Calisthenics vs Bodybuilding

Calisthenics vs Bodybuilding – Do You Want Strength Or Muscle?

Calisthenics and bodybuilding are both great for achieving different goals. Now, let’s examine calisthenics vs bodybuilding.

Are you after building strength or gaining muscle mass? What are the benefits and potential risks?

Let’s find out and examine calisthenics vs bodybuilding and which is better for you.

Calisthenics vs Bodybuilding Brief Overview

Let’s briefly examine calisthenics vs bodybuilding. We will look at the strengths and weaknesses of both and make a quick verdict.


Calisthenics vs Bodybuilding: Calisthenics

Calisthenics is a type of workout where you use your own body weight as resistance. You progress by going through calisthenics progressions with more challenging and harder exercises each step of the way. It’s great for building functional strength and improving the range of motion. Both will be useful in your everyday activities.

Main calisthenics benefits:

  • Building useful strength in your entire body
  • Improving the range of motion by applying load on stretched muscles
  • Embedded gamification that will keep you motivated even when you don’t feel like working out
  • Accessible to anyone with none to minimal equipment used

In summary, calisthenics is great for building strength and mobility which is useful for other life activities. It will keep you motivated and push you even when you don’t feel like it. It’s cheap and accessible to anyone and can be done almost anywhere.

Calisthenics weaknesses:

  • Not the best workout regimen for losing weight
  • Not the best choice for building muscle mass
  • There are better choices for improving flexibility


Calisthenics vs Bodybuilding: Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding is the best workout regimen for building muscle mass. It’s a kind of workout where you lift weights. You progress by adding more weight at the end of a bar. If you want to build muscle and look great on the beach, bodybuilding is the way to go.

The benefits of bodybuilding are:

  • Bodybuilding is great for building muscle mass in the shortest time possible
  • You can easily track your progress by noting the weight that you are able to lift
  • If you want to look muscular there is no other workout regimen that will help you achieve this goal easier or faster
  • It’s one of the safest workout regimens

So, if you want to look your best at the beach, bodybuilding will help you do this faster than calisthenics. Calisthenics will not be able to bulk you up as much as weightlifting. If you want to gain muscle mass as fast as possible, bodybuilding will be the best choice for you. It’s easy to track your progress and it’s safe.

Bodybuilding weaknesses:

  • Bodybuilding is even worse for losing weight than calisthenics
  • If you don’t take special care about flexibility, bodybuilding will shorten your muscles and you will become stiff
  • If you don’t do regular cuts, you can easily become big and fat

Calisthenics vs Bodybuilding Quick Verdict

If you want to improve your strength and mobility at the same time calisthenics is the way to go. You will be able to improve the function of your body which will help you in your daily activities. It will improve your strength and make your muscles look more defined.

But if you want to look like Hulk and intimidate with your muscular appearance, bodybuilding will be your best choice. Be careful not to overdo it, because you may become both big and fat pretty fast.

Calisthenics vs Bodybuilding – Key Differences

Let’s do a quick comparison between calisthenics and bodybuilding. In the table below X marks which training regimen is better in which respect.

Muscle BuildingX
Progress TrackingX
Injury Rate (Safety)X
Weight LossX
Strength BuildingX

Muscle Building

When it comes to muscle building there is no better choice than bodybuilding. That’s a fact. If you want to pack more muscle, then you should lift weights. Period.

Progress Tracking

There’s no denying that it’s easier to track your progress by simply jotting down how much weight you were able to lift in each workout session. Calisthenics will make you go through progressions where each skill is harder than the previous. But how much harder? How to track this difficulty increase? It’s not as easy as tracking your progress in bodybuilding by simply writing down the weight you lifted.

Injury Rate

Calisthenics vs Bodybuilding: Injury

This was a surprise to me when I researched the injury rates for calisthenics and other training regimens. Calisthenics is marketed as one of the safest ways of training. It turns out, it’s not true. Although no “real scientific study” has been done on calisthenics injury rates, the online survey German scientists did is disappointing. Here are the results of the research.

