Calisthenics vs Weight Lifting - Which is Better? Solved!

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Calisthenics vs Weight Lifting – Which is Better? Solved!

Running vs yoga, martial arts vs dancing, calisthenics vs weight lifting – there are all kinds of exercise programs out there, each one claiming to be the most effective option in sculpting your best beach body.

But reality is, not all workouts are created equal.

If you’re just finding ways to squeeze in a quick exercise session somewhere in your busy schedule, then you’d want the workout type that gives you the greatest impact for your efforts.

Here’s the big question:

Calisthenics vs weight training, which one wins?

Let’s jump right in and find out.

crossfit workout street gym

Is There Such a Thing as a Perfect Workout?

You probably know this by now but it’s worth saying again:

There is no such thing as a “perfect” exercise routine.

Everyone is different, especially when it comes to health and fitness. People have different preferences, schedules, budgets, and commitment levels.

Someone who is looking to lose weight should have a different approach from someone who is looking to build muscles. Your own training program should depend on your own goals.

One thing’s for sure:

Whatever exercise you choose, consistency is key.

You need to commit to your program (and this includes proper nutrition and sufficient rest) in order to reap the benefits.

If you are a beginner, your priority should be choosing a workout that matches your lifestyle day in and day out. In that sense, the best exercise is one that is sustainable in every aspect.

Whether you choose calisthenics or weights, it’s always good to start with something convenient and manageable for you. Eventually, you can increase your commitment as your lifestyle allows.

Is Calisthenics Safe for Beginners?

In a nutshell, calisthenics is just bodyweight strength training. This includes movements such as pull-ups, push-ups, muscle-ups and other functional workouts that require minimal equipment.

The word “calisthenics” comes from the Greek word kallos which means beauty and sthenos which means strength. Indeed, regular practitioners of calisthenics look strong and beautiful as they perform the movements with impressive form.

But what about newbies? If you’re a beginner, it will be hard to perform a pull-up without risking injury, right?

Here’s the good news:

You don’t have to start with a balancing handstand.

Calisthenics is not an all-or-nothing program. It offers a range of movements that suit different fitness levels.

The best way to improve in calisthenics is by following a progression. You can start with something basic then as you build enough strength and skill, you can move to a more difficult level, with more resistance.

You can start with wall push-ups and gradually go lower as you gain enough strength to do push-ups on the ground. The same principle can be applied to most other movements as well.

Your progress might feel slow initially because acquiring a bodyweight skill can take time.

But calisthenics is a good option if you’re excited to see all the different things that your body is capable of doing.

Does Calisthenics Help with Weight Loss?

man doing push ups in outdoor

Sorry guys and gals – no matter what workout program you choose, you can’t out-exercise poor food choices.

But while you should never undervalue the importance of a healthy diet, you should also make the most out of your exercise sessions.

Choosing the right exercise couldn’t hurt your progress, right?

Here’s the thing:

In the beginning, any exercise program will help you lose weight.

However, once your body adapts to the movements, you will notice a plateau in your performance and progress. This is what typically happens when you get too comfortable with your running pace or with your HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) routine.

If the body is no longer challenged, weight loss will be minimal.

Following this logic, Calisthenics will only be effective for weight loss if you follow a progressive training program. This means that you challenge yourself more as you become stronger.

Taking the wall push-up example above, you should eventually work and challenge your body to be able to do regular push-ups and maybe even diamond push-ups. It’s just not as effective if you stick to the same thing for a long time.

That said, it’s also important to highlight that Calisthenics might be able to help you adjust your mindset.

When you see the movements as a challenge and your progression as a long process, it will be easier for you to look beyond the numbers on your scale and focus on your overall health and performance instead.

Benefits of Calisthenics

calisthenics training - man exercising on parallel bars

Requires minimal equipment

You won’t need expensive equipment to perform most of the calisthenics exercises, especially if you’re just starting out.

If you have a wall and a floor, then you’re good to go.

You can also do most of the exercises in public parks. This makes it a good option if you don’t want to spend on a gym membership or if you are often travelling to places with no access to exercise equipment.

Provides a full body training

Calisthenics focuses on using the whole body as one unit instead of focusing on individual muscle parts.

Most of the exercises can also help improve agility, flexibility, balance, and coordination.


At the heart of every Calisthenics program is functionality and control.

As you become stronger, you become more aware of how to move your body in certain situations.

