Calisthenics Vs Weights Physique

by | May 1, 2023 | 1 comment

10 min read


So you’ve decided that you want to start working out, but you’re not sure if you should be doing calisthenics or weights.🤔

It’s difficult to know what the best option is when it comes to working out and getting in shape. There are a lot of varied viewpoints since picking the appropriate one might be difficult.

We’re here to help. In this article, we’ll break down the features of calisthenics vs. weights physique so that you can make an informed decision about which type of workout is best for you to get the ideal physique.

Calisthenics Vs. Weights Physique: Both approaches have their own benefits, and which one you choose will ultimately depend on your goals.🎯

It’s true that both calisthenics and weights can lead to impressive physiques. In theory, both approaches can lead to similar physique. However,  in practice, there are some distinct differences between the two because of the common protocols used in training.

Both approaches can lead to a shredded or bulky physique. Both approaches can also offer improved joints, increased endurance, and better mobility. The main difference is in the implemented protocols. Calisthenics are often associated with compound movements , skill training, specific mobility exercises, and cardio which leads to a more shredded physique. Weightlifting is more associated with isolation exercises that can get you that bodybuilding, bulky physique.

Take a second to close your eyes and imagine the physiques of the two types of athletes. The first type is the weights guy, with bulging muscles, veiny arms, and a barrel chest. The second type is the Calisthenics guy, with a lean and athletic build, muscular definition, and washboard abs.We can’t blame you if that’s you initially percieve.

But whichever approach you take, you can achieve any physique you want. It’s a matter of adjusting the correct protocols, the proper nutrition for your goals, and getting enough rest. 

Which physique do you think is more appealing?

🧐Let’s have a look at the pros and cons of Calisthenics and weights, and it’s important to consider the different benefits of each before making a decision.


👍 PROs 👎 CONs


  • Can transfer to calisthenics skills
  • Relatively safer way to work out
  • Less prone to “ego lifting”
  • Convenient and inexpensive
  • It’s simple to change.
  • It’s a compound exercise that uses many muscle groups at the same time.
  • Protocols geared towards holistic development
  • Can be harder to isolate muscle-groups without gymnastics rings
  • Not as straightforward in progressions
  • Leg strength training can get limited


  • Straightforward to progress
  • Isolating certain muscle groups is possible.
  • Excellent lower body training option
  • Requires access to a gym or equipment
  • Can be more stressful on your joints if not careful


🔥The Calisthenics Transformation Before and After Results

Let’s start with some Movement Athletes who now enjoy calisthenics training. They all have a few things in common.

🔎Story Of Philippe – Keep On Climbing

📍Philippe is a self-employed coach and author of several blogs, articles, and books. Philippe had lost his activities as he aged. He didn’t have enough time, energy, or strength for rock climbing, his former passion.

Excessive running caused him more and more problems in his knees and tendons as he got older.He feels that calisthenic exercises are the basis for his current strength and confidence. As a result, calisthenics has allowed him to get back to what he loves doing (climbing mountains and running) in an integrated way.

Look what Philippe says about our program:👇

“Start where you are and don’t force yourself to go faster…the program will carry you along the way. Trust it.”

If you want to achieve the body of your dreams, find our 📍CUSTOMIZED TRAINING PLAN.


🔎Story of Timo – From a Fit Kid To An Overweight Dad

📍Timo was a sports enthusiast, but his knees and ankles had been ruined by field hockey. He couldn’t play without braces, and the agony he experienced while playing made it impossible for him to enjoy the activity.

During his training, Timo has retaken the introductory assessment, and while he’s gotten a lot better, he discovered that his form was incorrect in certain exercises (when he was lifting weight to reduce his weight).

Timo discovered a program that he likes and that challenges him. Because his body had not yet recovered from his injuries, he began with maintenance workouts before beginning the training plan.

Have a look at our own Timo’s comments:👇

“Go on, give it a try. Start slow and don’t set your goals too unrealistically. Try, and have fun!”

📍Check out our FREE assessment now!


