If you’re thinking about starting working out and you haven’t really made up your mind on which direction you want to go – calisthenics or weight training – this post will go right down your street.
We are going to explain the pros and cons of both types of training and we’ll be answering some of the most common asked question about the two.
After reading this you will be able to decide for yourself which option will suit you best, depending on your personal lifestyle and fitness goals. So let’s get to it.
What’s the difference?
With calisthenics you are using just your bodyweight to workout and most of the time the focus here is on building your relative strength – meaning your strength in relation to your total bodyweight.
Now, with weight training you are using external resistance to workout and the focus is on building your maximum strength – meaning how much weight you can lift, regardless of your bodyweight.
Nevertheless, there are calisthenics exercises you can’t ever reproduce in weight lifting and vice versa.
Pros and Cons of calisthenics
- The major advantage of calisthenics or any bodyweight type of routine for that matter, is that you will need minimal or no gym equipment to do it. You can do it at home, in the park or pretty much anywhere else as long as you have at least a pull-up bar.
- Another benefit of calisthenics is that it will allow you to access a lot of different muscle in your body that you can’t really hit by following a weight training only type of routine. And here we are referring mainly to core muscles and a whole lot of stabilization muscles which you will use in calisthenics to create that body awareness, but not that much when you are weight training.
- With calisthenics, you can advance to learning amazing skills that the average person can only dream of doing, even something as simple as a muscle up will WOW people. You don’t really have that same option with weight training.
- With calisthenics, you progress by using different angles and leverages to make exercises harder, so you will learn how to move your body in space and do some really cool stuff, but progressive overload is not as simple or linear as just adding more weight.
- The biggest disadvantage of calisthenics is that you probably can’t get into it if you are severely overweight, since all exercises are based on your bodyweight.
- You will be less likely to build that much muscle using calisthenics only. Yes, you will get toned up; there will definitely be some muscle definition and muscle gain, but calisthenics is not the optimal way of training if your goal is purely to build a muscular physique.
- Chicken Legs! Training legs with only bodyweight is a major issue. Which is why many people do calisthenics for their upper body and use squats, deadlifts and other explosive lower body barbell movements to build strong tree trunk legs.
Pros and Cons of weight training
- Weight training is the best way of developing your muscles and your strength. These two right here – muscle and strength development, are the most important benefits of weight training.
- It’s no secret that progressively overloading your muscles by lifting heavier and heavier weights is the optimal way of building more mass and more strength. Working out using weights that are heavy enough will target the fast twitching fibers inside your muscles which are capable of great strength output over a short period of time and also have a great growth potential.
- It’s very easy to track your progress when weight training. Simply look at the weight you’re using for your main compound exercises and see how heavier they’ve gotten over the course of your training.
- It’s also very easy to progressively overload your muscles when weight training. Since you’re using an external load, you just up the weight of that load from what you were doing before and you will have progressive overload.
- You will definitely need a gym membership to do your workouts. You need to have access to at least a handful of heavy gym equipment such as a power rack for your squats and deadlifts, some dumbbells, barbells, a bench and the list of equipment and machines could go on forever.
- Another potential downside is that with weight training the risk of injuries is a little bit higher than in calisthenics. Using heavy weights can possibly affect your joints or your back, especially if your form is not that good. So definitely make sure your form is in check and don’t ever use weights that you can’t handle.
- It can get boring. Let’s face it, the most impressive thing you can do with weight lifting is upping the weight. And while it’s cool to see some guy benching 315 lbs, it will never compare to seeing a guy doing a full planche or a sick front lever.
Frequently Asked Questions:
#1 – Can you build muscle with calisthenics?
Even though calisthenics is not the optimal way to build muscle, you can definitely develop your muscles with bodyweight exercises. Additionally, if you want to take things to a new level, you can start attaching weights to your body to develop your muscles more.
So you can do weighted dips, weighted pull-ups or you can start playing around with the tempo or the leverage to activate a specific muscle group more.
#2 – Does calisthenics strength transfer to weight lifting and vice versa?
Sometimes. Of course there is a certain overlap between the two, but this will greatly depend on the specifics of the routines followed by each individual.
For example, most calisthenics athletes that attempt weight lifting will be able to move pretty impressive weight if they’ve done a calisthenics equivalent to that certain weight lifting exercise. Doing a move like the handstand push-up will definitely have carry over to something like an overhead press.
As for weight lifters attempting calisthenics, they will be able to do the basics (pull ups, push ups, etc) but a lot of weight lifters have poorly developed core and stabilization muscles which will not allow them to perform many (if any) of the more advanced calisthenics movements.
#3 – Can calisthenics get your ripped?
Most people who are into calisthenics have a six pack, great muscle definition and are pretty lean. So does calisthenics get you ripped? Well, if you are looking at what science tells us, it’s a caloric deficit what gets us ripped, not a specific sport.
Of course, you will need to have a pretty low bodyweight to be able to perform most of the calisthenics movements, so that’s why people who are into calisthenics are usually lean. But as long as you are eating fewer calories than your body burns, you will be losing fat regardless of the type of sport you are performing.
The real question here is not which one is better, but – what is your goal? If you want better mobility, a nicely built and overall strong & fit body you will probably be better off with calisthenics. But if you want to get bigger and stronger, and you are not that much concerned with being able to perform bodyweight movements, then weight lifting is the best way to go.
Over to you
So, with that being said simply take a step back, think a little bit about that you want to achieve with your body and just pick the option which is going to serve your goals best. Also, keep in mind that calisthenics and weight lifting don’t need to be two totally separated worlds.
There are ways to incorporate different exercises from both of them and create really fun and effective workout routines that will build you an all-round nicely developed body. Just don’t set limits for yourself.