What I’m going to try and do in this post is answer a huge question that’s often debated around calisthenics or weight training being better.
Nowadays it’s all about equipment. It’s all about going to the gym, it’s all about the power used to bulk up. But that’s not the whole story, and the beauty and simplicity of calisthenics cannot be ignored.
So what we’re going to do here is talk you through everything you need to know about calisthenics and weight training in comparison.
I’ll talk you through the pros and cons of each, discuss which could be best, and talk about whether they should be used in harmony to create the perfect routines.
Isn’t Calisthenics Basically Gymnastics?
For your average gym rat there is a perception that calisthenics is basically gymnastics, or CrossFit, or something like that. It’s seen as not as “good”.
It’s push-ups, it squats, it’s dips. Yes you might use a bar, but other than that it’s just bodyweight that creates the resistance. It’s a bit dull, it’s not particularly cool.
But no, it’s not gymnastics, and since the times of ancient Greece, it’s been a highly refined way of developing muscle tone and cutting body fat without resorting to using equipment. So you shouldn’t dismiss calisthenics before understanding what it can achieve for you.
Calisthenics Or Weight Training?
The problem is that you are creating an either/or question. You’re deciding that one has to be better than the other, and the truth is that that’s not actually the way to look at it. It depends on your situation and the goals you have.
Also, it may not even be a choice of which is better, and making a decision to use one method or the other. The two can be used interchangeably and together as well.
Calisthenics tends to be looked at as boring, because it’s push-ups, squats, dips, pullups, all that boring stuff that hurts your muscles, but because there are no weights creating resistance there’s a perception that it’s creating lower levels of development.
To an extent that’s true, but it depends on your goals, and it’s not the whole story.
At the other end of that is weight training, which unsurprisingly has the goal of using weights to exhaust your muscles in order to build them as fast as possible.
But the thing is, weight training doesn’t necessarily make you fit overall, it’s not necessarily great for you. Calisthenics may not get you as big, but they can certainly get you more defined and ripped alongside increasing your fitness.
The problem is that in the modern gym environment, even amongst trainers, calisthenics are often ignored in favor of the far cooler machines and huge weights. That’s potentially a tragedy that is holding back some people’s progress.
The Pros And Cons Of Focusing On Calisthenics
To give you more food for thought, let’s focus on the pros and cons of calisthenics first. It’s the original resistance training, that really became common around the time of the ancient Greeks.
Yes, they did sometimes use weights, but mostly it was about using bodyweight and positioning to stress muscles and build endurance.
The pros of calisthenics are:
- The most obvious pro of using calisthenics is that you don’t have to use equipment. So it’s virtually free to do, and you can do it the only exception to that is you might want to use some sort of bar, if you’re at home for example, it could be one of those pull-up bars that hooks onto the door frame.
- There’s no set up required. If you’re into minimalism and just getting on with it, and you don’t want to mess around in the middle of your routine changing weights up or down, then calisthenics can be a great option.
- You can do calisthenics anywhere. So if you’re away in a hotel, or in an unusual situation, you can still get your body fit. No restrictions, nothing to worry about.
- The exercises you are doing are mostly functional. They are using natural movements to build muscle and strength. So you are building your body’s ability to cope with real-life applications rather than just pumping huge muscles in certain areas of the body.
- Overall, calisthenics can develop your body more than people think. You can get an impressive chest using just bodyweight exercises, it’s the same with all areas of the body, especially the upper body where it’s easier to produce natural resistance.
- Calisthenics mixed with high-quality supplements can dramatically improve your strength, endurance, and the tone you create. Even if you don’t want to go down the road of SARMs, which can be excellent for all of those things, you could still use the natural supplements available from CrazyBulk to take your natural body development up a level.
The cons of calisthenics are:
- You’ll hit a glass ceiling sooner with calisthenics than you will with weights for several obvious reasons. Great for maintenance or getting started, or for combining, on their own, calisthenics can eventually stop bringing notable rewards.
- There’s a bigger limit on the exercise you can do, and therefore the resistance training you can create naturally for your body. This is especially true on the legs, as there are only so many squats and things you can do before you plateau.
- Calisthenics can be tough to stick with. To go up a level you have to get more intricate, and this can be really tough to do. The advanced moves that hit the muscle groups harder can sometimes be so tough to achieve in any reasonable length of time that you can end up quitting.
- Calisthenics deliver minimal isolation work opportunities. Everything in calisthenics is obviously around compound movements, and you can’t isolate without equipment.
