Calisthenics Vs Gym Workouts: Which Is Better for You?
Should you do Calisthenics or Gym Workouts?
Always wondering about what may be the best workout for getting fit?
Let us help you get some clarity! Before we begin, let's list their differences:
Here, we will list various factors which many people feel matters the most, and I hope this article may help you decide for yourself too, about what works best for you.
Should I do Calisthenics or Gym?
To be fair in judging one workout method against another, we need to compare them on factors that make sense.
The following comparison points should matter the most to anyone looking to strike the right effort to returns ratio at the end of the day.
So here are some quality of life comparison points we're going to go through:
- Weight Loss
- Frequency of Training
- Beginner Friendliness
- Strength Gain
We will elaborate on all of the points mentioned above further below.
1. Weight Loss
Almost all the Calisthenics exercises you can think of are compound exercises, which means you engage many muscle groups simultaneously.
Take, for example, jumping jacks, pull-ups, or push-ups. Either exercise is so much more useful for working out the whole body than a simple bicep curl, which only works the biceps.
This is because compound exercises engage more major muscle groups simultaneously, thus burning many more calories in the same amount of time spent working out.
Compound Exercises > More Muscles Used > More Calories Burnt > Weight Loss
For sure, you will be able to find compound exercises in the gym, namely the squat, bench press, and deadlift. However, adding more weight while already being overweight may put a lot of strain on the joints and potentially cause injury.
Getting injured > No more working out > No more fitness gains > Gain Weight
My opinion is that the Weight Loss category's winner should be Calisthenics, due to having more simple full-body workouts with a lower risk of injury.
Frequency of Training
Just getting started on your fitness journey and feeling clueless?
If not, try looking at this from the lens of when you were a beginner yourself.
The gym's typical practice is to split muscle groups into 'days,' so 'Leg days,' 'Back days,' etc. Then do each of the 5 Primary Muscle groups a minimum of twice a week. That makes for a total of 10 separate workout rotations.
You won't have 10 days a week, so the practice usually involves hitting 2 major muscle groups per session.
Hence you may be in the gym for 4-5 times a week to hit every muscle group twice, even if you choose 2 major muscle groups to superset per workout session.
This is why you hear so many guys in the gym skipping 'Legs day' entirely due to lack of interest and time.
Working all parts of the body is excellent for looking aesthetically balanced and reducing our risk of injury due to muscle imbalances.
However, with Calisthenics, there's no specific 'arm,' 'legs' or 'chest' day as most exercises work the full body.
You just need to spend 3 times a week doing Calisthenics for those of you who want to stay generally fit.
Alternatively, suppose you were to hit the gym for the same results. In that case, you may have to allocate a minimum of 5 days before you get around to having every body part worked out twice a week.
For those of us on a tight schedule who want to achieve the same results for less time spent working out, we just got to stick to a well-structured yet straightforward bodyweight routine.
We will be saving so much valuable time for other things in life. Calisthenics is the way to go for Workout-Life balance!
As a beginner, you will already work out many muscle groups by merely doing anything conventional in Calisthenics.
Some running, bodyweight squats, push-ups, and pull-ups can literally become everything you need to know for starting your practice. Do those four simple exercises three to five times a week (or more) depending on how long you need recovery. There you go, you have literally the whole program settled.
Instead of doing 9 sets of three different exercises for one specific muscle group, just do push-ups and pull-ups for targeting all the major muscle groups at once! As a beginner, it's easier to practice a few significant movements with consistency instead of many complex and varied exercises per training session.
Calisthenics makes planning and learning easy. You just need to focus on the few beginner exercises, and do them correctly!
Not wanting to start your fitness journey with purchasing fancy equipment or getting locked into a costly gym membership?
Try Calisthenics out. You may wind up not spending a dime even.
Unless you've invested in a home gym, chances are you'll have to get a gym membership to do gym workouts.
I'm not sure if everyone may relate to this, but even though looking good is not a must, there's just this massive pressure for looking good. As Confucius once said "young men and women all want to look and dress nice". Ok maybe he didn't say that, but you get the idea. Our buying patterns get influenced by our environment.
I still remember how, when I was on my first job, one of the first things I had done was to immediately sign up as a member of a commercial gym.
Being completely new to the gym, I found myself noticing other members. They were all clad in fitting sportswear while I was simply wearing some dry-fit tees from a random event. I hadn't thought much of that at all.
So after going to the gym and on the way to work, I remember looking at a set of tops even when I have absolutely no need for them! Honestly, when I look back at then, it was my desire to fit in.
At some point, I had completed my gym membership and went back to mostly Calisthenics and Rock Climbing.
I found myself not caring anymore about the shirt or pants that I was wearing. It just needed to be comfortable enough to move around in.
I had no one around me in the quaint little fitness corner in my neighborhood. I remember even going topless and focusing more on just working out hard.
I never bothered to dress nice again to work out because there's no one to impress but myself in the quiet park I go to.
When you do Calisthenics, wearing anything comfortable to move in is all that you need.
Also, a good Calisthenics session may potentially involve just the ground you stand on plus some hard work.
Due to the low costs for starting the practice and free facilities, we can agree that Calisthenics is the go-to routine for those on a budget.
Even if you aren't, you can save a lot still as all you would need may be a weighted vest, pair of rings, P-Bars, and a pull-up bar at home!
