Is There a Difference Between Calisthenics and Bodyweight Exercises?

Who else wants to know the difference between calisthenics and bodyweight exercises?

I’ve taken a long, hard look at this subject.

I’m also someone who has trained both workout protocols.

So, I think I deserve an opinion at the very least.

My opinion may not be very popular, but here’s what I think about calisthenics and bodyweight exercises.

Difference Between Calisthenics and Bodyweight Exercises

At their very core, calisthenics and bodyweight exercises are the same thing. They are both a form of strength training, which doesn’t require a gym, and where a person will use their own body weight as resistance. However, Calisthenics are often viewed as using more advanced exercises, although these still involve using your body weight.

How I View Calisthenics and Bodyweight Exercises

A Man Balancing on Workout Apparatus at the Beach

Now there are those who will argue that calisthenics and much more than mere bodyweight exercises.

You will hear that calisthenics involves far more advanced exercises than “simple” bodyweight training.

Some people will say that bodyweight exercises are far more focused on high repetitions.

Therefore, bodyweight exercises involve a lot more cardiovascular strength and muscle endurance strength.

You will also hear that calisthenics is more focused isometric holds.

So, you will get yourself into a specific position and “hold” that position for time rather than cranking out endless reps.

Therefore, in effect your training is more geared towards building muscle and strength.

Plus, some may say that there is a greater degree of skill practice required with calisthenics.

Now while I agree that these are all extremely valid points, I just don’t 100% buy into it.

Both disciplines still involve you using your own body weight as resistance.

This probably won’t win me any fans, but I believe that people who practice “calisthenics” may wish to be seen as more advanced than those who use bodyweight training.

However, you still can’t get away from the fact that both calisthenics and bodyweight exercises make use of the human body.

Different Names = Same Thing?

My friends on the other side of the Atlantic will call the thing at the side of the road a sidewalk.

I call it a pavement.

Is there really a difference?

To use another analogy – Duck a l’orange is still just a posh way of saying poultry and fruit (although, I’m sure that someone will now argue that duck is either game or red meat).

Now the reason I mention that I believe that the above “exercise arguments” are valid is simply because of the types of workout programs you will come across.

I have actually used two separate workout programs, both of which I have reviewed on this website.

One is called a bodyweight exercise program, the other is a guide to calisthenics.

So, I’d like to delve a little deeper into these workout programs and discuss the exercises involved.

Ripped With Bodyweight

A Man Doing Bodyweight Exercises in the Park

The first workout program I have used is Lane Goodwin’s Ripped With Bodyweight.

Lane provides a 12-week bodyweight workout program aimed at muscle growth and fat loss.

Plus, he solely focuses on 8 exercises.

Lane explains that these are the only exercises you will ever need to build muscle, burn body fat, and get ripped in the comfort of your own home.

The 8 bodyweight exercises are:

  1. Pull Ups
  2. Push Ups
  3. Squats
  4. Lunges
  5. Burpees
  6. Sit Ups
  7. Leg Raises
  8. Jumps

At first glance this is a decent set of bodyweight exercises.

If used correctly you can indeed build muscle and burn fat.

You will pretty much hit every muscle in the body, so you are guaranteed a fantastic workout.

I will admit that there is a focus on performing lots of reps of each exercise within the program.

However, Lane also discusses progressions of the exercises.

So, in effect, you will learn how to make the exercises harder, which will ensure that you continue to build muscle and strength.

As you can see the exercises are very basic in nature.

These are typically exercises that anyone can perform.

So, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate, or advanced trainee, you can easily follow Lane’s workout program.

To be honest, Lane hasn’t done me any favours in terms of the “difference between calisthenics and bodyweight exercises” argument.

Thanks, Lane.

LOL, just kidding.

But, as Lane and myself have both said, you can indeed build an awesome physique by just using these “simple” bodyweight exercises.

You can learn more about Lane and his workout program in my review of Ripped With Bodyweight.

He Tried Mike Tyson’s Bodyweight Workout (4,500 reps)

The Ultimate Guide to Calisthenics

A Coach Teaching a Man to do An Assisted Front Lever

Now to further hammer my interpretation into the ground we have The Ultimate Guide to Calisthenics.

Another program that I have used and loved.

However, creator Jeff Cowan focuses on far more advanced exercises.

Cheers Jeff!

I don’t look too clever now, do I?


Funnily enough though, Jeff’s creation also focuses on just 8 exercises.

