Calisthenics Or Weight Lifting?

By |2018-08-23T12:50:34+00:00July 30th, 2018|Fundamentals|

Which one is more effective…

…Calisthenics or weight-lifting?

Lots of beginners struggle with this issue trying to figure out the best way to train.

I used to wonder a lot about this 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 reading were quite dogmatic and hold a negative view towards weight-lifting.

Because it’s easier to accept other people’s opinions than to think for yourself, I became dogmatic as well.

The main reason I’m writing this post is that there are still lots of training resources that are very dogmatic and biased towards one method or the other.

With this post, you’ll be able to get the whole picture…

…And decide which method is best for YOUR goals.

Do you think calisthenics is the way to go?

Then start right away with your FREE Beginner’s Plan.

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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 goal is to overcome as much resistance as possible.

No matter how you choose to train (be it weight-lifting or calisthenics), resistance is resistance.

What does this mean?

Simple.

As long as you’re increasing the resistance, you’ll get stronger – no matter the tools you’re using.

[The same principles apply to muscle building and endurance.]

That is very easy to verify as there are numerous athletes who have excelled while training with different methods and tools.

And with that out of the way, let’s see the…

Benefits of Calisthenics

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 and at any time.

Nothing can stop you from doing a set of push-ups and bodyweight squats or, if you are more advanced, of one arm push-ups and pistol squats.

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 or an ab-wheel 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 membership.

You can even start training with no investment at all.

The only thing that you certainly need is a good program to follow.

Benefit #3: No Excuses

Having no requirements for equipment or a specific place and time, bodyweight training leaves you with very few excuses.

You can always train with calisthenics. All you need to start training is your body.

Benefit #4: Target Multiple Qualities

To progress in calisthenics you need to train with more complex movements.

This 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 Weight-Lifting

Weights

Benefit #1: Easy Progress

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 – especially in the beginning.

You don’t have to figure out anything new.

If you want to get stronger, you just add more weight to the barbell. (Of course, a sound training plan is a must.)

Benefit #2: Reflect On Your Progress

A great byproduct of progressing easily is the ability to track your progress just as easily.

When you train with weights, you can easily reflect on your training and see if you are getting any stronger. And you can easily see how much your strength has increased so far.

For example, when you’ve increased your deadlift by 50kg (110 lbs), you know that you are 50kg stronger in deadlifts than before.

In bodyweight training, you can’t do that. – Not with such precision and ease.

Benefit #3: You Can Isolate

This is one of the reasons lots of bodybuilders use weights. You can target specific muscles if you want to.

Not everyone wants to be a bodybuilder. However, the ability to target and isolate muscles can help you strengthen your weak links, fix muscle imbalance, etc.

Isolation can also be applied for rehabilitation purposes.

Benefit #4: Fast Muscle Gains

Weight-lifting is going to help you get bigger (if that is your goal) faster than bodyweight training.

Do you think calisthenics is the way to go?

Then start right away with your FREE Beginner’s Plan.

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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 more knowledge of biomechanics – if you want to progress effectively.

In addition, for some gymnastic skills, you have to train with static holds. Progressing with static holds is very different from progressing with dynamic movements and requires more studying on your part.

Disadvantage #2: Limitations in Leg Training

This is the biggest 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.

No matter how many advanced moves you achieve (ie. Pistol squats, dragon pistol squats, shrimp squats – you name it), you’re essentially lifting the same amount of weight.

[Of course, there are other benefits of training with such movements (ie. Mobility, balance, etc).]

Disadvantages of Weightlifting

disadvantages of weight lifting

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 is way more expensive – as you need to make a considerable investment to get all the equipment you need. But this way gives you more independence and freedom than joining a gym.

Going to the gym is less expensive (in the short term). 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 access to equipment, you’ll have difficulties getting a quality workout.

The Best Approach

So…

Which one is best?

Well.

That depends on YOUR goals.

If you’ve read the whole article, then you already know what’s best for YOU.

But let me share with you some examples, of when to use each method…

Calisthenics is best when:

  • You are traveling constantly and you need a way to stay in shape and grow stronger.
  • You, for whatever reason, don’t have access to weights.
  • You want to achieve advanced and impressive bodyweight movements.
  • You’re solely interested in endurance and conditioning.
  • You want to build a gymnast-like or calisthenics physique.

Weight-Lifting is best when:

  • You want to build as much muscle as possible.
  • You want to gain lots of muscle – fast.
  • You want to become stronger in weight-lifting moves (like squats and deadlifts).
  • You want to build a weight-lifting physique.

Both methods work equally well when:

  • You want to lose fat
  • And get in shape

BUT…

There is a way that’s best for any situation…

A way that will help you eliminate the drawbacks and maximize the benefits.

What’s that?

It’s combining weights with calisthenics (ie. Weighted calisthenics).

Let me explain.

Once you become proficient in pull-ups, instead of training with archer pull-ups, you can train with weighted pull-ups.

That way, you can both scale the movement easily and achieve an advanced bodyweight move – the one arm chin-up.

For example, check out this tutorial:

Another way to combine both methods is to train with calisthenics for upper body strength and use weights for lower body strength.

Anyway…

If you are a beginner, don’t waste too much time on such debates.

Just pick the method that is more convenient for you and start training right now! As I said in the beginning, resistance is resistance – no matter where it comes from.

~Nick

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Photo credit: weights, pull up bars, calisthenicsweights, weightlifting.

Do you think calisthenics is the way to go?

Then start right away with your FREE Beginner’s Plan.

Get Instant Access!