Is Calisthenics Better than Gym? [See What Results Tell]

In this article I’m going to do my best and use my personal experience and feedback to give you all the needed information so you can find out the answer to this very common question many people have: 

Is calisthenics better than gym training or not?

The short and simple answer is it really depends on what you are looking for because both training calisthenics or going to the gym brings its own benefits.

Below I’m going to get deeper into that topic so you can see for yourself what you prefer and why.

You are also going to learn what are the main differences between them, which one is better for you and the best way to get the max out of them both.

So without any further ado let’s start with the good stuff…

How and why I’m going to compare them?

The reason why I wanted to write this article is because I have previous experience in both calisthenics and gym training and have personally experienced what both have to offer.

That way I can give the best answer and tell you if calisthenics is better than gym.

The best way to compare them is to use factors I and most people find important.

We are going to combine that with some common sense and logic.

I will share with you my thoughts and previous experience so we can have a realistic and real look at every factor.

Before we continue I want to let you know that’s it’s perfectly fine if you don’t agree with me on some things. Do what you feel doing and I wish you the best in your endeavors. 

8 Factors we are going to compare them with

Here’s the list of all 8 factors I believe are the most important:

  • Monthly price
  • Equipment
  • Convenience
  • Functionality outside the workouts 
  • Progress
  • Body development
  • Building muscle & strength
  • Losing weight (getting lean)

After you have read all factors I hope you will have a clear answer to what’s better for your specific needs and wants. 

#1 – Monthly Price

I decided to include this factor because not all of us can afford a gym membership all year round. 

I remember the first time I entered the gym was when I was 16 years old and I had to pay for using all my month’s savings. 

Average gym membership costs about $20-25 which is about $240 to 300 in a year.

I know that doesn’t sound a lot for some of you but it was a lot for me back then. I’m pretty aware that is also a lot for many other people. 

That’s why I believe calisthenics it’s a better choice because it really doesn’t cost anything to start.

You can literally find a free outside pull-up bar and a dip station and start doing exercises and workouts. 

Even if you can’t find such things in your local area buying them for your home is going to be a lot less expensive than paying for a gym membership every month. 

Quick Summary:

For me, calisthenics is the better option for people with limited budget because it doesn’t cost anything on a monthly basis compared to going to the gym.

#2 – Needed Equipment 

The benefit of paying for a monthly gym membership is that you won’t need to buy a lot of additional equipment. 

You are going to be fine only with a gym bag, some good headphones and a pair of strong straps. 

On the other side, you are like me and don’t want to pay every month and decide to invest in a home gym then you are going to need a lot of equipment. 

We are talking about things such as adjustable dumbells, adjustable bench, squat rack, cable machine, Olympic and EZ-curl bar, etc. 

As you can imagine all those things cost a lot of money but are a good one-time investment (if you pick good products). 

For calisthenics, you are going to need a lot less equipment which is going to cost less and it’s going to take less space.

We are talking about basic things such as gymnastic rings, pull-up bar, parallettes, workout gloves, straps and if you have enough space and money – a power tower

Side Note: If you are curious and what to see how much does everything cost and why do you really need it to check out our latest calisthenic essentials article

So to be able to progress and use mainly your bodyweight you are going to need far less and least expensive equipment compared to a home gym or the traditional gym. 

Quick Summary:

I believe calisthenics has won this one because it uses mainly your body weight and it requires far less equipment compared to home or commercial gym.

That is going to also result in smaller investments and needed space.

#3 – Workout Convenience

By that, I mean how fast and easy it’s going to be to start and finish a workout. Would you have to walk or go somewhere far, how long it’s to take you to start, would you need to have special knowledge, etc. 

No commercial gym or place can beat the convenience of working out in your home. 

I prefer to do it this way because it saves you both money and time. That’s why I find it a lot more convenient to do calisthenics at home instead of going to the gym. 

The problems come when we are comparing home gym to calisthenics because both types of training can be done at the convenience of your home. 

In my opinion, doing calisthenics takes the upper hand because you can literally take the needed equipment with you and go outside to train. 

If you have a built-in workout playground that’s even better. You are not stuck in a room that you can’t leave. 

Calisthenics gives you the complete freedom to train wherever you want with a limited amount of needed equipment. 

Quick Summary:

Because of the way of working out I find calisthenics way more convenient and easy to do than the traditional gym. It’s even better than a home gym because you can do it literally everywhere. 

#4 – Functionality Outside the Training

I know that most of you just want to get jacked or lose weight, learn some cool moves and such. In the beginning, I was the same but I had evolved. 

Now I use working out in a way that not only gives me the look but it helps me walk or run longer, jump higher, be more durable and stronger to lift and carry around heavy things.

This factor is all about functional training and how the type of workout you do (calisthenics or weight training) is going to give you more than just looks.

I know that some of you might not like what you hear but the majority of people going to the gym have very poor endurance and are getting tired only after climbing a few stairs.

The reason behind this is that their only goal is to become big and strong ignoring everything else that does not get them closer to their goals.

Please don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying every single person going to the gym is like this but this is what the majority do. That’s why I prefer calisthenics to some extent.