Speaking of low cost, the lowest cost something can go is to be free, so remember to get a free e-book- "Beginner's programme for Calisthenics - A complete 6 weeks step-by-step guide to get you started" as a gift from us! Your free programme is right here ready for you to embark on your Calisthenics journey.
Again, another bonus for doing Calisthenics.
Take a look at this scenario for Calisthenics:
- Knee Push-Ups
- Floor Push-Ups
- Offset Pushups
Now, this other scenario in the Gym:
- 10kg bicep curl
- 12kg bicep curl
- 14kg bicep curl
These are common progressions when it comes to Calisthenics and Gym.
The workouts are getting progressed. But instead of only increasing the weight, Calisthenics also teaches us an entirely new movement on top of the push-ups we are comfortable with already.
While Gym work usually only progresses in terms of weight unless you fully substitute the workout and do other exercises.
This is why most people find that Calisthenics is much more exciting and fun than Gym Training
Calisthenics allows you to progress and grow into doing more challenging and complex movements while gym work tends to progress exercises by replicating the same actions with progressively heavier weights. It
When you begin your workouts, you may be really disciplined and excited to grind. Still, without some new challenges to confront every training, the monotony can cause people to lose interest in the workout they do.
Hence I would give Calisthenics this point as it is way less monotonous and more of a challenge that grows with your own practice.
Have we already mentioned that a good Calisthenics session may not need much to start off with?
This means that the world is your gym, work out literally anywhere! It doesn't get simpler than that.
Make it easier to stay consistent and keep the gain train chugging along non-stop.
However, over-exercising can be counter-productive with moderation in mind, so check out this Common Mistakes post for training mistakes that even the fittest people sometimes make.
It may help you to have more understanding of what may be causing your strength growth to stop.
Work out at home! In the Gym, in the Park! If you have shower facilities at work, you can consider trying this light workout- How to get started with Calisthenics? A Beginner's guide.
This point goes to Calisthenics hands down.
Functionality is simply how well the skills learned from one task can be passed on to another activity.
In Calisthenics, you would see people do workouts like sprinting, jumping, and lifting their bodies in many different ways.
A lot of the strengths and skills developed would help you be able to do various sports. The hand-eye coordination and body awareness created would extensively translate well into activities like rock climbing, running, or even navigating through rugged terrain on an outdoor hike.
The balance developed from a simple one-legged squat, for example, makes you flexible enough to do various things. Such as being able to touch your toes, squat down on two legs into an Asian squat, or simply develop power in the legs. And that is just one exercise of many.
Working out in the gym can be significant. But still, the biggest takeaway would be learning how to lift bulky items in our daily lives with good form. Which may not be a common task for most.
Most sports do not involve lifting many pounds of weights in the first place, other than weightlifting.
Only developing strength is not enough to train the finer things like technique, movement, body awareness, mobility, and proprioception. See the 7 Undeniable Benefits of Calisthenics Training! article for reference.
This point I would give to Calisthenics. But if your work involves lifting heavy items, then gym training may be much more functional to you.
Otherwise, Calisthenics carries over much better into what we do daily for the average person or athletes like myself.
8. Strength Gain
At some point in our daily grind to be at our best, we would start to wonder which discipline gets us really strong. So we will do this by comparing the transferability of each practice's strengths into another practice, e.g., Shoulder barbell press vs. handstand push-ups.
A gym-goer doing perfect-form Barbell Presses up to his bodyweight may take 2 years or maybe far longer (or sometimes never) to get a handstand push-up.
Compare this to a Calisthenics athlete who may only take 3-6 months to learn and achieve a perfect-form Barbell press of his full body weight.
This is so because of the amount of adaptable strength and skills each practice offers.
Calisthenics often trains one to be very adaptable with their strength and skills. The movements usually incorporate flexibility and multiple minor muscle groups coming in to hold one pose, for example, a handstand. While a Barbell press is much more controlled due to the stability provided by the bar or equipment.
The same can be said for the old Machines Vs. Free Weights discussion. The more freely you're able to move, the harder you work to stabilize the weight.
You will definitely have seen street workout artists looking very weightless, pulling off flows after flows of bar tricks or hand balancing moves.
Calisthenics offers more strength, which is adaptable and can be translated into other skills if needed be.
My verdict? This final point goes to Calisthenics!
In most aspects, Calisthenics has an obvious lead as compared to Gym Training.
I personally feel that it is safe, too, to say that from my experience as a competitive athlete that the practice of Calisthenics has helped my performance a lot more.
It has its uses both on-and-off-seasonal training periods,
I do lots of Calisthenics to build strength on top of regular rock climbing to give my joints and tendons a break from sports training.
That really strengthens and conditions my full body to stay in form during off-seasons, not something which the gym can really substitute completely.
I find that the addition of weights in my Calisthenics routines with a weighted vest or dip belt is the most effective for improving my regular bodyweight training.
However, I may still access the gym occasionally to use the 2 or 3-kilogram weights for shoulder conditioning, which may look bizarre to most people in the gym looking to train for mass.
After all, both forms of training are what you make of it, so utilize them to their full potential where and when you can see maximum results!
If you Still Can’t Decide...
I personally will recommend it for the aspiring beginner to first try out our free routine provided in our free e-Book.
Also, consider taking a Virtual Tour of our studio online and check out some of the online classes we offer. You can literally hit the ground running with a wide range of studio classes which we offer, from Calisthenics to Pilates classes.
As with any endeavor, it is never possible to progress without putting in the effort and time. Here are the packages we offer to the first-timers of our studio.