Bodybuilding Vs Calisthenics Bodies


APRIL, 2020

Different training regiments build different bodies. Heavy weights are well known to have great anabolic effects on the body – especially when working through low rep ranges. Heavy loads, especially those that take us to our physical limits, result in micro-tears. These are tiny tears in our muscles. 

Through the body’s natural repair mechanisms, micro -tears are healed. This process results in the muscles adapting to new stress and becoming bigger and stronger, a process called hypertrophy. But can bodyweight workouts have the same effect?

bodybuilder body


Many people are familiar with bodybuilding, and how this has impacted the fitness scene. The age of of huge disproportionate muscles, Arnold Schwarzenegger and anabolic steroids captivated a lot of young men and women in the late 20th century. Since then, the sport has only grown.

However, as much as it was liked, bodybuilding was also heavily criticised and to some degree has gone out of fashion. The huge macho man with little to offer other than big muscles was rejected by a good portion of the fitness community. The health problems with taking steroids and other stimulating supplements in addition to the completely non-functional bodies built in bodybuilding did not help the reputation of bodybuilding.

L sit calisthenics static exercise

Calisthenics Street Workout

Yes, bodybuilding is impressive, but the turn of the 21st century has since shifted the fitness community’s attention to other things. Calisthenics Street Workout entered the scene in the 21st century and has since picked up some serious steam.

The body-weight workouts calisthenics focused on made a huge impact on the fitness community and people began to second guess whether bodybuilding really offered a superior level of fitness, or whether its practitioners were severely lacking in health and functional fitness.

kai greene

Bodybuilding Bodies

Bodybuilding produced some absolute tanks, don’t get me wrong. Smashing iron and snorting the pre-workout equivalent of cocaine can help you grow some serious muscle. The kinds of bodies built in body building are huge, symmetrical, and usually posturally sound.

Bodybuilding tends to focus on the whole body, and yes, no one wants chicken legs. However in bodybuilding, there is some kind of religious notion that every part of the body deserves equal attention.

The reality is, some parts of the body are not meant to be huge, they’re not designed to lift huge amounts of weight. We have tons of postural, stabilising muscles that quite simply do not merit the same volume and kind of training as do our powerful pecs, quads and lats.


Calisthenics Bodies

Bodybuilding is well known to produce monstrous physiques, but a lot of people are curious about what a calisthenics body looks like. Although there is a ton of variation in calisthenics bodies, one thing we can be certain of: calisthenics builds super lean, defined bodies. They are athletic and functional and have insane strength to mass ratios.

Like every other training discipline, there is considerable variation in training methodology. This in turn produces significant variations in calisthenics physiques.

It’s important to note that calisthenics practitioners typically include at least some weight exercises as part of their routine. Whether they are straight weights or, whether they add additional weight to body-weight exercises, there more often than not there is some weight component in calisthenics training.

The amount of this supplementary weight training varies hugely from those who claim they never touch weights to those that regularly include them in as much as half their training. So the line can get a bit blurry between what gains are made from purely body-weight exercises. 


Calisthenics is a fantastic way to build muscle, albeit muscle growth will generally be a somewhat slower and less pronounced than a hypertrophy focused weight routine. Having said this, calisthenics workouts will provide you with a better strength to mass ratio, more functional strength and a leaner body than bodybuilding. 

Written by Vic

Melbourne-based Personal Trainer, Calisthenics Athlete and the Founder of Street Workout St Kilda. Super passionate about bodyweight training and the art of movement.
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