If you think about it to get into the military you have to pass certain standards made by only bodyweight exercises such as pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups and running. 

I do believe that is for a reason – they are trying to see if you have the actual benefits muscles and power bring. 

So after all that being said I firmly believe that doing basic bodyweight calisthenics movements is a great way to become more functional for other things rather than just training compared to only focusing on muscle building. 

An even better way to do it is to simply combine bodyweight exercises with some basic compound movements, cardiovascular training and explosive type of training so you can have everything you need.

That way you are making sure you are ready for anything life has to offer.

Quick Summary:

Both bodyweight movements (calisthenics) or only gym training have their problems with functional training but I believe calisthenics took the upper hand on this one.

Even if that is true I find that the best way to do it is to combine exercises from different types of training in order to bring the biggest amount of benefits.

#5 – Beginner Friendly

By that, I mean how easy it would be to somebody brand new to start training correctly. I remember the first time I went into a public gym I didn’t really know what I was doing. 

I didn’t know what’s the purpose of many of the machine or no did I have an idea of how to safely use them.

And not only them, but I also had to watch many youtube videos and do a lot of workouts before I had a clue of how to do all those different movements and weights. 

I know how silly does all this sound but it does prove my point that going to the gym is not very beginner-friendly. 

Another thing that comes to mind is why there are personal trainers. If it was easy there wasn’t going to be any demand for them. 

So if you are just starting out and don’t have a clue about working out it’s better to you to start with basic bodyweight exercises and after a while, if you decide to include some more difficult compound movements. 

That’s why I believe that calisthenics is more beginner-friendly. 

After all, that’s how I all started back when I was 14 years old. One of my first exercises were push-ups and crunches. 

And to add up using only your body weight is a lot safer for your overall safety and does spare a lot on your joints. 

When you don’t know what you are going you can easily get hooked by your own ego resulting from using too much weight which may get you into big trouble and injury. 

Quick Summary:

Because of the fact that you do not use complicated machines or heavyweight I believe that calisthenics is way more beginner-friendly than going to the gym.

And it saves you money from hiring personal trainers.

#6 – Body Development

So you are curious about what physique can you achieve doing calisthenics or gym training.

Well now is the time to place a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger and tell you that this is what you are going to look if you lift weights but I won’t because you won’t. 

We are all different from one another and what you may look after a few years of training may be totally different from how I may look, etc.

If we want the competition, to be honest, we are going to use natural bodybuilding and natural calisthenics. 

Because I’m pretty aware that 99% of famous fitness “gurus” are fake natty’s and even some calisthenics athletes are no different from them I will not mention any names. 

I will use my own body development as a factor to determine which has given me the best body development. 

As I told earlier I started with calisthenics, then it evolved in bodybuilding (going to the gym for 1 year) and finally (today) I’m combining both of them – going outside to train calisthenics while I train wi weights using my home gym. 

In the period of doing calisthenics, I started getting stronger and bigger. I wasn’t huge but I was lean, strong and well defined. 

That was actually the reason why I really like training – just the feeling of achievement of all your hard work and sweat. Unfortunately, after a few months, I reached a plateau and stopped getting results. 

Don’t panic it’s not because of the calisthenics but because I lack many of the things I’m sharing with you now. 

So then I got into bodybuilding, started going to the gym and I started seeing results again from the additional resistance I was using.

So to be honest both calisthenics and gym training can get you with great body development if you use good resistance. 

Because how weights work it makes everything a lot easier and I would give it to this round to them. 

Don’t get me wrong – you can still get very big and strong using calisthenics but nothing can beat the resistance of using weights and especially when doing squats with heavyweights. 

Quick Summary:

From my own experience I had with both I can share that both can bring you great body development in terms of size, strength, and endurance but I believe that training with weights has the upper hand on this because you can target your whole body at a lot more angles.

#7 – Building Muscle & Strength

This is somewhat related to the previous comparing factor but it does have it’s differences.

Let’s find out what are them.

Building Muscle

Let’s start with the building muscle part.

To make things easier let’s see how is really muscle build and is one type of training better than the other. 

It is known that muscle is built by going after a certain period of time under tension using enough resistance. Time under tension meals the time in which a specific muscle is in contraction.

So knowing that we can ask yourselves this: 

Are there any specific movements in lifting weights at the gym or doing bodyweight exercises in which we can achieve enough amount of time under tension so we can build muscle?

The answer to this question is yes! If you are training chest it doesn’t really matter if you are doing a bench press or a push-up because you have full control over the tempo of every repetition you do. 

That way you can achieve the exact state in which your muscles grow. Also, your muscles can’t really recognize if you are using a dumbbell or a weighted vest for as the so needed additional resistance. 

Now you understand why there isn’t such a big difference in muscle building if you use enough resistance and the right tempo. 

Now I believe that the gym does have something more to offer because of the way machines work. 

For example, with only 1 cable machine you can target 1 muscle at many different angles. And that’s only 1 machine.

Having that big options you can recruit different muscle fibers which is going to result in better development aka more muscle growth. 

Unfortunately, in calisthenics you are somewhat limited with the angles and exercises you can do to isolate individual muscles and target them at specific angles. 