😱What Makes Calisthenics and Weight Lifting Different?

In general, calisthenics and weight lifting are quite similar. They are both forms of resistance training which means moving weight, either internally (bodyweight) or externally (weights), to build muscle and strength.

For example, in a 2017 study shows that when weight and volume are matched. Bench press and push-ups can induce the same hypertrophy and strength gains. We can extrapolate from this data that you’re going to build the same chest muscles regardless if you use a bench press or push-ups if they are matched in volume and intensity.

The difference lies with the training protocols you implement. Here are possible differences which can affect the physique you can build:

  • Exercise selection
  • Rest periods
  • Training frequency
  • Training intensity
  • Training volume
  • Nutrition (but we’re going to focus more on the training aspect)


🏆Why Calisthenics Athletes Produce a More “Shredded” Build?

When you think about a calisthenics athlete’s physique, the common image you form is somewith with an athletic, “more natural”, shredded body.

This is because calisthenics primarily works on more compound exercises. Even with the “isolation” exercises when using rings, you will tend to target more muscle groups compared to doing isolation exercises of weight lifting. Due the more compound-oriented work, muscles develop in a more “natural-looking” physique.

However, if you want to build a bodybuilder’s physique with calisthenics, it’s still possible with one secret: gymnastics rings.

👊 Gymnastics Rings for Bodyweight BodyBuilding

The rings offer a ton of potential to drastically increase the difficulty of calisthenics fundamentals while also opening up potential for more isolated work such as the following exercises:

  • Pelican Curls
  • Bodyweight Bicep Curls
  • Ring Tricep Extensions
  • Rear Delt Flyes
  • Lat Pull Down on Rings
  • Ring Chest Flyes

On top of those exercises, you can also some of those mentioned above in a unilateral fashion or one arm at a time. Doing to will help you develop a more equal physique (fixing imbalances) while also adding intensity

👊 Increasing your Training Volume

Another secret to building a bodybuilder physique with bodyweight is through high volume training. When bodybuilding, your goal is to build muscle and not necessarily strength. A 2019 paper supports that high volume training on resistance-trained men tend to result to more hypertrophic gains, but not so much strength. This is good if you’re aiming to build muscle.

While in the study the focus is on weight training, he can infer from this study that the same effect can happen when using body weight when the volume and exercise intensity is matched to your skill level.


✨Effect of Calisthenics On Physique

Before we dig deeper, let’s go over the general effects of training with the most common exercise protocols used for bodyweight training when we use more compound exercises and approach fitness with a more holistic manner.

👊 Strength

As you probably know, developing muscle mass and definition requires more than just lifting weights. Building strength is essential, but it’s also important to have a workout regimen that incorporates both cardio and calisthenics.

Calisthenics uses your own body weight as resistance, and they can be incredibly effective in helping you to build strength. Incorporating calisthenics into your workout routine can add variety to your workouts and stay motivated.

The name of the game is using PROGRESSIVE CALISTHENICS through correct progressions appropriate for the skill level you are in right now.

💪 Muscular Endurance

Calisthenics not only helps improve your strength but also your endurance. This is extremely important because it means that you will be able to withstand fatigue better. In other words, you’ll be able to push yourself harder for longer periods of time without getting tired.

Calisthenics enhances endurance by improving the efficiency of your muscles. When you work out, your muscles use oxygen to create energy. The more efficiently your muscles can consume oxygen, the less fatigue you’ll feel. Calisthenics exercises aid in improving muscle efficiency by teaching your muscles to utilize oxygen better.

You’ll be able to exercise for longer periods of time without feeling as fatigued. In addition, calisthenics improves your cardiovascular endurance.

In bodyweight training, there are so many exercises you can use to improve not only strength but also both muscular and cardiovascular endurance.

Whereas lifting weights mostly assists with your anaerobic endurance (sprinting, for example).

🤸 Total Body Reaction

Calisthenics exercises use your body weight as resistance to build strength, improve your coordination and mobility, and develop explosive power. Calisthenics movements require you to control your body through a full range of motion, which challenges your stabilizer muscles and improves your proprioception.

