Calisthenics vs Weight Training: 11 Differences To Help You Choose Best

weight training vs calisthenics


If you are planning to give a kickstart to your fitness journey and stuck into choosing between calisthenics vs weights then this article is going to provide all the details you need. 

I have been into weight training for a very long time and I have been a firm believer in weight training but calisthenics is something that I admire from the depths of my heart. 

What’s so special about calisthenics?

Because it makes you stronger relative to your body weight.

At the gym, we see many lifters deadlifting or squatting with 400 pounds, everyone there is attempting to lift heavier by each passing day. But if you ask them to do 15 pull-ups in a row, most of them will fail miserably. Reason? Weight training might be improving your body’s ability to move the weight from one point-A to point-B but it is not helping in improving the functional capabilities.

Calisthenics is more focused on body control, coordination, and balance. Calisthenics determines how strong you are relative to your body weight. That’s the reason I promote my trainees to practice body weights movements on a regular basis. 

This article will educate you about the calisthenics vs weight training, and the optimum way to improve the body’s overall ability.  

Calisthenics vs Weight training

So what’s the difference between the calisthenics and weight training? Weight training is all about training a particular part of the muscle to gain strength and hypertrophy. On the other hand, calisthenics is a less complicated freestyle discipline that helps to gain strength and muscle mass with minimum equipment. Both the training pattern have their own sets of advantages over others, lets dig deep to choose the best solution for your needs.

We are going to cover many different aspects of calisthenics and weight training to help you know the benefits and drawbacks of both.

1# Strength and progressive overload

Strength development is the number one factor why we lift weights, but before we talk about strength development we need to understand what kind of strength you are looking for. 

Are you pursuing to be a powerlifter Or are you trying to improve strength for a better quality of life? 

A footballer requires a different kind of strength and a bodybuilder requires a different kind of strength, decide what kind of strength are you looking for. 

Weight training allows you the “progressive overload”, it’s a process of continuously increasing the resistance that allows the body to develop greater strength. 

Calisthenics also allows you to develop strength, but it’s functional strength. Functional strength not only makes you strong but also improves the quality of life by strengthening larger muscle groups that are required for everyday tasks and activities

2# Muscle mass

Muscles don’t understand the term “bodybuilding”, it just adapts to the resistance by improving strength and muscle mass. 

Are you trying to look like a muscle monster or trying to achieve aesthetics?

Weight training not only focuses on strength development but also includes various methods to achieve maximum hypertrophy. 

If growing as big as possible is your end goal then weight training should be your top choice but if you are looking for a greek god physique then calisthenic is also a reliable option. 

The larger volume of compound movements in calisthenics allows the body to develop muscle density and strength. it includes bodyweight workouts that demand core strength, balance, and coordination, it does not revolve around packing maximum muscle size. 

3# Aesthetics

What is the true meaning of “Aesthetic look”? It’s referred to as an artistic look. 

I hear this so often, lifters at gyms are always complaining about the underdeveloped body-part. Some have weak shoulders and others have a week’s chest. 

Why do calisthenic athletes look more aesthetic and symmetric? Because they let nature do the work. Instead of concentrating on the isolation movements, they practice compound movements on a daily basis to improve the involvement of stabilizer muscles. 

Chris Heria and BarBrothers are two most most famous calisthenic practitioners.

What are stabilizer muscles? Every lift involves two types of muscles 1) primary muscle group, 2)Stabilizer muscle groups. Stabilizer muscle groups support your targeted muscle groups to lift heavier.

The problem with weight training is, lifter pay more attention to the isolation workouts to achieve great pump and hypertrophy but that leads to the underdeveloped stabilizer muscles. 

A person who practices calisthenics devoted all the time doing compound movements that support the development of strong and symmetric V-tapper.

Calisthenics is not focused on gaining size, its focus on improving the volume and difficulty levels. 

4# Complicated

Weight training is complicated. Here are some of the things people worry about: 

  • Worry about constant progressive overload
  • Worrying about hitting a plateau
  • Confused about choosing the training routine
  • Confused about the nutrition
  • Confused about the pre-workout and post-workout supplementation
  • Confused about proper form and technique
  • Confused about whether you need daily cardio
  • Confused about whether you should go heavy while squats or deadlifts.
  • Worried about heavy benching with no spotter. 
  • Confused about choosing between drop sets, giant sets, high volume sets, supersets, etc

The list is endless. 

If you are someone who is overwhelmed with the complications involved, then you should give yourself a chance to practice calisthenics for a few months.

Join a local group that is into calisthenics or just practice by yourself at your garage gym or park. 

Transitioning from weight training to calisthenics will stimulate better growth because of a change in training patterns. 

From my point of view, calisthenics is the easiest way to initiate your personal fitness journey. There is a possibility that you won’t be able to do as many pull-ups then take the help of assisted pull-ups (with resistance bands) or by simply increasing the number of sets instead of reps.  

