What is Calisthenics?
When you hear the term “calisthenics,” what images come to mind?
Is it black and white footage of Jack LaLanne teaching calisthenics on TV? Military training montages? Maybe it conjures images of Olympic gymnasts doing their thing on bar events.
Calisthenics training is certainly a factor in all of these, but those images are a little old school, even outdated. What you may not realize is that calisthenics is extremely common today. The modern fitness world is chock-full of it, and there’s a good chance you’re already doing it in your health and fitness routine.
In this article, we’re going to explore calisthenics—from its basic ideas to its advanced applications—so you can incorporate it into your health journey.
Calisthenics is a category of bodyweight exercises. If you’ve ever done a push-up, you’ve already delved into calisthenics before.
This can be a little confusing because lots of people use “calisthenics” and “bodyweight exercises” interchangeably, but they certainly are not the same thing.
“Bodyweight exercise” is an umbrella term for any workout routine or discipline that you can perform using your body weight for resistance.
“Calisthenics” is one of those disciplines. Others include zygostatics, yoga, and parkour. Gymnastics also falls under this category, but it’s one that actually incorporates some movements that you can also find in calisthenics, like tricep dips on parallel bars. We understand that the overlap is a bit confusing, so remember: all calisthenic exercises are bodyweight exercises, but not all bodyweight exercises constitute calisthenics.
Calisthenics movement actually dates as far back as Ancient Greece and was used by Alexander the Great’s armies to train. The word itself actually comes from the Greek words “kalos” and “sthenos,” which translate to “beautiful” and “strength,” respectively, because calisthenics is all about training strength and physique.
Why Should I Try Calisthenics Exercise?
You should give calisthenics a shot because it comes with a whole lot of benefits, like:
Working with your body weight is a surefire way to learn all about how your body works. When we load our muscles with weight at the gym, sometimes it’s easy to lose track of exactly what’s going on just under the skin. Gaining strength with calisthenics workouts requires a deep understanding of how your body moves and what it takes to have great form.
The exercises associated with calisthenics are classic. If you went to public school in the United States, you’ll probably recognize them from old fitness tests. There’s a good chance you won’t have to learn anything new to start doing calisthenics.
Calisthenics is available to anyone who can exercise. If you can use your arms, you can do a push-up. If you can use your legs, you can do a squat. Kids can do it. The elderly can do it. Anyone in between can do it.
Calisthenics can definitely be enhanced by equipment like pull-up bars but, for the most part, can be done outside at no cost.
Plain and simple, calisthenics is a good time. Sometimes it feels more like playing than exercising, making it easy to get lost in (in the best way).
Who is Calisthenics Good For?
Calisthenics is good for everyone—from exercise novices to Olympic athletes. It makes us more spatially aware, and it provides the muscle strength we need to support our bodies in the gym and our day-to-day lives and the movements therein.
The one drawback to calisthenics to keep in mind is that it has limits, specifically in the lower body. It takes a lot of squats and lunges to build muscle once you reach a certain level of strength training, which brings us to our next point:
You don’t just have to do calisthenics. You can incorporate it into other workout routines. If you already frequent our gym locations, there’s a good chance you’re already doing this.
What Are Some Examples of Calisthenic Exercises?
Basic calisthenic exercises include:
- Tricep Dips
- Jumping Jacks
We’re sure you recognize these, which is why we love calisthenics: it can act as a potential stepping stone into the fitness world.
Once you dig deeper into the discipline, you’ll see more advanced exercises like:
- Muscle-Ups take you from a hanging position on a bar to being on top of the bar with your arms straight, upper thighs touching the bar, and feet pointing down.
- Flag, a static position in which you hold two points of a vertical bar with your body parallel to the floor. Yes, this is as incredible as it sounds.
- Pistol Squat, a single-leg squat in which your glutes just about touch the floor.
Calisthenics is an incredible way to gain some mind-body connection while building a whole lot of strength and looking extremely cool while you do it. It’s a great introduction to exercising altogether—it’s a low-equipment, low-pressure, and high-energy way to get your body charging toward all of your fitness goals!