If you are starting your journey into the world of health and fitness, an ideal starting point should be bodyweight exercises. You can test your fitness level with bodyweight exercise before investing in a gym membership.
Another benefit to bodyweight exercises is that they can be performed with very minimal equipment and are convenient for working out anywhere if you are time-limited.
In this article, we will explain how you can start doing a specific type of bodyweight exercise called calisthenics. We will cover the benefits and the types of exercises that can help you with improving health and fitness.
What is Calisthenics?
Calisthenics is defined as a form of strength training involving bodyweight exercises. It's performed using a variety of static holds or dynamic compound movements that target large muscle groups. The upper body muscle groups include pectoral, scapular, deltoids, biceps, and triceps for the majority of the push and pull movements.
The core muscle groups used are the abdominals which are needed for stability and core strength. The lower muscle groups are also used for balance and leverage.
Practicing calisthenics is one of the important steps to reaching your fitness goals. Because it is performed as a combination of intensity and rhythm that enhances strength and body composition.
There are many reasons people decide to do calisthenics instead of other types of exercises. Some may not be important to you, but the most important thing is that you find your own reason.
The word calisthenics was taken from the Greek words: kállos (κάλλος) and sthenos (σθένος). These two words mean beauty and strength, as a result of achieving a great athletic physique from the warriors who practiced it. The calisthenics training was dedicated to the majority of warriors in Greece who were preparing for combat.
Can you start calisthenics as a beginner?
Calisthenics exercises are recommended for fitness beginners who want to learn the basic foundations of good fitness and a home workout exercise routine. Due to the flexibility, endurance, and strength that people gain when practicing calisthenics.
"There’s About A Million Different Reasons To Start Calisthenics"
- You get in shape
- You're able to Save a bunch of money cause you don’t NEED a gym membership anymore
- You have a unique training style that sets you apart from the crowd
- You gain confidence
- Plus, a bunch of other awesome things
Says Austin Dunham, calisthenics coach and self improvement master for Calistatics.
Benefits Of Calisthenics
Calisthenics enhances the body’s strength and flexibility
Calisthenics training improves your strength in a way that helps increase the physical endurance of your body. By setting up a well-defined calisthenics workout program as a routine you will be able to see some physical improvements. As a result of a consistent workout program, you will progressively gain body strength and maximize the efficiency of your workouts.
A study in the Journal of Exercise Physiology Online found that calisthenic exercises improved physical fitness in school children. When comparing two groups of people - one of which did not do any form of exercise, and the other that combined bodyweight calisthenics. They found that the group doing physical activity strengthened their muscles more.
Also, calisthenics is the form of workout that contains exercises that require you to stretch and overcome your joint mobility limits. Some exercises demand a certain amount of flexibility which can be achieved if you stick to a calisthenics workout program.
No need for a gym (Anywhere, Anytime)
With calisthenics, not only that you are saving money by not having to pay for a monthly gym membership. But most importantly, you have the freedom to go out and work out anywhere by just using your body as a machine.
Working out anywhere suits people being restricted from the gym due to quarantining from COVID. It also suits people who like to train in peace as some gyms can be very busy during peak times.
You can choose your locations to work out so you don’t need to move and rearrange a large space like in the gym. A piece of furniture can be turned into a piece of workout equipment.
Also, calisthenics gives you the freedom to set your preferred time whenever you feel ready. Anytime means you can start exercising before bed, after waking up in the morning, or even during your lunch break.
Losing weight and burning fat
As we mentioned above, calisthenics workouts can benefit our caloric expenditure because such exercises can reach all muscle groups. Including parts of our body from the chest, biceps, triceps, shoulders, and most important of all the core group muscles.
You may see a common look with calisthenics athletes is that their muscles look shredded. This is because bodyweight workouts can be performed with high intensity and repetitive movements. Therefore, it increases your caloric expenditure and results in burning more calories which leads to losing body fats. It will also help in gaining muscles if you remain on the same level of consistency.
So, if your main objective of working out is losing weight, then calisthenics may be the solution for reaching your goal. It represents one of the most organic and natural lifestyle commitments that any athlete will ever look up to.
With calisthenics, you can work out outdoors in the park showing off your skills publicly. Especially advanced calisthenics moves have similar movements to gymnastics. Watching people performing gravity-defying moves such as muscle-ups, front levers, or planche is an eye-opener to a lot of people.
