So you’re a noob and you don’t know what kind of training will work for you? In our fitness world, there are two training styles that gym-goers always seem to pit against each other: calisthenics vs weights.
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Calisthenics (aka. bodyweight training) involves exercises like pull-ups, push-ups, and dragon flags while weight lifting uses standard gym equipment like barbells, dumbbells, and machines to perform more traditional movements like squats, bench presses, and deadlifts.
But which training style actually produces more muscle gains?
Let’s break down the differences between the two, so you can determine which is the best option for you based on your lifestyle and fitness goals.
The Difference Between Calisthenics Vs Weights
While both are forms of strength training, calisthenics are exercises that use just your bodyweight, while weight training uses external resistance.
With calisthenics, you generally don’t need any equipment or devices with the exception of a pull-up bar that’s easy to install and use.
Examples of calisthenics, or body weight exercises, are:
Weight training exercises include:
- Bench presses
- Bicep curls
- Overhead presses
It should be noted that there are some calisthenics exercises that you can’t simulate with weight lifting, and vice versa.
Calisthenics Vs Weights: Benefits and Drawbacks
6 Awesome Benefits of Calisthenics
- Since calisthenics involve lifting, lunging, pulling, and pushing movements with little or no equipment, one of the best things about this form of exercise is that you can workout anywhere. You don’t have to go to the gym to get your workout in. Instead, you can easily work up a sweat at home, at the park, or in your office.
- When you are traveling for work or play, you can easily perform many of the movements in a hotel room or at a campsite.
- Getting started with calisthenics is also extremely easy. You don’t have to sign up for a gym membership or buy an expensive set of weights and equipment. Instead, you can start by doing some push-ups, planks, and sit-ups when you wake up in the morning or before you go to bed at night.
- When it comes to physical endurance, calisthenics are great because these movements aren’t about exercising to the point of exhaustion. Instead, the focus is building your core and strength. Holding a plank for two-minutes will do more for your endurance than lifting weights.
- Calisthenics help you strengthen your entire body, and they also contribute to developing physical coordination and movement control. These exercises will engage your motor reflexes of the brain, and ultimately, that will boost your functional strength.
- Calisthenics require more stabilizers. If your goal is to improve your balance, posture, and stability, calisthenics can access these kinds of muscles more efficiently than weight training.
- Relatively safe.
2 Drawbacks of Calisthenics
As for the negatives of calisthenics, here are a couple quick ones.
- It’s much more difficult to train specific muscle groups instead of your body as a whole. Trying to isolate tiny muscles becomes a challenge since most calisthenic movements requires that you work your body as a unit.
- Calisthenics build mass slowly. How long it takes to build muscle with calisthenics varies. Most guys who train this way have a fairly lean and limber look. This is because calisthenic movements are somewhat difficult for creating a mass-building program. This is often better suited for weight programs.
4 Undeniable Benefits of Weight Training
- If you want to strengthen your muscles quickly and dramatically, weightlifting is by far your best option. There are so many exercises and machines created around the idea of training with weights that building muscle using this method has become very simpler in recent decades.
- No matter if you use free weights or weight machines, you will see amazing results because you can change the resistance and train specific muscles. Unlike calisthenics, muscle isolation and varying your training resistance is made much easier.
- It’s easier to tracking your progress. What’s good about weight training is resistance and weights are categorized and tracked by actual numbers unlike calisthenics. Many times with calisthenics, the only progress indicators you have are volume and body measurements.
- It’s easier to follow progressive overload. Progressive overload is the concept of incrementally increasing the resistance on a muscle so that it must continue to adapt and grow over time. Weight training makes following this concept easy since you can increase resistance by almost any increment.
5 Drawbacks of Weights
Of course, there are cons when it comes to weightlifting.
- First, you will definitely need to make a financial investment, either with a gym membership or buying a set of weights and home gym equipment.
- You need access to various equipment. You must have access to a power rack for squats and deadlifts, a bench, barbells, dumbbells. (Honestly, the list could go on and on.)
- There is also a higher risk of injury when using weights as compared to calisthenics. Heavy weights can affect your joints and your back, especially when you aren’t using proper form.
