Calisthenics vs CrossFit

You have heard of calisthenics and you have heard about crossfit. What are the differences and similarities between calisthenics and CrossFit? What is there to say about calisthenics vs crossfit?

CrossFit and calisthenics both became popular over the last decade and have amazing and growing communities. If you joined one of these communities, should you also join the other? And if you are new to both and wondering what direction to go in, what should you know about both? Before we get into this, let’s just say that both methods of training are great for your general health and both communities pursue a healthy and fit lifestyle. In both sports, there are a lot of success stories of body transformations. It all comes down to how you train, eat and rest. There are a lot of similarities. But of also some differences. So let’s dive into calisthenics vs crossfit.

What is CrossFit (in short)?

CrossFit is performed in a ‘box’. This means a square hall of an average size where all the equipment is. To find an official box in your area you have to look for an official CrossFit affiliate with application, CrossFit trainer certificate and license agreement. Make sure you check this with your CrossFit box to avoid training in a non-certified box.

CrossFit is a type of fitness that focusses on natural body movements like squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, jumps, etc. All exercises are performed in a class that focusses on specific techniques in every training. These are usually in a high intensity interval training form (HITT). You usually do sets in time instead of reps and perform all kinds of exercises in your training (for the entire body). For a training, there is usually a blackboard listing the exercises and it changes every day. A couple of trainers will always be there to assist everyone in the group. CrossFit is said to be made for everyone and everyone does the same exercises. Weight, endurance and speed are the differences between athletes. The faster the better. The trainer makes sure your technique stays good as fatigue starts to kick in, so start in your own comfortable tempo. Over time you will improve. 

CrossFit Games 

A lovely thing in CrossFit are the competitions. You can compete with other members of your box. But there are also competitive games every year in the USA to be the ‘fittest on earth’. This is of course very fun to watch or participate in if you’re good enough. In the games, you have to be the fastest to do a certain exercise to win. It’s all about who can put the most work in the least amount of time. 

What is Calisthenics (in short)?

Calisthenics is a type of fitness that puts focus on bodyweight exercises, like squatting, pull-ups and push-ups. It teaches you to master your body and bodyweight in all types of movements and to exercise wherever you want. Calisthenics is free and often performed at home, in a calisthenics parc outside or an indoor calisthenic parc . Some people even do it in a regular gym. It provides them with you a feeling of freedom since you can train whenever and wherever you want. 

If you have a big community in your area there will be some trainers you can train with or ask more experienced users for help. In other cases, you can train with friends or alone. You train to get more muscular, stronger and to perform tricks like the handstand, muscle-up, front lever etc. 

After you have learned to control your own bodyweight it is time to do weighted calisthenics. With a weighted vest or ankle bands for example you can make exercises like squatting more difficult and this gain more strength. 

Calisthenics vs CrossFit in Pull-Ups

The CrossFit pull-up (kipping pull-up) and the calisthenics pull-up (strict pull-up) are different and we want to give you a better understanding of it. In CrossFit, there is a debate going on about which exercise to use. In their philosophy, power is work and time. The distance between the starting and end position of both pull-ups is the same. So both pull-ups will give equal strength. Since CrossFit is all about the most reps in a set time they think the kipping pull-up gives the most strength. Since your able to do more reps in 1 minute than with a more traditional pull-up. The CrossFit community and many trainers will agree with this.

The Reality

But the CrossFit HQ says that the strict pull-up form is essential to master before you can do a kipping pull-up. And CrossFit practioners should do both. At Calisthenics Worldwide, we agree with this. A kipping pull-up has no other function than to enable you to do a lot of reps in CrossFit games. In our opinion, a strict pull-up costs more energy with a better control of your body since it does not use momentum. You get more strength out of one rep than out of several kipping pull-ups. In addition, the high speed performance in kipping pull-ups also increases the risk of an injury.

Calisthenics vs CrossFit in General

Crossfit Pro – Functional Moving Exercises 

CrossFit focuses on free movements. There are no machines that have you in a prepositioned movement, but every movement is part of your daily life. This helps prevent injury and staying fit in your work. 

