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Calisthenics Vs. Bodybuilding – Which is Better For You?

    Calisthenics Vs. Bodybuilding

    Calisthenics vs gym body

    In the world of muscle building, there are two groups of people. The first is who think the only way to build strength and muscle mass is by lifting weights. The other group is who think calisthenics, bodyweight training, is the best since those exercises are more body-friendly moves.

    And, these two groups love fighting with each other forcing their truth without any factual background. Online forums are full of debates on the topic.

    Go to the gym and lift with professional machines and equipment, or it is enough to do push-ups at home? Or, is it enough to get the calisthenics park trying to do the same exercises that the street workout guys suggest in their videos? Will I be as muscular like they? Is it possible to build a muscular physique without weights? What is the truth?

    These are typical questions.

    I believe the weight lifting and bodyweight strength training can work together perfectly. And, that is what I have been doing for many years now.

    Here I’m going to get into the details of both sports. I try to answer the most common related question to help you to find which is the best choice FOR YOU!

    The first question is: What is YOUR goal?

    • Do you want to be strong and fit?
    • Do you want to develop your endurance?
    • Do you want to have beautifully developed muscles, a spectacular athletic body?
    • Do you want to go to bodybuilding competitions or would you like to become a street workout champion?
    • If you have decided what you want, you need to find the optimal strategy to reach your aims.

    How to reach your goal?

    First of all, it is worthwhile to clarify that to be successful in every sport, we need the right combination of 3 factors for development. What are the 3 vital factors? Workout, rest, and nutrition!

    The keyword is: optimal! What that optimal means? Not too much, not too little.

    But how do you know what is optimal for you?

    You learn to know yourself more in-depth, you learn how to train and eat, you experience how much time your body needs to recover, so you know when to have the next workout. And last, but not least, you think logically.

    We are different, physically, and mentally. We have different backgrounds.

    You have to learn to listen to your body. If something is too much for it, decrease. If too less, raise.

    That is why it is not a good idea to follow every workout or nutrition plan you bumped into even if it is recommended by an expert who has a name.

    Feel, learn, and think.

    What calisthenics athletes can learn from bodybuilders?


    • Conscious training.

    Plan how many workouts you have weekly and know which muscle group you strengthen on the given day. The quantity and quality of your training should not be thoughtless or improvised. Bodybuilders stick to their program and only modify if it is necessary.

    • Focus on your nutrition

    If it is crucial for you to look good in addition to strength exercises, it is good to know that an athletic body is at least 70% dependent on the quality of diet. The remaining 30% consists of the quality of your workouts, rest, and your genetic heritage.

    Girls and boys with a well-developed physique have a strict and organized diet. In the morning they know what they are going to consume for breakfast, lunch, dinner and for snacking. They precisely know what they are going to eat before and after the workout.

    They take care of giving the right type and quality of nutrients for their body at the right time.

    So, they wake up earlier in the morning to prepare their meals. Not easy. But, they are dedicated, that is why they see results.

    • Rest is vital!

    A clever bodybuilder knows that with a hard workout, he damages the muscle fibers. Hence, he only strengthens that muscle group again when the given muscle have got the necessary nutrients and time to recover from the microdamage. Recovery time can be 3-5 days depending on the muscles group.

    That is why it is useless to have a tough pull-up workout almost every day. Your body will not have time to recover. And, that stops your development.

    If you always strengthen a muscle group which is not yet recovered from the previous strength training, there is a big chance that you get into the over-training circle. Your results will stagnate, and in the worst case, you may be injured.


    If the muscle fibers are not regenerated, they are not ready for the next load. Less is more! In this case, it is much batter to have a 1-2 intensive and progressive pull up workout, so recovery time is given.

    • Lifestyle

    The successful bodybuilders consciously incorporate the workout/relaxation/nutrition system into their daily routine, and their lifestyle is organized around this. They try to stick to the system as much as they can. It does not mean they do not have a big fatty burger or some beer sometimes. But, once they cheat, they get back to the system as fast as they can.

    Related: How to start calisthenics

    What bodybuilder can learn from calisthenics athletes

    calisthenics benefits

    Benefits of calisthenics vs weights

    • Break out of your daily routine!

    Give your muscles a new type of resistance. Do you have a back day? Instead of deadlifts and lat pulldowns, get to a calisthenics park and have a hard pull up training. If you find it easy, increase the sets and reps as high as possible. And, if you are powerful, make single arm pull-ups and other tough variations.

    • Be creative!