- Let’s be honest: weightlifting can get a little boring. Sure, you can keep upping the weight on your bench press, but that’s not as cool as being able to do handstand pushups.
- To get maximum results with weight training, you need to have some serious knowledge about exercises and routines. You will also need to know when to train certain muscle groups and when to rest. Plus, your diet and macros will have a significant effect on your results.
Calisthenics Vs Weights: Which is better?
Which is better for fat burning?
When done correctly, both calisthenics and weightlifting can be equally as effective at burning fat, especially when used in workouts like HIIT or circuit training.
But Healthline argues that calisthenics is better for fat burning because it requires more movement and energy, thus more calories burned.
However, lifting weights burns calories too, and building muscle (via weightlifting) will increase your BMR (basal metabolic rate), which increases the number of calories you’ll burn while resting.
Which is better for building strength?
Well, first off, both calisthenics and weightlifting involve using resistance to challenge and strengthen your muscles. Secondly, it’s all about progressive overload – as long as you’re consistently increasing the difficulty of your workouts, whether it be through adding more reps or weight, your muscles will continue to adapt and grow. And lastly, let’s be real here – the only difference between the two is the tools you’re using. A barbell and weights can give you gains just as much as a park bench and your own bodyweight can.
Which is better for bodybuilding?
Both calisthenics and weights are effective at building muscle. But weights are better for bodybuilders. With weights you can lift heavier, and isolating specific muscle groups is easier. Also, progression with weights is more straightforward as you can simply add more resistance, unlike calisthenics where you’ll need to adjust the exercise performed.
Which is better for Injury prevention?
Compared to weights, calisthenics is less likely to lead to injury. Since the only weight you’ll be lifting with calisthenics is your body, there’s little to no danger when you let go (not so much with weightlifting). Also, you’ll rarely need a spotter when you’re doing calisthenics, unlike with weights.
Which is better for longevity?
When it comes to improving overall health and longevity, both calisthenics and weightlifting are great. Each of them has its unique benefits for your health, but both involve strengthening your muscles and bones, improving your cardiovascular health, and reducing your risk of chronic diseases.
Should You Combine The Two?
Instead of doing one or the other, why not combine calisthenics with weights? Well, it’s nothing new, and many workout routines you’ll come across consist of both calisthenic and weight-based exercises.
You can combine both of them in the same workout. Or you can decide to do weight training on one workout day, then calisthenics the next.
Remember that calisthenics and weights are both effective training styles, but require unique training skill to improve. Combining them into a single routine could hinder your form improvements if the exercises don’t adequately support eachother.
Final Thoughts on Calisthenics Vs Weights
Ultimately, only you can answer this question. It depends on your lifestyle and your fitness goals. Calisthenics do offer more advantages than weights because they don’t require equipment or a gym membership, but you probably won’t see results as quickly as you would with weights.
In fact, the Cali Move Body Transformation Basics Program is an outstanding muscle-building and fat loss program that uses calisthenics only. On the flipside, if you’re more into weight training, check out our review of Superhero X12 instead.
If your goal is better mobility and a nicely built, strong, and fit body, then calisthenics are the better option. However, if you want to get bigger and stronger, then you should probably choose weightlifting.
Calisthenics Vs Weights FAQs
Does calisthenics build muscle faster than weights?
No calisthenics aren’t known to build muscle faster than weights. Although both calisthenics and weights are effective at building muscle, weights may be better because you can lift heavier, isolate muscle groups better, and progression is more straightforward.
Is calisthenics harder than weightlifting?
Calisthenics may be a bit harder than weightlifting because calisthenics requires you to have perfect balance and complete control of your body. Also, calisthenics utilizes your smaller and weaker muscles to stabilize your body during the exercise.
Is calisthenics better than weightlifting?
Calisthenics is not really better than weightlifting because both training styles are effective for building strength, gaining muscle, and burning fat. However, the major benefits of calisthenics are that you need minimal to no equipment, workouts can be done almost anywhere, and there’s less risk of injury.
Can you build muscle with only calisthenics?
Yes, you can build a decent amount of muscle with only calisthenics. However, if bodybuilding is your aim, weights will do a much better job as you can lift heavier and progress easier.