Even with the basic calisthenic moves, it is still challenging for most people. Mastering the moves gives that feeling of competitiveness in challenging others. So you can maintain the best movements and make you feel satisfied with your body and performance.
Calisthenics will give you the free space to be creative in your workout with the focus on always trying something new. That could be challenging and have a lot to gain from it on a personal level.
Working out with friends can motivate you to progress through advanced calisthenics moves much quicker. You can have a lot of fun by challenging friends and getting motivation from them.
Teaches you stability and control of your own body
In calisthenics, there are many different forms of exercises that can be done to strengthen your posture and body muscles. Some exercises include weight exercises where you have to carry heavy weights for long periods of time or do more reps than usual. Calisthenics is a great form of exercise because it teaches you stability and control over your own body weight.
As you progress with consistent efforts in calisthenics, you will notice improved body strength and muscle control. In the same way, gymnastic athletes have so much control over their body weight. But that level of athletic performance comes from years of repetitive training.
Popular beliefs about calisthenics
There are a lot of misconceptions about calisthenics that you might have heard trending online. However, it's understood that calisthenics is suitable for any level of fitness experience.
Take note of some misconceptions about calisthenics and we will explain how you can understand and progress through the training involved.
Can you build muscles with calisthenics?
Yes, you can build strength and build plenty of muscle with bodyweight exercises alone. You just have to be paying attention to engaging your muscles and do the exercise through its full range of motion.
A small 2017 study publication discussed the effects of a calisthenics training intervention on posture, strength, and body composition in untrained individuals. As a result of the 8-week study, they found that the study group improved their posture. Their strength increased in push-ups by 16%, pull-up strength increased by 39%, and body composition reduced by 3% body fat percentage.
Calisthenics is a great starting point for people who feel intimidated by using weights. It's perfect for anyone that wants to start exercising but might not feel strong enough yet.
Is calisthenics suitable only for men?
In general, a majority of men have higher testosterone levels and higher upper body strength than their women counterparts. Since calisthenics is involved more in the upper body exercises, there is a myth that it shouldn't be allowed for women.
Remember, calisthenics is suitable for any fitness level so women can also enjoy it as much as men. As with any resistance training, a key to increasing strength is following the progression and the resistance of the exercises.
Is calisthenics limited with resistance?
There are a number of ways you can progress your calisthenics routine and increase resistance. With the aid of equipment or changing the difficulty of your bodyweight exercises, you can easily increase resistance. Here are some ways to increase resistance in your calisthenics training.
- Workout using resistance bands
- Use of weighted vests or dumbbells.
- Increasing the volume of your workouts by increasing the repetition.
- Change the angle of your leverage (For example with pull-ups, by increasing difficulty, try L-sit pull-ups)
Regardless of the popular beliefs don't let it discourage you from using calisthenics to work out.
How to get started with calisthenics?
One of the most common mistakes people make when starting with calisthenics is wanting immediate results for their main goals. But without setting a proper foundation, a powerful mindset, and taking the right time to build skills and experience. It’s unfortunate they will end up losing their time and efforts without reaching their objectives.
Working up to more advanced exercises is a gradual process that depends on your level of experience. A beginner will start with simple calisthenics and then progress to more complex ones. Whereas, someone who has been training for a while may be able to go right ahead with challenging advanced calisthenic exercises.
If you're new to calisthenics, here are some good exercises for beginners:
You may be able to start by doing push-ups from your knees, and eventually build up your strength. To challenge yourself, work on your upper body and core strength, and try different variations of this exercise. To master the push-ups correctly, you need to be able to do at least 15 repetitions with the right and perfect form.
- Get down parallel to the ground, placing your hand's same width as your shoulders.
- Straighten your arms and legs, or hands positioned slightly lower than chest level.
- Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor.
- Pause for about 1 second, then push yourself back up.
Bodyweight squats are a great exercise that you can use to build your lower muscle groups. You might not be able to do them with any equipment yet, but if you know what you're doing or are feeling confident, using a resistance band around your thighs makes them tougher.
- Stand with your hands straight forward or on the back of your head and your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Slowly lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Pause, then return back to the starting position.
The plank is achievable in a number of different variations, including basic plank, side plank, see-saw planks, and plank twists. Aside from working on your stability, all these variations have their own plank benefits.
