Strength training, or resistance training, is the activity of using your muscles against resistance, which makes them bigger and stronger. It’s a key part of any fitness regimen.
Commonly, strength training is associated with lifting weights, but there are many ways to do it. You can also do calisthenics, which uses your own bodyweight as resistance.
Although weightlifting and calisthenics are both forms of strength training, they yield different results. The best choice ultimately depends on your fitness goals.
To determine the best option for your needs, read on. We’ll explore the differences between calisthenics vs. weightlifting, along with their benefits.
In calisthenics, you use your own bodyweight to perform an exercise so you don’t need any special equipment. You will, however, need a pullup bar when doing pullups or other calisthenic exercises, particularly those that require a change in body position to modify the challenge of an exercise.
Common bodyweight exercises include:
Affordable and convenient
Since calisthenics can be done without equipment, it’s affordable and convenient. You can do it wherever there’s enough space to move.
Easy to modify
Bodyweight exercises are also easy to modify, but it takes some creativity, body awareness, and practice.
You’ll need to develop a good understanding of how your body moves to determine when it’s time to modify your workout effort. For example, to make pushups easier, you can place your knees on the floor. Alternatively, doing pushups with one arm will make them harder.
Uses multiple muscle groups at once
A major benefit of calisthenics is that it involves compound exercises. This means it uses multiple muscle groups at once. It requires a high amount of movement, allowing you to burn a lot of calories in a short period of time.
The result is lower body fat, which increases muscle definition. It gives the body a chiseled, lean look with visibly toned muscles.
Improves flexibility, balance, and more
Calisthenics can also improve:
Weightlifting uses weighted objects as resistance. You repeatedly lift the weight, which challenges your muscles.
This method can be done with free weights or weights on a machine. Examples of weightlifting moves include:
- bicep curls
- triceps extensions
- shoulder presses
- leg presses
- bench presses
Easy to progress
Compared to calisthenics, progressing your effort is more straightforward. For instance, you can simply use a heavier dumbbell to make your workout harder.
Can isolate specific muscle groups
Performing isolated exercises is easier when weightlifting. These movements use just one primary muscle group, which works against all the resistance. This concentrated load can make it easier to increase the size of specific muscle groups.
If you want to build strength, weightlifting is the way to go in the long run.
Using external weight makes it easier to overload muscle groups, promoting tiny tears in the muscle that stimulate repair. The result is muscle growth, or hypertrophy, which increases muscle strength.
That’s not to say calisthenics doesn’t make you strong. The dynamic, compound movement of calisthenics requires a great deal of strength. Plus, with the right technique, you can add enough resistance to increase muscle size and strength.
However, if your main goal is to build strength in a specific muscle group, weightlifting is your best choice.
Calisthenics is better for burning calories, which in turn may help you lose weight and body fat. That’s because it uses a lot of movement. This requires more energy, which your body gets by burning calories. The more calories you burn, the more weight you lose.
Calisthenics can also be used in more vigorous workouts, like high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or circuit training. This can add even more movement and further increase your caloric burn.
The isolated movements of weightlifting don’t require as much energy. Yet, it’s worth noting that it will still contribute to overall weight loss. Building muscle increases your basal metabolic rate, or the number of calories you burn at rest.
Another option is to combine calisthenics with weightlifting. This is ideal if you want to enjoy the benefits of both techniques at the same time.
There are a couple of ways to combine calisthenics and weightlifting:
- Do both techniques on the same day. You can do a combination of calisthenics and weightlifting exercises in a single strength-training session.
- Do them on alternative days. If you prefer to focus on one method at a time, try alternating between calisthenics and weightlifting throughout the week.
Remember, both techniques add resistance to your muscles, so it’s important to avoid overdoing it. Be sure to add rest days and pay attention to your body.
For more guidance on combining calisthenics and weightlifting, work with a personal trainer. They can recommend the best combination of exercises for your specific goals.
If you’re stuck between calisthenics vs. weightlifting, consider your goals and workout style. Calisthenics uses your bodyweight and involves compound exercises. It requires a lot of movement, making it better for losing weight and defining your muscles.
With weightlifting, you use external weights like dumbbells. It involves isolated exercises that increase the size of a muscle group. When done regularly, weightlifting is best for building strength and muscle size.
Both techniques are excellent forms of strength training. If you’d like to combine them, try doing calisthenics and weightlifting on the same day or on alternative days.