Calisthenics VS Weights VS Machines – Which one is best?


Most people don’t understand that Weights and Calisthenics are not that different. If you want to get stronger, you have to set the muscle under tension for the sufficient time and for the sufficient resistance for your goal. And that’s it. Of course, there are many ways to train for different goals. Some want to learn advanced movements. Some want to build a good physique. And some just want to stay fit and active. So, if you want to know what kind of training is right for you, just take a look on the pros and cons of each type of training. Let’s start with the pros and cons of Calisthenics. PROS : Calisthenics can be done nearly anywhere and anytime. And you also need very little or no equipment for your training. One of the biggest pros, in my eyes, is that you can learn new movements and have more creativity and overall freedom. In weight training, the exercises stay nearly the same. All you do is adding of weight. Maybe you start by lifting only the bar itself and learn the correct technique. As you get better, you add up more and more weight. But the exercise stay the same. Bench Press is Bench Press, no matter which weight you use. If you do calisthenics, you can learn new movements after you’ve mastered the basics. You can learn stuff like levers, flags, handstand, pushups, planche, muscle ups and also combinations of these exercises. You can use calisthenics to build up a physique. You can train for strength or just learn complex movements and master your body weight. Another benefit is that you target multiple qualities simultaneously. When you progress into advanced Calisthenic move, you are going to be challenging a multiple ways. You are going to build strength, coordination, mobility, flexibility, and overall body control. The next point is the compound movement training which means you have really no isolation exercises, which can be a pro and a con. Isolating muscle’s weak spot is very hard to do with bodyweight exercises. You always have some stabilizing components in every move which also train other than the targeted areas. This is good because in most cases you don’t need isolation exercises. Our body is designed for complex movements which involve multiple muscle groups and joints. Another benefit is that you tense more than one or just a few muscle group which gives you a good coordinated component and saves you some time when training. But if you want to target only a specific muscle or to recover from an injury, you can integrate isolation exercises by using machines or other equipment. CONS :
This leads us directly to the cons of calisthenics. Like mentioned before, it’s hard to isolate muscles. In some few cases isolation exercises are necessary to train weak points or help recover from injuries. If you have such an issue, you need to use the machines or other equipment because you can almost not isolate a specific muscle completely with calisthenics. You have limitations in leg training. I mean you can train your legs only with your body weight. And you can’t build up some strong well-trained legs. But there are limitations. Because our legs have really large and strong muscles, and most calisthenic leg exercises would be a strength endurance or endurance training. There’s no problem to train your legs for strength endurance and your upper body for maximum strength, as long as you take an eye on a balanced body and avoid too big imbalances. But if you want to build huge legs or train for maximum strength, you should train your legs with weights. Even if you do pistols and are only able to do like 5 reps or so, in the most cases, it’s more limited because of missing technique than a lack of strength. The next con is that progressions are harder to measure and to understand. In weightlifting you can progress in very little steps by adding small weights. In calisthenics you all progress from a move you already mastered to a harder one. You do this by changing the lever or work into work with 1 armed or 1 legged execution. It’s harder to understand how you can change a body weight exercise to make it harder or easier than just adding of weight. The steps from one progression to another can sometimes also be very big and hard. And it’s much easier if you can just add up an exact amount of weight. Let’s move on to the pros and cons of free weights. PROS : Compound and isolation exercises are possible. You can do compound or isolation exercise. The greater variety of isolation exercises means you have more control over the way your body looks and develops than with body weight exercises. With body weight you can build an all around good looking body. But with weights you can define specific parts like triceps or shoulders even more precise. The progressions are easier to understand and to measure. You have nothing else to do with it and just add or remove some weight. And a hundred kilos are a hundred kilos and will never change. So you can always see if and how you progress by comparing the reps with the specific weight with each other. You have no limitations in leg training. CONS : You need equipments and space like different dumbbells, barbells, weights, benches or racks. This is always connected to spending money either for gym membership or for a lot of equipment you use at home. You often need a training partner that helps you for the last rep depending on your training method and weight. You cannot be that much creative while keeping it effective. Basic mechanics of the exercises remain the same which means that you don’t learn new movement. You can get better at that techniques but they are not that complex than calisthenic techniques. Just comepare a military press to a handstand pushup. And only take a look at the complexity of the technique and not at the intensity. This can also be an advantage because you learn techniques faster and are able to progress faster. Let’s move on to the pros and cons of machines. PROS : Machines are very safe. You can almost make no huge mistakes using a machine. They are good for rehab after injuries or for people with very bad motion perception. For someone that has a really low level of fitness and or is recovering from an injury, machines may be the
tool to get their strength up quickly and safely. Since many machines isolate muscles, it may also be easier to work around certain injuries. And of course, you can focus on specific muscles. Most machines are designed in a way that they get the most out of an isolated movement by using eccentric discs. This means you can get almost the same tension over the complete movement. But because of this, you don’t train any technique which is very important especially for maximum strength exercises. CONS : It’s non-functional. Machines have a lot of cons. But it all comes down to the one point. All movements are fixed motions. Machines don’t train complete human movement patterns. They lock you in the place for a guided movement. Our bodies are all different. And that’s the reason why we need free movements. Machines will always force you into these guided patterns without using your muscles to stabilize the movement. If you only train on machines, you have a higher risk of injury, because your body is not used to move out of those pattern. There’s also a very high risk to train yourself into an imbalanced body, because you don’t use the normal movement patterns which our bodies are made for. So what’s the conclusion? All of the three have their pros and cons. You need to know how and when you should use one of those three ways to train. Of course, it’s also possible to combine two or all. But if you don’t recover from injury, I suggest you to Calisthenics and Free Weights to train your body. The focus you choose also depends on your goals as well. If you want to learn advanced calisthenic movement, go with that. If you’re interested in bodybuilding, Combined Weights with Calisthenics and maybe also Machines to define special areas. I hope you got a basic overview of the differences between those three forms of strength training. If you have any further questions, just leave a comment below. Thx, Alex!~

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