Calisthenics vs CrossFit

Calisthenics vs CrossFit – Which One Is Better?

Both calisthenics and CrossFit have their strengths and weaknesses. Let’s examine calisthenics vs crossfit.

Which of those training regimes is better for building strength and muscle mass? Which one is better for improving endurance, flexibility, and more? What is safer for you?

Let’s find out and examine calisthenics vs CrossFit and which is better for you.

Calisthenics vs CrossFit Brief Overview

It’s time to take a quick peak into both calisthenics and CrossFit. Let’s check their main differences and make a quick verdict.


Front Lever

Calisthenics is a strength workout regime. With calisthenics, you can build superhuman strength and make your muscles pop. You can do it entirely on your own with minimal or no equipment at all.

Here are the main benefits of calisthenics:

  • Building a strong muscular body is the main focus of calisthenics
  • Improving the range of motion will help you gain a more mobile strong body that will serve you well in your day-to-day activities
  • Gamified progress that will make you motivated to work out even when you don’t feel like it
  • You can do it on your own using no equipment or only a few essential items which is great for your budget (if you go to a local calisthenics park it is completely free)
  • Although calisthenics is not primarily used for losing weight it can help. Since most work is done in the kitchen when you want to lose weight, any kind of workout will help you lose weight faster.

Now, to sum everything up: Calisthenics is great for building strength and toning your muscles. It will help you keep motivated more than lifting weights. If you want to improve your mobility, calisthenics will help you do that. It can even help you lose weight faster.


Calisthenics vs CrossFit: CrossFit

CrossFit is a versatile type of workout. You do it in the gym under the supervision of a CrossFit trainer. It consists of weightlifting, gymnastics, and workout of the day (WOD) which is mostly a HIIT (high-intensity interval training). As such, it will be better suited for weight loss than calisthenics. But remember, weight loss goals are met in the kitchen. Workouts can only help do it a little bit faster.

Here are the most important benefits of CrossFit:

  • CrossFit has a HIIT type of training as an integral component of the workouts that is great if you want to lose weight
  • CrossFit can help you build strength if you minimize or completely avoid the HIIT component of the workout
  • It can help you build muscle mass if you concentrate on your diet and minimize or avoid the HIIT component of the workout
  • The gymnastics part of the workout can help you improve mobility, but some of the moves are performed with extremely poor form, so calisthenics is better in this respect

CrossFit tries to achieve everything all at once. It tries to help you build strength, muscle mass and improve endurance at the same time. Unfortunately, our bodies can’t recover the same from each kind of training.

Generally, your body will recover after 48 hours after the strength/muscle-building workout. It will take around 24 hours to recover from an endurance workout.

So, you would need to take special care of your resting periods between workouts to avoid overtraining.

Calisthenics vs CrossFit Quick Verdict

If you are looking to build strength and muscle definition calisthenics might be the right choice. If you are also looking for a workout regimen you can do on your own with minimal equipment, the calisthenics will be the best option for you. It is cheaper and anyone can start doing it without the help of an expert.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a workout regimen you can do under expert supervision in the gym, CrossFit will be a better choice. If you are also after losing weight CrossFit will be a better choice than calisthenics for you.

Calisthenics vs CrossFit Key Differences

Now, let’s compare calisthenics and CrossFit head by head. Here’s the comparison table. Where one is better than the other it’s noted with an X in the column for the workout regimen that is better in that respect. If they are similar it is noted with X for both Calisthenics and CrossFit.

Muscle BuildingXX
Safety (Injury Rate)X
Weight LossX
Strength BuildingX
Convenience (Availability)X

If we compare Calisthenics and CrossFit using the table above, here’s what we can conclude:

Calisthenics is better for:

  • Strength Building
  • Mobility
  • Cost
  • Convenience
  • Motivation

CrossFit is better for:

  • Weight Loss
  • Safety

They are similar in building muscle mass. Calisthenics will have a slight edge over CrossFit. It’s because with strength you are also building muscle mass which is the main focus of calisthenics.

CrossFit has two components that will help you build muscle, but one that will reduce the effects of those two. It consists of weight lifting, gymnastics, and HIIT. Weightlifting and gymnastics will help you build muscle, but HIIT will reduce the effects of your workouts.

But, if you reduce the endurance component in a CrossFit workout, you can build muscle mass faster using CrossFit. Your trainer must know your goals and adjust the workout to your needs. This will be hard to do if you are working out in a group.

Muscle Building

If you want to build muscle and the main goal of your workouts is improving the aesthetics of your body, both calisthenics and CrossFit will not be the best choice. You can say that both are falling short.

The best choice for building muscle mass will be weight training. It will help you do the most in the shortest time possible.