- Place forearms on the floor with elbows aligned below shoulders and arms parallel to your body at about shoulder width.
- Engage your core, then tuck your toes to raise your body. Ground your toes into the floor and squeeze your glutes to stabilize your body.
- Neutralize your neck and spine by looking at a spot on the floor forming a straight line from head to heels.
- Hold your plank position for as long as possible without compromising your form.
Australian Pull-ups or Inverted Rows
The pull-ups are one of the most important fundamentals in calisthenics workout for all pulling exercises. However, a normal pull requires pull-up bar strength and that is an advanced skill.
Now when you are getting started with pull-ups, the first thing you want to do is master the very first progression which is the Australian pull-ups.
You need to use every grip, wide shoulder and closed, as well as a supinated grip to ensure you are using all the muscles in your back and bicep and to develop even greater comfortable pulling strength.
- The starting pose should be laying straight underneath a bar or a table.
- Grip the bar or table with shoulders width apart and make your body straight just above the ground with your feet as a pivot.
- Pull yourself towards the bar to the table while maintaining a straight body.
- Lower your body back down, slowly.
Intermediate Calisthenics Exercises
If you already have some experience and strength, here are some good exercises for people with fitness experience:
Pull-ups are tough, so if you're new to the exercise start off by using a resistance band that assists your weight. Simply wrap the band around the pull-up bar and place your feet into the loop.
You can start practicing the pull-ups with a variety of hand grips. If you could achieve doing 10 pull-ups perfectly, to begin with, at least a couple of negative pull-ups.
Here’s how to do a pull-up with the correct technique:
- Start by standing directly below a pull-up bar. Place your hands in an overhand grip with your hands slightly further than shoulder-width apart. Jump into the pull-up bar or if it's too high use a safety step. Once your hands are holding onto the bar, you’re in your starting position.
- Lift your feet up from the floor or the safety step so that you’re hanging from the bar, and engage your core by using your scapular muscles. Pull your shoulders back and down.
- Engaging the muscles in your arms and back, bend your elbows, and raise your upper body up toward the bar until your chin is over the bar. You can imagine bringing your elbows toward your hips if that makes the movement easier. As you move, avoid swinging your legs around or shrugging your shoulders up. You want to make sure your shoulder blades remain back and down throughout the exercise.
- At the top of the movement, inhale. Then extend your elbows and lower your body back down to the starting position.
The dips are another pushing fundamentals that engage all of your chest and your triceps along with your core. Dips are a compound exercise that can be done by anyone.
One way to vary the movement is to lean forward to focus on the chest muscles. This variation also places emphasis on the triceps instead of holding the torso upright.
To master the dips, you need to complete 10 fully formed dips in a row and that is also going to be the requirement for this type of workout routine.
- Place your hands on a chair or box behind you with your feet together, legs straight, and heels on the floor.
- Lower slowly as far as you can without touching the floor then press back up using your strength.
The handstand hold is a whole-body compound exercise that requires full demand on your balance. Your body needs to be stabilizing your bodyweight upside down with the help of core strength, and both your arms and shoulders.
For starters, you would be starting this position near a wall so you can start stabilizing your core balance.
- Lift both legs as high as possible and press them firmly onto the wall
- Positioned your hands on the floor with palms open.
- Gradually bring your hands closer to the wall, until you have reached a full handstand position.
- Finish by carefully reversing the movement back down away from the wall.
The L-sit targets a wide range of muscles in your body like your abs, obliques, hip flexors, quads, triceps, shoulders, pecs, and lats. The main calisthenics exercises are to improve your core muscle groups and to progress to more advanced moves.
- Start by placing your palms on the ground on each side so they're under your shoulders and your legs flat to the ground.
- Push the ground so that you engage your lats and scapular muscles. With straightened arms, lock elbows at sides.
- Keep your legs above the ground and locked in a straight line parallel to the ground.
- Hold the L-sit position for as long as you can.
Anyone can enjoy calisthenics, you only need very minimal equipment, and no personal trainer is required to start it. Whether you use it for health and fitness benefits, or just the challenge your friends you can enjoy it anywhere.By covering the topic of calisthenics fundamentals, we hope that you have gained knowledge from our information. If you find this blog useful for your workouts, check out some of our basic exercise accessories to help you with your training progressions.