Callisthenics, Weights and Machines. Which should you be using?
Everyone's a little different when it comes to workouts, mostly because they want different things. Some people won't pick up a weight in their lives and other's might have never done a pushup. Some want to just be healthy, some want to bodybuild. Others might be recovering from an injury and have to stay strong. With that in mind, let's go through these three ways to workout and discuss their pros and cons.
This is by far the most easy to do type of working out. It can be done anywhere with almost no equipment (sometimes you may need things like pull-up bars). With this in mind it's the best way to stay in shape while travelling or if your life is busy and you don't have time to go to the gym. This also makes Callisthenics the best for beginners.
Callisthenics by far is also the best for the core. Every Callisthenics exercise in some way engages the core muscles and so helps with balance and control. In many ways Callisthenics is the most 'functional' of the three.
Next off, Callisthenics trains multiple muscle groups at any time, which aids with balance and muscle control. Callisthenics trains the muscles that are naturally designed to work together, and so would be preferable to gymnasts, freerunners and people who live lifestyles that require great co-ordination.
This is also one of the downfalls of Callisthenics though. If, for example, you want to workout your shoulders but have a pectoral injury, you can't do pushups. The fact that you cannot isolate individual muscles in Callisthenics can be a downfall if you are looking to make one specific muscle 'pop'.
Speaking of shoulders, Callisthenics often has trouble working out the 'lateral deltoids' (the side portion of the shoulder muscle), due to the motion required to work these muscles. One Callisthenics exercise that does work these out is the 'pike pushup' - a pushup that you perform in a handstand position with your feet on an elevated surface for ease.
Finally, in standard Callisthenics you can hit a 'progress wall', where you are unable to advance further with a specific exercise. Whereas with weights and machines you can steadily pile on the weight, this is not usually an option for Callisthenics, although you can get weight vests which allow you to up the intensity of your workouts.
The biggest advantage of machines is their ability to isolate muscles in workouts. With a machine you can target one or more specific muscles and only those muscles. For people suffering from injury, or people looking to target specific parts of their body, machines may be a superior option.
Another great thing about machines is that they are the safest of your three options. Because you are locked into one position and not directly holding yourself or a stack of weights, if you slip (or fatigue), there's minimal chance of an injury.
However, machines are not usually satisfactory for a workout in and of themselves. They are not as good at creating compound exercises as Callisthenics and weights, and another key problem is that they do not engage your core. Because you are sitting down and do not have to balance with most machines, the core is not engaged and there are therefore no benefits to your balance or co-ordination.
Another key problem with machines is that they are not nearly as available as weights or Callisthenics. You usually have to go to a gym to have access to machines, or buy the machines yourself.
Weights, for many, are the natural progression after Callisthenics (although people frequently tend to combine Callisthenics with weights in their workouts). There are many advantages of weight exercises. The first is that you can perform both isolation and compound exercises. If you are doing a bench press, and your pectorals are burnt out but your shoulders aren't done, you can move to a shoulder isolating exercise like lateral raises.
Another advantage is that, with weights, the sky's the limit. There is no roof you can hit with your workouts. If you find yourself mastering an exercise, all you need to do to challenge yourself is to pile on more weight.
There are a few problems with weighted workouts, however. The first is that for the more hardcore workouts, you'll probably need a training partner or spotter to help you get through your last reps and keep you safe. This brings up another problem; safety. With a pushup, if you slip, the worst case scenario is you bang your elbow on the floor. With a bench press, a loss of grip could result in you dropping a heavy bar right onto your chest.
Callisthenics, Weights and Machines all have their pros and cons, but the most effective workouts are probably going to be a combination of the three. That being said, it really depends what you're looking for. The bodybuilder probably doesn't need Callisthenics and someone just looking to keep fit won't need machines. Test it out and see what works for you.