Updated: Nov 18, 2021
The debate is real with this one. In this blog post, we’ll be looking at calisthenics vs. weight training. First, let’s look at Calisthenic movements and the benefits.
Training calisthenics rather than weight training can be a lot more convenient in that you don’t really need anything; no weights or machines and you can do it anywhere, anytime. Really all you need is an open space where you can do bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, squats, sit-ups, handstands, and the alike variations.
Another benefit of doing calisthenics is that you’re typically working multiple muscle groups, also known as compound movements, at the same time. An example would be a handstand press. You’re working shoulders, core, back, and triceps. Calisthenics tends to be more practical in that if you need to climb over something, you can easily pull your own body weight and do so.
The drawback? Depending on the goals you have of course. If your goal is to get swoll with the bros, calisthenics is probably not for you. Calisthenics can also have a steep learning curve (but same for weights) in that you need to learn proper form and technique. But with progressions and patience, you should be okay.
Contrary to calisthenics where you can do it anywhere, anytime, weight training requires equipment. Whether that be a bar and weights or a big pulley type machine. Weight training will, in most cases, require that you get a gym membership which costs money, driving time, gas, etc. If you’re ballin’ on a budget then weight training could be tough to do. You could always DIY some weights but that’s another story for another time.
Weight training isn’t really that practical for real-life situations, such as climbing or pulling. Weight lifting does require a lot of attention to detail like calisthenics does because free weights and lifting, in general, tend to be more of an isolation workout. If you don’t know what you’re doing or are doing something like lat pulldowns wrong, then you’re kind of just wasting your time. Luckily most gyms have a helping staff to assist with form, you just have to ask.
So, which one should you do?
To be honest, you should figure out what your goals are and what you want to achieve. Often times doing both calisthenics and weight training will be beneficial to your goals. If your goal is to get better handstands, then doing isolated arm workouts probably isn’t going to help a whole a lot. If your goal is to get stronger, look better, and have functional, practical muscle then a combination of the two would be ideal. Of course, you’d want to figure out specifics for your goals to help get you there faster.
Here's an example of how you can combine both calisthenics and weight lifting during pull-ups: If you're just doing pull-ups then you will obviously get really good at them however there comes a point when you're just busting out reps and reps and reps building great muscle endurance. To make this movement more challenging and diverse we can just add a weight belt with some hanging weights. This can help build bigger muscle or beat any plateaus that you experience.
One more example of how combining the two would be beneficial, let’s look at parkour for instance. Parkour requires a lot of jumping so how could weight training and calisthenics help that?
Technique: If you want to improve your technique for a precision jump or a stride and stick it, then practice the jump itself. That seems obvious, right? If you want to get better at dribbling a basketball, then dribble a basketball.
Power: Again, practicing the jump itself with reps will help with power. Strengthening the posterior chain via back squats and/or deadlifts will help your longevity, power, and technique. Parkour is a high impact movement (mostly, depending on your training style) but for jumps and landings, a strong posterior chain, quad strength, and good mobility are preferable.
Our opinion? We say to mix the two together to diversify your muscle movement and strength.
I love doing parkour mixed with weight training because parkour is like a fun calisthenic workout. It’s more like playing than working out. If you found value in this please help your friends out and share this with them! You're going to benefit from both of them, so might as well do both of them.