In a nutshell, Calisthenics develop a strong and evenly balanced physique.

In contrast, weight-training exercises often involve “ego lifting.” This phenomenon is where you might lift something too heavy for a particular exercise to boost your ego and/or show off in the gym. This can lead to muscular imbalances and an increased risk of injury.

Add that weight lifting has many isolation exercises. People tend to focus on body parts they enjoy working on and neglect other body parts. (There’s no reason for you to skip leg day!!!)

🏃 Quality of Movement

In calisthenics, strict form and technique are always celebrated. The quality of reps is the focus rather than the quantity. This results in better gains and fewer risks of injuries.

In weight lifting, it SHOULD also be the same case. However, many people tend to “ego lift,” and the quality of movement is sacrificed.

💯 Holistic Development

The main advantage of calisthenics is the holistic development. Even if you want to focus on bodybuilding through bodyweight, there will always be crucial components for overall health you will target (if you have the right program!).

For example, in The Movement Athlete app, even if you focus on hypertrophy, the TMA app supplements your training with cardio, mobility, and flexibility training to build a healthier body and not only for show.

When working with weights, people focus too much on a specific goal and neglect direct mobility work. In addition to that, proper technique is compromised when working with heavier weights. This is why people tend to get stiff in weightlifting, even if current research shows that weightlifting can improve mobility as well. Partial range are commonly used so strength is not developed in full range of motion.


🔎What Type Of Physique Will Calisthenics Give You?

Ok. To get things started, I want to mention first that you will generally build the same physique if you follow the same workout protocols.

However, there are some common training practices that offers a slightly different body type after training. The main difference comes from the compounds movements that are usually used. Because it’s much more difficult to isolate certain muscle groups in calisthenics, the physique you get tends to more “natural” because of the lack of isolation exercises that can grow “too much” certain body parts (I’m looking at you biceps!). It offers a more balanced look.🤛

You still can get jacked with massive biceps, shredded abs, and bouldering shoulders with bodyweight training alone, but it will take some time if you don’t implement isolation movements such as the ones mentioned above.


🔎What Type Of Physique Will Weights Give You?

Granted you implement traditional bodybuilding protocols, then training with weight lifting can help you achieve that bodybuilder’s physique. This is thanks to the isolation exercises where you can put it more training volume for specific muscle groups, even at a high-fatgiued state.

You can easily implement isolation movements because of the nature of the approach. Exercises can easily be loaded with low-moderate weight which opens up the possibility to create more muscle damage to significantly promote hypertrophy. As mentioned in the study conducted by Dr. Schoenfeld, high-volume training can improve further hypertrophy in trained individuals.

On the other hand, if you opt for more compound exercises similar to calisthenics, then you will achieve a more athletic-looking physique like what you’ll get with calisthenics.🥇


🔎Does Calisthenics Build a “Functional” Body?

Functional training is an interesting topic to talk about that can span a whole different article itself. But to cut it short, functional training is loosely defined as an approach to improve body function.

👉Calisthenics is considered functional. However, weightlifting can also produce the similar results.

👉Calisthenics exercises often implement mobility work that suits functional movement. However, general foundation exercises can also do so. In weightlifting, your compounds and isolation exercises can also improve your overall functionality depending on context.

Often times, weighlifting exercises are branded as “non-functional” movement and get a bad rep that ruins your joints and mobility. This is far from the through. In fact, research shows that your joints can benefit from weight training.

👉Like in terms of physique, it really depends on how you implement the proper protocols to achieve the desired goals.


🔎Is Calisthenics Harder Than Weightlifting?

There is no easy answer to this question. Both calisthenics and weightlifting have their own challenges and difficulties.

✊ Calisthenics might be considered harder because it requires you to use your body weight as resistance. This can makes progression less straightforward compared to just adding weights in weight lifting.

✊ Weightlifting, on the other hand, might be considered easier because you can constantly add more weight to the bar. This allows you to gradually increase the difficulty of your workouts without having to make any major adjustments to your routine.

