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Bodybuilding Vs Powerlifting Vs Calisthenics | Which Is Right For You?

tall-fitnessPhysical well-being is a result of a balanced life.

Even more importantly, you should find pleasure in it.

You should find a workout style, rhythm, and intensity that works for you, your lifestyle, your priorities.

And if that boils down to knocking down a set of pushups every morning before going to work – so be it.

Nothing wrong with that.

With this article, we’re hoping to help you understand the differences between three fundamental workout styles.

Once you are more familiar with your options, you’ll then be able to include it in your daily (or perhaps weekly) routine.

Let’s dig into it.

The three fundamental workout styles that I’ll get into are:

bodybuilding, power-lifting and calisthenics (or body-weight workout).


Bodybuilding is based on a rather simple principle:

“Load. Damage. Repair. Repeat.”

The workout is designed to isolate muscles for a very focused, slow and controlled exercise.

The muscle fibers will be constantly under tension, a tension that creates high stresses in the muscles meant to damage the fiber.

It is exactly this process, followed by due rest, that allows the fiber to grow bigger and stronger.

Bodybuilding intended as the development of musculature is almost as old as mankind. The discipline as we know it was officially designed in the late 1800s by a gentleman called Eugen Sandow, considered the father of modern bodybuilding.

Little 10-year-old Eugen was inspired by Roman statues of heroes, warriors, and Gods after visiting Italy. He was deeply convinced that those physiques were actually achievable.

After years and years of practices and anatomy studies, he came to the following conclusion:

“Nothing, in my opinion, is better than the use of the dumb-bell, for developing the whole system, particularly if it is used intelligently, and with a knowledge of the location and functions of the muscles.”

The knowledge of the location and functions of muscles is what allows localized workout and development.


Power-lifting is defined as:

Strength training at maximal weight on squat, bench and deadlift.

The training is very structured, strict and most of all: goal-oriented, either for personal or competition training.


The workout schedule is designed over a broad period of time (up to twelve weeks), requiring a good dose of discipline and commitment.

A popular training method is by increasing the sets to repetitions ratio week by week.

This means that you start by doing few sets with a good number of repetitions, and you gradually move to training with many sets of few repetitions.

It comes without saying that the goal is to maximize the weight you’re lifting.

This basic method is also known as the “pyramid”. This approach to powerlifting allows you to work on condition and endurance at the beginning of the program and gradually build up the strength to perform exercises at maximal weight during the last week.

One crucial point in powerlifting is of course posture. Do not underestimate the benefit of good posture and right muscle engagement throughout the exercises.

It can be highly detrimental for your body in the long run, especially when you’re working at your maximal.


The word “calisthenics” refers to the art of using the gravity and inertia of your body to develop your physique.

No dumbbell. No weights. No benches. Just your body weight.

This is maybe the most versatile of all workout styles. Despite common beliefs, you can build, grow, strengthen every muscle in your body by using your own weight.

Do not underestimate calisthenics.

There’s a huge difference between pulling your own weight at the lateral pulldown machine and knocking down a set of pull-ups.

I have to say, the former is far easier. And obviously, very motivating. Realizing that you can’t quite pull your body with your head past the pull-up bar is no fun.


Let’s look at lateral pulldowns, for example. Lateral pulldowns are an important part in bodybuilding training to work on your back muscles.

The exercise is designed to isolate your laterals by providing the right constraints and support. This means that when you’re performing the lateral pulldown at the machine, the only active muscles are your laterals.

Now hop on the bar. And knock one pull-up. You feel the exercise is far heavier that you thought. Why? Because in calisthenics you need to work with all your muscles to lift your own weight.

The target muscles (the laterals in this example) are not isolated. Instead, you need to develop balance and support by using all your muscles to perform the pull up correctly.

For example, a tight core and pressed shoulders will help stabilize your grip when performing a pull-up. If your core isn’t strong enough, you’ll perceive the exercise as heavier.

If you’re starting off with this type of workout, I’d suggest you combine it with some bodybuilding training to develop some strength. This will also keep you motivated as you do baby-steps in calisthenics workout.

Which Is Right For You?

Now. After this crash course on workout styles – which one do you think fits your lifestyle best?

Maybe you’re a business man with a packed schedule, and a large family to take care of. Well, maybe calisthenics is your best buddy. There’s so much you can do at the foot of your bed before going to work. And again, do not underestimate this type of workout. Should you still not be convinced, think that this was how Major Dick Winters would keep his physical shape in times or war!

Your own weight is not enough for you? Well, powerlifting is just the challenge you were looking for. Try a twelve-week schedule and break all your personal records!

And finally, should you want to prepare your body for summer – well start building!

Gentlemen, the bottom line is:

Fitness should be a pleasant aspect of your life. Each of these styles that we quickly went over in this article are great for you if done correctly. As long as it makes you feel better about yourself, and give you a positive push – nothing else matters!

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