But Jeff explains that these 8 exercises are the basics of calisthenics.

Learn and master these 8 moves and will be able to perform any calisthenics exercises, irrespective of how “advanced” it may be.

The 8 calisthenics moves that Jeff’s workout program focuses on are:

  1. Pistols Squats
  2. Handstand Push Ups
  3. One-Arm Hanging Leg Raises
  4. One-Arm Push Ups
  5. One-Arm Pull Ups
  6. Horizontal Row
  7. Bridges
  8. Plank to Planche

So, immediately you can see that the exercises involved are far more advanced than Lane’s exercises.

Plus, Jeff’s program is aimed at learning a skill, as opposed to cranking out loads of reps.

However, what I found extremely interesting is how Jeff uses progressions to get to the end goal.

The Ultimate Guide to Calisthenics Exercise Examples

Let’s look at a couple of examples.

Firstly, we have the one-arm pull up.

These are the progressions that you will go through in The Ultimate Guide to Calisthenics Program:

  • Vertical Pulls
  • Horizontal Pulls with legs bent
  • Horizontal Pulls
  • Dead hang 1 min
  • Chin over the bar hold
  • Negative Chin up
  • Negative Chin up 25
  • Jackknife Pull Up/ box assisted
  • Assisted Pull Up (leg or bands
  • Bent-Arm (90 degree) hold
  • Negative Pull Up
  • Half Pull Up
  • Pull Up
  • Close-grip Pull Up
  • Wide-grip Pull Up
  • Uneven Pull Up
  • Assisted 1-arm Pull Up
  • Assisted 1-arm Pull Up Negative
  • 1/2 One-Arm Pull Up
  • One-Arm Pull Up

As you can clearly see, you will still be performing the pull up exercise, much the same as you would in Lane’s Ripped With Bodyweight.

However, you will then move on from the most basic version.

Let’s look at the progressions for the pistol squat:

  • Shoulderstand Squat
  • Assisted Squat
  • Half Squat
  • Full squat
  • Close squat
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Beginner Shrimp Squat
  • Box Squat
  • Single Leg Box Squat
  • Box Squat Leg Hanging
  • Uneven Squat
  • 1/2 one legged squat
  • Assisted one legged squat/Balance assisted one legged squats
  • Weighted one leg squat
  • Renegade pistols
  • Intermediate shrimps
  • Superman squat.
  • Advanced shrimps.
  • More advanced Shrimp
  • The Elevated Shrimp

Once again, the full squat, much the same as Lane’s workout program is used.

So, you could argue that the exercises in The Ultimate Guide to Calisthenics are much harder than those in Ripped With Bodyweight.

And you’d be perfectly correct.

However, this is simply due to how both creator’s have chosen to focus on and market their respective workout programs.

The fact remains that both programs involve training by using your own body weight as resistance.

You can check out my full review of The Ultimate Guide to Calisthenics.

Frank Medrano – Train INSANE Calisthenics Workout

What About Street Workouts?

Four Men Doing Handstands in the Street

Someone had to go and complicate matters!

We can also throw Street Workouts into the mix.

Anyone involved in Street Workouts will argue that they are completely different to calisthenics and bodyweight exercises.

The main difference as I see it is that Street Workouts are always performed outdoors.

They typically involve outdoor parks and using a bar.

I would also say that Street Workouts come across as a little more “hip” and “cool”.

However, I know that many people will say that calisthenics are most commonly done outdoors and by using a bar.

In fact, I have even seen the argument that both calisthenics and Street Workouts have little to no focus on the lower body.

You know what I’m going to say…

BUT, the fact remains that ALL 3 disciplines involve using your own body weight.

Bertrand Mbi Street Workout

Final Thoughts

So, for me there is no real difference between calisthenics and bodyweight exercises.

I simply think how people view them, especially those who specifically train one particular protocol, is where the difference lies.

Not wishing to repeat myself, but they both involve using your own body weight in order to train.

So, a planche, human flag, or one-armed pull up may be viewed as calisthenics moves, however, in my mind they are also bodyweight exercises.

I’m sure that I will probably get lynched for making that comment.

I could even bring gymnastics into the mix, and say that this is another protocol that once again uses bodyweight exercises.

But, let’s save that argument for another day.

Anyway, be sure to check out my reviews of both Lane and Jeff’s programs and see which you prefer.

Ripped With Bodyweight

The Ultimate Guide to Calisthenics

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