At the end of the day, it really depends on your own personal preferences and goals.


🔎Are Calisthenics Guys Stronger Than Bodybuilders?

The answer to this question is a bit complicated.

😱Calisthenics guys are said to be stronger than bodybuilders, but there are a few caveats.

First of all, it is important to understand that calisthenics and weightlifting are two completely different disciplines. Calisthenics focuses on using your body weight as resistance, while weightlifting focuses on lifting heavy weights. Hence, they will be stronger in their own disciplines. Specificity is key.

With that being said, calisthenics guys are generally considered to be stronger than bodybuilders because they focus on building strength. This is due to the fact that calisthenics athletes often train to improve mobility (which helps manifest strength) and aim to build general strength for strength-based skills. This strength translates to better relative strength or your capability to produce force in relation to your bodyweight. Alternatively, you can also opt for weighted calisthenics to further increase absolute strength while enjoying calisthenics movements.

On the other hand, bodybuilders focus on muscle-development which require high-training volume, but heavily lifting is not required. But, because bodybuilding can simply add weight to increase the exercise intensity, it’s easy to build more absolute strength by working with higher loads but lower rep ranges.


🔎Why Are Calisthenics Guys So Lean?

There are a few reasons why calisthenics guys tend to be quite lean.

☑️ Being Lean creates an Advantage

First of all, most calisthenics athletes aim to learn advanced calisthenics skills. Extra weight from fats will just make these athletes heavier; hence, more challenging to attain skills. Most calisthenics athletes aim to build specific strength towards skills. Those with skill goals don’t often enter a bulking phase which tend to accumulate some fat. Being lean is advantagous in calisthenics because you’re working with bodyweight. Unlike in weightlifting, you can have a considerable amount of body fat, and still be strong to push/pull heavy weights.

☑️ Different Training Periodization

In weight lifting, it’s common to undergo a bulking phase and cutting phase. This process helps build muscle efficiently in the best time period possible. Bulking phase is when you eat at a caloric surplus to gain muscle mass, but it’s inevitable to gain some fat as well. The cutting phase is when you eat at a caloric deficit to remove the fat while retaining muscle to get that shredded look. Often times, the bulking phase is highlighted which makes bodybuilders look “bulky” compared to the shredded look immediately.

Alternatively, weightlifers can do a body recomposition when you lose fat and build muscle at the time, but the caloric window is much harder to manage, and it usually takes a long time to reach a certain size with this approach.

In calisthenics, you can also implement these strategies, but people tend to unintentionally go through a body recomposition stage because they need to maintain a good strength-to-weight ratio to be able to perform calisthenics exercises efficiently.

☑️ Different Goals

Here’s the main reason why calisthenics athletes are lean. They aim to build strength and learn skills. Building muscle and staying lean because only a by-product and not necessarily a goal of high-level calisthenics practitioners. This is the similar case why gymnasts are so jacked. They don’t focus necessarily on building muscle, but they aim to target to master high-level skills which require strength and muscle. As a result, they gain huge muscle while remaining shredded.

All of these factors combined can lead to some seriously lean physiques.

All in all, you can still get a bulky physique with calisthenics if you want to. It really depends on how you train with calisthenics and the nutrition you implement in your lifestyle.


📌Final Thoughts

Calisthenics and weightlifting are both great ways to develop a strong and muscular physique. However, the type of physique you ultimately develop will depend on your specific goals and how you approach these goals.

If you want to get into a well-rounded physique, I recommend a combination of both calisthenics and weightlifting.💯

🏋️‍♂️Weightlifting is generally preferable if you want to develop a purely aesthetic body.

🏆If you want to build a functional and practical physique, calisthenics is the best option available.

At the end of the day, it really comes down to personal preference. So, experiment with both disciplines and see which one you enjoy more. Whichever one you enjoy more is probably the one you should stick with in the long run.



1 Comment

  1. Amitabh Sharma

    Very nicely explained


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