What is calisthenics?
To begin with: what exactly is calisthenics?
It literally means “beauty” and “strength” in Greek… but that doesn’t help much. What does it mean in practice? Why might it be something to consider adopting into your life?
Well, what if we told you that you don’t need to pay for a gym membership anymore to use the weights and you can still provide your body with the resistance it needs to grow muscle?
Calisthenics is a clever way to use your body’s strength to achieve any fitness goal.
In short, calisthenics is a way of working out that improves strength, flexibility and more through controlled body weight movements. It is a way of using your body to experience new kinds of strength and a new level of fluidity and grace in movement.
You’ll all have seen some examples of calisthenics movements. Gymnastics might be the most widely known discipline and the feats of strength that gymnasts display are often amazing. There are actually a number of Calisthenics disciplines though and, in each of them, a progression of movements.
Each advanced movement is worked up to by mastering control over the body and increasing flexibility and strength. The human flag which is a movement that you might have seen (and thought how can that possibly be real) can be achieved by almost anyone with the right practice and stages of development in place! It’s definitely true that calisthenics can be a great way to test your body and to achieve seemingly impossible things.
It isn’t always this extreme though. You will probably all have practiced calisthenics at one time in your lives. Even just a simple push up is calisthenics.
Working up through a calisthenics programme allows you to use your own body weight to improve your strength, build serious muscle and lose weight… all while mastering some awesome moves. What’s more, you’ll probably find you’re making more progress this way whilst saving $50 a month in gym fees!
Above all, calisthenics is a really fun and results driven way of working out that has been practiced for literally centuries- since the Greek times to be precise.
Here are some of the precise benefits of calisthenic training.
- You can do these exercises anywhere.
- You will gain real, functional strength that will assist you in day to day life.
- There are hundreds of movements and progressions to learn and develop.
- You’ll learn to focus more on what your body is capable of than how it looks.
- It can be easier to stay motivated in calisthenics than in other workout programmes because of the constant progressions. It also involves more creativity and mental work.
- It will really improve your discipline.
- Calisthenics has a great effect on your flexibility.
- Most calisthenics movements are compound movements which means you will burn more calories while exercising.
- It is the most natural form of exercise.
- Put simply… the movements just looks cool!
So, with that said, if you’re convinced and ready to be properly introduced to the world of calisthenics, here are some of the fundamental movements you will need to master in order to begin.
All calisthenics movements utilise the basic push and pull mechanisms at work in the body.
- A regular push up.
- Bench/ platform dips.
- Pull up on bar. If you don’t have a pull up bar at home, you can wedge a towel under a sturdy door to stabilise it and use that.
- Full squat.
- Lying leg raises.
This is not an exhaustive list but it can be a good place to start to begin mastering the levels of control over your body that are needed to perform moves effectively and gracefully.
Before you get started with calisthenics though, there are a few key things that you should bear in mind.
Key Introductive Tips:
- Make sure that you are focusing on quality rather than quantity in your movements. It is better to get a few good quality repetitions of an exercise in than to let your form suffer. The key is to really focus on the details of the movement and perfect them.
- Think about your body’s abilities holistically. There is no use progressing further and further with leg exercises, for example, if you still can’t master the basic push up. Focus on your areas of weakness.
- Don’t forget the crucial effect that nutrition has on reaping the benefits from a calisthenics programme. You can read more about that here.
- Make sure that you take steps to look after your joints and be aware that if you have severe existing joint problems, some of these movements will not be suitable for you.
- Don’t compare your progress to others! Calisthenics is very much a personal practice and you shouldn’t focus too much on what anyone else is doing.
- Ensure that you are following a tried and tested programme. You can discover more about ours here.
- Calisthenics does promise great results but it doesn’t promise quick ones. Be patient and enjoy the process. It is easy to fit around a busy schedule and three sessions a week should be enough to start with, but make sure you dedicate focused time to it if you want to improve.
- Similarly, don’t push yourself to progress too quickly. It can be addictive when you start progressing with moves but you should never push yourself to complete moves that you aren’t ready for. Don’t forget the crucial effect that nutrition has on a calisthenics programme.
Calisthenics is a versatile and highly effective way of working out that should not be overlooked.
Over the next few decades, it is likely that we will see people moving away from working out in gyms and choosing to work out in a way that utilises their own body weight.
This kind of programme can fit around a busy lifestyle, can provide fun and addictive levels of progression, can teach you to view your body in a powerfully different way and more!
We hope this introduction to calisthenics has been helpful in illustrating the key information you need to know in order to begin your journey. For more articles, check here.
Chris is an experienced Calisthenics practitioner focused on isometric exercises and street workout. He founded thehybridathlete.com in 2017, which was subsequently acquired by theyhybridathlete.com
He is based in Portland and has been working out using solely his own body weight and bars for the past 6 years.