In this article I’m going to do my best and use my personal experience, feedback and science 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?
If I have to answer this question only in one short paragraph is will sound like this:
It really depends.
It depends because different people are looking for different things and both calisthenics and going to the gym have their own different benefits and differences.
If you stick till the then you are going to learn what are these differences and benefits and which one would you prefer and why.
So without any further ado let’s begin with this simple but important detail…
Calisthenics VS Gym – How and why I’m going to compare them?
Hi there, my name is Bozhidar and the reason why I wanted to write this article is because I have previous experience in both calisthenics and gym training so I know what both have to offer.
Here’s me doing both of them:
That’s why I’m the right person who can give you the most accurate and real answers that can help you find out if calisthenics is better than going to the gym or not.
Even if there are gazillion ways to start I’m going to use a simple 8-step factor system and focus on things most people find important.
That way we can have a realistic look at every factor.
Of course, everything will be backed by science when needed, some common sense and logic.
With that being said, let’s begin…
Calisthenics VS Gym: The Competition (The 8 Factors Challenge)
Here’s the list of all 8 factors I’m going to be using:
- Monthly price
- Functionality outside the workouts
- Body development
- Building muscle & strength
- Losing weight (getting lean)
After you have seen them it’s time to begin the comparison.
Let’s start with the first and probably most important factor…
#1 – Monthly Price
I decided to start with 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. Back then I had to pay for the membership using all my monthly savings. Yes, it wasn’t cool…
And the worst part is that the average gym membership costs around $20-25 per month which is about $240 to 300 for a whole year.
I know that doesn’t sound a lot for some of you but it was a lot for me back then and I’m pretty aware that this is true for many other people as well.
That’s why I believe calisthenics is the better choice because it doesn’t cost you anything to simply start.
You can literally find a free pull-up bar and a dip station outside 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.
But if you want to take things to the next level I highly recommend you to invest in this calisthenics course which costs only $47 and can be used for many months and even years which is a small fraction compared to a personal trainer or gym membership.
For me, calisthenics is the better option for people with a limited budget because it doesn’t cost you anything on a monthly basis compared to going to the gym and the needed equipment can be found for absolutely free.
#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 wrist straps.
On the other side, if you are like me and don’t want to pay every month and instead decide to invest in a home gym then you are going to need a lot of equipment.
We are talking about things such as:
- A pair of heavy enough adjustable dumbells (click here to check mine)
- An adjustable bench (this is my bench)
- Wide enough squat rack (click here to check mine)
- Some type of cable machine (click here to check mine)
- Olympic and EZ-curl bar
- Rowing machine / stationary bike or treadmill (click here to check my rowing machine)
- And much more…
As you can imagine all those things cost a lot of money but are a good one-time investment (if you pick good products like the ones I’m using).
For calisthenics, you are going to need a lot less equipment which is going to cost less and it’s going to take almost no space.
We are talking about basic things such as:
- Solid wooden gymnastic rings (click here to check mine)
- Some type of pull-up bar (click here to check mine)
- Metal or wooden parallettes (these are the ones I use)
- Thick enough workout gloves (here are my favorite ones)
- Some type of wrist wraps (very good wraps I use regularly)
- A multifunctional power tower (this is my power tower I own)
Side Note: If you are curious and what to see how much does everything cost and why do you really need it check out my latest calisthenic essentials article.
So to be able to progress with the help of your bodyweight you are not going to need expensive equipment compared to building a home gym or going to the traditional one.
I believe calisthenics has won this round again because it uses mainly your body weight and requires far less equipment compared to home or commercial gym.
That is going to result in a smaller required investment and more free space.
#3 – Workout Convenience
By ‘workout convenience’, I’m referring to how fast and easy it’s going to be to start and complete 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 and skills, etc.
No commercial gym or similar place can beat the convenience of working out in your home.
I prefer to do it this way because it saves me 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 a home gym to doing calisthenics because both types of training can be done at the convenience of your home. But there is a slight difference.
The difference is the equipment you need.
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 close by that’s even better! You are not stuck in a specific room or garage that you can’t leave.
Calisthenics gives you the complete freedom to train wherever you want with limited to none equipment.
Because of the freedom it gives you, I find calisthenics way more convenient and easy to do than the traditional gym. It’s even slightly 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 in time 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 endurable 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. (I have literally seen this over and over…)
The reason behind this is that their only goal is to become big and strong ignoring everything else that won’t help them get closer to that.
Please don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying every single person going to the gym is like that but this is what the majority of people do. That’s the main reason 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 – these tests are trying to see if you have the actual benefits muscles and power bring.
Even if you are jacked but you can’t run for 500 meters what’s the point?
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. It’s way more productive than just training only focused on pure muscle building and nothing else.
An even better way 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.
Both bodyweight movements (calisthenics) or only gym training have their problems with functional training but I believe calisthenics tаkес the upper hand on this one.
Even if that is true I find that the best way to get the max out of both of them is to simply combine different exercises from both types of training in order to get the biggest amount of benefits you can.
#5 – Beginner Friendly
How easy it would be for somebody brand new to start training correctly?
I remember the first time I went into a public gym. Back then I didn’t really know what the hell I was doing. I haven’t had any clue what’s the purpose of many of the machines or had a clue on how to use them …
And not only that. I had to watch many youtube videos and do a lot of workouts before I had a basic knowledge of how to do all those different movements, use proper form and reasonable weights.