Crossfit Pro – Get that Athletic Look 

CrossFit is very good to get in shape. Of course, your diet is also very important. But the higher paced training in CrossFit compared to average gym training will activate more of your cardiovascular system and burn more calories on average. More traditional training will normally give you more hypertrophy or a more swollen look. 

Crossfit Pro – Challenging 

CrossFit is in a form of HITT. This is always challenging since you can do cardio and strength training at the same time with time as an indicator. It’s also designed to compete against others from your box.  

Crossfit Pro – Trainers that Help You Progress 

Since you are reading this article, you know that CrossFit is very popular and the community has a lot of certified trainers that will help you learn all the skills in becoming fit. 

Crossfit Pro – Upcoming Community 

It has become very popular over the last decade with a lot of boxes in big and small cities around the world. There’s also a lot of content on the internet, Facebook etc. 

Calisthenics Pro – Functional Moving Exercises 

Calisthenics focuses on free movements. There are no machines that have you in a prepositioned movement, but every movement is part of your daily life. This helps prevent injury and staying fit in your work. 

Calisthenics Pro – Athletic Look 

Calisthenics is very good for getting in shape. Your diet is also very important but usually you train at a higher paced level which activates your cardiovascular system. 

Calisthenics Pro – Challenging 

Exercising with your own bodyweight and controlling movements like the muscle-up are very challenging. To have such control over your body takes time to master. 

Calisthenics Pro – Upcoming Community 

Like CrossFit, calisthenics also has a great community with its own social media accounts and youtube content. In the last few years, the number of calisthenics training parcs has increased considerably all over the world. 

Calisthenics Pro – Places to Train 

Calisthenics can be performed everywhere, at home, in a parc or while you travel. You need a floor and a maybe towel to start. In a parc there are a bit more options for exercises, but this is weather dependent. Since the corona pandamic hit the world, home training has become very popular. There is a lot of training equipment available that easily fits into your living room, can be taken along while travelling and be put aside whenever you need space. Also, a lot of gyms have more calisthenics options lately since they go with the trend. Think of an pull-up bar, dip bar etc. 

Crossfit Cons – Costs

When it comes to calisthenics vs CrossFit the cost may be one of the biggest differences. CrossFit is pretty expensive. On average, in the USA an unlimited membership cost between 140 and 299 dollars per month. The prices have gone through the roof. Sure, there are cheaper places out there and depending on how often you go you pay more or less. But in bigger cities it is expensive. Some license holders just want to make money from the trend. In the Netherlands, an unlimited membership costs between 65 and 118 dollars per month. That is still expensive but at least people affordable. To compare, an average gym membership in the USA costs between 33 and 60 dollars a month. CrossFit is not affordable for everyone. 

Crossfit Cons – Risk of Injury 

A big concern in CrossFit is that performing some of the exercises in a fatigued state means a high risk of getting injured. If you’re fatigued keeping a good form is hard and by getting pushed over your limits because of the time pressure, you can easily get an injury. Rhabdomyolysis was an uncommon muscular injury until CrossFit started to get popular.

‘Rhabdomyolysis is a condition in which damaged skeletal muscle breaks down rapidly. Symptoms may include muscle pains, weakness, vomiting, and confusion. There may be tea-colored urine or an irregular heartbeat. Some of the muscle breakdown products, such as the protein myoglobin, are harmful to the kidneys and may lead to kidney failure.’  Often caused by a crush injury where you’ve pushed further than your limits with explosive exercises. 

Crossfit Cons – Form 

CrossFit focuses a on speed and pushing your limits, but how important and good are form? Since you get tired in training you usually can’t keep the pace and still perform in a perfected form. We saw a video where a CrossFit trainer taught the muscle-up to his trainees in just a couple of minutes. However, it was a kipping muscle-up with bad form in the shoulders where injuries easily can occur. As physiotherapists, it is hard to watch these kind of video’s. We do not need more patients! If you’re performing CrossFit always learn perfect form before you increase your tempo. This costs more energy and strength but prevents injury. Of course, not all CrossFit trainers are the same. Make sure your trainer is certified and has a lot of experience. 

Calisthenics Cons – Less Trainers to Guide You 

There are certified calisthenics trainer courses but not many people have done these. So if you want a certified trainer you have to search very well. Although in big cities it won’t be a problem. But there are more experienced calisthenics enthusiasts that will be willing to help you. And you can use our website and connect to our community to get started and learn about exercisis.

