Weights or Calisthenics?
Saitama Displaying His Strength With A Single Arm Snatch. Ironically, He Built This Strength With Calisthenics...
As a method for increasing strength and muscle mass, weight training has some unique advantages over calisthenics. It's no coincidence that most jackedest guys in history focused on hoisting heavy iron. It works.
The Load Is Highly Scalable- Weight training allows you to incrementally increase the load of an exercise. And since progressive overload is the name of the game for long term progress, being able to slowly increase the intensity of an exercise is very powerful. Taking your deadlift from 135 for 10 to 315 for 10 in a year will add about as much muscle mass as is reasonably possible in that time frame.
It Makes Legs Grow- Legs have a high amount of strength potential. Many people will start their squat as low as 95 lbs. In a few months of solid squatting, they can be well over 225lbs. Heavy squats and deadlifts will provide more stimulation to the legs than any other exercise in existence. Strong legs are good, weak legs are not.
It Allows You To Isolate- Compound lifts should be the core of any productive training plan. But, sometimes compounds can leave some body parts lagging behind. Weights allow you to focus in on target muscle groups to bring balance and development to lagging body parts. If aesthetics are your primary interest, it is hard to beat the combination of compound lifts combined with targeted isolation movements.
Deadlifts Make You Strong As Hell- If you want to get properly strong, there is no substitute for pulling a heavy weight off the floor. Hammies, glutes, erectors, traps, and forearms get very strong from deadlifting heavy. Whether you are a runner, a football player, or a grappler, having a powerful posterior chain is a huge advantage for overall athleticism. Work up to double bodyweight for a set of 5 and you will understand what I mean.
Even Though He Had A Barbell With Him, Goku Chose Calisthenics To Prepare For Namek. It worked.
For many people, their first exposure to strength training comes in the form of calisthenics. Because of this, bodyweight training is often thought of as only for beginners. Many don't realize that some of the baddest-ass dudes on the planet use calisthenics as their primary method of strength training. For martial artists, Shaolin monks, prisoners, military personnel and Goku, bodyweight training is the preferred style of physical training.
You Don't Need Much Equipment- All you really need is some ground and something to pull yourself up with and you can have a highly productive training session. No gym, no barbell, no dumbbell, no kettlebell, no bands... you get the idea- just some floor and a bar/rings/branch/door.
They Develop Balance And Body Awareness- Pistol squats, one arm push ups, handstand push ups, and shrimp squats are just a few of the movements that will develop balance along with high levels of strength. Moving your body through space will get you better at moving your body through space, and moving your body through space is like the foundation of athleticism. If you suck at it, good luck being good at anything athletic.
They Are Safer- Yes, you can totally get injured with calisthenics. For example, plenty of people have torn their bicep tendon while practicing back levers. A torn bicep is no joke, but its not a life changing mess like herniating a disc while under a 2.5x bodyweight squat, or dropping a snatch on your neck, or dropping a bar on your throat while benching. Yes, you should always use good form when lifting, but the truth is not everyone does, and even for those who do, sometimes really bad stuff happens even to experienced lifters with superb form.
Bodyweight Training Offers A Huge Variety- Strength movements like handstand push ups, one arm chins and pistol squats can make you very strong. If you find these boring, you can develop skills like the planche, the front lever, the back lever, or the freestanding handstand. Maybe you enjoy the basics like push ups, pull ups, sit ups and running. No matter what your goals are, there is a way to structure calisthenics training to achieve them.
They Force Good Exercise Selection- A benefit of weight training is that is allows for isolation movements. Good stuff, in the proper context. A surefire way to waste your time in the gym is to do ONLY isolation movements, and way too many people do exactly this. A terrible gym session might be flys, curls, pec deck, leg extensions, tricep extension, and some leg curls. Bodyweight training forces you to do compounds movements. Chin ups, push ups, squats, lunges, rows, handstands, sprints, and plyometrics will ALWAYS be more productive than a program based off pure isolation movements.
In reality, you don't have to decide one or the other. DO BOTH! A great way to mix the two disciplines is to use calisthenics for the upper body, weights for the lower body, and some weighted isolation movements if you have some annoying lagging body parts. There is no doubt that bodyweight training can grow the upper body to spectacular levels. Squats and deads will always reign supreme for legs. And sometimes, you just have to bring up those lateral delts. Use what works for you, but most importantly, do what you find enjoyable.