“Calisthenics or weight training? Which one is better for fat loss/muscle gains?”
Often this question will come from those who aren’t training to begin with and in these scenarios any training is better than no training. At the end of the day it comes down to which one you can be most consistent with.
Let’s breakdown some key points:
1. One benefit of calisthenics is that it doesn’t require a lot of equipment, you’re essentially just using your own body weight. This allows for “freedom” and creativity.
Also this is the main reason why I often fall-back to doing body-weight style training during traveling when I don’t have access to a gym. However this might not be as beneficial to beginners for two main reasons.
a. If you’re a beginner you’re still going to be very limited in the types of movements you can perform – due to limited physical strength.
Calisthenics are great for overall body development and building functional movement patterns, but it can be difficult to increase the intensity outside of just increasing reps, which turns the exercises into aerobic, endurance training.
b. Progression can sometimes be difficult to quantify and that makes it harder because you don’t have the luxury to simply add a few pounds like you would on a barbell or a use a heavier dumbbell.
A major benefit however is that mastering new movements and learning how to leverage your body weight in different ways can be very satisfying.
2. One big issue with Calisthenics is maximizing lower body development for more advanced lifters. You can do pistol squats, jump squats, single leg squats and movements like this but you will be limited while trying to progressively overload.
This is where weight training (squats, dead lifts & lunges) win. You can load the bar and your body will be adapting by growing.
3. “Which training style gives you more ‘functional’ strength?”. This is a question that doesn’t make any sense.
Strength is a specific to whatever movement you train. A power lifter squatting 250 kg is super strong, and someone holding a 2 minute isometric rep doing a Pull-Up is also strong.
Now the power lifter might not be able to hold that rep for 2 minutes and the guy doing the pull-up might not be able to squat 250 kg. Either one is strong in their own domain. And strength measurements essentially depend on which domain you look at.
All forms of resistance training (calisthenics, bodybuilding, power lifting, Olympic weightlifting) have the potential to build great looking bodies.
The key is progressive overload and putting more demands on your body over time will result in muscle growth. Muscle growth (hypertrophy) will be a necessary adaptation as your body will need bigger muscles to produce more force and to be resistant to fatigue.
This can be achieved with all forms of resistance training. It comes down to which one you commit to. You can also combine them in clever ways.
Example: 3 days of calisthenics with 2 days of lower body strength training.
The important point to remember is that it’s not what you choose ultimately – fully commit to it and go all the way!
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