It’s no secret that strength is one of the necessary components of overall health and fitness. What’s perhaps less clear is the best way to build that strength – with weights or without?
Weightlifting has been the most popular method of training for strength for a LONG time, and it’s definitely been proven to do a good job at that. As bodyweight training gains in popularity, though, there’s been a rift in the fitness community about whether weights are the only way to go, or should be avoided at all cost.
As a bodyweight-based company, a lot of people assume that we fall under the latter category – especially since this article is one of the only places we even mention weights on our site.
In this article, I’ll explain why we’re actually big believers in certain types of weightlifting, and why our approach doesn’t include weights. I’ll also give you some recommendations for weightlifting experts you should turn to for help in that arena.
Do You Even Lift? (and Should You?)
Even though our programs don’t include weights, most of us on the GMB staff do lift, when doing so best suits our goals.
For instance, after several months of focusing on building strength in his upper body in preparation for our Rings Two program, Ryan went on a serious barbell training program to build up his legs and hips.
The combination of heavy deadlifts and front squats got him quickly back to his prior lower body strength (and likely beyond).
Personally I’ve also had an unhealthy obsession with barbell squats since I was a teenager.
There isn’t anything that will help you gain weight quicker than progressive heavy squats. After a ten year hiatus from the barbell, I’ve returned to it and am getting close to where I was in my twenties.
Deciding whether or not to use weights in your training is like anything else you choose to do.
Ask yourself: What’s my goal?
Depending on that goal, there are different ways to reach it:
- If you want to lose unwanted fat, you need to change your eating habits.
- If you want to be a handbalancer, you need to learn bodyweight control.
- If you are an underweight teenager, then (relatively) heavy weight lifting and eating everything in sight is a good plan.
For building strength vs. size I would not say weights are really necessary at all, though they certainly can be helpful for the lower body in particular. For the upper body, maneuvering your own bodyweight provides enough resistance for most people to build as much strength as you could possibly need for daily life.
So why don’t we teach weight lifting in our programs? (Hint: There are people who do it better)
Just because we like lifting weights does not mean we should teach lifting. We’ve got to be honest about what we can perform and teach well.
We’ve made the conscious decision to provide programs that have been effective for our clients and students – programs that have been derived from our collective experiences in gymnastic training, martial arts instruction, and physical therapy.
GMB teaches what we know and what we excel at. Anything else would be a disservice and dishonest.
Yes, we recognize the value of lifting weights and incorporate the training into our own workouts. But that doesn’t mean we should be teaching it.
I can also whip up a mean fried chicken, but that doesn’t qualify me as a three-star Michelin chef.
There are some incredible trainers and writers out there who know much more about the specifics of weight training and have gotten incredible, consistent results with the clients through many years of devoted work and research.
These are the people that should be teaching it.
Who can you trust?
A good trainer needs to demonstrate not just “knowing what to do,” but also show that they have helped people get where they want to go. Not just elite athletes, but people that have lifestyles and responsibilities similar to yours.
Here at GMB, we’ve worked hard to provide effective programs for people like us (with family and work responsibilities) that still want to be healthy and strong. This means we do what we do best, and anything other than that would diminish our reasons for starting all this.
Here’s a few people we admire who provide great information on weight-training programs:
All of these guys get great results for their clients using weights. They’re also entertaining to read and extremely generous with providing lots of free advice.
“Do I have to lift weights?”
It’s one option of many, and it’s a great option for many people who are looking to gain weight or rapidly build overall strength in fundamental movements like squatting, lifting, and pressing. But it’s not the only way.
Our program Integral Strength is focused on helping you build applicable strength with bodyweight skills.
Build Strength for Physical Skill and Mastery
Over eight weeks, Integral Strength will help you build the kind of strength that carries over into demanding physical skills and dynamic sports.
Don’t let dogma about weights vs. bodyweight dictate how you make your training choices. Use the approach that best matches your goals, and you’ll get where you want to go.