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The A-Z of Calisthenics. In this day and age, people are more aware of the importance of fitness than ever before. As the Covid-19 pandemic swept across the globe in 2020, we realize that health is the most valuable thing in life. Without our own health and well-being as well as that of our loved ones, little else matters.
We’ve heard it time and time again: to maintain good health, you need two ingredients: the right diet and the right exercise. When it comes to the area of exercise, the choice seems limitless. Plenty of fitness brands are cashing in on our desire for health and there seems to be a new workout craze every week.
With all the choices for working out, how do you choose the one that suits you best?
Calisthenics is a great workout format that has stood the test of time. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines calisthenics as the “systemic rhythmic bodily exercises performed usually without apparatus.” Notice that calisthenics is usually carried out “without apparatus”. This means that you can do it at home without the need for fancy gym equipment.
Do you like the sound of a workout routine that doesn’t require a gym membership? Are you looking for a challenging workout that will strengthen and tone your body? If so, calisthenics might be perfect for you.
Let’s take a look at calisthenics in detail and the benefits that it offers.
What Is Calisthenics?
Calisthenics is a form of workout that has been around for centuries. In fact, the word “calisthenics” comes from the Greek words “kalós”, which means beautiful, and “sthenos”, which means strength. This tells you what calisthenics is in a nutshell. It is about developing your physical strength so that your physical “beauty” can shine through.
Pause and ponder for a moment about how the ancients used to stay physically fit without the expensive gym equipment we have today. They didn’t have rowing machines or complex gym machinery. They also didn’t have popular modern fitness programs like Zumba or SoulCycle.
So how was one to stay physically strong and lean? The answer was that they most probably relied on the materials they had around them – and their physical bodies. After all, wherever you are, there your body is also.
Calisthenics is all about using your own physical weight as resistance to strengthen and shape your body. If you’ve ever attended a cycling class, you might remember hearing the instructor say, “turn up the resistance.” In terms of modern fitness, we tend to think of “resistance” in terms of barbells or weights. We often forget that our own physical bodies can provide us adequate resistance to be strong and lean.
The most common forms of calisthenics are push-ups, squats, and sit-ups. These are moves that almost everyone knows how to do. Have you noticed that these workouts require no gym equipment at all? Yet if you do these moves with the right technique and the right amount of reps, you’ll find yourself sweating and out of breath.
You shouldn’t be intimidated by the word “calisthenics” – it really is just another name for the kinds of body-based workouts that we are all used to doing. The principle of calisthenics is simple: with the help of gravity, you can achieve fitness using just your body weight. The existence of calisthenics means that we are without excuse for not keeping fit. After all, calisthenics can be done anytime, anywhere.
What Types Of Exercises Can You Do?
Let’s start with the three simple workouts that everyone knows: push-ups, squats, and sit-ups.
To do a push-up (otherwise known as a “press-up”), all you need to do is to put both palms to the floor. Next, make sure that your arms are straight and aligned with your shoulders. Keep your back straight. Lower your chest to the ground and lift yourself up. That’s one rep.
To perform a squat, simply bend your knees and lower your hips into a sitting position. Keep your chest up and your back straight. When you reach a sitting position, rise back up again.
For sit-ups, lie on your back and bend your knees while ensuring your feet touch the ground. Lift yourself up while bracing your abs. You can do so by stretching your arms to the sky. Once you lift yourself up, lower yourself down again.
Most of us already know how to perform these moves. After all, they are instinctive to the human body. Also, there is no escaping these moves if you’ve ever attended physical education classes in school.
There are many other moves that fall under the category of calisthenics. Examples are walking lunges and planks. To perform a walking lunge, simply bend your knee until it almost touches the ground and rises up again. You can also do pull-ups. To perform a pull-up, simply grab a pull-up bar with both hands and lift your body until your chin rises above the bar. Once done, you can then lower yourself.
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We have just gone through some of the most common calisthenics moves that anyone can do. However, some athletes want to take their calisthenics workouts to the next level. Remember – calisthenics is a group of workouts that utilizes your body weight as resistance. As such, the possibilities are endless.
