When I got into exercising, I came across the two most popular forms; CrossFit and Calisthenics. If you are like I was when I got into training, you must be asking just what is the difference? While I was advised to undertake both CrossFit and Calisthenics, I have found that that is rarely a good idea. As such, I am going to be analyzing the similarities, differences, and the pros and cons of each regimen to help others make an informed decision.
First things first, let’s define these terms.
A calisthenics regimen will typically involve using your own weight to work out. What I love about the calisthenics workout is that I never need to have access to a gym or specialized equipment to do my work out. I can set up anywhere from in the park, out on the garden, in the house, and anywhere I feel like and get my daily dose of workout. As a beginner, the first exercises included dips, lunges, squats, and pushups. However, the training did get more complicated over time as I got better in the workouts. Within a few weeks, I was doing workouts such as the human flag, planches, levers, and handstands.
Given how much of a fitness freak I am, I wanted to get a taste of the other side of the argument and so I also did some CrossFit. CrossFit is more intense in that I was doing several sports that included sprints, gymnastics, cardio, and weightlifting among others. It is a more structured regimen as I had to follow a workout of the day in my workout as opposed to doing anything and everything. CrossFit is about speed and endurance and hence I found that many of the regimens were about completing as many exercises as fast as possible. Given this nature of CrossFit, it can be a very competition focused workout routine.
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Muscle Building vs Strength
Just like many people out there, I got into training with the goal of building muscle rather than gaining strength. However, while people claim that one or the other approach does work better for building muscle, I found that both approaches got me ripped just as well. Nonetheless, there is a slight difference in the results, with each approach suited best for either strength or muscle building. I always found that I was stronger when I did Calisthenics and grew more muscle when I did more CrossFit. CrossFit does help build muscle as it combines aspects of weight training and cardio as compared to Calisthenics, which is more focused on progressive improvements in maintaining muscle tension and complexity of movements, that are best for building strength.
Incidence of Injuries
I always got a lot more injuries when I was doing Calisthenics as there is a lot of focus on progression to more complicated movements and workouts. Given how many movements there are in Calisthenics, I was always had some complaints with the joints even if I did not try too complicated workouts such as the planche. With CrossFit I never had many injuries as most of the exercises such as pull-ups and dips involve working the larger muscle groups rather than a lot of joints and muscles. The only time I got injured doing CrossFit was when I pushed myself to the limit when training for competitive lifting. With Calisthenics where I was working at a lower intensity, my elbows gave out on me barely three months in.
Entry Level Resistance
As a beginner, one of the hardest things I found out soon enough was that setting workout goals was one thing, and achieving them quite another. Comparing calisthenics with CrossFit, I would say, calisthenics has less resistance to a beginner given that I could use my own weight to train virtually anywhere I pleased. As for CrossFit, the necessity of specialized equipment and hence a gym membership made it quite a hassle in the early days. However, CrossFit is better for the beginner in that once you establish a routine alongside other enthusiasts, they will encourage you to keep going. On the other hand, Calisthenics can easily result in a downward spiral as you train alone and can easily lose motivation and quit, with no one to egg you on.
While I am not into any camp, I have always leaned towards one regimen depending on my goals. When I want to get some workout while building some sense of community with friends, there is nothing better than CrossFit. However, CrossFit is not the best for achieving specific goals such as building a muscle as one session can involve all manner of exercises from cardio, pull-ups, and lifts. I find Calisthenics better for achieving strength goals as I could progress by focusing on just strengthening some parts of the body. With Calisthenics I can focus on getting a strong upper body by doing bodyweight movements, or strong legs by deciding to only do combinations of lunges squats, and deadlifts.
When all is said and done, CrossFit vs Calisthenics is always going to be a controversial topic. Depending on my needs I often shift from one regimen to another and have achieved most of my training goals over the years. Sometimes I even do both regimens at the same time to gain both strength and muscle, do my workouts with friends, and when I am not in the mood for company just do a few workouts at home. I have always found that variation brings me the most satisfaction, which is key to long-term commitment to training.