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Calisthenics vs. Weightlifting: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on November 10, 2023
Calisthenics; Bodyweight exercises for strength and flexibility. Weightlifting; Lifting weights to increase muscle strength and size.

Key Differences

Involves exercises that utilize one's own body weight for resistance, promoting flexibility and strength. Weightlifting: Primarily focuses on the use of external weights, such as dumbbells and barbells, to build muscle mass and strength.
Such exercises include push-ups, pull-ups, and squats, which require minimal equipment. Weightlifting: Often necessitates specialized equipment and can include bench presses, deadlifts, and squats with weighted bars.
This approach offers functional strength, enhancing natural movements and agility. Weightlifting: While it increases raw strength and muscle size, it may not always translate to functional or athletic ability.
As it is based on bodyweight, it's easily adaptable and can be done almost anywhere. Weightlifting: Typically requires a gym setting or a place with the necessary weights and machines.
The risk of injury can be lower as it emphasizes natural movement and joint flexibility. Weightlifting: While effective, there's a higher risk of injury if not performed with proper form or if one attempts excessive weight.

Comparison Chart

Primary Equipment

Dumbbells, barbells, machines


Functional strength, flexibility
Muscle strength, size


Push-ups, pull-ups, dips
Bench press, deadlift, barbell squats


Typically gym or equipped space

Injury Risk

Generally lower with proper form
Higher, especially with improper form or heavy weights

Calisthenics and Weightlifting Definitions


A fitness method that promotes functional strength and agility.
Calisthenics routines often mimic natural movements.


The activity of lifting weights to increase muscle strength.
He started Weightlifting to enhance his athletic performance.


A discipline that emphasizes flexibility, balance, and coordination.
Through Calisthenics, she improved her core strength and balance.


A discipline focusing on muscle hypertrophy and raw strength.
Through consistent Weightlifting, she increased her bench press significantly.


Bodyweight exercises aimed at increasing body strength.
Push-ups and pull-ups are essential exercises in Calisthenics.


Training that necessitates proper form to avoid injuries.
It's essential to learn proper form before diving into Weightlifting.


Training that can be adapted for all fitness levels.
Beginners to experts can benefit from Calisthenics.


A sport or training method involving heavy resistance exercises.
Olympic Weightlifting has specific lifts competitors must master.


Workouts that utilize minimal to no equipment.
Many people choose Calisthenics for its simplicity and cost-effectiveness.


Workouts that require external weights for resistance.
Weightlifting routines typically include dumbbells, barbells, or machines.


(used with a pl. verb) Gymnastic exercises designed to develop muscular tone and promote physical well-being
Sit-ups, trunk twists, and other calisthenics are demonstrated on the video.


The lifting of heavy weights in a prescribed manner as an exercise or in athletic competition.


(used with a sing. verb) The practice or art of such exercises
Calisthenics is recommended to relax the muscles before a run.


A form of exercise in which weights are lifted.


(in the plural) Gymnastic exercises under the participation of a (surface-wise) multitude of muscles and often minimal equipment (thus, usually bodyweight exercises) with a stress on stamina.


(sports) A sport in which competitors lift heavy weights in two events: the snatch and the clean and jerk.


(in the singular) A system of such exercises.


Exercise by lifting weights


The science, art, or practice of healthful exercise of the body and limbs, to promote strength, gracefulness, and general fitness; light gymnastics.


Light exercise designed to promote general fitness


What's the primary resistance in Calisthenics?

In Calisthenics, one's own bodyweight serves as the primary resistance.

What equipment is essential for Weightlifting?

Weightlifting typically requires weights, such as dumbbells, barbells, and sometimes machines.

Can Calisthenics improve posture?

Yes, Calisthenics exercises often engage core muscles, which can help improve posture.

Can I build muscle with Calisthenics?

Yes, Calisthenics can build muscle, though the approach differs from traditional Weightlifting.

Can I do Weightlifting at home?

Yes, with the appropriate weights and knowledge, Weightlifting can be done at home.

Is Weightlifting safe for teenagers?

Yes, with proper guidance and form, Weightlifting can be safe and beneficial for teenagers.

Are there competitions for Calisthenics?

Yes, there are Calisthenics competitions, showcasing strength, agility, and flexibility.

Is Weightlifting good for increasing bone density?

Yes, Weightlifting can help increase bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis.

Which is better for functional strength?

Calisthenics tends to emphasize functional strength, enhancing movements used in daily life.

How do I start with Calisthenics?

Start with basic bodyweight exercises like push-ups and squats, and progressively challenge yourself.

What's the difference between Weightlifting and powerlifting?

Weightlifting often refers to general lifting, while powerlifting is a specific sport with set lifts.

How often should I do Weightlifting for muscle growth?

Most recommend 3-5 days a week, focusing on different muscle groups, for optimal growth.

Can Weightlifting improve cardiovascular health?

While primarily for strength, Weightlifting can have cardiovascular benefits when rest periods are kept short.

Is Calisthenics suitable for weight loss?

Yes, Calisthenics can be effective for weight loss when combined with cardio and a balanced diet.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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