Some people say that lifting heavy weights in the gym is the best way to build strength and muscle.
Others say it’s calisthenics and mastering bodyweight exercises.
The truth is they’re both right! But the problem is that too many people believe you have to choose one or the other: Lifting weights or bodyweight training.
If you’re used to working out with weights in a gym, you should seriously consider adding a moderate dose of calisthenics to the routine you’re already doing.
Here are 5 huge benefits of combining bodyweight training and traditional weightlifting.
1. You can do calisthenics anywhere, anytime
It can be really stressful when you’re on the verge of setting a new PR in the gym…. And then that pesky vacation you scheduled a few months back pops up.
You’re excited to relax on the beach or explore a new country, obviously, but you’re worried about losing your gains.
It’s WAY easier to get a calisthenics workout in (and stay on track) while traveling than it is to find a respectable gym with the equipment you need.
Calisthenics and bodyweight training can be done anywhere, anytime, and in just a few minutes of your time. Any muscle group you can work with weights, you can work just as hard without them.
2. Calisthenics can improve your conditioning (and boost your lifts)
Calisthenic workouts can be programmed a ton of different ways.
You can build your way up to the most challenging bodyweight movements and maximize your strength levels.
Or you can create a challenging full-body conditioning circuit (like a HIIT workout) using higher-reps of the basic movements and short rest intervals.
If you choose to use calisthenics as a cardio and conditioning tool, you’ll likely see excellent gains on your big gym lifts. Your increased endurance will also increase your work capacity — literally, how much total weight you can lift in a workout.
This will likely translate to noticeable pounds added to your main lifts.
3. Calisthenics can improve recovery, flexibility, mobility & prevent injury
Lifting heavy weights can be really taxing on the body, especially your joints and your central nervous system.
Bodyweight work, while still incredibly challenging, features more natural movement patterns (and usually much lighter overall loads) that take less of a toll on you over the long haul.
You’ll find with dedicated calisthenics work, including proper warm-ups, cool downs, and mobility drills, your flexibility and mobility will improve drastically.
In fact, improved flexibility is a MUST for reaching advanced levels of bodyweight mastery.
As you age and get more advanced in your training, this improved pliability will help you better recover from workouts and continue to make gains.
4. Calisthenics offer fun and variety
You might spend years and years working your way up to that 300-pound bench press you’ve been coveting, doing the same exercise a couple of times a week for months and months at a time without deviating.
Gaining strength on big lifts like that is a slow grind that, honestly, can get a little bit stale and boring after a while.
Calisthenics and bodyweight training can be your playground. On your off days, work on a fun goal like hitting a one-arm pull up or a handstand push up.
Goals like that are fun to work toward. Not many people can pull them off because they require such immense strength. You’ll earn gains and bragging rights along the way if you hit them.
Just don’t over-do it and leave yourself too sore to bench the rest of the week!
5. Bodyweight training can help you finish your workouts strong
Bodyweight exercises are terrific finishers for the end of your gym workout.
Instead of yet another set of tricep pushdowns or the like, you can use medium to high-reps of basic movements like push-ups, pull-ups, and dips to “burn out” the muscles you used that day.
You’ll push them to the brink to develop better endurance without taxing your body with more heavy loads.
Plus, the muscle gains and pump from bodyweight burnout finishers are unreal!
Whether you choose to primarily focus on lifting weights or calisthenics, it’s important to remember that the two can work in harmony quite nicely.
There’s no reason you can’t enjoy the benefits of both, with proper programming, and use one to improve your performance in the other.