Bodybuilding vs Calisthenics – Can You Do Both?

  • By: Dave Moffat
  • Date: June 21, 2023
Bodybuilding vs Calisthenics

The age-old debate between bodybuilding and calisthenics has been going on for quite some time.

Many gym-goers don’t know what to think about the debate about which type of training is better.

The truth is, both can be incredibly effective, depending on what you’re trying to achieve. The most significant distinction between the two disciplines is the source of resistance used.

Bodybuilding employs weights and machines, whereas calisthenics utilizes the individual’s body weight.

Each method has its advantages, and it depends on your personal goals and fitness levels.

Whether you’re striving for lean muscle or trying to get stronger, there’s certainly a method that will work for you.

What is Bodybuilding?

Bodybuilding is a form of resistance training that focuses on increasing muscle mass through external resistance.

The goal is to work the muscles as much as possible by using different kinds of exercise equipment and moving in different ways.

During bodybuilding workouts, the main focus is on visible muscle groups like the deltoids, pectorals, arms, and abs.

Even though most people think of professional bodybuilders when they hear the word “bodybuilding,” anyone who wants to get in shape and look better can do it.

It takes discipline, hard work, and a deep understanding of how to get the most muscle growth out of exercise, nutrition, and rest.

Pros and Cons of Bodybuilding

When it comes to bodybuilding, there are both pros and cons to consider. On the positive side, bodybuilding is highly effective at building muscle mass, making it a great choice for those looking to bulk up.

Bodybuilding can also help you lose weight because it requires a lot of sets with a lot of reps.

However, there are also some drawbacks to this style of training. One of the main complaints about isolation exercises is that they are done too much, which can lead to muscle imbalances and even injury.

Also, athletes who have been hurt before might not want to do bodybuilding because it doesn’t have specific exercises to help them.

And while bodybuilding does promote an impressive physique, the skills developed may not transfer over to other sports. It’s also worth noting that bodybuilding can be a time-consuming and equipment-heavy pursuit.

Typical Bodybuilding Workout

During a typical bodybuilding workout, the upper and lower body are worked on in separate sessions.

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These sessions usually begin with heavy free-weight compound movements, such as the barbell back squat and bench press, to target large groups of muscles at once.

Following these main exercises, bodybuilders move on to accessory and isolation exercises with higher rep ranges for more targeted muscle building.

Popular examples of accessory exercises include bicep curls and dumbbell chest flies.

By following a specific workout routine tailored to their goals, bodybuilders are able to build and sculpt their bodies to achieve the desired level of muscle mass and definition.

What is Calisthenics?

Calisthenics is a type of workout that has gained popularity in recent years due to its convenience and efficacy.

This form of resistance training involves using your own body weight as resistance, making it ideal for individuals who prefer to exercise without equipment.

Calisthenics is different from bodybuilding because it uses progression exercises. These exercises change how much pressure is put on the body to make the workout harder.

To be good at calisthenics, you need to be physically strong, have good muscle endurance, be mobile, and have good coordination.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced fitness enthusiast, calisthenics is definitely worth exploring as a way to achieve a toned and healthy body.

Pros and Cons of Calisthenics

Calisthenics, a form of exercise that utilizes body weight movements, come with a set of pros and cons.

One advantage is that they are accessible and easy to learn, making them an ideal exercise option for beginners.

However, one downside is that there are few progression options in the early stages. Also, compared to other forms of resistance training, calisthenics tend to lead to slower muscle growth.

Another challenge is the difficulty of isolating specific muscle groups during compound movements, making it harder to achieve targeted results.

Typical Calisthenics Workout

Calisthenics workouts offer a refreshing change from traditional bodybuilding routines.

In bodybuilding workouts, exercises often get harder as the session goes on. Calisthenics, on the other hand, start with the hardest moves and then move on to the less difficult ones.

This method makes sure that the body is tired enough before moving on to less intense exercises, which maximizes any training gains that might be possible.

With the added bonus of being quick and easy to perform, calisthenics workouts are ideal for those who are short on time.

Moreover, they can be done virtually anywhere, including the great outdoors or even in the privacy of one’s own bedroom.

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Some of the most common exercises in calisthenics include bodyweight dips, pull-ups, push-ups, and bodyweight squats, all of which are moderate-intensity compound movements.

Calisthenics or Bodybuilding for Muscle Mass?

When it comes to building muscle mass, the debate between calisthenics and bodybuilding is often discussed.

There are pros and cons to both approaches. Bodybuilding helps people gain muscle mass faster and gives them more control over how they are doing.

On the other hand, calisthenics induce muscle protein synthesis more slowly.

However, combining both approaches can be beneficial for creating a cohesive athletic training program.

By incorporating bodybuilding techniques, individuals can benefit from greater muscular hypertrophy, while still taking advantage of the other benefits that calisthenics offers.

It is important to consider the individual’s goals and preferences when deciding which approach to take.

Athletes and Sports: Bodybuilding or Calisthenics?

When it comes to athletic ability and sports-specific skill, there is a clear winner between bodybuilding and calisthenics.

While bodybuilding can create an impressive physique, it falls short in terms of skills such as proprioception, motor skill specificity, and isometric muscular endurance.

Calisthenics, on the other hand, excel at building these crucial skills. Unless someone is practicing a sport that requires free weight exercises, calisthenics should be the main choice for athletic training.

It’s important for athletes to prioritize skills that are directly relevant to their sport, and calisthenics are an effective way to accomplish this.

With calisthenics, athletes can build overall physical strength while improving their abilities in areas that matter most on the field or court.

Bodybuilding or Calisthenics for Fat Loss?

When it comes to shedding unwanted fat, both bodybuilding and calisthenics are great options to consider.

While each form of exercise has its unique benefits, the fact remains that both can help you achieve your weight loss goals.

While calisthenics may require more repetitions to achieve the same level of calorie burn as bodybuilding, it’s an excellent option for those who don’t have access to a gym or equipment.

On the other hand, bodybuilding is a great choice if you have the right facilities and tools.

Ultimately, the key is to find a workout routine that works for you and that you enjoy doing, so that you can stick with it over the long term and achieve the results you desire.

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Mixing Bodybuilding and Calisthenics

The combination of bodybuilding and calisthenics has become a popular way to get in shape all over the world.

This synergistic approach to training allows individuals to enhance their muscular strength, endurance, and aesthetic appearance by combining exercises from these two niches.

Some popular pairings include pull-ups with barbell rows and dips paired with bench presses.

The true power of mixing these disciplines is seen when selecting and blending them efficiently to reap maximum fitness and muscle mass benefits.

This dynamic training method can help both experienced athletes and newcomers reach their goals with patience and consistency.


When it comes to achieving your fitness goals, bodybuilding and calisthenics are two popular training disciplines with their own unique focuses.

Bodybuilding is centered around building muscle mass, while calisthenics emphasize athletic skills and bodyweight feats.

However, it’s important to note that combining both disciplines can lead to the best results, as each has its own benefits.

When deciding between the two, it’s essential to consider your lifestyle and fitness goals to determine which would be the best fit for you.

Regardless of which discipline you choose, ensuring that you have adequate rest and follow a proper diet while also gradually increasing intensity and difficulty, will result in a successful outcome.

Dave Moffat
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Hi, I'm Dave Moffat the founder and Chief Editor of and certified International Personal Trainer and Certified Nutritionist. My passion has always been bodybuilding but with 15 years' experience in weight loss programs too, it's hard not to mention all that when you're working at your fitness level fullest (I hope). When Im not in the gym or spending time away from my family i often think about what advice would help others achieve theirs goals just like these inspired mine.