Calisthenics vs Bodybuilder


Wondering whether to go for calisthenics or bodybuilding? Calisthenics vs bodybuilder has been a topic that’s been going on for years. Looking for the best workout routine? Let’s break down and answer some questions to help you make the best decision for your fitness goals!

Calisthenics vs bodybuilding, which is better?🤔

This is one of the most popular topics in the fitness community. On one hand, there are the traditional weightlifters aiming for developing a Greek god’s physique mainly through tried and tested bodybuilding principles. On the other, there’s the calisthenics or bodyweight training practitioners training for different goals but mainly using their bodies and gravity to do the job.

While both offer unique benefits, building general fitness and body control with calisthenics is superior to bodybuilding. Calisthenics exercises use your body weight as resistance, which provides training that is more holistic and includes mobility, flexibility, strength, and skill. Traditional weightlifting can leave you immobile with a lot of joint pain if not combined with other types of training. It’s also prone to overtraining and injury if not implemented properly.

Here is what you will learn in this article and the other elements we will tackle in-depth later on:

  • Calisthenics definition
  • Bodybuilding definition
  • Benefits of each approach
  • Which one is better for muscle building, strength gains, and overall fitness
  • And the advantages and disadvantages as summarized below:
Advantages Disadvantages
  • Holistic development
  • Can implement bodybuilding principles
  • Focus on strength and other general goals
  • Can train anywhere with 0 to minimal equipment
  • More difficult to isolate muscle groups
  • Progression less straightforward
  • Heavy focus on muscle development
  • Straightforward progression
  • Easy to target and isolate lagging muscles
  • Prone to neglecting other important aspects such as mobility and body awareness
  • Risks of imbalances
  • Not ideal for beginners


Is 🤸calisthenics better than 🏋🏼bodybuilding?

Depending on your goals, you may find that one is better than the other. There is no black-and-white answer. Defining what you want to achieve should be your first step to knowing what will work for you.


Identify your goal🎯

What do you want to reach in your fitness journey? Ask yourself.

  • 👉 Do you want to build endurance?
  • 👉 Aiming for a physique that can compete in a competition?
  • 👉 Striving to lose weight and fats?
  • 👉 Do you aim to gain body awareness and control?
  • 👉 Have you dreamed of a life without pain and injuries that are sustainable?

Learn and decide WHAT YOU WANT so you can opt for the approach that will cater to your needs and goals.

Next, it’s important to understand the difference between calisthenics and bodybuilding. Properly plan your routine and see if either is the best fit for you.


🔥How to achieve progress towards your goals?

With many fitness goals, let’s first focus on what bodybuilding and calisthenics have in common which is building muscle mass.

To be fair, meeting these three factors can still help you progress in any goal you want. You just have to manipulate some of the elements in the training category, but these three are crucial for your growth. These major factors are:

  • 🤸 Progressive training that challenges your body to adapt to every session
  • 🍌 Proper nutrition through high protein meals with calories enough to either build mass or lose fat
  • ♥️ Good recovery through high-quality sleep, adaptive or prepared training structure, and stress management


✨What is calisthenics?

While getting popular, calisthenics is a term still not known by many people. Calisthenics is a form of resistance exercise that uses your body weight as resistance. It’s a great way to get in shape and can be done anywhere, with minimal to no equipment.

🤜 Bodyweight training or calisthenics exercises are simple and can be adapted to any fitness level as long as you follow a progressive approach. They can help you build strength, improve flexibility and cardiovascular health, and lose weight. You can develop an overall strong and healthy body through learning calisthenics skills.  But beginners are recommended to start with basic exercises like squats, dips, push-ups, and pull-ups, and add more challenging moves as they get stronger.

For more PROs and CONs of calisthenics, check out this article: 📍 Is calisthenics really a better way to train?

Overlap with bodybuilding

Not many know this but you can implement bodybuilding principles using calisthenics workouts. Remember, calisthenics is still a form of resistance training. Knowing this lets you implement the principles used in the weightlifting field to achieve similar results.

Yes, you can build muscle with calisthenics. It all boils down to Specific Adaptations to Impose Demands or the SAID principle. With calisthenics and applying bodybuilding principles, you will be subjected to high volume and high time under tension exercises to generate maximum hypertrophy potential. This means that when applying this approach to calisthenics, you won’t necessarily achieve the strength required for specific skills such as planche or a front lever.


✨What is bodybuilding?

Bodybuilding is all about developing muscle size, shape, and tone through resistance training and other exercises. It involves using weights, machines, or body weight to create tension in the muscles.

🤜 This approach can help you improve your strength, muscle mass, and physical appearance. It can also help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. But the main priority is to sculpt your physique by building muscle and losing fat. Not necessarily at the same time as bulking and cutting cycles are usually implemented to achieve this ultimate goal.

