Calisthenics body vs gym body, how do they differ?
Instead of providing you with a long intro – I’ll start right at it!
First, let’s take a closer look at what a calisthenics body really is:
What Does It Mean to Have a Calisthenics Body?
To understand what a calisthenics body is, we first have to look at calisthenics as a sport. Derived from kállos (beauty) and sthenos (strength), calisthenics is an art and a practice.
Though people see it as bodyweight training, calisthenics refers to beautiful and graceful movement. It’s not just about doing 20 pull-ups in a row. Instead, calisthenics is about learning various skills and teaching your body to perform incredible physical feats that make you more athletic and look fantastic. An example would be the human flag. It looks beautiful and strengthens your entire body.
In essence, calisthenics training is about mastering your body and teaching it to move effortlessly through all planes. Of course, calisthenics is also about taking advantage of bodyweight movements to build strength and muscle mass. Meaning, you can freely do pull-ups, bodyweight squats, lunges, push-ups, and all sorts of similar activities.
As you’ve probably noticed, calisthenics athletes are typically lean and decently muscular, which makes them look great. Some calisthenics athletes pay a lot of attention to their nutrition to remain lean and perform optimally. Other athletes have genetics that allow them to stay lean without doing much, so the calisthenics body comes naturally to them.
In all cases, regular calisthenics training provides a strong stimulus to the muscles (metabolic stress and mechanical tension), which allows them to grow and become stronger (1, 2). All of this ties to the SAID principle: specific adaptations to imposed demands. Meaning, by forcing your body to do something, it gets better at that activity. For example, by forcing your core musculature to keep you stable, it works hard and gets stronger. With each passion session, you’re stabler and more balanced.
Having a calisthenics body is about looking great but also being able to perform many impressive activities like:
- Planche push-up
- Human flag
- Handstand push-ups
- Single-leg squats
And various other graceful and challenging activities.
What Is Like to Have a Gym Body?
If you’ve read everything in the previous point, you might be wondering why you would even bother with gym training. The truth is, having a gym body is also fantastic in many ways and for different reasons.
As you’re probably familiar with, gym training is about lifting all sorts of weights and using different types of resistance (gym machines, cable machines, and free weights) to build strength and muscle mass. Gym training can also include bodyweight and calisthenics exercises, but the focus is typically on external weights.
Gym training can also be incredibly fulfilling and engaging because it offers numerous benefits, and you can practice many different forms. For example, you can do traditional barbell training and focus on building raw strength. An example here would be the sport of powerlifting. You can also focus on dumbbell training with some machines and resistance bands. You can even mix all sorts of activities for a fun, balanced, and varied training program. For example, by using:
- Resistance bands
- Your body (i.e., bodyweight exercises)
Having a gym body is about looking good, having above-average muscular development, and controlling your body fat percentage. As a result, you look strong, healthy, and athletic. Having a gym body also means you’re stronger and more physically capable than the average person. While it’s entirely possible to build muscle with lighter weights, you still have to challenge your muscles, which inevitably builds strength. Look at any muscular gym-goer, and they will likely be quite strong.
How Do Calisthenics Athletes And Gym-Goers Differ?
While we could say that calisthenics is purely about performance and grace, it wouldn’t be the truth. Like gym-goers, calisthenics athletes also care about their appearance. For one, it’s nice to know your efforts are paying off. Second, everyone wants to look good shirtless. And third, looking better means having more muscle and less fat, both of which allow calisthenics athletes to perform optimally.
Gym-goers are a bit different because they typically go through different seasons that change how their physique looks. This is a necessary step for building as much muscle as possible in the long run. Specifically, gym-goers eat more food periodically (also known as bulking) to build muscle (3). Later, they reduce their calorie intake to shed the fat they’ve accumulated (also known as cutting) and retain as much muscle as possible. With each bulking-cutting cycle, gym-goers look more muscular.
Both types of athletes work to build admirable bodies and work hard to develop skills, strength, and balance. But the difference is, both follow different paths to their end goal, which determines their abilities.
Calisthenics and gym training are two excellent ways to build your body, get stronger, and learn valuable physical skills. For example, both types of training teach proper posture and proper core engagement, making us more athletic and reducing our risk of injury.
If you’re wondering which type of training to go with, try each for a few months and see which you prefer more. Plus, nothing is to say that you have to pick one and forget about the other. You can switch between the two or combine them intelligently.
To read even more about calisthenics and weight lifting, visit and bookmark this MASSIVE collection of at-home strength-building articles – if you are serious about fitness, this is a real gem!
See you there!
Other Helpful Resources
- Does Calisthenics Build Muscle? The Beginners ABC to Calisthenics Exercise
- The Progressive Overload Principle: Definition and Science
- Will Bodyweight Exercises Build Muscle? 9 Must-Know Benefits of Bodyweight Training
- What is the Best Dip Station for Calisthenics: Reviews and Top Picks
- Bodyweight Workouts For Beginners: The Ultimate Guide
- At-Home Bodyweight Exercises For Your Chest: The Definite Guide
- The Popular Curvy Body Workout at Home Routine Revealed!
- Schoenfeld BJ. The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):2857-72. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181e840f3. PMID: 20847704.
- Kotarsky CJ, Christensen BK, Miller JS, Hackney KJ. Effect of Progressive Calisthenic Push-up Training on Muscle Strength and Thickness. J Strength Cond Res. 2018 Mar;32(3):651-659. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002345. PMID: 29466268.
- Slater GJ, Dieter BP, Marsh DJ, Helms ER, Shaw G, Iraki J. Is an Energy Surplus Required to Maximize Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy Associated With Resistance Training. Front Nutr. 2019;6:131. Published 2019 Aug 20. doi:10.3389/fnut.2019.00131