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Calisthenics and gym are two of the most popular strength training regimes. Calisthenics is the process of building muscles through exercises that only use your bodyweight. It’s highly popular because it’s cheap, has low requirements, and can be done anywhere.
On the other hand, going to the gym to lift weights is the most popular form of exercise today. For a monthly fee, you’ll have access to all of the weights, equipment, and personnel in the gym to build your muscle.
Both types of training are popular, so many people can’t decide which one to pick: calisthenics vs gym?
In this article, we’ll help you decide which one to choose. We believe a combination of both is the best way to build your muscles to get the benefits of the best of both worlds.
Read on to learn why.
Calisthenics – What Is It?
Calisthenics is a form of strength training that focuses on using your body weight to perform particular movements to build muscle. The main staples of this type of training are exercises such as pull-ups, push-ups, and squats. But calisthenics is much more than just a few of those simple exercises.
The beauty of calisthenics is the versatility and the freedom you have to perform almost any movement you want with your body. While it’s good to start with simple and rudimentary push-ups, you can add hundreds of variations to the exercise as you progress. Just to name a few:
- One-handed push-ups
- Clapping push-ups
- Cobra push-ups
- Diamond push-ups
- And so much more.
You hopefully get the point. It’s the same with almost any other exercise you’ll do with calisthenics. So you progress by altering the practices and making them more challenging. And it’s possible to build a fabulous physique with calisthenics only (although you’re always missing out on the few key lifts that are done in the gym).
Let’s see why calisthenics training is good, and why it’s not the best exercise for some people.
Pros of Calisthenics
Here are the good things about calisthenics.
1. It’s Free (or at Least, Cheap)
Calisthenics is a very low-cost way of getting fit. All you need is your bodyweight, a pull-up bar (which you can find outdoors in most areas, or you can buy it for relatively cheap), perhaps a dipping stand, gymnastics rings, and maybe some types of equipment that cost close to nothing.
You don’t need any membership to build your muscle with calisthenics, although some calisthenics gyms do have memberships, and these gyms will have everything you will need to get started. Some people also buy weight vests to progress with calisthenics, although that already borders on weight training.
2. You Can Do it Anywhere
There are no excuses for not doing calisthenics! Because you can do it almost anywhere you want – your home, your garage, the park, your town, when you’re traveling, in nature, or even in the gym.
All you need is your bodyweight, for the most part. However, you will need something similar to a pull-up bar to get started when you’re out and about.
3. Offers a Lot of Variety and Builds Flexibility
Practically no calisthenics workout will be the same as the previous one. And that’s because of the wide variety of exercises that you can do with your bodyweight. There are dozens of variations to almost any core exercise in calisthenics, such as pull-ups, push-ups, and squats.
4. Uses Multiple Muscles at Once
Most of the exercises you’ll do with calisthenics will target multiple muscles at once. This is great if you want to build a good, well-rounded physique. On the other hand, weight training offers a lot more in isolating your muscles, which is practically impossible with calisthenics.
Cons of Calisthenics
So we’ve discussed the good things, but what are the bad things about calisthenics?
1. Harder to Progress
The truth is that calisthenics will be harder to progress compared to weights, and the progress will be significantly slower, too. You need a decent amount of knowledge about the exercises, and you need to know which practices to do to progress. All you need to do with the gym is to increase the weight on the bar, and you’re set.
2. It Needs a Decent Strength Level to Start
Even though calisthenics is pretty beginner-friendly, you’re unlikely to see great results straight from the start.
Plus, you’re risking injuries with calisthenics because if you don’t do the exercises right, you can harm yourself quite quickly. You’ll have instructors in the gym that will show you the ropes in those first few tough weeks.
3. Not Great for Isolating Muscles
Most of the calisthenics exercises are focused on multiple muscles at once. Very few (if any) are targeted to improve the strength of just one particular muscle. It’s near impossible to isolate muscles.
While with the gym, there’s a lot of chances to do just that. It’s easy to target specific muscles by using movements that are simply not possible in calisthenics.
About Weightlifting & Gym
Going to the gym to build muscle is perhaps the most common way people build strength, lose weight, and train today. For a monthly/yearly membership fee, you’ll have access to all of the equipment in personnel in the gym.
Building your muscles with weights is perhaps the quickest way to do so. It’s convenient to overload your muscles and challenge yourself every week progressively. Most of the time, you’ll only need to increase the weights you use to do the exercises.
However, even though gyms are available almost anywhere you might go, there’s still a level of inconvenience if you don’t live near one. There are some significant benefits of gyms but also drawbacks that make people consider other types of training.
Pros of Gym
Let’s discuss the good things about the gym first.
1. You’ll Be Able to Build Muscle Faster
Lifting weights is probably the quickest way to see results. You’ll be able to do compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses. These are the core exercises that are incredibly important for building muscle.
And progressing is much easier than with calisthenics, too. All you need is a good training routine and to add more weight each time you enter the gym.
2. You’ll Have Access to Equipment and Personnel
This is a big one – gyms offer all sorts of equipment that you won’t find anywhere else. That’s why it’s more convenient to pay for membership than pay for building an entire home gym.
And with the personnel at hand – such as personal trainers, you’ll be able to learn what you’re doing correctly and what you’re not. Plus, they’re great for motivating you, while with calisthenics, you’re on your own for most of the time.
3. Easy to Isolate Muscle Groups
You’ll be able to target individual muscle groups with gym equipment. That will give you a better chance to build a physique that suits your own needs and wants. If you’re lagging in tricep strengths, you can simply do isolation movements for your triceps and target them that way. This is not possible with calisthenics.
4. You’ll be Able to Socialize
For many people, going to the gym is more about socializing rather than just training. For others, they prefer to be left alone and focus. But if you want, there’s always a good community in almost any gym that’s prepared to help you out. It’s an excellent way to make friends if you’re that sort of person – you don’t have to if you don’t want, though!
Cons of Gym
What about the bad things?
1. It’s Expensive
The gym membership will set you back for $40-$100 every month, depending on where you live. So if you aren’t prepared to take that cost, it’s better to stick with other training types.
2. It’s Crowded (Sometimes)
Gyms are full of people, while with calisthenics, you’ll have all the equipment for yourself. This can be frustrating when you have to wait for equipment to free up, which can stall your training.
3. It’s Inconvenient for Some People
If you live far away from the gym, then you’ll have to drive there almost every day. That will add to the overall cost of going to the gym.
So, Which One’s Better?
No matter which type of training you prefer, there’s no denying that both gym and calisthenics offer their benefits, although both have their drawbacks.
So which one’s better when it comes to calisthenics vs gym?
We recommend that you do both of them in combination. Take what’s best from both worlds, and get the benefits of both types of training. You don’t have to stick just to calisthenics or only to the gym. Why would you leave out the benefits of doing compound lifts that can build a tremendous amount of muscle? Or, why would you leave out the flexibility you get with calisthenics?
If you’re struggling to pick one, the single best way to go about this is to start your home gym. Buy the critical equipment for those compound lifts – you’ll need a bar, weights, and perhaps dumbbells – that should get you going.
At the same time, get a pull-up bar and start combining the two workouts. We believe this is the single best way to train your muscle, period.