What is Calisthenics?

What is a calisthenics workout and how can it help you with strength/fitness training?
The 'human flag' performed on a bar ladder

What is Calisthenics?

Calisthenics or ‘body weight training’ is a form of exercise that uses your body’s own weight, working against gravity, to provide resistance. Calisthenics workouts increase aerobic and cardiovascular fitness as well as increase strength and lean muscle growth/conditioning. There are also many other health and wellbeing benefits that come from medium to high intensity calisthenics training such as an increase in bone mineral density (BMD), a healthier heart and cardiovascular system, increased endorphins leading to a better mood and also better posture and flexibility – to name just a few.

Anywhere – Anytime

Calisthenic push ups on the beach

Anywhere – anytime. Calisthenics push ups on the beach. Image by Mike Baird via Flickr

Many effective calisthenics workout routines can be done without the need for heavy gym equipment or even any equipment at all. You could perform these exercises in the park after a jog, or on your lunch break or at a home gym. When you group these exercises into a workout plan you’ll have an excellent training program for increasing strength, aerobic fitness and weight loss. You won’t even have to pay a cent for gym membership!

Types of Calisthenics Exercises

There are many different types of common calisthenics exercises, many of which you probably have done for years. Push ups (or press ups) are a classic calisthenics exercise. As are squats, sit ups, lunges, dips, planks, pull ups and jumping jacks.

Yes, even children can be pro's at calisthenics workouts.

Yes, even children can be pro’s at calisthenics workouts. Image by Ronald Balik via WikimediaCommons

While calisthenics is generally a ‘gross movement’ (or main muscle group) workout you can tailor your calisthenics workout plan to target different parts of your body – including from ab workouts, leg workouts, chest and arm workouts and so on. Increasing the intensity, duration, quantity and type of calisthenics exercise can further increase the muscle size, strength, cardiovascular fitness and flexibility of your body – allowing for a massive number of varied calisthenics workout routines specific to gender, age or level of fitness.

With or Without Equipment

Not all calisthenics is devoid of equipment and although un-aided calisthenics workouts are a great way to increase strength and fitness, many people use simple equipment such as pull up bars, rings, dip bars, parallette bars, weight vests and ab wheels to further increase muscle growth, conditioning and tone.

It’s Come a Long Way, Baby

Hector Tischbien

“Will you plebians cometh with me to thy fitness park?” Image supplied by James Steakley via Wikimedia Commons.

Calisthenics workouts have been around for thousands of years with exercises dating back to the ancient Greeks and Chinese. The military and law enforcement all have tailored calisthenics training programs for their ranks. The hugely popular olympic sport of gymnastics is a type of calisthenics. Even rock-climbing is also a type of calisthenics. Call it what you want – calisthenics/body weight training/street workouts – these all put emphasis on core muscle strength, large muscle groups and flexibility. Plus they are SO simple to learn, challenging to master but always FUN and CHEAP.

Awesome strength – Bar none

For decades now now small communities of fitness enthusiasts have been gathering around the simple pull up and parallel bar parks that dot the shorelines, parks, cities (and prison yards) around the workout bar. Organisations like the World Federation Street Workout & Calisthenics and Baristi Workout run events that span the globe – from Sydney to Dubai to Medellin to Germany. These events are where the best calisthenics/street-workout athletes gather to showcase their strength, endurance and creativity as they battle to win competitions that are akin to a kind of street performance style gymnastics both on and off the bar.

Bar street workout calisthenics

Bar workouts – extreme calisthenics. Image by juventudfuenla via Flickr

Smaller communities like BarBrothers have been gaining members and spawning off-shoot street-workout communities in the USA, Spain, The Netherlands and more. There are also dozens of street-workout/calisthenics Facebook pages from around the world – like these ones from ColumbiaMalaysiaGermany, Australia and China.

From beginner calisthenics workouts like squats and push-ups to extreme calisthenics with bar workouts – regardless of your level of fitness, calisthenics is for you!

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Beginner Calisthenics
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