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Calisthenics Vs Weights: Which One Is Effective For Muscle Building?

When it comes to working out and getting in shape, everybody has their own unique way of doing things.

Not only that, but people also have their own unique preferences and favorite methods of exercising.

Some people enjoy lifting weights and doing more of a strength-based workout, whereas others focus on cardio.

Then, of course, there are those that enjoy and benefit the most from calisthenics.

That’s what we’re looking at today, as we’re going to be looking at Calisthenics vs weights.

We understand that some people enjoy mixing things up and trying a combination of both, but more often than not, people will gravitate more towards one form of training than the other.

Here’s a detailed look at calisthenics vs weights so you can decide which type of training is best for you.

What Is Calisthenics?

First off, we’re going to start today’s article off by looking at what calisthenics are.

Calisthenics is a fitness protocol that has been around for many centuries.

Nowadays many militaries and emergency services will perform calisthenics as a way of keeping fit, and what’s great about that is the fact that nothing much has changed in many centuries.

The Ancient Roman Armies would often train for battle by performing calisthenics, which is a testament to its longevity.

Okay, that’s all well and good, but we still don’t know what calisthenics actually entails.

Basically, calisthenics is a way of training in which you use your own body weight for resistance.

Basically, you perform a series of bodyweight exercises as a way of building muscle, burning fat, increasing your strength, and getting fit and healthy in general.

Chances are that you yourself will have performed calisthenics at some point, without even realizing it.

Ever done sit-ups, stomach crunch, or a push-up?

(You should look at our GHD guide to find out how you can improve your sit-ups.)

If so, then pat yourself on the back because you’ve done calisthenics.

You can incorporate some equipment into your calisthenic workouts such as resistance bands, but for the most part, you do the movements with no equipment at all.

Typically, you’ll perform pulling exercises, pushing movements, lunging movements, and lifting when you take part in a calisthenics workout.

Calisthenics Vs Weights

What Types Of Exercises Are Performed During A Calisthenics Workout?

One of the good things about calisthenics is the fact that there are countless exercises for you to try, so no two workouts need to be exactly the same.

Some of the more common exercises associated with calisthenics workouts, however, include things such as:

  • Bodyweight squats
  • Walking lunges
  • Push-ups
  • Stomach crunches/sit-ups
  • Burpees
  • Mountain climbers
  • Pull-ups
  • Wall Sit
  • Plank
  • Side twists
  • And many more…

Pros Of Calisthenics Workouts:

Now that we know what calisthenics are, it’s now time for us to take a look at whether or not calisthenics is in fact as beneficial as the Ancient Romans would have us believe.

If you’re thinking of performing calisthenics the next time you exercise, here are some key advantages associated with this very unique form of training.

Build Muscle

Surely you can’t build muscle mass without pumping iron and lifting heavyweights in the gym?

Actually, you can.

There are plenty of people out there carrying around a lot of lean muscle mass on their frames that have actually never picked up a dumbbell or barbell in the lives.

When you exercise via calisthenics, you are still stressing the muscles and ripping and tearing the muscle fibers.

As a result, muscle hypertrophy sets in when you repair the muscle tissues, meaning you can increase your lean muscle tissue.

When it comes to building muscle in the back, for example, most pro bodybuilders agree that pull-ups are one of the most effective back exercises in existence, and that includes exercises requiring the use of weights and machines.

If weights aren’t your thing, you can still build muscle with the help of calisthenics.

Increase Your Strength

You can lift all of the weights you like, but if you can’t lift your own bodyweight, any strength that you do have cannot truly be considered functional.

When you perform calisthenics, you’re stimulating the muscles and are helping to increase your strength.

Again, if you want an effective exercise when it comes to building strength and power, bodyweight pull-ups are ideal.

Any exercise which stimulates the muscles is going to assist with building strength and power, so be sure to incorporate more calisthenics into your training routines.


Okay, so you’re busy with work, your family life, and your personal life, and you simply do not have the time or the means to get to the gym.

What do you do?

Does this mean that you should resign yourself to being a skinny-fat, out of shape nobody because you can’t get to the gym to exercise?


It simply means that you need to find an alternative way of exercising that works around you.

Another awesome benefit of calisthenics is the fact that it’s so convenient.

You can perform calisthenics virtually anywhere with a little open space, at any given time.

Instead of heading to the gym, you can train in your garden, the local park, your office, your hotel room, or even your own front room.

With calisthenics, you basically have access to a gym 24 hours a day, 7 days per week.

No Equipment Necessary

If you’re looking for a way of keeping your workouts quick, simple, and effective, then be sure to do more calisthenics.

Calisthenics is useful because there is no equipment necessary.

Your resistance comes in the form of your own bodyweight.

