Is Calisthenics And Gymnastics The Same?

The terms “calisthenics” and “gymnastics” are often used in the same discussions and sometimes interchangeably in the same sentence. Although the two are closely related, by definition they are totally different topics. So, is calisthenics gymnastics? Lets take a closer look.

Calisthenics and Gymnastics are similar in nature, but are not the same. Calisthenics is a way of fitness through strength training that uses bodyweight as a form of resistance, paired with a variety of movements. In contrast, Gymnastics is a sport that includes physical exercises that tests ones balance, strength, flexibility and agility.

One reason that could be causing some of the confusion, is that calisthenics draws quite a bit of inspiration from gymnastics. The art of gymnastics requires the performer to be strong and agile. Being able to hand stand on a balance beam or keeping your body still on gymnastic rings, commands a great deal of strength.

Gymnasts who are able to be at that level are considered to be in top physical shape. And to get to that fitness level, there are many progressions that they go through to build the needed muscle and flexibility. Often with simpler exercises that anyone can start with.

For someone who is working out by form of calisthenics. Typically take pieces of a gymnast routine to fit their exercise goal.

For example, for someone working out on gymnast rings, their main goal could be to stay fit and build muscle. They can practice various routines that help build strength, balance and flexibility. That is their primary focus.

For gymnast, they add a layer of art to it, as it’s needed for their area of profession. Where being judged and competing against other gymnast is the norm.

What is Calisthenics?

The most well known exercises that are calisthenics are push ups, sit ups and pull ups. Due to them being beginner friendly by nature, and often the first exercise exposed to those that want to build strength.

Wikipedia defines calisthenics as “is a form of strength training consisting of a variety of movements that exercise large muscle groups (gross motor movements), such as standing, grasping, pushing, etc. These exercises are often performed rhythmically and with minimal equipment, as bodyweight exercises.”

In other words, its strictly a form of fitness and strength training that requires minimal equipment and primarily uses bodyweight as resistance.

For beginners or those just starting out. The rabbit hole of calisthenics can go pretty deep. Someone new may wonder how many different ways of bodyweight exercises could there be? The common exercises are pretty basic with push ups and sit ups.

But like we mentioned, it can go pretty deep. Calisthenics starts with basic exercises, but as you grow in in this workout style, so would your exercise routines. There are various progressions to every workout style (push up, sit up, pull up etc) that makes the exercise more challenging to the user. And allowing them to continue their workout routine without plateauing.

a form of strength training consisting of a variety of movements that exercise large muscle groups (gross motor movements), such as standing, grasping, pushing, etc…
calisthenics athlete

Calisthenic Workout Progressions

A specific example of this are the various progressions of push ups. Starting out, doing push ups is very common and recommended if you’re new. As you get stronger your sets and reps will increase. Eventually you would get to a point where the basic push up has become too simple and not challenging.

That is usually the sign you’re ready for the next phase of push ups, which is the inclined push ups. With the inclined push ups, you’re essentially elevating the lower half of your body a little bit. To apply more weight on your upper torso when doing a push up, thus making it more challenging.

Eventually this too will become less challenging and you should be progressing on from that as well.

For a list of push up progressions, you can check out our article here.

Choosing calisthenics is a great option for those who prefer a more functional way of working out or if you don’t have much access to typical gym equipment.

A Little More About Gymnastics

After defining calisthenics hopefully you get a better sense of gymnastics. The two can seem very similar visually. But the purpose of the two is where the gap in difference is. Calisthenics is a form or strength training and exercise where as gymnastics is a sport.

The definition from wikipedia for gymnastics is “Gymnastics is a sport that includes physical exercises requiring, balance, strength, flexibility, agility, coordination, dedication and endurance.”

In a gymnasts training routine, it’s important that their workouts keep them flexible, agile and strong. They are typically training for major competitions and tournaments that are often judged by a panel of experts.

Typical events that gymnast train for are vaults, uneven bars, balance beam and many more. Each one of these events require tremendous upper body and core strength and many years of training to excel in.

calisthenic athlete on gymnast rings

Does Gymnastics Help With Calisthenics or Vice Versa?

If you’re coming from an already established gymnastic background or a calisthenic one, there will definitely be some interchangeable skills you can use. If you’re looking to transition quickly. Being well versed in one discipline could help speed up the process, but don’t expect to excel overnight.

Going from gymnastics to calisthenics could be smoother considering the strength training that you would have already gone through. Flipping the roles from calisthenics to gymnastics, there is probably a bit of a bigger learning curve to get the proper form and technique down.

Overall, knowing one skill set whether it is gymnastics or calisthenics does help when transitioning from one to another. It is also not a bad idea to practice both just for a higher level of fitness and to build on your health goals.


Seeing the resemblance between calisthenics and gymnastics can easily get someone confused between the two. A calisthenics athlete that is training on gymnast rings is very likely close to if not identical to a gymnast training for a routine. There is no doubt some similarities between the two, and in fact certain exercises or routines are considered the same.

Their respective definitions and overall purpose is what sets them apart. To call one the same as the other would likely invite someone to correct you. None the less, both are amazing ways of fitness training. They just come with a couple of different goals in mind.

More Reads:

Recent Posts