Calisthenics is a minimalist approach to physical fitness requiring no equipment other than a pull up bar and used for centuries to build and tone lean muscle. As you use only your own bodyweight, you place less stress on your joints, decrease your risk of injury, tendon damage or strained or sprained muscles. If performed correctly, through the entire range of motion, bodyweight training also increases and maintains flexibility.
Additional benefits of calisthenics include:
- You can train virtually anywhere. Your office, spare room, garage, patio, or the local park. Anyplace that has about six feet of floor space becomes your gym. Nothing to prevent you from knocking out a few sets of push ups or pistol squats. If you have access to a park with a sturdy jungle gym or swing set you can use either as a pull up/chin up bar.
- Low Cost and no investment to start. No gym to join, little to no equipment to buy although a fixed or door mounted pull up bar will add another dimension to your bodyweight training. As you advance in your training, if you would like to add additional bodyweight training challenges, add a suspension trainer like the popular TRX system and a simple and inexpensive jump rope for some cardio training.
- Limits your excuses. You don’t need expensive equipment, don’t need to travel to the gym, you can train anytime and anyplace. So what’s your excuse for not training?
- Improves balance and coordination. Most bodyweight exercises require spatial awareness and balance. Performing those exercises improves both balance and coordination. One example is the advanced level Pistol Squat, a one-legged bodyweight squat with the opposing leg held straight out in front of you.
- While a basic program starts with push ups, pull ups and bodyweight squats, there are hundreds of calisthenic exercises and variations of each. You can easily train your entire body from a variety of angles resulting in lean and toned muscles.
Disadvantages Of Bodyweight Training
The disadvantage of calisthenics and bodyweight training involve a lack of control and progression. In the early stages of training your body weight is too much weight for the exercise (such as a pull up) and there is no way to adjust for this overload. By contrast, if you train with free weights or adjustable machines, you can easily select your resistance.
Once you become proficient, your body has adapted to the exercises and become stronger, however to advance you need to increase the weight and resistance, known as progressive resistance, easy to do with free weights, not so with body weight. Your only options are more repetitions, or performing those reps in a shorter time. You can however add some calisthenics equipment such as weighted vests.
Calisthenics and bodyweight training are ideal for those with a limited income and limited space. This training supports fat burning and weight loss while developing longer, leaner and toned muscle.
Weightlifting also known as resistance training, involves dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells and weight machines in the gym. Resistance training exercises can be multi-joint, full body movements but are more often isolation exercises that train smaller muscle groups or even individual muscles. You have nearly complete control over weight (resistance).
Additional benefits of weightlifting include:
- Once your body adapts to curls with 15 pound dumbbells, you can easily move up the resistance to 20 pound dumbbells. It’s very simple to chose another pair of dumbbells or add a few plates to your barbell. This increase in weight or progression, is what builds strength and promotes muscle mass, the greater demand you place on a muscle, the greater its adaptation and growth. To get bigger and stronger, add more weight to the barbell.
- Track your progress more easily. Those who track and record fitness progress in a training log or journal experience greater gains. They see positive results and increases in size and strength in the numbers they record and also identify and correct problems to overcome lack of progress. This process is more precise with X sets, Y reps using Z weight dumbbell.
- While multi joint, compound exercises are most beneficial for overall fitness and strength, if you choose to isolate a muscle and improve that muscle you can do so with free weights. You can target very specific muscles and strengthen weak links and correct muscle imbalances.
- Mass Building. If gaining muscle size and strength, getting noticeably bigger and stronger is your goal, training with weights is the way to go. Calisthenics promotes longer, leaner and toned muscles, weights (heavy and intense training) promotes new muscle growth and stronger bones, joints and ligaments.
Disadvantages of weighttraining include expense, access or availability and increased risk of injury. The number of dumbbells and barbells required can prove expensive, building an adequate home gym is possible, but be prepared to spend a great deal over time as you need additional weights and equipment. You are more likely to join a gym that can provide the variety of equipment you need.
If weight training is your first choice, you will need access to those weights to workout, either at home or you’ll need to travel to the gym. Free weights require skill and correct form to be performed safely and effectively, losing focus with a heavy barbell on your shoulders can lead to injury.
The Best Approach
Both calisthenics and weightlifting build muscle, both increase your resting metabolic rate, increase your heart rate and burn fat as well as relieve stress. There are benefits worth considering in both types of training. Why not combine the two.
Perform a calisthenic exercise before a corresponding weight lifting movement as a warm up set. As an example, do push ups to warm up for your bench presses, or bodyweight squats before your weighted squats. Another option is to use calisthenics as a finishing movement, after each weight exercise. Training this way will allow you to maximize the benefits and minimize the drawbacks of both calisthenics and weightlifting.
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