It’s not uncommon to hear the terms “bodybuilding” and “callisthenics” used interchangeably. But are they the same thing?
The two methods of exercise have some similarities but also many differences. Let’s explore what callisthenics is, how it differs from bodybuilding, and why you might want to give it a try if you’re looking for an intense full-body workout that will help you develop strength in your entire body.
Bodybuilding is a method of exercising that usually involves specific weightlifting techniques, repetitions, and sets. It’s not just about strength but having large muscles. Bodybuilders are looking for bulk more than anything else.
Bodybuilding typically uses free weights (like barbells and dumbbells) or weight machines to do the work. There are no real restrictions on the exercises you can do, though some machine exercises might be limited.
Callisthenics, which is sometimes referred to as “street workout” or just “callisthenics”, is another form of exercise related to bodybuilding, but it’s not the same thing. Bodybuilders and callisthenics athletes both work out to get stronger, but their end goals are different.
For a callisthenics athlete, the goal is not to be bigger or bulkier; it’s to get stronger, develop more lean muscle, and look athletic. Calisthenic exercises use your body weight as resistance. No equipment is needed, but some activities performed with your body weight can also be done on parallel bars or other tools for added challenge.
The goal of callisthenics training is to build muscle endurance and cardiovascular health. So, you’ll get stronger – but it won’t give you the same massive bulk that a bodybuilder gets from their intense training routines.
Now that you know what both callisthenics and bodybuilding are, let’s look at some significant differences.
One of the main differences between bodybuilding and callisthenics is that a workout using this method involves a lot of full-body training. There’s no “isolation” work going on with callisthenics. With hundreds of exercises, you can perform, you’ll be working your entire body, which will give you the benefits of increased muscle strength throughout your whole body.
Callisthenics workouts are designed around using your body’s weight as resistance. There are many different ways to do this and all kinds of calisthenic exercises that can engage every muscle group in your body.
Isolation exercises, which might involve a body part being moved through a range of motion, are not as common as compound callisthenics exercises that work for several muscle groups at once. For example, an exercise like push-up is compound because it involves the chest, shoulders, and triceps working together to complete the movement.
Bodybuilders typically use weights, machines, and other equipment to get stronger. They work on isolation exercises that target specific muscle groups to build their muscles up bigger than someone who is only doing callisthenics. Weightlifting is often used as a supplement alongside weightlifting – not as the primary form of exercise.
Weight training aka Bodybuilding is all about having large muscles – they are the end goal. On the other hand, Callisthenics isn’t designed to make you bigger; it’s designed to make you stronger and develop lean muscle mass. You should see some gains in size because of increased muscular endurance and an improved metabolism – but that’s not the goal.
Another big difference between callisthenics and bodybuilding is what they use to get the job done. Bodybuilders often invest in expensive equipment like weight machines, free weights, cable systems, etc., whereas callisthenics athletes only need their bodyweight. Of course, if you’re serious about callisthenics, you can get some workout equipment to use for added resistance – but it’s not necessary.
Besides being a different form of exercise, Callisthenics is also considered a form of resistance training because you’re using your weight to get stronger. Unlike bodybuilding, where you use different types of equipment, callisthenics workouts are all about using your body weight to get stronger.
Bodybuilders work on sets and reps based on their goals, whereas callisthenics is primarily a workout consisting of unlimited reps. Most exercises performed in a callisthenics program are meant to be performed in sets of 10-to-15 reps. Still, some activities can also be done for an unlimited amount of time until you no longer have the strength to support your body.
As long as you’re using the correct weight or number of repetitions, it doesn’t matter how many sets or reps you do.
Now that you know more of the differences between callisthenics and bodybuilding, you should better understand which programs are best for your situation.
Bodybuilding would be the more practical choice if getting bigger muscles is your primary goal – more than just being strong or having visible abs. On the other hand, if you’re looking to get stronger throughout your entire body, you’ll want to go with callisthenics.
Give both a try and see which one suits you best – the more enjoyable exercise is what’s most likely going to stick with you in the long run. At first, it may seem like bodybuilding would be easier since all you have to do is lift weights and eat more to get bigger. But it takes a lot more effort to get bigger muscles than you might think.
It’s hard for beginners to pack on the muscle they have in mind because gaining strength is primarily about food, not exercise. You can’t force your body to grow huge muscles just by lifting weights – you need to eat right too. With callisthenics, you don’t have to worry about what to eat; make sure you’re getting enough protein and calories and then focus on your workouts.
Also, if you’ve never done callisthenics before, bodybuilding isn’t the best way to start – stick with Callisthenic bodyweight workouts first so you can become stronger and more fit as a beginner. Then, once you have some experience under your belt, start looking into bodybuilding programs.
If you love both bodybuilding and callisthenics, it’s possible to do both at the same time. For example, Steve Cook, an IFBB Pro Bodybuilder, also practices callisthenics every day to stay fit and maintain his lean muscle mass.
Bodybuilders like Steve know that it can be challenging to stay in shape after they retire from competitive bodybuilding, so they practice callisthenics as a way to keep their conditioning up between shows and seasons.
This is much better than sitting around eating junk food, gaining body fat, feeling bad about yourself, and not taking care of your body with exercise. Callisthenics can also help you gain muscle in places you don’t usually work out in the gym – for example, when doing pull-ups with an overhand grip on a bar with your hands shoulder-width apart.
Bodybuilders often focus on overhand pull-ups because that’s the grip they use when performing a lat pull-down in the gym, but it can also help you develop strong biceps!
Incorporating callisthenics into your current weight lifting workout is easy enough – just add some exercises from a callisthenics program to the beginning or end of your training, and you should be all set. You can perform callisthenics before lifting weights to get warmed up or after if the exercises don’t require any equipment and you have some time left in your gym session.
Callisthenics will help strengthen muscles that you might not normally develop while bodybuilding, such as your core and smaller muscle groups. The more size you gain, the less flexible your muscles become, increasing your risk of injuries while training.
So, which is better for you? If your goal is to have a lean and toned body with some muscle definition, the answer will probably be callisthenics.
However, if you are looking for that bulky “bodybuilder” look, it will most likely require doing callisthenics and weightlifting/bodybuilding exercises. The best possible option would seem to do both types of workouts to get the benefits of each kind of training program while also working on weaknesses like endurance or strength, respectively.