Drawbacks of Calisthenics

man doing calisthenics workout

Long learning curve

While there are simpler versions of most of the movements, the actual exercises have a long learning curve. It takes patience, commitment, and discipline to really see the results.

Hard to measure progress

Calisthenics is not a numbers game.

With running, you’ll know the distance and time you ran. With weight lifting, you’ll know the exact weight you lifted before.

It can get frustrating when it feels like you are not getting better. You just have to stick to your program and trust the process.

Not ideal if you want to build a muscular body

With Calisthenics alone, it can be hard to build a muscular body like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s.

Yes, you can add more and more resistance, but it’s only up to a certain point.

With weight lifting, you can keep on adding more and more weights to the bar until you get bigger.

Which takes us to our next point.

How About Weight Lifting?

man lifting heavy barbell on squat rack

A lot of people think that lifting weights is all about being big, bulky and greased up.

Yeah, that’s part of it.

But those who actually lift know that there’s more to it than that.

Lifting weights is known to help with losing fat, staying fit, and preventing diseases.

It is also great in helping build muscle mass, which can help improve strength, joint support, and weight loss.

Just like calisthenics, weight lifting makes your body work against a “resistance”, this time in the form of free weights instead of bodyweight. More resistance means your body has to work harder.

You need to start with learning the correct form and controlling the weight first. Once you understand the basics, you can progress to heavier weights.

If your movement is squat, for example, you can start with just the bar.

You need to rehearse the movements again and again until you are confident that you are not curving your back or hurting your knees. You can slowly start adding weights and consider trying out more challenging movements.

In a sense, weight lifting is just like calisthenics because you can adjust the challenges as you get better and stronger.

However, unlike with bodyweight, there is no limit on the kilograms you can carry.

Is Weight Lifting for Everyone?

Here’s the thing:

For a total beginner who typically spends an entire day in an office cubicle, weight lifting is not intuitive.

It’s not enough to watch a couple of exercise videos and copy what people do. Wrong technique and form can easily lead to sprains, fractures, and other injuries.

Even something as simple as breathing properly or adjusting the power rack and safety bars is not easy to figure out without any help.

Plus, determining the number of sets and reps for a certain movement can be tricky as well.

If you are an absolute beginner, it is best to ask for the help and guidance of a qualified trainer who can help make sure that you are doing everything right.

But once you get the hang of it, it will get easier. It is even possible to create your very own program.

The important thing is to learn how to do the movements right and how to do them safely.

Benefits of Weight Lifting

man lifting barbell

Boosts metabolism and promotes fat loss

If you want to lose weight and keep it off, then weight lifting is a good option for you. It changes your body composition and helps you gain muscle fat.

Keep in mind that you might weigh the same because muscle weighs more than fat. But your clothing sizes will likely become smaller.

Helps fight osteoporosis

Weight lifting is known to help improve bone density. This helps prevent bone loss that naturally comes with aging.

Helps you do everyday activities

Weight lifting can help you move around luggage, carry heavy furniture, and lift kids. Because you know how to move your body properly, there are less risks of injury.

Drawbacks of Weight Lifting

men lifting and wearing CrossFit Reebok Nano 6 shoes

You need equipment

You can’t start weight lifting at home. You need a power rack or dumbbells that can help you perform the movements. If you don’t want to invest in equipment yet, you need to pay for a gym membership.

Finding a place to work out can be difficult when you are travelling.

Beginners require supervision

It’s hard to start weight training without proper guidance. Movements need to be precise in order to do it safely. It’s best to start with the help of a trainer.

Calisthenics vs Weight Lifting: Can I Train for Both at the Same Time?

The word “strong” can mean so many different things.

  • A powerlifter who can deadlift three times his body weight is strong.
  • A calisthenics athlete who can perform ten muscle ups is strong.

Weight lifting and calisthenics may seem like on the opposite ends of the spectrum. But these two training styles complement each other and can help you become a more well-rounded athlete.

It will be wonderful if you have time and access to both.

But if not, then choose the option that is more sustainable for you.

This means choosing what suits your budget, what fits your schedule, and even what’s more fun.

Over to you

So, calisthenics vs weights – which one wins? Either one is a good option.

The more important thing is to commit to a plan that will help you stay in control of your overall health and fitness.

If you’re a beginner, it wouldn’t hurt to give both programs a try to find out which one is more appealing for you.

So, calisthenics vs weight lifting – which one do you think wins? Do let us know!