Which one is more effective?
Calisthenics or weight lifting?
Lots of beginners struggle with this issue trying to figure out with which way to train.
I used to wonder a lot about this issue when I was still a beginner too.
Having no access to equipment, I started training with calisthenics. I started reading books and blogs about calisthenics as well.
The problem was that most of the sources I was getting the information from were dogmatic and hold a negative view towards weight lifting.
Because it’s easier to accept other people’s opinions than to think for one’s self, I became dogmatic as well.
The main reason I’m writing this post is because there are lots of training resources that are still very dogmatic and biased towards one method or the other.
With this post, you’ll be able to get the full picture.
Table of Contents
Resistance Is Resistance
Before moving on, let’s get clear about one thing.
You are getting stronger by overcoming resistance.
In the case of maximal strength, the target is to be able to overcome as much resistance as possible.
No matter how you choose to train, be it weight lifting, calisthenics, isometrics, etc, resistance is resistance.
This actually means that you can get stronger regardless of the tool you are using.
That is very easy to verify as there are numerous athletes who have excelled while training with different methods and tools.
Benefits of Calisthenics
Benefit #1: You Can Train Everywhere
This is one of the greatest advantages of bodyweight training.
The fact that you need very little to no equipment makes bodyweight training very compelling.
You can train in a limited space with minimal equipment.
Furthermore, the equipment that can help you with bodyweight training, can be easily carried in other places. For example, a rope, a pair of rings, an ab wheel, etc, are all portable.
Benefit #2: Low Cost
Training with calisthenics requires very little start-up investment. This, of course, happens because there is no need for expensive equipment or gym subscription.
You can even start training with no money investment at all.
Benefit #3: No Excuses
Having no requirements for equipment or a specific place, bodyweight training leaves you with very few excuses.
You can always train with calisthenics, no matter the place.
All you need to start training is your body.
Benefit #4: Target Multiple Qualities
Progressing in calisthenics requires that you start training with more complex movements.
Training with more complex movements is going to help you target multiple qualities simultaneously.
For example, training with pistol squats is going to increase your mobility, your strength, and your balance.
Benefits of Weightlifting
Benefit #1: Ease of Progression
In my opinion, this is the greatest benefit of weight lifting.
You can easily increase the resistance of your training by adding the amount you want to the barbell.
This allows you to plan your training very easily.
You don’t have to figure out anything new.
If you want to get stronger, you just add more weight to the barbell.
Benefit #2: Ease of Reflection
A great byproduct of progressing easily is the ability to track your progress at least as easily.
When you train with weights, you can easily reflect on your training and see if you are getting any stronger, by the amount of weight you are able to lift.
You can easily see how much your strength has increased so far.
When you have increased your deadlift by 50kg, you know that you are 50kg stronger in deadlifts than before.
In bodyweight training, you can’t do that.
Benefit #3: You Can Isolate
This is one of the reasons lots of bodybuilders use weights. You can target specific muscles if you want.
Not everyone wants to be a bodybuilder. However the ability to target and isolate muscles can help you strengthen your weak links that hinder your performance, fix muscle imbalance, etc.
Isolation can also be applied for rehabilitation purposes.
Benefit #4: Gain Muscle Mass
Gaining mass with weight lifting is easier than with bodyweight training. I am not sure why this happens, but it does.
Weight lifting is going to help you get bigger (if that is your goal) than bodyweight training.
Disadvantages of Bodyweight Training
Disadvantage #1: Progression Difficulty
Progressing with calisthenics isn’t an intuitive thing and it requires far more knowledge than weight lifting does.
In weightlifting, you progress by adding more weight, in bodyweight training, you progress by moving to more advanced and complex movements.
Increasing complexity requires that you have more knowledge of bio-mechanics if you want to progress effectively.
In addition, for some gymnastic skill you have to train with static holds. Progressing with static holds is very different from progressing with dynamic movements and requires some more studying from your part.
Disadvantage #2: Limitations in Leg Training
This is a very big drawback of bodyweight training.
While increasing the complexity of movements can help you gain a very strong upper body and core, it can do very little for some leg muscle groups.
Such a muscle group is the quads.
Disadvantages of Weightlifting
Disadvantage #1: Expensive to Start
If you want to train with weights, you need access to equipment.
There are two ways to get such an access:
- Buy the equipment yourself
- Get a gym membership
Obviously, the first way is way more expensive as you need to make a considerable investment to get all the equipment that your need. But this way gives you more independence and freedom than joining a gym.
Going to the gym is less expensive. There are some great benefits in joining a good gym and most of the times the monthly fee is totally worth it. But even this way, is way more expensive than simply training at home with calisthenics.
Disadvantage #2: Dependence on equipment
If you train with weights only, you become depended on them. As a result, if you ever find yourself in a situation where you don’t have the equipment available you will have difficulties in getting a quality workout.
The Best Approach
Which one is the best method?
There are clearly many benefits worth considering in both types of training.
My approach in training is to use everything that works and since both methods work I combine them as much as I can.
If you train this way, you will be able to maximize the benefits and minimize the drawbacks of each method.
If you are a beginner, don’t waste too much time on such debates.
Instead pick the method that is more convenient to you and start training immediately. As I shared in the beginning resistance is resistance no matter where it comes from.