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Here's my wacky theory. The human body is extremely complex, but looking at it as a black box which aggressively adapts to external challenges, could performing bodyweight exercises (with added weight when necessary) induce fat loss more when compared to similar non-bodyweight based exercise? For example:

  • Pullups (with weight) vs. Seated overhead cable pull-downs
  • Pushups (with weight) vs. Benchpress
  • Dips (with weight) vs. Seated dip machine
  • Running vs. Stationary Biking

In every exercise, the body adapts to make that exercise easier the next time. Bodyweight exercises are easier when you have more muscle and less fat, i.e. a higher power to weight ratio. Incidentally, that is also the very thing a lot of people are trying to achieve with their physique when they start working out. Lose some fat, maybe add some muscle. Could focusing on exercises which are sensitive to (affected by) one's own bodyweight induce the body to adapt its power to weight ratio? Has this been tested or studied scientifically? I couldn't find any studies looking at this, but maybe you've come across some? Thanks for reading!

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    Interesting question. On one hand I would say no, the body will barely (if at all) notice a difference between a pushup and a bench press. On the other hand, the body always tries to adapt and logically, losing fat is an appropriate adaptation. Curious to see some answers! – Dennis Haarbrink Aug 28 '17 at 5:52
  • My understanding is such that it would be the case (body adapting to bodyweight exercises by losing fat faster) only if its survival depended on it. Since, normally, bodyweight exercises are just leisure activities, there is no real reason for the body to adapt. – Enivid Aug 31 '17 at 18:56
  • @Enivid With the same reasons you could argument, that training should not have any effect at all. Going to the gym is - normally - a leisure activity, too and not a case of survival. Still the body adapts to the stimulus and grows muscles. – Paul K Sep 8 '17 at 9:59
  • I think the major distinction between the exercises you listed are compound versus isolation. – Eric Nov 6 '17 at 23:47
  • It seems implausible. In either case your muscles are adapting to a stimulus (moving your weight or moving some metal). You're proposing that instead of that adaption your body is able to detect the source of the weight providing that stimulus (...how???) and reduce that instead. – Nathan Cooper Feb 13 '18 at 10:37
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I cannot answer this from a scientific perspective but just from experience and common sense, bodyweight exercises are indeed easier when you have more muscle and less fat but the same should apply for weight exercises, say a pulldown. If you keep your overall weight constant, for example 80kg, more muscle and less fat will make a pull-up easier because there are more muscle tissue working on the same resistance, which is 80kg. Under this logic, a pulldown with 80kg will also feel easier once you have gained more muscle and reduced fat. So, in theory, both types of training are actually telling your body to adjust its power to weight ratio.

Having said that, however, the advantage of bodyweight exercises is that these are usually compound movements, while with weighted exercises there is a chance to isolate target muscles, as with a pulldown. In this sense, bodyweight exercises should induce more fat loss because there are actually more muscles working at the same time. It is a matter of the nature of the exercise which drives fat loss, not whether it becomes easier with time.

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Your body makes no distinction between types of training. Body weight work, dumbbells, and bands are all capable of building muscle. This is because the body perceives muscular tension as being the same no matter what the source of that tension is. The level of tension that can be achieved can vary obviously, with dumbbells and bands having an easier route to higher tension. However, body weight work usually requires variations on exercises in order to increase the tension to a desirable level (after building sufficient muscle in the basic version of an exercise). Because of this, body weight work can be a bit confusing to beginners. Regardless, any muscle that can be trained with weights or bands can be trained doing body weight work. The simple truth is that one of the three mentioned methods of training will usually be more efficient than the other two for reaching certain goals, and your goals will determine which method you'll want to utilize (sometimes all three).

You mention fat loss here, but I believe that you're looking at this the wrong way. Exercise does many things, but two things in particular that most people are concerned with are that it builds muscle and burns calories. The amount of calories that can be burned through exercise pails in comparison to what can be achieved with a proper diet. If fat loss is your goal, you should be focusing on your diet first. Exercise is a fantastic thing, but your diet will determine how much fat you gain or lose, not your style of exercise.

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Okay, that said, let's now address your questions specifically...

Can bodyweight exercises induce body recomposition?

Yes, but so can any type of exercise that stimulates the body properly.

Could performing bodyweight exercises (with added weight when necessary) induce fat loss more when compared to similar non-bodyweight based exercise?

It depends entirely on the exertion given and how much demand is being made on the muscles. The more you exert yourself, the more calories you will burn. You'll also create the opportunity for hypertrophy, which in itself burns calories. Therefore, the harder the work, the more fat loss you will see from it. I should reiterate that your diet will be the primary concern here however.

Could focusing on exercises which are sensitive to (affected by) one's own bodyweight induce the body to adapt its power to weight ratio?

Yes, but again, so could any type of training. The reason being is that the muscles will get bigger and stronger from training.

Has this been tested or studied scientifically?

Yes. To be blunt, this is the entire purpose of strength training.

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