Ever wonder why there are more people lifting weights than doing calisthenics? Let’s talk about learning curves, how they impact on beginners, and why calisthenics is worth the effort.
What is a learning curve?
A learning curve is the rate at which you learn a new skill. A short learning curve means it’s easy to learn something in a short period of time. Whereas, a long learning curve means it’s difficult to learn something in a short period of time.
The learning curve in calisthenics vs weight training
The calisthenics learning curve is long because it’s characterized by high exercise difficulty in the beginning and reduced exercise difficulty as time goes by. The weight training learning curve is short because it starts with manageable exercise intensity that gradually increases as one gets stronger and adds more weight.
Therefore, seeing results in weight training is more frequent than acquiring a new bodyweight skill. Hitting new personal records in bench pressing, deadlifting and squatting happens much sooner than making progress with learning advanced gymnastic skills on parallel bars for instance. One could be stuck learning a front lever for years, whereas your max deadlift will likely increase incrementally each month. This is because the barbel weights are fully adjustable to a kilogram, unlike your body’s weight.
Lifting heavy weights is by no means easier than balancing a handstand. From a beginner’s perspective however, learning to lift heavy weights happens a lot quicker than learning gymnastic bodyweight skills. This is because even the easiest calisthenic exercises (pull ups, dips) might be challenging for a complete beginner. In contrast, anyone new to weight training will be able to load a barbel with an amount of weight appropriate to their physical fitness. Calisthenics forces you to get used to working with your own un-adjustable bodyweight. Calisthenics requires a lot more muscle coordination too.
The implications of long and short learning curves
Due to the long learning curve in calisthenics, beginners at this activity need a lot more discipline and perseverance than beginners at weight training. It could be frustrating and quite discouraging not to see frequent results in achieving new bodyweight skills as often as you would in doing the three major compound lifts at the gym.
Calisthenics isn’t a female friendly sport either. There aren’t as many females doing calisthenics as males mainly because of the upper body strength required for most calisthenic exercises. Training legs in the gym attracts women more than training on bars. I’m fine with that because women carry most of their strength in the lower body anyway. Needless to say, there are many incredibly talented female gymnasts and calisthenics athletes all over the world.
The benefits of a long learning curve
An activity with a long learning curve teaches valuable personal qualities like patience, discipline and consistency, which could benefit multiple areas of a practitioner’s life, such as work, family and relationships.
The long learning curve in calisthenics comes with exercise diversity. There are numerous calisthenic exercises and skills you could spend a lifetime doing without getting bored. Impressive sequences of skills can also be performed on a high horizontal bar or two parallel bars. Weight lifting, on the other hand, doesn’t offer much variety in gym-based exercising. The three most popular and most effective strength-building exercises will always be squats, deadlifts and bench press.
Would you be happy lifting weights for the rest of your life? Or are you more excited about exploring all the impressive calisthenics stuff your body is capable of doing?