🏆Benefits of Calisthenics

There are many advantages of calisthenics and why you might want to train using this approach and with the calisthenics philosophy.

✅ Burn calories

As calisthenics engage major muscle groups, they can help you burn more calories than traditional exercises. For example, in 30 minutes of intermediate calisthenics, a 155-pound person will burn roughly 167 calories. In 30 minutes, you’ll burn 298 calories when performing advanced calisthenics.

While this might not seem a lot at first, remember that calisthenics is a resistance training approach that covers many aspects. You can even implement high-intensity interval training using calisthenics to even further increase the calories burned.

Here’s an example of a calisthenics HIIT for maximum fat loss: 📍 20-minute Calisthenics HIIT Workout for Fat Loss

✅ Improves long-term health

Performing calisthenics regularly can help improve your overall long-term health by strengthening your muscles and bones, improving your balance and coordination, and reducing your risk of injuries. Also, this approach promotes:

  • Weight loss
  • Improved posture
  • Better sleep
  • Heart health
  • Reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes

✅ Boosts endurance

As you progress in your calisthenics routine, you’ll start to notice an increase in endurance. Endurance is the capacity of your body to do work for extended periods. Calisthenics exercises work the entire body and engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously which challenges your working capacity. There are also different elements you can work on with calisthenics by switching up the exercises. Calisthenics is full of variety which can help you break plateaus.

✅ Convenient and affordable

Unlike traditional bodybuilding, which requires expensive equipment and a lot of space or expensive gym memberships, calisthenics can be performed almost anywhere with little to no equipment required. Additionally, it’s a relatively affordable exercise choice when compared to other types of fitness routines.

While calisthenics can be performed without any equipment, it’s worth investing in very accessible pieces such as:

  • Dip station
  • Pull-up bar
  • Gymnastics rings
  • A set of resistance bands
  • Gym chalk

With that equipment, you can already have a complete calisthenics home gym setup. Easily replace this equipment with anything you can find in your own home. For example, two sturdy chairs can be used as a dip station. House beams can replace a pull-up bar. Just make sure they are sturdy, then your imagination sets the limits.

For more help on equipment, read this: 📍 The Ultimate Guide to Calisthenics Equipment and Cheap Ways to Replace it


🏆Benefits of Body Building

There are several undeniable benefits to bodybuilding, including:

✅Increase muscle mass

By lifting weights, you can easily increase your muscle mass. This is because when you challenge your muscles by lifting weights, they will grow in size and strength as they adapt to the new stress in order to handle it.

And the best part about using this approach is its straightforward progression. You can just have to increase the weight you are using on an exercise to make them harder unlike in calisthenics wherein you need to manipulate certain body positions. There’s a limit to the strength potential not unless some form of equipment is used such as gymnastics rings.

✅Develops motor control

Weightlifting also helps to develop motor control. When you practice lifting weights, your muscles and nervous system learn how to better coordinate and activate the correct muscle fibers to complete the desired movement.

✅Improve bone density

Lifting weights can help improve bone density as well as reduce the risk of injuries. This is because weightlifting puts stress on your bones, which helps them become stronger.

✅Creates metabolic advantage

In addition to the benefits listed above, weightlifting also helps to create a metabolic advantage. Consequently, when you lift weights, your body will burn more calories (even after you finish your workout) than if you haven’t lifted weights. It’s because muscles are active metabolically tissues, requiring more energy (calories) to maintain than other tissues in the body.


🔎Are calisthenics stronger than bodybuilders?🔍

As mentioned, building RELATIVE STRENGTH with calisthenics is far superior to bodybuilding. Relative strength pertains to the power your muscles can generate with respect to your weight. That’s why advanced calisthenics athletes can perform crazy gravity-defying skills. With BODYWEIGHT training, you are working against the resistance of your own body, which helps you improve the mastery of your body against gravity.

Additionally, calisthenics is a more comprehensive workout that engages multiple muscle groups through a wider range of motion thanks to mobility training. Athletes trained in this discipline develop strength that they can use without restriction in terms of the range of motion. The strength translates to better movement outside of training and in your daily life.


💥Which is better for fat loss?

Let’s first differentiate between fat loss and weight loss. Fat loss is simply losing the fats in your body while gaining or maintaining lean muscle mass This is what you want to achieve. Weight loss is losing weight through losing fat and potentially lean muscle mass.

While both approaches are excellent for fat loss, calisthenics offers a cardiovascular/endurance type training component that can further increase the calories you can burn in a single workout. Research shows that aerobic training offers a superior calorie-burning effect compared to resistance training. However, you still need resistance training such as calisthenics or bodybuilding to maintain or develop lean muscle mass.


Can you build 💪 muscle with calisthenics only?

