Calisthenics Vs. Lifting Weights: Which Is Better For You?

Everyone wants the health benefits of a regular workout schedule, not to mention the endorphins, but with so many different options available to get your blood pumping, picking just one can feel overwhelming. A good place to start is often with weight training or calisthenics; both are forms of strength training and a good way to build muscle, increase endurance, and strengthen bones and joints (via GearHungry). But which is better for your specific goals?

Calisthenics are ideal for beginners without access to gym equipment or free weights, since its focus is on using the body's own weight to provide resistance. Examples of calisthenics include crunches, push-ups, pullups, squats, and lunges (via Healthline). You'll often see calisthenics as part of other fitness programs, including CrossFit.

Weight training, on the other hand, uses, well, weights to provide increased resistance to push your muscles even harder. Examples of typical weight lifting exercises include bicep curls, tricep extensions, shoulder presses, leg presses, and bench presses. While the two camps might sound fairly similar, they require different levels of commitment and preparation and they promise different results.

The benefits of calisthenics

Calisthenics are a fantastic way to start your fitness journey because you won't need a gym membership or any special equipment to get started. Getting started is as simple as doing a quick internet search for "calisthenics workout," which will return a plethora of body weight exercise routines you can complete at home, at work, in the park, or just about anywhere. Plus, the benefits you can expect to reap aren't too shabby. In fact, according to researchers, calisthenics and weight training produce very similar results in the short term, meaning it's an ideal way to create a baseline of strength before investing in weights, a personal trainer, or a gym membership (via Healthline). 

However, calisthenics aren't just for fitness beginners; they're actually better than weight training when it comes to building endurance, improving balance, flexibility, and coordination, not to mention functional strength. While weight lifting only builds the muscles required to lift weights (while the rest of your muscles rest), exercises like planking work out most of the muscle groups in the body and improve posture, flexibility, and coordination (via Healthcorps). Of course, that doesn't mean that weight lifting isn't also beneficial.

The benefits of weight training

If you're looking to get toned arms and a six pack, then weight training is definitely for you. The additional resistance provided by the weights causes more micro-tears in the muscles which, when repaired, create larger, stronger muscles, making weight training the ideal exercise for body builders. The downside is that weight training (especially with machines) involves a more limited range of motion and strengthens a more limited set of muscles, meaning it won't provide the balance, coordination, and flexibility benefits of calisthenics (via LiveStrong). However, that doesn't mean that bigger muscles are the only benefit you can expect to reap from weight training.

According to U.S.News, weight lifting helps to increase the basal metabolic rate (i.e. the number of calories you burn per day), improve cardiovascular and mental health, reduce cancer risk, and increase your lifespan. It has even been shown to decrease pain in those with arthritis and help maintain glucose control in those with type 2 diabetes, making it a powerful tool in maintaining a healthy weight and high quality of life (via Everyday Health).

If you're still stuck between calisthenics and weight training, the good news is you don't have to choose just one. In fact, you'll likely get the most value from a combination of the two fitness styles, using calisthenics to provide more full-body benefits and weight training to move you more quickly towards your specific fitness goals (via Well and Good).