Calisthenics vs weightlifting, which one is better?

A well-known discussion in fitness is about the question which is better, calisthenics or weightlifting.? The push-up versus the bench press, or the pull-up against the lad pull-down? In this post, I will cover everything you need to know. Is there even a better way of training? Can you combine them? Pros and cons? All your questions will get answered down below.

Let’s begin!

The difference between calisthenics vs weightlifting

Before we talk about what is better, I first want to cover the differences between the two. The term weightlifting is used regularly for people who go to the gym. If you pay for your monthly gym membership, you get access to a whole variety of free-weights and other gym equipment, which you can all use for your workouts. The most popular weightlifting exercise are the bench press, squat, deadlift, and, not to be unmentioned, the bicep curl. I think everybody knows these exercises. Weightlifting is by far the most used form of fitness. 

Much more popular than calisthenics, on the other hand. Calisthenics is a form of fitness, in which you only use your own body weight as resistance instead of free weights. This upcoming trend will keep getting more notice due to all the gyms being closes during this pandemic. Unless you got some free weights at home, you are forced to train calisthenics, till the gyms are opening again. The traditional calisthenics exercises are: 

  • push-ups
  • pull-ups
  • dips
  • lunges
  • squats 

Before we go to the pros and cons of each, you should know that there is no difference in resistance between the two, resistance = resistance. Both will build muscle and make you stronger. So as long as you making your workouts intensive enough, you will see results. No matter if you do calisthenics or weightlifting.

Pro and cons of calisthenics

A couple of months back, I made a full post about all the benefits calisthenics has. I picked the best ones and put them here. But, click here if you are interested in the full article. 

Pro: It is really cheap or even free! 

One of the best benefits of calisthenics is that it is absolutely free. You theoretically do not need any equipment for this form of fitness. Bodyweight exercises such as push-ups can be done everywhere at any time. The only thing you need and is a pull-up bar. The pull-up is an essential exercise, so if you do not own a pull-up bar yet, You should definitely consider buying one. But even that is not necessary. There are plenty of calisthenics parks with pull-up and dip bars you can use for free. The only cost is travel time to go there. Want to know if there are any parks in your neighborhood? Click here to visit a website to see every nearby park.

Pro: You are not only gaining strength!

The next benefit of calisthenics, you are not only gaining strength like weight training. The beauty of calisthenics is that there are so many other different aspects you are working on, all at the same time. With calisthenics, you are also developing balance, flexibility, stability, and you will improve your posture. All this will help with better body awareness. It is not only useful during your workouts, but in your daily life as well.

Pro: It looks cool

Calisthenics is not all about getting that good-looking physic or obtaining massive strength. The skills also have a special place. By performing some cool moves, it looks like you have superhuman strength. Everybody will start to pay attention if you are doing one-arm pull-ups, a front lever, or doing planche push-ups. It looks like you are defying the laws of gravity. 

Pro: You will get ripped! 

Almost every bodyweight exercise is a compound exercise. Compound exercises are associated with burning fat really fast. In other words, you will burn a lot of calories doing calisthenics. You will literally melt the body fat of your body. Combined with the fact that the core in almost every exercise is involved will result in you getting some serious-looking abs.

Con: Legs limitations

Training your upper-body with calisthenics is quite easy. There are plenty of intensive exercises that provide muscle building. However, the problem comes with training your legs. Calisthenics leg exercises like the squat or lunges just get too easy after a while. Of course, you can make the exercise more challenging by making it more explosive or take less rest. The only effective calisthenics exercise is the pistol squat. However, this single-legged squat is really tough and takes time to learn.

Training your legs with calisthenics is possible, but I still recommend training your legs with weights.

Con: A challenge for tall and heavy people

To get better at calisthenics, you have to get stronger than your own bodyweight. This is where short/light people have a tremendous advantage. They will yield faster results because they simply weigh less in this weight/strength ratio. That is why it takes much longer for heavier/tall people to learn, for example, a front liver or to get 20 in one set. This, however, does not mean they are weaker. They are, in fact, even stronger. I find it really impressive when I see a tall dude holding a front lever.

Pros and cons of weight lifting

Pro: Easier to isolate

An advantage of lifting free-weights is that you can very easily do muscle isolation exercises. It is the opposite of compound exercises. Isolation exercises ensure that you can completely focus on one muscle. For example, the bicep curl, with this you really and only train your bicep. It can be useful if you, for example, have lagging muscles or want to reduce imbalances. With calisthenics, you have this much less. These are mainly compound exercises.

Pro: Easier to progress

Another advantage of lifting weights is that you can make progress much easier. With calisthenics, as you get stronger, you have to adjust the exercise if you want to make it more difficult. The push-up becomes the one-arm push-ups, and the same goes for pull-ups. It is, however, much more manageable when lifting weights. You just add 5kg to make it harder. Besides, it is also an easy way to track your progress. 

Con: Gym membership or expensive

A disadvantage of lifting weights are the costs. To practice weight lifting, you need weights. You can get these in two different ways. Buy the free weights yourself. However, gym equipment is really expensive. So unless you have enough money, I don’t recommend this. Two, through a gym membership. Here you pay a monthly amount, which can really add up to a lot of money after a few years. Calisthenics, on the other hand, is pretty much free. All you really need is a pull-up bar, but these are not that expensive at all in comparison to free weights.

Con: It can be dangerous

Lifting weight, unlike calisthenics, can be really dangerous if you don’t exercise smartly. On youtube, there are countless videos of gym fails and accidents. In addition, you can really destroy your body if you do not train with the correct technique. You can easily overload your body by exercising too hard. If you deadlift with a curved back, you will really feel that in a few years. Fortunately, it does not have to be dangerous. You will be fine if you use the correct technique or do not overload yourself. 

Which is better? Calisthenics vs weightlifting

To answer the question: which is better, calisthenics or weightlifting. I would say there is no correct answer. Each has there own pros and cons. I think it all comes down to personal preference. Everybody has different goals. Choose based on your goals. I like calisthenics more, but that is just my opinion.

It is also an option to combine the two. This way, you could get the benefits of both. I did this when all gyms were still open. I think this is a really effective way of training.

Anyway, to wrap everything up. There is no best way of training. Only for you, there is a best way of training. This all depends on the goals you have. So do what you think is right for you and train smart!