If you're looking to start a new exercise routine but you’re struggling to choose between calisthenics, CrossFit, or Freeletics, then look no further because this article will provide you with all the information you need to decide.
When we compared calisthenics, CrossFit, and Freeletics against each other, the workout which came out best in most categories — including best for beginners, flexibility, and cost, was calisthenics.
The routine which is best for you really depends on what you're looking for in a workout — so read on to see a full breakdown of the principles of each exercise, along with the benefits they provide and find out which is best for strength, fitness (cardio), beginners and flexibility.
We'll also show you a cost breakdown for each workout, where you can exercise, and the kind of equipment you'll need to get started.
What is Calisthenics?
Calisthenics is a form of strength training that uses a person's body weight as resistance, although basic equipment such as pull-up bars are sometimes used for certain activities.
Workouts consist of commonly-known exercises and movements that help build strength, flexibility, and mobility in all major muscle groups. Other benefits of calisthenics are improved muscle tone, stronger joints, and connective tissue. As well as improved posture and coordination.
Because of the wide range of exercises that can be incorporated into a calisthenics workout, it's suitable for beginners or those looking for slightly more intense training.
A calisthenics workout routine consists of a range of well-known exercises. A combination of exercises that focus on different muscle groups should be used to get a full-body workout.
Below is a list of some of the most well-known exercises and movements that are used in calisthenics:
- Squats & squat jumps
- Push-ups (various kinds)
- Lunges (including forward and side)
- Sit-ups & crunches (with legs bent, straight, or up)
- Burpees (various styles, with or without jumps)
- Chin-ups/Pull-ups (using a bar)
- Plank (various types)
- Handstands & walking handstands
- Leg & calf raises
Calisthenics exercises can be made more exciting and complex by incorporating equipment. The use of equipment is optional because plenty of calisthenics exercises can be performed using bodyweight only.
The kind of equipment you can use for calisthenics can be found in most indoor and outdoor gyms and fitness centers, or you can buy equipment to use at home.
The equipment most commonly used for calisthenics workouts includes:
- Pull-up bars
- Parallel or parallette bars
- Exercise balls
- Resistance bands
- Exercise mat
What is CrossFit?
Compared to calisthenics, which is purely an exercise routine, CrossFit is a lifestyle program that incorporates exercise and nutrition to promote long-term health.
CrossFit can help you achieve various goals, including losing weight, improving fitness, or increasing overall strength.
CrossFit workouts are available in affiliated gyms or 'CrossFit Boxes,' where you can take part in training with other like-minded people.
CrossFit workouts are also available via the CrossFit website and change daily to provide a mix of exercises that target different areas each time. Workouts can all be scaled up or down to suit a range of abilities from beginner to expert, although some can be pretty intense.
CrossFit training includes a wide range of exercises and movements. Some daily workouts combine various kinds of activities.
Each set of exercises available in gym workouts or online comes with guidance on repetitions, ideas for scaling the activity, and beginner options.
The list below shows some of the main kinds of exercises you can expect to see in a CrossFit workout:
- Kettlebell workouts
- Weight lifting — including dumbbells and deadlifts
- Body weight exercises — such as squats, lunges, push-ups, pull-ups
Some CrossFit workouts require equipment, which are mainly the kinds of equipment you'd find in a commercial gym, that not everyone has at home.
It's possible to choose online workouts that don't require equipment or those which need smaller items of equipment that you can keep at home, such as kettlebells.
The list below shows the kinds of equipment that you might need for a CrossFit workout:
- Deadlifting weights
- Exercise bike/outdoor bike
- Rowing machine
- Pull-up bars
- Parallel or parallette bars
- Exercise balls
- Resistance bands
- Exercise mat
What is Freeletics?
Freeletics is a program-style form of training that enables users to access a range of workouts for varying abilities. But where CrossFit focuses on physical gyms (or boxes), Freelitics is online/app-based.
When you sign up for a paid Freeletics plan, you get customized workouts and an endless variety of training.
You can track your progress using the app and get access to an AI coach and the Freeletics community. There are also additional bundle options for nutrition, where you can create meal plans that are based on clean eating.
Freeletics workouts focus on body weight exercises (similar to calisthenics) with a combination of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
The combination of body weight exercises and HIIT means that workouts are more intense and tend to only last for 30 minutes.
The routine you'll follow using the Freeletics plan will vary depending on your own personalized workout. All are based on body weight exercises which might include a combination of the activities below:
- The Plank
Freeletics workouts can be done with or without equipment, so if you'd prefer not to use equipment, you don't have to.
Some workouts incorporate simple equipment such as pull-up bars or weights if you prefer to use equipment.
Best for Strength
Calisthenics, CrossFit, and Freeletics all incorporate strength exercises and are excellent for improving muscle strength, but which is best?
If you're looking to focus on strength, of the three, CrossFit is probably the best option because there’s more opportunity to use weights, and workouts often include dumbbells, kettlebells, and deadlifts.
In comparison, calisthenics and Freeletics are both good for strength building, but their main focus is building strength using body weight, which is lower resistance.