Calisthenics Cons – Get Your Own Equipment 

You can do calisthenics without any equipment. But some basic equipment like a pull-up bar, some parallettes or a weighted vest can help a lot. You may need to invest in some of those things if you want to train at home. These may be unexpected costs since calisthenics is free. If you want to train in a parc some resistance bands and weighted gear is a good investment. 

Calisthenics vs CrossFit – the Biggest Similarities 

In calisthenics vs CrossFit, we have to admit that there are some big similarities between the two. The biggest one in comparison with regular fitness is that they both focus on: 

Functional Moving Exercises

CrossFit and Calisthenics both focus on free movements. There are no machines that have you in a prepositioned movement, but every movement is part of your daily life. This helps prevent injury and staying fit in your work. 

Go For an Athletic Look  

CrossFit and Calisthenics are both very good to help you get in shape. Your diet is also very important, but the higher paced training compared with average gym training will activate more of your cardiovascular system and burn more calories on average. More traditional training will give you more hypertrophy or a more swollen look.

Both are Challenging 

Both training methods are designed to be very challenging in different ways. Especially if you do this with a partner or with friends you can become very competitive and learn from others to grow at a faster rate. 

Upcoming Community 

Both have upcoming communities with a ton of content on the internet. With different apps, blogs and Facebook pages, for example, you can find people to train with and share experiences. 

Calisthenics vs CrossFit – the Biggest Differences 

In calisthenics vs CrossFit we have to look at the differences for you to get a better view of what would suit you. 


Here may be the biggest difference, CrossFit is pretty expensive. On average in the USA an unlimited membership costs 140 to 299 dollars per month. That is steep.To compare, an average regular gym membership in the USA costs 33 to 60 dollars per month. So CrossFit is not affordable for everyone. Calisthenics, on the other hand, can be free depending where you live. Many cities have built parcs for recreational outdoor training with calisthenics equipment. With a wall, a chair and a bar on which you can pull-up you can already do a lot in calisthenics. You may want to buy some equipment. But that is a one-time invested, not a monthly fee. You can buy a pull-up bar/rack, push-up parallettes, rings, resistance bands and a weighted vest. And you can train and progress years with those. You can also save money and buy this equipment after you become advanced. 

Places to Train 

Calisthenics can be done almost everywhere, like with push-ups at home. For CrossFit you need a specific CrossFit gym. For CrossFit you need equipment that is too expensive and too much to have in your own home. If you pay for unlimited access to your CrossFit gym and it is open from early to late than that is a great advantage. With calisthenics, you may be more weather dependent. In a harsh winter you see less people perform calisthenics outside. But that is no problem if you have some equipment at home.


In calisthenics vs CrossFit, CrossFit is more intense and HITT orientated. You mostly train on time, have a pre-set rest time in a group that takes turn (you can’t fall behind). This is possible with calisthenics too, but when you start getting tired you can take some extra rest. CrossFit is harder and a trainer will push you towards your limits. That is less true in calisthenics.


CrossFit offers more coaching with a lot of certified trainers. Calisthenic coaches exist but not as many. To find someone in a city like New York is easy, but if you live outside a city it can be hard to find a proper coach. 

Calisthenics vs CrossFit – Now What?

In our calisthenics verus CrossFit debate we come across pros and cons. As physiotherapists, one big concern for us in CrossFit is that performing some of the exercises in a fatigued state provides a high risk of injury. If you’re tired and a good form is hard to maintain while you get pushed over your limit – especially with plyometric exercises – you can easily get an injury. Another concern is how exercises are taught. Is there really enough attention to detail and form? 

So now what? The decision is yours, of course. Can you afford both? Are there option in you location? What do you enjoy more? For us, calisthenics is a lifestyle in which we push our own limits. We looked at CrossFit and took some great exercises/principals and put it in our own training such as more HITT training on time to switch between trainings. It turns out, it is easy to incorporate in our calisthenics training. So we are not swithing sides. And if you are a CrossFit fan with no reason to change, you don’t need to either. But we hope this look at similarities and differences will help you enjoy whichever choice you make.

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