Calisthenics Vs Bodybuilding: Pros and Cons of Both

Man performing calisthenics and bodybuilding exercises in the gym.

It can be difficult trying to choose the best exercise program that’s right for you, especially if you’re just starting out with fitness training. To make sure you’re on the right path in your fitness journey, it’s important that you choose an appropriate strategy – and one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make is whether to train using calisthenics or bodybuilding exercises.

Different exercise programs will result in different physiques. It’s no secret that significant anabolic benefits can be gained when training with heavy weights, particularly when performed at lower reps. Micro-tears (small tears in the muscles) are caused by lifting heavy loads, especially when they push us to our bodily limits.

The body is naturally able to repair and heal these micro-tears. This process (known as hypertrophy) allows the muscles to adjust to greater stress, and they become larger and more powerful as a result.

You can actually increase muscle growth, strength, and overall fitness by engaging in either calisthenics or bodybuilding. However, your decision to choose either should be based on your personal fitness objectives.

Let’s compare the similarities and differences of calisthenics and bodybuilding to help you make an informed choice.

What Is The Difference Between Calisthenics And Bodybuilding?

Bodybuilding and calisthenics are both types of strength training. However, there is one thing that sets them apart from each other: the type of resistance used.

What Is Calisthenics?

Calisthenics is a type of workout that doesn’t require any training equipment. Because these exercises can be done using your own body weight, you don’t need to use exercise equipment. Calisthenics training takes more of a holistic approach by exercising general muscle groups rather than the more targeted approach used by bodybuilders. Additionally, nutrition is generally treated in a similar way, with more emphasis on consuming an overall nutritious diet as opposed to following complex meal plans.

Some typical calisthenics exercises include:

  • Pull-ups
  • Push-ups
  • Burpees
  • Jumping jacks
  • Jump squats
  • Lunges
  • Planks
  • Sit-ups

Pros of Calisthenics

  • Calisthenics is easy to get started with and beginner-friendly
  • Requires little-to-no equipment, meaning you can work out just about anywhere.
  • Builds core strength and physical endurance.
  • Helps strengthen the body as a whole, developing functional strength and physical coordination.
  • Utilizes more stabilizer muscles to improve balance, posture, and stability.

Cons of Calisthenics

  • It’s more difficult targeting specific muscles
  • Calisthenics builds muscle mass more slowly

What Is Bodybuilding?

Unlike calisthenics, in order to engage in bodybuilding (or weight training), you will need to have access to a gym or exercise equipment that can provide an external source of resistance. But it doesn’t end there – and for many people, bodybuilding is more than just a hobby, it’s a way of life.

Meticulous detail is given to diet, exercise routines, bodybuilding supplements, workout phases (bulking vs cutting phases), and other things. While those practicing calisthenics can certainly take their training to this level, people generally utilize more flexibility in this area, depending on their personal fitness goals.

Some of the most popular bodybuilding exercises include:

  • Bench presses
  • Bent-over/Pendlay rows
  • Deadlifts
  • Dumbbell raises
  • Military/Overhead presses
  • Skull crushers
  • Squats

Pros of Bodybuilding

  • Quickly and significantly increases muscle size
  • Easier to isolate muscles and vary training resistance
  • More easily able to track your progress
  • Allows you to incrementally increase training resistance (progressive overload).

Cons of Bodybuilding

  • Requires considerable commitment of time, effort and expense.
  • Must have access to training equipment.
  • Increased risk for injury.
  • Training with weights can become repetitive.
  • Has a greater learning curve.

If your goal is to improve your athleticism, build muscular strength and endurance, and create a powerful physique, go for calisthenics exercise routines. But If your goal is to gain muscle mass, increase size, and strengthen your entire body, choose a bodybuilding program.

Additionally, if your goal is losing weight, calisthenics exercises are preferable since they burn more calories than bodyweight exercises do.

Calisthenics Physique Vs Bodybuilding Physique

Bodybuilding has a reputation for producing huge physiques. However, many people want to know what a calisthenics-trained body looks like in comparison.

Calisthenics Physiques

Man with muscular calisthenics physique performing exercises outdoors on fence.

While there are differences of varying degrees, calisthenics tends to create incredibly lean, well-defined physiques (think of the classic “beach body” look).They have athletic and functional bodies with high strength-to-mass ratios.

As in every other method of training, there is significant of differences in training modalities. As a result, there can be wide variations when it comes to individual calisthenics physiques.

Keep in mind that calisthenics enthusiasts often incorporate at least a few weight training exercises into their program. More often than not, calisthenics training involves the use of weights, whether that is with standard weight-training exercises, or supplemental weights that are added to body-weight exercises.

How often weights are employed among those who train using calisthenics can vary widely. Some of them never pick up a weight, while others may use them them as much as half the time. This makes the variations between different calisthenics physiques even greater.

Bodybuilding Physiques

Muscular man with bodybuilding physique working out in the gym.

Bodybuilding tends to concentrate on the body as a whole, and a special focus is given to body size and muscular symmetry. You can think of bodybuilding as a form of “body sculpting”, where the body itself is the art medium, much like a sculptor using clay to create the perfect form.

Most bodybuilding routines will focus on weight-training exercises that target prominent muscle groups, which enhances their physical appearance. These target muscles typically include areas such as:

  • The pectorals
  • Arm muscles
  • Shoulders
  • Legs
  • Back
  • Abdominals

Which Method Is Right For You?

To get meaningful results from any exercise program, it’s crucial to choose a fitness plan and adhere to it. However, before deciding between calisthenics and bodybuilding you must take into account your daily schedule and way of life.

Bodybuilding can be a very rewarding pursuit, but requires an investment in time, money and commitment that many people may not be willing to make. On the other hand, calisthenics may be a better option if you lead a busy life or don’t have access to a gym, since you can work out without any equipment – whenever and wherever it’s convenient.

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