Yes, you can build muscle with calisthenics only. However, the amount of muscle you can build can be limited if you don’t know the proper protocols to keep your calisthenics progressive. People usually think that when training with calisthenics, you only have to add more reps.

A popular approach is when performing push-ups and sit-ups by ramping up the rep range to 100+. While current research indicated that you can STILL build muscle with this approach, your workout will last longer.

What you can do instead is to work on the one-arm push-up progression or advanced ring push-up progressions. This way, you can increase the intensity of the exercise so you can continue building muscle and strength at the same time.


Which builds muscle faster, 🤸calisthenics or 🏋🏻‍♂️weightlifting?

According to some individuals in the fitness community through, weightlifting shows much faster muscle gain results. They claim that this is because adding weight to the bar will make the muscles work harder to complete the rep. As they get stronger, they can lift more weight. With calisthenics, you are limited to your own body weight, so it may take longer to see significant muscle gains. This is highly anecdotal and lacks a scientific basis.

In a 2020 study about push-ups vs bench presses, when the intensity and training volume are equated, push-ups can develop the same amount of muscle mass compared to what bench press can deliver.

✊Calisthenics can deliver if you can manipulate the right intensity, training volume, frequency, and time under tension to match what’s required to build muscle using weights.


Strength💪: Calisthenics vs bodybuilder

There is no definitive answer to this question since it depends on the specific bodybuilders and calisthenics athletes in question and the parameter of strength we’re pertaining to.

However, in general, bodybuilders are usually stronger than calisthenics athletes in terms of ABSOLUTE STRENGTH. This is because the amount of resistance you can add to your weight lifting training is not ever limited, while in calisthenics, you are limited with your body weight.


Is calisthenics safer🤕 than bodybuilding?

When it comes to calisthenics vs weights, bodyweight exercise is considered quite safe for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. You can do all of the exercises without fear of injury as long as you maintain the appropriate form for each one. In fact, calisthenics can be used to treat injuries.💯

For bodybuilding, there is a greater risk of injury, especially if you are not using the proper form or are lifting too much weight. Weight training involves working with external heavy weights and using muscle isolations, leading to dangerous imbalances in the body.


🧐 Can I do calisthenics and bodybuilding at the same time?

Yes! Many people do this to get the best of both worlds. Calisthenics (bodyweight exercises) are great for overall strength and flexibility, while bodybuilding can help you develop more muscle mass. Give each activity the attention it deserves, and don’t try to do too much too soon.

☝️Start with basic calisthenics exercises like squats, lunges, and push-ups, then add weightlifting or resistance training once you’ve gotten comfortable with those. And always remember to warm up and cool down properly before and after your workouts.


How do you combine bodybuilding and calisthenics?😲

There are a few ways to combine the two approaches. One way is to do bodybuilding exercises on weight-training days, and then do calisthenics exercises on non-weight-training days. Another way is to do both types of exercises on the same day.

The best way to combine bodybuilding and calisthenics is to find an exercise routine that works for you and that you can stick with. It’s important to focus on compound movements that work for multiple muscle groups at once. This will help you get the most out of your workout routine.

Read more here: 📍 Combining Calisthenics and Weight Training for Maximum Results


🔥Bodybuilding vs. Calisthenics frequency

How often you should do bodybuilding and calisthenics also depends on your goals. If your goal is to build muscle mass, you should do weightlifting at least three times per week. However, if your goal is to improve overall fitness or lose weight, you should do calisthenics at least three times per week. It will highly depend on your training structure.👍

Remember to give your muscle enough time to recover in between workouts. This generally means at least 48 hours between weightlifting sessions and 24 hours between calisthenics sessions.

✊The same rules apply to bodybuilding. Muscle repair and growth occur during the recovery period, so you need to allow your muscles enough time to rebuild and become stronger.



While you now have the pros and cons of each approach, there’s still an unaccounted factor that you need to consider when choosing the right approach for you. This is PREFERENCE.

You can base your methods on which can deliver you the goals that you want, but if it’s not something that you enjoy, you will not last in your fitness journey.

Train with the approach you love and have fun with!😍


📌Final Thoughts

So, which one is better, calisthenics vs bodybuilder approach? The answer to that highly depends on what your goals are. Calisthenics is a great option if you want to focus on overall strength and fitness. But if you want to focus solely on developing muscle mass, then bodybuilding is the better choice. Just make sure to find an exercise routine that works for you and that you can stick with! 🔍

For better results, you can do calisthenics and bodybuilding simultaneously. Give each activity the attention it deserves and don’t try to do too much too soon. Also, it is important to give your muscles enough time to recover in between workouts. 24 to 48 hours should be enough time for most people.

👆 If you need a calisthenics training program, then choosing an adaptive and personalised option would benefit you massively. Personalisation promotes a more efficient and safer way of progress.

Begin your personalised calisthenics training by knowing what your body can and cannot do through a short assessment below.