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Daniel Mesa

 Calisthenics vs Crossfit: Which Is Best?

calisthenics vs crossfit

Both calisthenics and CrossFit are popular training styles that are seen as alternatives to regular weight training. While both of these training methods will work for health, strength, and aesthetics, you should still be aware of some key differences between calisthenics vs Crossfit.  In this guide, we will go through all the benefits of each training style before discussing which one you should pick based on your own personal goals.

Calisthenics vs Crossfit: What Is The Difference?

crossfit vs calisthenics

The main difference between CrossFit and calisthenics is that CrossFit uses more equipment and is designed to improve athletic performance. Meanwhile, calisthenics is centered around the idea of using your own body weight to improve your strength, muscle size, and overall fitness. 

As long as you do any of these training styles with any sort of discipline, you should see noticeable improvements in your body and health. That being said, if you have more specific goals in mind, it is worth diving deeper into the differences between calisthenics and CrossFit so that you can pick the best option for you. 

What Is Crossfit?

what is crossfit

CrossFit is a relatively new style of training that takes bits and pieces from other training styles like powerlifting, Olympic weightlifting, and athletic training. While CrossFit can be done on your own, most people who practice it do so in a local CrossFit gym where classes are led by an instructor. 

Most people choose to join a gym so that they can have their workouts guided by a professional and have access to all of the equipment due to the amount of equipment and learning required. 

Crossfit workouts can vary greatly but expect to do lots of dynamic movements. and circuits0. 

Benefits of CrossFit

One of the reasons that Crossfit has grown so popular in recent years boils down to the number of benefits this training discipline provides. Here are the main benefits of Crossfit:

Group Training

Most Crossfit athletes train in group classes at a local Crossfit gym. Lots of people enjoy this social aspect of training and find that they can push themselves harder in a group setting. Not to mention, the instructor of these classes also ensures that you do a proper routine with the correct form. 

Strength and muscle gains

If you dedicate yourself to Crossfit, you will see massive strength and muscle gains. Given all the weight training and dynamic movements, your body will have no choice but to adapt. As you get stronger and stronger, your muscles will begin to show these changes as well. 

Caloric Burn

A typical Crossfit workout can easily burn 700+ calories if done properly. Compared to regular weight training, these are way higher levels of energy expenditure. Few training styles provide such high potential for both muscle gain and fat burning. 

Improved Athletic Performance

Thanks to the high tempo and free weight training, you will notice higher levels of athletic performance. As you gain more experience, you will notice that your body will become conditioned enough to complete a full workout. This level of cardio will transfer to all other sports as well. 

As you practice and refine your form on some of the more dynamic movements, you will find that many other skills, such as your strength, speed, balance, and agility, will improve as well.

What Is Calisthenics?

what is calisthenics

Calisthenics is a training method centered around the idea that you can use your own body weight as resistance for strength and muscle gain. Using fundamental exercises such as the pull-up, push-up, dip, and squat, calisthenics will help you build a sculpted physique with little to no equipment. 

Benefits of Calisthenics

Calisthenics is one of the most basic and oldest forms of training. Regardless of starting point or equipment availability, anyone can perform it because it is time-tested. 

Minimal Equipment

One of the main appeals of calisthenics is that it can be done with little to no equipment. Meaning that you can train anytime, anywhere, for free. 

That being said, most dedicated calisthenics athletes invest in some calisthenics equipment over time, like a pull-up bar. Still, even if you assemble a decked-out calisthenics home gym, the cost will be dramatically lower than other training styles. 

Strength and Muscle Gain

Most people do not realize how far the mastery of their own body weight can truly take their strength and muscle size. While the core calisthenics exercises may be basic, there are endless variations you can do to make them harder. As you master each variation, you will see considerable strength and muscle gains. 

Lower Injury Risk

The great thing about using your own body weight as resistance is that your body will often not let you do moves that you cannot fully handle yet. Unlike free weights, where injuries are common due to ego lifting, calisthenics makes sure you stay humble by only doing the exercises you can properly do. 

That being said, you should still make sure to use proper form to minimize any injury risk with calisthenics, however small it may be. 

Learn Body Control

As a human, one of the best showcases of fitness mastery is being able to control your own bodyweight through space. Not only is this a cool skill, but it will also make learning other athletic feats easier. 

Crossfit vs Calisthenics: Workouts Compared

Knowing about the respective benefits is great, but to really see which is best for you, you should have an idea of what to expect during a typical workout. Here are examples of each to see which lines up best with your training preferences.