Do you enjoy watching gymnastics during the Olympic Games? It’s incredible to see trained gymnasts maneuver their bodies across the floor with such ease and grace. Technically, many of the gymnastic moves that you see can be classified as calisthenics. This is because they are performed using their body weight as resistance.
If you fancy a challenge and want to work out like a gymnast, you can move on to try “advanced calisthenics.” This is a whole category of calisthenics exercises for people who want to push their bodies to become stronger faster.
An example of an “advanced calisthenics” move is a handstand. This means supporting your entire body with just the palm of your hands. First, try this exercise with both hands firmly planted to the ground. You can lean on a wall for support.
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If that is too easy, you can try performing this move without leaning on any structure. This requires tremendous upper body strength and balance. If you find this move to be easy, you can make it more difficult by having just one hand on the ground. If you succeed in performing this move, congratulations! You are in a very small percentage of people who can do this.
Another move in “advanced calisthenics” is to perform a pull-up using just one arm. As a general rule, workouts are more difficult when you perform them using one arm when they’re usually performed with both. The same is true for the single-arm pull-up. If you succeed in pulling your entire body weight up using just an arm, you can be sure that you have incredible upper body strength.
A notoriously difficult exercise in “advanced calisthenics” is the “human flag” workout. To perform this workout, grab a pole with both hands and pull your body up until it is horizontal against the ground. If you succeed in performing this move, you’ll look like a “human flag”, hence its name. This is one of the most difficult moves to perform. You’ll need an impeccable technique and balance. No matter how strong you are, you’re unlikely to get this move right on your first try. It takes experience to know how to position your arms and squeeze your core muscles so that they hold in place. However, practice does make perfect.
If you can perform any of these “advanced calisthenics” moves, you can be sure of impressing your friends during parties. These moves are so difficult that they are rarely attempted by the average person. However, working out is all about pushing your body beyond its current limits. If you want your body to develop greater strength and stability, you have these “advanced calisthenics” moves as your benchmark.
What Gym Equipment Do You Need?
As we have seen in previous sections, you don’t typically need any gym equipment for many of the calisthenics moves. This is the primary appeal of calisthenics; many people are looking for workouts they can do anywhere, without any equipment.
Let’s recap some of the basic calisthenics workout moves: sit-ups, lunges, and squats. These moves can be performed practically anywhere. If you’re on a seaside holiday, you can perform them on the beach. If you’re in a jungle retreat, you can perform them in your chalet. Even if you’re stuck at home due to social distancing regulations, you can perform them in the comfort of your living room. All you really need is space!
If you’re planning to commit to calisthenics workouts, you’ll probably want to do them in a comfortable and safe way. It would then be sensible to invest in some gym equipment such as a yoga mat. Yoga mats are a great gym accessory to have. This is because they are cheap, flexible, and can be used for multiple purposes. You can use them for more than just yoga! For example, you can use them for body stretching exercises, as well as multiple calisthenic workouts like sit-ups and push-ups. They make performing these moves more comfortable (as your body is not coming into direct contact with the hard floor).
We have also seen how some calisthenics workouts require gym equipment. For example, to perform a pull-up safely, it’s best to use a proper pull-up bar. This is because you need the bar to fully support your body weight to minimize the risk of injuries. Similarly, if you want to perform the “human flag” pose, you must make sure that your pole is strong and stable. Remember – injuries become more common when safety measures are ignored.
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If you want to perform advanced calisthenics moves typically done by gymnasts, you might want to have gymnastic rings installed. Gymnastic rings are rings that you can grasp with your hands to maneuver your body around. They help train your balance and concentration.
Of course, gym equipment can be expensive, especially if you’re on a budget. If you’re aiming to save money, try the calisthenics moves that do not require any equipment first. Alternatively, you can simply sign up at an affordable local gym, which should have many of the equipment mentioned.
What Are The Benefits Of Calisthenics?
One of the most obvious benefits of calisthenics is that it typically does not require any gym equipment. Anyone can learn the basic moves of calisthenics. As such, the barrier of entry is lower than other workouts. There isn’t a big learning curve, unlike other workout formats like TRX or Crossfit.