    One reason why I love calisthenics training so much is that it is so versatile. There are hundreds of moves out there from really easy to challenging ones. The possibilities are endless. On top of that, you can combine different exercises. (That is not so true for weight lifting.)

    Do you have a chest day? Are you a little bit bored with bench presses? Do push-ups with high reps and sets, or its advanced variations like one arm push up. In each set, do as many reps as you can. In the end, you will feel the pump in your pecs for sure!

    • Get outdoor to breathe fresh air.

    Get rid of the smelly and comfortable, air-conditioned gym from time to time. Enjoy the fresh air and the not-so-comfortable conditions of the outdoor training. The gym is not the only place where you can build muscle.

    Time to time surprise your body with workouts for which it is not prepared for. Calisthenics moves, bodyweight training, offers excellent opportunities for your body to develop and improve. Learn new methods and exercises and try them.

    If you do not feel yourself safe without weights, take a pair of dumbbells with you and combine the bodyweight exercises with dumbbell ones. This way, you give your body a new impact, forcing it to adopt.

    If you just lift weights, it can happen for any reasons that you have no time going to the gym to pump iron. You have to learn how to work your muscles in spite of negative factors. Bodyweight strength training is the best option for that since you do not need any equipment, maybe a pull-up bar is all you need.

    If now you just use your body for working out, you can get into a stage when you are not satisfied with one of your muscle group, or you want to look better. That is the time to grab weights to give something new to those muscles.

    When do you need to lift weight if you do calisthenics training?

    To target muscle groups that do not develop as you want.

    There is a good reason why athletes lift weight in many sports for developing strength and endurance. The body works as a unit, so it is advisable to train all muscle groups. To target a particular muscle group, the simplest and most effective techniques are weighted exercises or gym machines.

    You can do hundreds of push-ups but still have a flat chest? Do you want to make them bulkier? It is time to target your pecs with weighted exercises like bench presses.

    Another typical example when the calisthenics athlete has an upper-body like a Greek God’s, but his legs are similar two pieces of breadsticks. What is the solution to get a symmetric physique? Get to do gym and squat with weights and use the special leg machines there to put muscles on your lower body.

    If you feel a body part does not progress as it should include weight training in your calisthenics workout plan.

    Why is it recommended for a bodybuilder to do bodyweight exercises frequently?

    The main reason is the power of surprise and gain. Let’s say you can bench press with 230 lb easily, but you get surprised when you do some sets of 25 push-ups. That is a new stimulus to progress. Moreover, bodyweight exercises are closer to the natural movements of the human body, and this way, these exercises develop the coordination of the body.

    Pros and cons of calisthenics

    • At home with a doorway pull up bar even if you have just a limited space to exercise, or at a nearby playground, you can have calisthenics workout at home. That is practical if you are busy.
    • One of the disadvantages of calisthenics is that it is not easy to develop the lower body.
    • With optimal nutrition, rest, and workout, you can get an excellent condition and an attractive looking body. But if you want big bulky muscles, bodybuilding is the way to go.
    • If besides being fit you want to build nicely-built muscles, calisthenics training requires a lot of time and effort. If that is one of your goals, it is recommended to implement weighted exercises for your plan. This way, you can save time reaching a better-looking body faster. But, do not forget that proper nutrition is the critical factor, which is 70% responsible for the gain.

    Related: Calisthenics transformation examples for motivation

    Cons and pros of bodybuilding

    • With an adjustable weight bench and a pair of adjustable dumbbells, you can start shaping your body. It requires investment and dedication. The other option is going to the gym, which costs money. However, investing in yourself is the best investment.
    • It is easy to learn about bodybuilding since there are millions of sources online and in the form of books. You can learn this sport inside out. Just learn how to filter the tips which do more harm than good.
    • Weighted exercises, functional machines, and cardio exercises are the best ways to form your body.
    • Powerful, controllable workouts, adjustable load, targeted muscle gain, toning, reaching excellent fitness levels – all you can get with bodybuilding. Last but not least, we can manage our time efficiently.
    • The danger of ignorance. A lot of people start bodybuilding without any knowledge. They just simply jump into it and chasing quick results and irrational goals. They have no organized plan. We need serious bodybuilding expertise and in-depth understanding of ourselves to reach goals.

    Remember the point – optimal! With the right type of workout and diet, and with correct planning, you can reach excellent results no matter if you do bodybuilding or calisthenics exercises.

    Which do you prefer? Calisthenics vs weights? Is calisthenics good for building muscle?

    Tell us within the comment section below.


    James Wright

    James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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