Building Strength

The strength required for calisthenics is a lot different than the strength needed for lifting weights but both are important in its own way. 

Depending on what type of strength you are looking for you should go after the one or other or even better – combine them. 

Going to the gym is going to help you a lot of building strength for lifting heavy stuff off the ground. Doing advanced calisthenics movements is going to build up your power so you can fight gravity for longer static holds.

In my opinion, I find the basic physical lifting strength more functional than the type of strength that helps you hold static holds. 

Before you crucify me for my statement I want to add up that you can still build traditional strength with the help of calisthenics but I find it to be a lot more difficult and slower process compared to using dumbbells and barbells. 

At the end of the day, you decide what do you want and need. Both can help you achieve what you want.

Quick Summary:

Even if both types of training can build a lot of strength I find lifting weights to be somewhat more efficient because of the way you train.

You are constantly trying to lift heavier and heavier weights and have the ability to do it in a ton of different ways. It’s also a quicker way to build it compared to calisthenics. 

#8 – Losing Weight (Getting Lean)

We all know that the best way of losing weight is by doing some sort of cardiovascular activity. We are talking about things like jogging, fitness walking, running, riding a bicycle, doing HIIT and even dancing

Now you understand why nether going to the gym or doing calisthenics is the best way to lose weight. 

Their main focus is to help you build muscle, strength, and endurance but there is a way you can change that. 

We all know that the gym is packed with stationary bikes and treadmills.

They are specifically made to help you lose weight.

If you are doing calisthenics at home you can invest for an affordable treadmill (there are a lot of great options under $500) and achieve the same thing. 

If you don’t want to invest anything and like the outdoor calisthenics workouts you can do cardio outside and get some fresh air fresh at the same time for absolutely free.

As you can see you can easily adapt every type in order to help you get lean with some simple tricks. 

At the end of the day, I don’t really see a clear winner for this factor because both can be tweaked and achieve the same results.

You can lose weight inside the gym with the help of the cardio machines, you can lose weight at home and you can lose weight outside. 

My suggestion is to be to go for what you feel most comfortable doing – if you like the outdoors more go for it, etc. 

Quick Summary:

I don’t believe there is a winner in this round because workouts focused on losing weight can be done literally anywhere with all types of different equipment. You can easily do it indoors or outdoors.

Calisthenics Vs Gym: Which one is better?

As we are getting close to the end of this article I want to give you the best answer to this question which is neither.

The results from the 8 factors we compared them aren’t in huge favor of one or the other.

That is proving that both calisthenics and gym training do bring unique and important benefits for your health and results. 

If you want to get the best out of both worlds my recommendation is going to be this:

Do like me and buy yourselves some basic home gym equipment that is going to pay for itself in a couple of months and combine weight lifting with calisthenics for optimal results. 

Let’s see how’s the most efficient way to do so. 

What’s the best way to get the max out of both?

It doesn’t really matter if you prefer to go to the gym or build one in your garage. At the end of the day, you are going to get the same benefits from lifting weights. 

If you want to get the optimal benefits from both types of training the best thing you can do is combine them into one effective workout plan. 

Here’s the way I have been doing it for a while and what’s working for me. 

Please Note:

Feel free to change things however you feel pleased. The rest days, workout days are designed for my way of living so make sure to change them as pleased. 

Workout Plan – Get the max out of everything

  • Day 1 – Calisthenics
  • Day 2 – Lifting Weights (Upper Body) 
  • Day 3 – Calisthenics
  • Day 4 – Lifting Weights (Lower Body)
  • Day 5 – Calisthenics
  • Day 6 – Some sort of Cardio (Hike, riding bike, jogging)
  • Day 7 – Rest 

As you can see from the workout plan above you are not leaving anything behind.

This is what I call functional training that is going to make you strong, big, lean and endurable. 

If you have the free time and desire to progress give it a try for a couple of weeks and let me know what do you think.

Final Thoughts 

So is calisthenics better than gym training? 

We have come to the conclusion that calisthenics is better at some things and not in other.

Like any other thing calisthenics, it’s not perfect and has its unique set of benefits and drawbacks but I believe it’s worth giving it a try. 

ike any other thing calisthenics, it’s not perfect and has its unique set of benefits and drawbacks but I believe it’s worth giving it a try. 

The even better and most reasonable thing you can do is to combine in with liftings weights at home or at the gym so you can get the combined benefits of both of them. 

If you are really into calisthenics you check out our category pages on Best Equipment and Useful Guides in which you are going to find a lot more awesome content on this topic.

Thank you a lot for reading our article.

I really hope we have answered your question the best way so now you have a clear understanding if calisthenics is the better option that simply going to the gym. 

Don’t forget to comment below your thoughts and share this information with your friends.

Bye for now and see you in the next one,

– Bozhidar

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Bozhidar Karailiev
Bozhidar Karailiev
Hey there, my name is Bozhidar and I have created this site to share with you my experiences and knowledge from over 7 years of training using my home gym, public gym and calisthenics. I have some experience into gymnastics too. Hope my articles are useful to you!

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