Typical Crossfit Workout

crossfit workout

Crossfit workouts can vary, but they will generally follow a clear structure. Within the workout itself, you can also expect the movements to vary in style and intensity. 


  • 5-10 minutes of cardio, such as jogging, rowing, or jumping jacks
  • Dynamic stretching, such as leg swings, arm circles, and lunges

Main workout:

For time, complete the following exercises as quickly as possible:

  • 50 air squats (bodyweight squats)
  • 40 sit-ups
  • 30 box jumps (jumping onto a box or step)
  • 20 dumbbell snatches (lifting a weight from the ground to overhead with one arm)
  • 10 burpees (jumping from a standing position to a plank position and back up)

Rest for 3-5 minutes, then repeat the workout for a total of 3 rounds.


  • 5-10 minutes of light cardio, such as walking or jogging
  • Static stretching, holding each stretch for 15–30 seconds, focusing on the legs, back, and shoulders.

Typical Calisthenics Workout

caliisthenics workout

Most calisthenics workouts follow a full-body approach. However, calisthenics workouts can be more personalized depending on your own skills and the equipment you have. Check out our calisthenics leg, ab, or chest workout for more detailed examples. 


  • 5-10 minutes of jogging, jumping jacks, or other cardio exercises
  • Dynamic stretching, such as leg swings, arm circles, and lunges

Main workout:

Perform each exercise for 3 sets of 10–15 repetitions, resting for 30–60 seconds between sets.

  1. Push-ups: Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on the ground, keep your body in a straight line from your head to your feet, and lower your body until your chest touches the ground. Push back up to the starting position.
  2. Squats: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly outward. Lower your hips down and back as if sitting in a chair, keeping your knees in line with your toes. Push back up to the starting position.
  3. Lunges: Step forward with one foot, bending both knees to lower your body down until your back knee is just above the ground. Push back up to the starting position and repeat with the other leg.
  4. Pull-ups: Find a bar or sturdy surface above your head, grasp it with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width, and pull your body up until your chin is above the bar. Lower back down to the starting position.
  5. Plank: Lie face down on the ground, place your forearms on the ground with elbows below your shoulders, and raise your body up into a straight line. Hold this position for 30 seconds to a minute.


  • 5-10 minutes of walking or light jogging
  • Static stretching, holding each stretch for 15–30 seconds, focusing on the legs, back, and shoulders.

Crossfit vs Calisthenics: Which Should You Pick?

Something that you should consider when deciding between calisthenics and Crossfit is the specific goal that you have in mind for your own training. 

For Bodybuilding

If your goal is to simply build muscle, you would be better served by going with Crossfit. The simple reason is that weighted resistance allows you to target and load all the muscle groups in your body.

You can still grow your muscles with calisthenics, but for certain muscle groups like the legs and lower back, it is hard to load them with the proper weight as your own body weight is often too light. That being said, you can still grow a very large chest and back using just your own body weight. 

For Athletic Performance

If you just want to become a better athlete, we think that both of these training styles are comparable in this aspect. Both will help you learn body control and balance while also improving your overall strength and athletic performance. 

The difference is that Crossfit will do it by having you learn dynamic lifts, and calisthenics will do it by having you learn advanced bodyweight exercises.

For Weight Loss

When it comes to weight loss, it is again the case that both calisthenics and Crossfit are somewhat equal. Thanks to the high tempo and dynamic lifts, you will burn hundreds of calories during a typical Crossfit workout. However, calisthenics does not fall too far behind, as the higher rep counts in these workouts also burn more calories. 

It is also the case that calisthenics incentivizes you to remain lean so that you can do some of the more advanced workouts. You simply cannot do things like a one-arm pull-up unless you are in good shape and lean. 

Final Thoughts

Both calisthenics and Crossfit are great training styles that will lead to improvements in all aspects of your personal fitness. The choice to do one over the other will come down to personal preferences and needs. If you want more flexibility and do not want to spend tons of money on equipment, go for calisthenics. If you like the concept of group training and want a real challenge, go with Crossfit.  


Does CrossFit teach calisthenics?

Crossfit training will help you master the basics of calisthenics, like the pull-up. Also, the strength gains will make some of the calisthenics movements easier, even if you have never done them before. However, the more advanced calisthenics exercises will require more dedicated training. 

Is Crossfit or calisthenics better for weight loss?

CrossFit workouts will likely burn more calories than a typical calisthenics workout. However, calisthenics also has the added benefit of making sure you stay lean so that you can do the more advanced workouts.