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Calisthenics vs Weights: What’s the Difference?

In the fitness world, there’s an almost endless stream of lingo and terminology when it comes to exercise. Thankfully, we’re here to help end this madness by providing you with user-friendly guides and information on what all of these terms mean. Today we’re diving into the difference between two similar yet different kinds of exercises: […]

Published: 3/22/22

In the fitness world, there’s an almost endless stream of lingo and terminology when it comes to exercise. Thankfully, we’re here to help end this madness by providing you with user-friendly guides and information on what all of these terms mean. Today we’re diving into the difference between two similar yet different kinds of exercises: calisthenics vs weight training. Both are forms of weight training, but the two are not identical. In fact, there is one difference in particular that divides the two. Keep reading to find out what sets a calisthenics workout apart from weight training. 

What is Calisthenic Exercise?

Calisthenics is a form of exercise that uses your own body weight without the use of additional weights. Although you’re just using the weight of your body, there are indeed other tools that you can use to help you to utilize your weight in unique ways to get a good workout in. Usually, these tools are lighter, handheld items like rings or wands.

Here’s a deeper look into the world of calisthenics:

  • Bodyweight Versatility

Calisthenics comprises a wide range of exercises that primarily use your body weight as resistance.

It includes movements like push-ups, pull-ups, squats, and lunges, providing a holistic approach to strength training.

  • Incorporating Tools for Enhancement

While the essence of calisthenics lies in bodyweight, some tools can enhance your workouts. Lighter, handheld items like rings or wands can add complexity to movements, challenging different muscle groups.

  • LISS Training Integration

A calisthenics exercise not only includes bodyweight workouts, but it can even be a LISS workout. LISS, or Low-Intensity Steady State, is a form of cardio exercise that involves maintaining a low to moderate intensity level over an extended period of time, aiming to improve cardiovascular fitness and endurance without placing excessive stress on the body.

Calisthenics isn’t limited to high-intensity workouts; it can also include Low-Intensity Steady State (LISS) training.

LISS is a gentler form of exercise that promotes benefits such as improved blood flow, reduced stress, and enhanced cardiovascular health.

  • Accessible for All Fitness Levels

Calisthenics is suitable for beginners and individuals of all fitness levels.The adaptability of calisthenics allows for gradual progression, making it an inclusive form of exercise.

What is Weighted Exercise?

While a calisthenic is a bodyweight exercise, a Weighted exercise involves using additional weights, not just your own body weight, during your workout.

Why is the addition of weights useful?

  • Muscle Strain and Growth

Weighted exercises involve using external weights, pushing your muscles beyond their usual limits. This controlled strain on muscles causes microscopic tears, stimulating the body to rebuild and strengthen the tissue.

  • Scientific Basis for Growth

The process of muscle tearing and rebuilding is a natural mechanism for muscle growth. As you consistently challenge your muscles with heavier weights, you encourage the development of increased muscle mass and strength.

  • Variety in Training Methods

Weighted exercises cover a diverse range of activities, including weightlifting, resistance training, and functional movements. Dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, and resistance bands are common tools used in weighted exercises.

  • Heavy Weight Training Emphasis

Unlike calisthenics, which relies on body weight, weighted exercises may involve lifting heavier loads. Heavy weight training is a key component of weighted exercises, contributing to muscle hypertrophy and overall strength gains.

The Difference Between Calisthenics and Weighted Exercise

In general, calisthenic forms of exercise require more movement than weighted exercise training does. The main difference between these two isn’t necessarily even the actions themselves, but the desired result that you’re looking for.

Muscle Definition and Weight Loss

If your desired fitness goal is to have really defined muscles or lose weight, calisthenics are the more efficient option. Not to say you can’t or shouldn’t do both because engaging in both forms of exercise does allow for a more well-rounded fitness routine. However, calisthenics training will help you more with fat loss and muscle tone than weight lifting.

Calisthenic exercises involve more active movement than lifting weights, so more energy is required to get calisthenic exercises done. As a result, the body burns more calories and sheds more fat in the same amount of time. If you’re looking for some examples of what calisthenics is, here are two of our favorites.

Increasing Muscle Strength

If increasing muscle strength and exercise is a key priority for you, then you should be hitting the weights—no question. Weight lifting is unique because you can have so much precise control on where and how you build muscle strength. This streamlines the process of building muscle and can help you get specific muscle results faster.

Calisthenics and Weight Exercise Examples

Here are a few examples of some of our favorite calisthenics and weighted exercises:

Jump Squats (Calisthenics)

One type of calisthenics exercises is jump squats. If you’re looking to feel the burn, here it is. While jump squats may not necessarily be your favorite go-to for fun, they really kick your body into high gear to assist with overall fitness. ​​Although some may choose to add an external weight, it’s not necessary and can be done as a bodyweight exercise.

Begin standing with your feet hips distance apart. Bend down into a squat position, and then push into the balls of your feet, exploding upwards into a jump. Land back on the ground and repeat. 

Push-Ups (Calisthenics)

Another type of calisthenics exercise is push-ups. Push-ups use your body weight to get your body moving and start those micro muscle tears that lead to increased muscle build and strength  in your core and upper body.

Begin in a high plank position, with your feet and hips aligned and your hands underneath your shoulders. Engage your core muscles as you hinge at the elbows, lowering your body closer to the ground. Keeping your back body straight, stop when your elbows bend at a 90-degree angle, then push back up into a high plank and repeat.

Dumbbell Shoulder Press (Weight Exercise) 

A functional strength training exercise is a dumbbell shoulder press. This is a great exercise  to target a specific muscle group and is flexible with the resistance based on the dumbbell weight you choose.

Using two weighted dumbbells of your choosing, hold them at about ear level and lift up towards the ceiling and back down repeatedly. This exercise strengthens your delts, triceps, and traps.

Weighted Squat (Weight Exercise) 

If you’re looking to strengthen and build up your glutes, this is the one for you. While holding a barbell weight across your shoulders along your upper back, assume a squatting position and then return to your original starting position. Build to three sets of 5-10 reps.

A note about safety: Weighted exercise tends to carry more risk, so it’s incredibly important that you know your limits and can pace yourself in order to avoid any injury. If you’re not sure where to begin, start light with the weights and slowly increase over time. One preventative measure that helps with weight training is wearing protection, such as a back brace to protect you from a back injury. 

However, whether you’re heavy weight lifting or bodyweight training, it’s important to warm up before each exercise. While warming up may only sound essential to functional strength training and weightlifting, it’s important for any workout that involves movement and muscle engagement. The benefits of warming up before a workout are important to getting blood flow and for muscle recovery.



To Use Weights Or Not To Use Weights? (That’s up to you!)

Whether you’re looking for muscle growth or increased strength, you can use either of these workout modalities to your benefit and fitness goal. We encourage you to give both calisthenics and weight training a go to see which one better aligns with your fitness routine and exercise goals. Need a place to try out calisthenics or weight exercises? Come on in to your closest Chuze fitness and gain access to top-tier exercise equipment machines, weights, and workout areas.

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