5# Injury prevention

I have suffered a lot of injuries in my fitness career, and I have seen many people leaving weight training because of the numerous injuries they were getting as they were getting old. 

So what? Every person gets injured in every sport, right? Not really. 

Pro Athlete has to go through the injury phase because their career depends on the performance. But not everyone deserves an injury, especially a person who is going to the gym to get strong and improve the quality of life. 

Although I am not blaming weight training for the injuries, I am blaming the poor form and unavailability of a personal trainer. I have seen people progressing too fast and ultimately begin to get injured. 

Calisthenics has a lesser rate of injuries. Reason? 

  1. Calisthenics focuses on functional movements that your body is naturally designed to perform. 
  2. It’s almost impossible to progressive overload too fast with calisthenics. You gradually increase the number of repetitions and sets which allows your body to adapt and grow strong. 

Calisthenics also prevents injuries because of muscle memory. Believe it or not, your muscle has its own memory system. When you do a single movement again and again, your muscle develops muscle memory to complete the movement with fluidic efficiency. 

6# Costing

Membership cost of a gym can range from $20-$250 per month (depending on location) and the minimum cost of buying weight training equipment will require at least $500. 

On the other hand, calisthenics is virtually free and can be done almost anywhere. You can start your training with no money.

We call it virtually free because it’s up to you whether you want to invest your money on the pullup bars, dip bars, or weighted vest (for progressive overload). 

You always have the option to practice calisthenics for free at the public parks or playgrounds. 

Calisthenics is a clear winner here. 

7# Versatility and convenience

Weight training can’t beat calisthenics in this category. 

Weight training required weights that can not be carried away easily and more importantly, you can not take them on vacation. 

A good calisthenics practice will allow you to work out in almost any part of the world. 

Another thing that should come into consideration is your workout time, calisthenics requires lesser time because of the involvement of big compound movements. 

Additionally, you will not be bound to the gym timing, you will be able to do your bodyweight workout anytime at home or outdoors.  

8# Mobility 

The majority of workout injuries happens because of the lack of mobility.  Although most of the professional trainers pay emphasis on improving mobility but most of the lifters at the gym act ignorant towards its importance. 

Mobility and flexibility are two different things, flexibility is your body’s ability to increase the range of motion because of external force. Mobility is about maintaining full control over movement while the whole range of motion. 

Calisthenics workouts require a lot of control over the range of motion which allows the lifter to develop superior mobility, control and balance. 

On top of it, calisthenics also improves the functional ability which improves your body’s ability to operate in a well-coordinated manner. 

Now tell me wisely, how many guys at the gym are regularly paying emphasis on the mobility drills? Not even 15%, right? 

9# Beginner friendliness

Being beginner-friendly is an important factor for me. 

Do you know the reason why commercial gyms got all the hype? Because they were beginner-friendly, most of the commercial gyms have a large section of cardio equipment and machines to make it easier for the newbies. 

One of the biggest drawbacks with calisthenics is, it’s not beginner-friendly, a beginner might take months to reach 10 pullups in a single set. 

Calisthenics can be quite hard in the beginning since you cant alter your weight but in weight training, you can start with a 5-pound dumbbell and slowly progress towards heavier weights. 

10# Muscle endurance

Muscle reaches fatigue because of the lactic buildup after a set. The ability of your muscles to flush out the lactic residue defines your muscle endurance. 

Going high volume by increasing the number of sets is one of the best answers to improve muscle endurance. 

A weight lifter can also develop greater muscle endurance by engaging in the high volume training routine. 

Calisthenics enhances muscle endurance by default. Most of the calisthenics session involves a large variety of single compound movements. Large volume in calisthenics improves the Lactic threshold.  

11# Calorie burning

We all have been told deadlifts, squats, bench-press burns maximum calories, what’s the reason? Because these are the compound movements that target multiple muscle groups at the same time which results in higher calorie burning

Now, tell me one thing, how many sets of compound movements do you perform while weight training sessions? Most of the people would do 2 compound lifts with 3-4 sets each. 

On the other hand, calisthenics involves a hell lot of compound movements and they are done in high volume.   

How many guys at your gym have six-pack abs? Not even 25%, right? 

Most of the guys who have been regularly practicing calisthenics for more than a year will surely have visibly strong core. Core involvement in the calisthenics is another reason why these guys develop visible abs.

12# Balance and coordination

Weight training hardly improves balance and coordination. All we practice is the ways to improve muscle pump and hypertrophy. 

Whether it’s muscle-ups, human flag, or handstands on the bar, calisthenics truly contributes to the development of superhuman balance. 

Calisthenics can be described as modern yoga where you require great stability, flexibility, mobility, balance, and coordination between your body. 

Take away: 

Calisthenics has a whole different purpose and translates to activity beyond your workout.

Strength war: Calisthenics vs Weight Lifter

Thanks for reading. Questions welcomed in the comments as always. 

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