Once you learn some basic calisthenics moves, you can get started right away. You can gradually increase the difficulty of your workouts by increasing the number of reps that you do. Alternatively, you can look up more difficult variations of the same workout. Either way, you’re in control.
Because calisthenics does not require any fancy gym equipment or heavyweights, you’re less likely to be injured. So often, gym rookies can injure themselves when using gym equipment wrongly. Even seasoned athletes can get injured if they’re unfortunate enough to make a costly mistake. When you’re lifting heavy weights, you need to ensure that your technique is impeccable. If you’re doing squats with heavyweights, for example, you need to ensure that your core and your back are braced. Just one wrong move and you can seriously injure yourself.
With calisthenics, the risk of injury is minimized because you’re using just your bodyweight. (Of course, you can still injure yourself with the wrong technique).
Calisthenics, like any workout routine done consistently, can help you lead a healthier life. When you push yourself cautiously, you can allow your heart rate to go up while sweating. When you exercise, you burn calories. You’ll feel more energized and more alert. This can help you go the distance in your daily pursuits.
Calisthenics is a really functional form of workout. This means that many of the movements in calisthenics help your body to move better and more naturally. Celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels puts it best: “”Calisthenics essentially train us in the way we function throughout our everyday life… This type of training not only helps us get healthier and look better, it also makes us perform better in our everyday activities and lessen any chance of accidental injury like rolling your ankle or wrenching your back when you turn to grab something.”
We often forget that working out isn’t just an isolated aspect of life. Working out is about positively impacting all other areas of life. In other words, doing a few push-ups every few days isn’t just about breaking a sweat. Instead, you’re investing in a healthier, stronger body that will help you achieve your life goals and dreams. When you’re putting effort into your workouts, you’re creating the physical stamina you need to go the extra mile.
How Does Calisthenics Compare With Other Workouts?
Undoubtedly, there are many great workout programs out there. As we’ve seen, the fitness industry is booming because people are more aware of the importance of personal health.
What makes a good workout program? Taste is highly personal, but most people enjoy a fun format with proven results. This is why some people get “hooked” onto certain fitness routines. Take yoga, for example. A survey carried out in 2016 found that more than 36 million people are practicing yoga in the world. This is a rise from 20.4 million people in 2012. That’s enough to fill whole countries!
Calisthenics is unique to other popular program-based workouts because there isn’t necessarily a set program for calisthenics. There is no music; there are no celebrity instructors. Calisthenics is best described as a form of workout – more like running than Zumba. Of course, there are fantastic fitness communities all around the world that practice and teach calisthenics.
However, like all good workouts, calisthenics is about challenging yourself to take your personal fitness to new heights. It’s the excitement of watching your body adapt and grow stronger. Calisthenics is all about achieving a better version of yourself. It’s about grit, strength, and growth. And that’s what makes calisthenics still a beloved form of workout after all these centuries.
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We have seen in this article what calisthenics is, and some of the basic moves associated with it. In this article, we have also explored a little about what advanced calisthenics looks like. We have seen that calisthenics can help you become fitter, stronger, and lead a healthier life.
Now that you know the basics, why not give calisthenics a try? If you’re not confident in starting on your own, you can always hire a personal trainer who will be able to teach you the right techniques. Remember – once you learn the moves, you can do them anytime, anywhere! Start your fitness journey today and take the first steps to become the best version of yourself.
Other related topics you might like to read:
- The Age for A Child to Start at The Gym: Clearing the Controversy
- Tricks To Keep Working Out
- Should you give home workouts a trial?
- Merriam-Webster (2020) Calisthenics https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/calisthenics
- Wikipedia (2020) Calisthenics
- Bodyweight Traning Arena (2015) 44 Hardest Calisthenics Exercises Of All Time https://bodyweighttrainingarena.com/44-hardest-calisthenics-exercisescalisthenics-exercises/
- Burch, K. (2020) What is calisthenics? The health benefits of bodyweight exercises and example workouts for beginners https://www.insider.com/what-is-calisthenics
- Wei, M. (2016) New survey reveals the rapid rise of yoga — and why some people still haven’t tried it