When it comes to the differences, even though you can use additional equipment like resistance bands, exercise balls, and so on, these add-ons are certainly not essential, and you can still get yourself a kick-ass workout in without them.


Another benefit of calisthenics is the fact that it is considered to be much safer than weights.

If you utilize perfect form when lifting weights, and stick with reasonable weights, your odds of being injured are reduced considerably.

However, there is always the risk of injury when lifting weights, no matter how careful you are.

With calisthenics, you’re only using your body weight for resistance, so there is much less of a risk of injury than there is when lifting weights.

Pulled muscles and even torn muscles are still possible of course, but the fact of the matter is that you’re less likely to be injured when performing a calisthenics workout than you are when lifting weights.

Weight Loss

Another reason why calisthenics are considered to be so beneficial is the fact that they promote weight loss.

No matter how complicated people want to make weight loss, it basically boils down to calories in versus calories out.

If you burn off more calories than you take in, you’re going to burn fat.

Guess what?

Calisthenics is a form of physical activity that has indeed been proven to help burn calories and therefore burn off body fat.

If you’re looking for a fun way of losing fat and getting in shape, calisthenics is ideal.

What Is Weight Training?

As we’re looking at who’s better, it’s now time for us to take a look at what weight training is.

We won’t spend too much time on this section because we don’t want to insult your intelligence by assuming that you need a detailed explanation as to what weight training is.

Weight training, or resistance training as it is sometimes known, is a method of exercising in which you lift weights and use resistance-based machines to target different muscle groups on your anatomy.

Whilst people such as bodybuilders will lift weights primarily to build as much muscle mass as possible, there are other advantages associated with weightlifting.

Training with weights and resistance machines will help improve your physical fitness and endurance.

It has also been found to promote fat loss, improve mobility and flexibility, increase your strength, and improve functionality.

Pros Of Weight Training:

In this next section, we’re going to list a few key benefits associated with training with weights on a regular basis.

There are plenty of advantages associated with lifting weights, yet these are some of the most prominent.

Build Muscle

Surprise, surprise. Who knew that lifting weights helped to build muscle?

Oh, that’s right, only anybody who is anybody in the fitness community with half a brain.

We know it’s an obvious benefit, but it’s a very important one, so we’re including it here today.

If you’re looking to bulk up and build lean muscle mass, weight training is indeed very effective.

For optimal results, people training with weights will use a combination of free weights, machines, and some calisthenics when trying to bulk up.

Providing you stress the muscle, you train smart, you follow an effective training routine, and you actually take the time to recover and repair your muscles, weights will indeed help you to build significant amounts of muscle in a reasonable amount of time.

Increase Strength

Not everybody that trains with weights does so in order to build muscle.

A lot of people that lift weights do so because they’re looking to improve their overall strength and power.

When you lift weights, you’ll find that the more you do it, the stronger you get.

People that begin lifting weights will find that, a few months down the line, the weights that they were once maxing out on, are now being used as warmups before they jump into their working sets.

Lifting weights will help to build up your strength and power, which will carry over into the real world, as well as any other sports and activities you take part in.

Burn Fat

So far, you’ve probably noticed that the benefits of weights are very similar to those of calisthenics.

As we’re comparing the two and are looking at the differences, this should come as no real surprise.

Weight training is great for building muscle, we aren’t disputing that.

It turns out, though, that weight training is also very useful for burning fat.

Weight training functions as a very effective form of cardiovascular exercise as you burn off so many calories when doing it.

If you’re burning calories, as long as you burn off more calories than you’re taking in, you’ll lose weight.

Weight training is also beneficial for weight loss because it helps to increase lean muscle mass.

Lean muscle tissue requires more energy to maintain, so the more lean muscle you carry, the faster your metabolism runs.

This is why muscular people require more calories at maintenance than obese people, or skinnier people.

Great For The Bones

One often overlooked/unknown benefit of weightlifting is the fact that it helps to promote strong and healthy bones.

Weightlifting increases bone density, which means that it can potentially help you to fight off conditions such as osteoporosis as you grow older.

Not only that, but it means that you’ll be less likely to suffer from any broken bones.

So, Out Of Calisthenics Vs Weights, Which Is Better?

There really is no one true answer to this question because it’s all relative dependent upon your own unique goals and objectives.

If you’re looking to build muscle and bulk up, then of course weight training is better.

If you want to tone up however, calisthenics would be more beneficial.

To be perfectly honest, they are both equally as beneficial as the next and in an ideal world, you’d combine the two together when training.

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Reda Elmardi

Reda Elmardi

Reda Elmardi is a BJJ, fitness and bodybuilding fanatic. He's been writing about his experiences for over eight years and started his own publications on topics such as BJJ, Steroids, and Fitness.

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