But, CrossFit might have an upper edge for building muscle mass compared to calisthenics. If you completely remove the endurance part of the workout and work on weightlifting and gymnastics, it will help you gain muscle mass faster.

Injury Rate

Calisthenics vs CrossFit: Injury

Although CrossFit is usually criticized for being injury-prone, actual injury rates are better than you might expect. On the other side, calisthenics is usually considered a safe way of working out. Again, the actual injury rates might surprise you.

CrossFit Injury Rates

An injury rate of 3.1 per 1000 training hours is reported in a study done in 2013. This is lower than what was found in a German study about the calisthenics injury rate.

Shoulder and spine injuries were the most common in CrossFit athletes.

Calisthenics Injury Rates

According to a German study, there are 9 injuries per 1000 hours of training found in calisthenics. This is higher than the injury rate found in Crossfit.

Unfortunately, the German study mentioned above is actually an online survey, not an actual medical study. The real medical study about injury rate in calisthenics is something I would really like to see. But it’s not conducted yet. So, I guess we will have to wait for actual scientific results. For now, we have to settle with the data we have available.

Most injuries reported in this online survey were on the upper extremities – arms and shoulders.

Weight Loss

Endurance training is something that calisthenics is not designed for. If you are after burning most calories during the workout, endurance training is the way to go.

There are two types of training you can do to burn as many calories as possible:

  • HIIT
  • Cardio workout

Since HIIT is embedded as a part of a CrossFit workout, CrossFit will be a better choice for you. So, if you want to burn fat, CrossFit will help you do that faster than calisthenics.

Just keep in mind that 80 – 90% of the weight loss battle is won in the kitchen. You can only work on the last 10 – 20% in the gym.

Strength Building

Strength building is something calisthenics is designed for. If you are after building strength, calisthenics will be a better choice than CrossFit.

CrossFit has HIIT and weight lifting embedded in its workouts. This will move focus away from building strength making it less effective than calisthenics.


If you are looking to improve mobility and flexibility both calisthenics and CrossFit are not the best choices for this purpose. But, if you want to compare the two, calisthenics will be better.

Calisthenics is basically a loose kind of gymnastics. To be able to do the hardest calisthenics moves, you will have to improve your mobility. Keeping your body under tension in those extreme positions will make you improve your flexibility. So, your body will be able to move more than before.

CrossFit also has a gymnastics part of the workout as a part of the training. But it’s around one-third of your activities compared to calisthenics. So, calisthenics will be better for improving mobility.


If you want to try CrossFit you will have to find a specialized CrossFit facility and basically pay for gym membership and personal trainer. This will not be cheap.

You can practice calisthenics on your own without a trainer and without any equipment, or using minimal equipment like a pull-up bar and dip bars. So it will cost you nothing or next to nothing if you want to buy a few essential equipment pieces for your home gym.


All you need to start working out with calisthenics is only your own body. If you want to use it to its full extent, you can find all the necessary equipment in the closest calisthenics park. So practicing calisthenics is just a short walk away.

On the other hand, a CrossFit facility might be close to where you live or work. But it can be on the other side of the city. Or it may not be available where you live or work. This makes it inconvenient.


For me, going to the gym can only motivate me for 6 six months or less. Calisthenics keeps me motivated for 5 years. The embedded gamification that is an integral part of calisthenics progressions is something that will keep me motivated for a long time to come.

I can find this as a small part of CrossFit in the gymnastics part of the CrossFit workouts. But, having to commute to get to a CrossFit facility, bringing another set of clothes with me, and changing it in a smelly gym makes me want to quit in a second. So, I would give a cutting edge here to calisthenics.

Conclusion: Calisthenics vs CrossFit – Which Is Better?

If you are looking for a convenient training regimen that will keep you motivated for years, that is light on equipment and it costs nothing, calisthenics is the best bet. It will help you build strength and tone your muscles. You will also be able to move better which will help you in your day-to-day activities.

On the other hand, if you can be motivated to keep on going to the same gym for years and are willing to pay for professional guidance, CrossFit might be better for you. It may help you build muscle mass, lose weight and build strength all depending on how you train.

Calisthenics vs CrossFit FAQ

In most cases, CrossFit workouts will be harder. They will work your strength, hypertrophy, and endurance. Calisthenics focuses mostly on strength. This will make calisthenics workouts less intense than CrossFit.

Calisthenics will be better for building functional strength. Weight lifting will be better for building muscle mass. So, it depends on your goals. If you want bigger muscles faster, the better choice is weightlifting. If you want to build strength that will be useful in your everyday life, calisthenics will be better for you.

Calisthenics will help you build functional strength. CrossFit will help you work on hypertrophy (building muscle mass), strength, and endurance at the same time. Calisthenics will be very light on equipment. CrossFit requires specialized gyms with trainers. Calisthenics will be cheaper than CrossFit.

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