Whether you are a fitness newbie or a seasoned gym-goer, this question of bodyweight (a.k.a calisthenics) exercises vs. lifting weights is sure to have crossed your mind at some point.
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Before we dive into the debate, remember that each form of fitness has its own benefits. Your fitness goals and your body type will determine which form of physical activity is best suited to your needs. What you want is a well-rounded exercise routine that allows you to get stronger and feel physically fitter overall. Keep in mind also that these two forms of fitness are not mutually exclusive – but more on that later.
Fitness And Development
While weightlifting focuses on mostly building up strength and developing muscle mass, bodyweight or calisthenics exercises have a broader focus on overall fitness. If your exercise goals include achieving high levels of cardio endurance, improved flexibility, increased blood circulation, and muscle sculpting and toning, then you definitely want to do some bodyweight or calisthenics workouts. If, however, your main priority is gaining more muscle and increasing strength, bodyweight workouts alone may not get you the big, rippling muscles you want.
Exercises And Equipment
Calisthenics/bodyweight workout routines typically comprise of exercises you do using only your bodyweight, such as lunges, squats, leg lifts, push-ups, dips, crunches, planks and jumping jacks. Weightlifting workouts require the use of external weights, such as barbells, kettlebells and dumbbells, along with various weight resistance machines. As soon as you add some resistance with a weight, your bodyweight exercise moves into weightlifting territory. However, dumbbell lunges, weighted sit-ups, renegade rows etc. are all combination forms of exercise that combine the best of both worlds!
Trying weightlifting exercises without the right training can be dangerous. Improper form or lifting too-heavy weights ca n result in muscle strains and injuries. If you’re new to weightlifting and would like to add muscle mass the safe way, you should definitely consider seeking professional guidance to get the moves down and perfect your form before settling into your own routine.
Bodyweight exercises, on the other hand, do not need any external machinery or equipment, which makes them incredibly versatile. While you can join gym class for some bodyweight workout sessions with a group, performing your own bodyweight workout at home (or at the park, or at the beach) is also a perfectly safe option. Of course, injuries can occur during any type of physical activity, so check your form with bodyweight exercises as well to make sure you aren’t straining your knees or joints. Make sure you’re knees are slightly pointed out during squats and that they track over your toes (but never go past) during lunges, and keep your core is engaged.
The Right Fuel
Regardless of which side you support in the bodyweight vs. weightlifting debate, the recommendation for healthy, clean-eating (with a focus on whole, unprocessed foods) applies to all. However, since the aim of weightlifting is to build up on muscle mass and raw strength, you’ll need to up your protein intake with weightlifting workouts, especially immediately afterwards for optimal muscle growth. Try to consume 20 grams of protein immediately after a weightlifting workout for better results.
The Holistic Approach
Instead of focusing on the pros and cons of bodyweight exercises vs. lifting weights, why don’t we blend the two forms of fitness together? While calisthenics are great for endurance, muscle toning and flexibility, they fall short on building up muscle mass. Only a highly rigorous bodyweight workout routine can lead to development of significant muscle gains. Similarly, weightlifting workouts tend to neglect the areas of flexibility and agility, and won’t give you much in terms of cardiovascular fitness.
Our suggestion? If you’re focused on building muscle, try three weightlifting workouts a week combined with two or more cardio-based bodyweight routines. If, however, you’re aiming for toning, cardio and agility (rather than bulk), try two weightlifting workouts a week with three to four bodyweight workouts. Better yet, add weight to your existing bodyweight routine with dumbbells, kettlebells or medicine balls for a well-rounded workout that covers all aspects of fitness in onet go.
The “best” workouts will always depend on your specific body type and goals. The key is to keep moving, switch things up, and find a workout program that works for you.