistance training” before, but do you really know what it means? And when it comes to maximizing training, what’s the best resistance…body or weight? The answer might be simpler than you think!
The most fundamental definition of resistance training is any exercise that requires you to move your body against resistance. And, again in the most basic sense, resistance can be defined as any force that makes it more challenging for you to move your body.
When you move your body against resistance, you build muscle. According to Dr. Vonda Wright, an internationally-recognized expert on sports medicine: “Maintaining and building muscle is good for your metabolism, makes you strong, prevents injury, and lifts your mood.”
Typically, the force you’re resisting is weight, but that doesn’t mean resistance training requires you to use weights! The weight in question can simply be the weight of your own body. And if you have joint problems or other health issues that make load-bearing exercise challenging, you create resistance by using exercise bands or doing a pool workout.
If you’re a fit person who loves a challenge and wants to maximize the impact of your workouts, you may be wondering whether choosing a dumbbell or barbell workout over a bodyweight workout gives you a competitive advantage. Or is bodyweight the better choice? Here’s what you need to know.
Your Body vs. Weights for Best Resistance
In the matchup of your body vs. weights, there is no clear winner. In fact, the best approach may be to combine different methods since each has unique benefits. Some benefits of bodyweight training, for example, are that it requires no equipment, involves no start-up costs, and can be done virtually anywhere. And for weights workouts, many appreciate how clearly you can mark your progress and increase the difficulty of different exercises simply by adding more weight to the bar or choosing a heavier dumbbell.
If you truly want to maximize the effectiveness of your resistance training, consider alternating your exercise approaches. That might mean lifting weights on Monday, then taking a class that uses resistance bands on Tuesday, then doing bodyweight exercises on Wednesday, and so on. Give yourself permission to shake it up and try new things!
6 Tips to Keep Your Resistance Training Super Effective
Whether you’re mastering an Olympic lift or perfecting your push-ups, the following tips from Harvard HEALTHbeat will help you work out in the most effective way possible.
- Prioritize form. Focusing on form not only prevents injuries, but also speeds up your muscle growth. Especially if you’re learning something new, start light, go slowly, and concentrate on moving smoothly.
- Keep the beat. Moving with a steady rhythm ensures you maintain control and prevents you from “cheating” by using momentum. It may help to literally count in your head: for example, you could count to three while lowering yourself into a push-up, then count to three again while pushing yourself back up.
- Just breathe. Aligning your breathing with your movements makes a big difference! Exhale as you work against the resistance and inhale as you release. For example, exhale as you lift the weight off the ground, then inhale as you set it back down.
- Push it. Once you can perform a movement with good form, continue to push yourself by increasing weight or resistance. A good goal is to feel tired by the last two repetitions. If you’re so tired that your form begins to fail, though, scale back!
- Stay balanced. Ideally, you should be working all the major muscles in your body two to three times weekly. That doesn’t mean you have to choose a full-body workout every time, but don’t become so caught up with getting a six-pack that you forget about leg day.
- Take time off. This one is an absolute must! Resistance training causes tiny tears in your muscles—don’t panic, it’s actually through healing from those tears that your muscles get stronger! But you have to give them time to do that healing. Experts recommend taking 48 hours to recover between training sessions.