I know how silly all this sounds but it does prove my point that going to the gym is not very beginner-friendly. Especially if this is your first time.
Another thing that comes to mind is why personal trainers exist? If it was super easy for everybody there wasn’t going to be any need 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 to include some more difficult compound movements using weights.
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 the first exercises I mastered were push-ups and crunches.
And to add up using only your body weight, in the beginning, is a lot safer for both you and your joints.
When you don’t know what you are going you can easily get into the trap by your own ego resulting of using too much weight or losing proper form which may have bad impact on your results and health.
Because of the fact that you do not use complicated machines or additional weights I believe that calisthenics is way more beginner-friendly and safe 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 exact time to place a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger and tell you that this is what you are going to look like if you lift weights but I won’t do that because you can’t look like him.
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 I want to compare both types of training in a real and honest way I’m going to use one of the basic factors of muscle and body development – resistance and time under tension.
If you are only using your bodyweight you are soon going to reach a plateau. That will stagger your results and no matter how many reps or sets you do you won’t be able to get bigger and stronger.
That’s when you have to include some sort of additional resistance. You can easy do that by adding resistance bands, weighted vest or even chains. Anything that is going to help you make your movements more difficult is going to do the job right.
When working out at the gym or at home you are using different machines and free weights so doing that whole resistance process is quite simple. You simply have to add 1 more plate, pick a heavier dumbbell or move the weight pin on the heavier setting. That’s the main reason why people who go to the gym usually have better body development than those who use only their body weight.
But as you can guess that can be changed if you include additional resistance to the mix. So if you are looking for the fastest way to get big and strong as possible going to the gym is going to be the winner.
Using weights beats calisthenics in one more important detail as well – isolation. With the help of various machines and exercises, you can easily isolate lacking muscle groups and target them specifically. That is way harder to do if you are doing calisthenics movements because in the majority of them you are using multiple joints and different muscle groups.
So this round is going for the gym. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t get big and strong if you don’t go there.
Everything depends on a lot of different things and if you do the right you will get there.
From my own experience I had with both types of training I can share that every one of them can bring you great body development in terms of size, strength, and endurance. Still I believe that training with weights has the upper hand because you can target your whole body using lot more angles and different isolation exercises.
#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 am I talking about.
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 well known that muscle is built by going after a certain period of time under tension using enough resistance. Time under tension is simply 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 bodyweight exercises in which we can achieve enough time under tension so we can build muscle?
The answer to this question is yes! You can do so in both types of training!
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 and the amount of resistance you are using.
That way you can achieve the exact state in which your muscles grow. Your muscles can’t really recognize if you are using a dumbbell or a weighted vest. The only important part is that you can provide them with the needed resistance they want to grow bigger.
Now you understand why there isn’t a big difference in muscle building in both types of training if you are doing everything right.
Now, even so, I still believe that the gym does have some advantages over calisthenics because of the way machines work.
For example, with only 1 cable machine you can target 1 muscle from many different angles. And that’s only from using 1 machine.
Having that amount of options can help you 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 from specific angles.
The strength required to do calisthenics is a lot different than the strength needed for lifting weights but both types are important in its own ways.
Depending on what type of strength you are looking for you should go after the one or other. Or if you are smart you can 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 and explosiveness 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 need and want. Both types can help you achieve what you want.
Even if both types of training can help you build a lot of strength and muscle 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 size and strength compared to calisthenics.
#8 – Losing Weight (Getting Lean)
We all know that the best way of losing weight is doing some sort of cardiovascular activity. I’m 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 all gyms are packed with stationary bikes and treadmills that 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 by jogging, running or riding a bike. At the same time you are going to get some fresh air fresh and sunlight as well.
As you can see you can easily adapt every type of training in order to help you get lean.
At the end of the day, I don’t really see a clear winner for this factor because both can be tweaked and help you achieve the same results.
You can lose weight inside the gym with the help of the cardio machines and you can lose weight at home or outside.
My suggestion is to go for what you feel most comfortable doing – if you like the outdoors more go for it, etc.
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.
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 neither of them.
That is proving that both calisthenics and gym training do bring different and important benefits for your health and long term results.
If you want to get the best out of both worlds my recommendation is going to be this:
Do like me, buy yourselves some basic home gym equipment that is going to pay for itself in a couple of months and combine it with calisthenics for optimal results.
Let’s see more details on what is 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, basement or living room. 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 that’s working great.
Feel free to change things however you feel pleased. The rest days, workout days are designed for my way of living and may not be suitable for yours.
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 I’m not leaving anything behind.
This is what I call functional training that is going to make me 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.
So is calisthenics better than gym training?
We have come to the conclusion that calisthenics is better at some things but not in other.
Like any other thing calisthenics, is not perfect. It has its unique set of benefits and drawbacks but it’s worth giving it a try.
The best and most reasonable thing you can do is to combine it with liftings weights at home or at the gym. That way you can get the combined benefits of both of them.
Inside you are going to find a lot more awesome content on this topic.
That being said it’s time to end up this article. Thank you a lot for reading it.
I really hope I have answered your question the best way possible so now you have a clear understanding if calisthenics is a better option than 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,
Hey there, my name is Bozhidar and I’m a certified online personal trainer with University Degree in Sports and Nutrition.
With the help of my knowledge and over 8 years of workout experience, I can help you get on the next level. I own a home gym, do calisthenics, little gymnastics, and love to ride a bike.