The Pros And Cons Of Focusing On Weight Resistance Training
So let’s now take a quick look at the pros and cons of weight training, so you can compare and contrast them with calisthenics.
The pros of weight training are as follows:
- The crucial one is obviously progressive overload. This is the thing you can’t really do with calisthenics, alongside targeted isolation work. With weights you can create an indefinite and strictly controlled progressive overload. The net result is the muscles you work on will develop far more quickly than they can with calisthenics, once you get past a certain point.
- You’ll get the dual pleasures of isometric and compound exercises. That means you can do the holy Grail route of compound lifts followed by isolation movements, things like leg curls, press downs, things like that. That means that at the same time you can both work on your general development and target the areas that need further work.
- There’s no denying it, because you are hitting more angles with weight training, your body will react more aggressively. Your blood will pump harder, you’ll get more fatigue, and your speed up your metabolic processes. The goal is to get bigger muscles, and doing weight training will allow all of this to happen, and release more of the hormones that help to repair and build muscle.
- Finally, and this is overlooked often, going to the gym allows you to have a good routine. With calisthenics, it’s not quite so easy. But especially if you are just starting out, you’ll get into the habit of going to the gym, working through a routine that works for you, and then just incrementally adding weight. It’s a far easier way of getting started with a lower dropout rate.
- Weight training backed up by SARMs or legal steroids like the CrazyBulk supplements will dramatically enhance your physique in a way you simply can’t with calisthenics. You’ll just make more progress than you ever could naturally.
But it’s not all good news with weight training. Let’s take a quick look at the cons of using weights and equipment:
- Obviously, you will need space and money to use weight equipment at home, or you’ll have to pay the significant outlay and time commitment of a gym membership.
- Time can be a big problem. You have to get to the gym, warm up, go through the routine, warm down, and then get home. After the work that can be a commitment of two hours or more several times per week. Not great if you’re in a relationship or have kids either.
- Eventually you will still plateau. It’s then going to be small gains, or using supplements like SARMs to get you over the bump in the road. Progress will still happen, but you have to step up to another level which few people do.
- The bigger the weights, the more complex the movements, the more likely you are to get injured. The likelihood of a significant injury that slows you down for weeks is far more prevalent with weight training than it is with simple calisthenics.
Which Builds More Muscle?
The obvious answer to the question around which method builds more muscle is that weight resistance training does, especially in the long run.
In the beginning, there won’t be much difference, but as you add weight, and progress, the difference will be more pronounced.
However, depends what sort of physique you want. If you want that lean, ripped look, that sportsman look, then calisthenics can be perfect. It’s if you want that really bulked up look when calisthenics just won’t cut it in the long run.
Overall Is Weight Training Better Than Calisthenics?
The obvious answer is yes, especially if you are lazy or a beginner. You’ll make progress equally initially with both, but the bulk and strength will build up more quickly with weight training.
Calisthenics have their advantages, and if you get through the variations you can really develop superb tone. For example, you can get from standard press ups all the way to planche press ups, but it’s one hell of a journey. A lot of people will give up with that sort of complexity.
So a lot of it depends on your mindset and the body you want to achieve.
But it’s not the whole story. Diet and nutrition are crucial. As is building in good recovery routines to maximize your returns.
It’s also about whether you do build in supplement use, especially something like SARMs, to develop yourself further and faster, no matter what methodology you are using.
Sometimes It’s Better To Build Your Fitness Goals Using Both
So the conclusion of my piece here on whether calisthenics or weight training are better is slightly complex and individual unfortunately. But that’s the truth, and better is a subjective term anyway.
What are your goals? Do you want huge strength and muscle? Then sure, you need to hit the gym and you need to hit it hard at times.
But if you want great core strength, superb tone, and that chiseled all round classic male look, then calisthenics can be great, and often all you need.
One other point make about calisthenics is that they can build mental strength. Because you are relying on your body resistance, the path can be tough, especially when the exercises are more intricate and challenging. That can lead to a stronger mindset and dedication if you stick with it. It’s also true because you’re not using machinery, so there’s no interest, it’s just you and your body which leads to a focus and mindset that you just can’t achieve with weight training.
The bottom line for me is that the best overall thing to do is to work both into your overall fitness goals.
That way you are hitting all angles, and not relying on just one method to get you to where you want to be. It also gives you far greater control over where you focus your energies, and you’ll be able to get more nuanced results.
As I’ve said as well, if you want to make more progress more rapidly, you need to back it up with superb diet and nutrition, and good recovery. Plus, SARMs and legal steroid supplements really can dramatically increase your strength, determination, bulking, cutting, all of it to take things up to another level entirely.