Each kind of workout can be scaled up to focus more on strength-related activities, especially if weights are added into the mix.
Best for Fitness
Of the three, the one that offers the least cardio benefits is calisthenics because it mainly focuses on improving muscle strength and flexibility. Because of this, many people who enjoy calisthenics often do additional cardio-related exercises or workouts.
Some CrossFit workouts incorporate exercises that can offer some cardio benefits, whereas others can focus more on strength.
The exercise which offers more consistent cardio benefits is Freeletics which incorporates HIIT, that is proven to provide many benefits, including reduced heart rate and blood pressure.
Best for Beginners
If you're new to exercise or looking for something a little more straightforward, then calisthenics is an excellent option for beginners.
Calisthenics doesn't require any monetary commitment to get started, and you can pick and choose some of the least complex moves and work up to more challenging exercises as you get stronger.
Even when you perform some more basic moves such as simple squats, lunges, or dips, you will still see improvements in strength, flexibility, and muscle tone.
Depending on your ability, CrossFit and Freeletics can still be suitable for beginners because they both offer scaled-down versions of each workout. However, they might still feel pretty intense if you've not exercised before.
Best for Weight Loss
This category is subjective because how much weight an individual can lose following a particular exercise routine can depend on several factors, including their weight to begin with, nutrition, and the intensity of the workout.
To determine which exercise routine of the three has the most potential to produce the best weight loss results, I've compared the number of calories each exercise is said to burn during a 30-minute session.
The table below shows the average amount of calories you can burn for each workout. The top-end figures are based on a vigorous activity, and the low-end figures are based on a lower-intensity routine.
Workout TypePotential Calorie Burn Per 30 MinutesCalisthenics135-355CrossFit390-540Freeletics420-480
Please note these figures can vary considerably depending on how much effort is put into the workout.
Although there are many other benefits of performing calisthenics exercises, a calisthenics workout burns the least calories.
Freeletics is good for calorie burning because it focuses on strength and HIIT, but CrossFit has greater potential for weight loss results if you regularly complete high-intensity CrossFit routines.
The CrossFit program also provides nutritional advice for weight loss in addition to the exercise program.
Best for Flexibility and Mobility
If improving flexibility is an important factor for you when choosing an exercise routine, then between calisthenics, CrossFit, and Freeletics, the workout which improves flexibility the most is calisthenics.
For the best improvements in flexibility in calisthenics, it's a good idea to choose workouts and exercises which focus on improving flexibility and mobility and combine them with dynamic warm-up sessions for maximum effects.
Freeletics is also good for improving flexibility, and you can customize your workout to focus more on flexibility and mobility when you set up your plan.
Those who regularly follow a CrossFit workout routine may also see improvements in flexibility depending on the kind of workouts they follow.
Best for Cost
If cost is a factor for you when choosing a new workout routine, then the best of the three is calisthenics. You can complete calisthenic workouts for free by following online tutorials as often as you like from home or an outdoor gym.
The use of equipment in calisthenics is optional, but if you prefer to use equipment, you can find everything you need in most regular gyms and in free outdoor or park gyms.
In comparison, to get the full benefit of the CrossFit program, you need to join a CrossFit affiliate gym or 'box,' which are usually more expensive than most regular gyms. Although you can follow the CrossFit program online, it still helps to be a gym member unless you buy equipment to use at home.
You can follow Freeletics workouts without joining a gym and without equipment, but you'll need to pay for the app to access the program. There are varying plan prices depending on the length of the subscription and the type of plan you choose.
The table below shows the maximum and minimum potential outlay for each kind of exercise so you can compare the three:
Workout TypeMinimum Monthly CostMaximum Monthly CostCalisthenics$0 (without equipment/using free online tutorials)$58-67 (average regular gym membership)CrossFit$58-67 (average regular gym membership)$75-225 (average CrossFit gym membership)Freeletics$7.32 (basic plan 12 billed for 12 months)$22.56 ( training & nutrition bundle billed for 3 months)
Best Overall: A Summary
We've now compared all categories, and we can confirm the overall winner of the best workout between calisthenics, CrossFit, and Freeletics is: Calisthenics.
Calisthenics beat CrossFit and Freeletics in the best for beginners, best for flexibility, and best for cost categories.
- Best for strength - CrossFit
- Best for fitness & cardio - Freeletics
- Best for beginners - Calisthenics
- Best for weight loss - CrossFit
- Best for flexibility and mobility - Calisthenics
- Best for cost - Calisthenics
As well as this, it's an excellent form of exercise for building muscle strength and tone while keeping joints strong and healthy.
Ultimately, deciding which is the best workout for you will depend on certain factors, such as your ability, the kinds of exercise you enjoy most, and the results you're looking for.
If strength and endurance are your things, then you might be better suited to CrossFit workouts, which are the most challenging of the three. CrossFit workouts with the added benefit of nutrition plans also have more to offer if you want to lose weight.
But if you want a quick, no-hassle workout with all-round benefits, then Freeletics might be the best option for you. As well as this, you can track your progress in the app and bundle in the nutrition plan too.
We hope this article has given you the information you need to find out which workout will give you the most benefits.