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Using your body to gain inner strength or relying on external weights to build muscle, which is better?

Using your body to gain inner strength or relying on external weights to build muscle, which is better?

There has been ongoing debate regarding the pros and cons of calisthenics and weightlifting and which one you should be adopting for your workout regime, but there is no easy answer when it comes to saying if one is better than the other.

They are very different modalities of training that both have benefits and speak to a specific set of goals that the person doing them is aiming to achieve, and this is what makes the comparison next to impossible.

Rather than say which one is better, it would be more productive to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of calisthenics and weightlifting and from there allowing whoever is looking to undertake training to decide what suits their specific goals or needs. 



A primary advantage of calisthenics over weight training is the flexibility and ease of practicing in any place, at any time. Because you are using your body, you can train wherever you are – a quick exercise routine at work on your lunch break, while lazing about at home, or travelling across the globe, calisthenics gives you the freedom to train just so long as you have a free moment and an empty space that you can move around in.

Calisthenics also allow you to work out in a group. You will gain extra motivation from everyone else training hard during a class and it is ideal for people who enjoy CrossFit, which relies heavily on bodyweight training.

Depending on your goals, bodyweight training is ideal for weight loss and toning because it requires aerobic endurance and you will find that you will not build as much muscle, but rather get leaner. If you want a six pack, then the integration of calisthenics into your normal routine is ideal. Calisthenics can be a better choice than traditional, low-resistance cardiovascular workouts for calorie burning and overall fitness because of the intensity of the workouts.

Nothing can replace flexibility work alone. Daily stretching is a healthy routine to have, regardless if we’re working out or not. But calisthenics can definitely help with telling us where we need work and maintaining our current level of flexibility. This is because we depend on our own core strength to perform the movements. You will find that it is easier to discover where you’re compensating or where you’re weaker and from there you will be able to build on these body parts to ensure that you are symmetrically fit.

In comparison to exercising with dumbbells and barbells, just working on a few calisthenics exercises will ensure that you work several muscle groups in your body. Using your body means tapping into more than one muscle group. Many calisthenics workouts require you to use a number of muscles and body parts to complete the routine.

Since most of these exercises are cardiovascular in nature, not only will this improve your heart health but reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

You may be wondering how you get stronger or “bigger” by doing bodyweight training alone because at some point it may not be enough. While this is somewhat true, leverage also makes a difference. Doing exercises at different degrees and angles changes the muscles that you are going to be tapping into and works them in new ways. Keeping your body guessing is a good way to ensure that you will not plateau.  

For a fuller routine, it would be good to incorporate a chin up bar for pull ups that are considered one of the exercises that builds unparalleled strength. A level stool for you to perform lunges or step ups on can also help optimize your workouts.


If your workout goals include developing muscle mass quickly, calisthenics probably aren't your best option. It will take time to build muscle because you will be relying on your own bodyweight as the weight you are going to be using. Muscle mass is gained through weight training much quicker than only using your bodyweight.

While in the beginning you can push your limits, and test yourself with new exercises, calisthenics is also limiting because it will get to a point where you will have done everything. In saying that, there will always be ways to change up your routine but you won’t have complete freedom to do a wide variety of exercises because you’re focused on bodyweight training alone.

Another thing to take into account is that calisthenics is very difficult in the beginning. You may have seen experts who can do flagpoles and are really in tune with their bodies, but they had to start somewhere as well. Many of the exercises are challenging and there is a steep learning curve to consider.



Lifting weights is an unbeatable method for strengthening your muscles quickly and dramatically. No other training will assist you to build muscle and get bigger than weight training because you will be constantly forcing your muscle fibers to adapt to heavier weights for bigger gains. And because you’re using weights, it makes it easier to work out in a variety of ways. There are always new training methods that use weights in a variety of ways to make training tougher and, thus, more beneficial.

There is a freedom to lifting weights because you can either use free weights or machines, depending on what you prefer. Or, simply use both. There is an increased resistance with a weight on the other end and a variety of ways to use this resistance to build strength. The existence of weights makes it easier to optimise your workouts and decrease or increase the intensity based on your own innate capabilities.  

Weightlifting may help strengthen the muscles of your core, those that support your spine, and other little muscles apart from the main muscle groups. While you always target a specific muscle group, there are other benefits to smaller muscles because they need to strengthen as a result of your main muscle groups strengthening. Exercises like squats and deadlift are good examples of exercises that are of benefit to the entire body. 

From a health perspective, lifting helps regulate blood sugar, thus lowering risks for diabetes. And, since you are losing fat, it greatly reduces your chances for obesity. Weight training will burn fat at a high rate because it puts your body in an anabolic state that is conducive to fat burning. Weight training also promotes fat-free body mass while decreasing sarcopenia, that is when the lean muscle mass that we all work so hard for decreases with age. Your muscles will be bigger and stronger and less likely to diminish over time if you train regularly. 


There is a high risk of injury associated with weight training because more often than not you will be lifting more than your bodyweight. Without proper form and care, things can go wrong very quickly and it is also best to have someone to spot you or to know your limits before taking things to the next level.

Unlike calisthenics, it is very difficult to transport your weights with you everywhere or find a gym if you are travelling or away for a bit. Weightlifting can also get to a level where lighter weights will be insufficient for the workouts that you are used to, meaning that you may need to put your training on the back burner if the weights aren’t readily available. The lack of convenience can be frustrating for people focused on bigger gains.  

Weightlifting is about focus on specific muscle groups but doesn’t give you the freedom of calisthenics. Calisthenics often engages more than one muscle group and many times the exercises offer a full body workout but weight training is compartmentalised. More often than not, you will only be using one muscle group for a specific action, targeting it specifically so that it gets bigger. Weight training will help you to lose weight because of the intensity of the workout but you may have also heard how people say it’s leg or chest day, and this is because that’s what is going to be the primary focus of that day.  

Main Takeaway

The conclusion is that you do not have to only be focused on calisthenics or weight training. More often than not, people who exercise regularly will do a combination of both calisthenics and weight training to ensure that their entire body benefits from the positive effects of both methods. You should try to incorporate both forms in your workout and either assign days where you do one or the other, or warm up with calisthenics and then move on to weights. You can also optimise your calisthenics workouts by adding more resistance with weights that shows nicely how one can complement the other.



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