Calisthenics Injury Rate

The German online survey reported 9 injuries per 1000 hours of calisthenics workouts. Even if it was “only an online survey”, this is a great indicator of the injury rates that can be expected in calisthenics.

Most of those injuries were reported on the arms and shoulders.

This might be because people do calisthenics on their own without any help from a coach. So, if you are a beginner doing exercises on your own with poor form, no wonder you get injured easily.

Bodybuilding Injury Rate

According to an American study, there are only 0.24 – 1 injuries per 1000 training hours in bodybuilding. This makes it one of the safest workout regimens out there.

Most injuries are reported on the shoulder, lower back, knee, elbow, and wrist/hand.

People usually do bodybuilding with the help of a personal trainer in a gym. So, with the help of a coach who will make you do exercises correctly, injury rates will be lower in bodybuilding than in calisthenics.

Weight Loss

If you want to lose weight as fast as possible, you would want to increase your heart rate and sweat. This will help you burn the most calories. So, this will be your goal with weight loss training. Both calisthenics and bodybuilding fall short when it comes to weight loss.

There are better options for weight loss:

  • HIIT (high-intensity interval training)
  • Cardio workout

So, if you want to lose weight, you will be better off doing HIIT or cardio workouts. But remember, the weight loss battle is won in the kitchen, not on a treadmill.

Now, when we compare calisthenics and weightlifting for weight loss, calisthenics will help you burn more calories. It can be turned into HIIT training more easily than weightlifting. So, calisthenics will be better for weight loss than bodybuilding.

Strength Building

There is no better choice for you if you want to build functional strength than calisthenics. This is what calisthenics is designed for. So, it will be a better choice than weight lifting.


If you only do weight lifting that is used for building muscle mass, your muscles will shorten and you will become stiff. Calisthenics will make you load your muscles in a stretched position. This will help you improve your mobility and flexibility.

You can improve flexibility by doing focused specific flexibility workouts even more than calisthenics. But, when we compare, calisthenics with bodybuilding, calisthenics will be better for improving mobility than bodybuilding.


Bodybuilding is most often practiced in a gym with a personal trainer. You have to pay for a gym membership and your coach.

You can do calisthenics almost anywhere, without any equipment, or using only pull-up bar and dip bars. If you have a calisthenics park nearby, it will be completely free. You can find all the equipment needed in a calisthenics park.

If you want to replicate it in your home, you can buy a few essential equipment pieces for your home gym. This will cost you a fraction of a yearly gym membership.


Everything you need to begin with calisthenics is your own body. You can start working out immediately without any equipment anywhere you like. This makes it very convenient.

On the other hand, you can’t start with bodybuilding without any equipment. You have to pay for a gym membership or buy expensive equipment to create your home gym. This makes it less convenient than calisthenics.


I used to train in the gym. It would last six months in the best case. This kind of workout was simply boring to me.

Calisthenics doesn’t get boring to me. I’m currently working out for more than five years. I don’t see it becoming boring any time soon.

To progress in calisthenics you use progressions. You start with easy moves and slowly work your way up to more complex and harder ones. Each skill you master is another level you master. It’s like playing a computer game in your own life. How can this become boring?

Conclusion: Calisthenics vs Bodybuilding – Which Is Better?

Calisthenics is great if you want to build strength and mobility that will help you in your day-to-day activities. If you want to improve how you feel by working out consistently, calisthenics will be your weapon of choice. It will keep you motivated and will cost you nothing or next to nothing.

But, if you want to build muscle mass and look your best when you look in the mirror, bodybuilding will be a better choice. It is also safer and easier to track your progress. So, if you like working out at the gym, you should rather choose bodybuilding.

Calisthenics vs Bodybuilding FAQ

Yes. Bodybuilding will help you build muscle mass faster than calisthenics.

Calisthenics will be better for building functional strength. Weight lifting will be better for building muscle mass. So, it depends on your goals. If you want bigger muscles faster, the better choice is weightlifting. If you want to build strength that will be useful in your everyday life, calisthenics will be better for you.

Calisthenics is more effective for building strength and mobility than bodybuilding. Bodybuilding is more effective for building muscle mass. So, each is better for a different purpose

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