After you have been working out for a number of years, you have to find new ways of testing your body. Anyone who works out regularly knows you have to mix it up every now and again or quite frequently even. Keeping that boredom beast at bay is a challenge, as the body gets used to the same exercises if done too often and the plateau of doom approaches you like a grey cloud waiting to dampen your spirits.
From weight training to cardio, kettlebells to battle ropes… the list is quite lengthy and people are always coming up with new ways to train. As most of us do, we stumble through workouts in between humorous flexing in the mirror subtly or not so subtly, as some members of the gym show, and that’s fine. The thing is that I always ended up going round in circles, doing the same old exercises. Then I came across calisthenics.
what is a calisthenics workout you might ask? Guess what? It’s your lucky day…
What Is Calisthenics?
The best way to describe calisthenics would be to say it’s weight training that involves only using your body weight as resistance. It may shock people to know that you can increase strength, fitness and flexibility through movements such as pulling, pushing, bending, jumping or even swinging.
The term calisthenics comes from the Greek words “Kalos” meaning beauty and “Stenos” which translates as strength (just in case the question comes up in your next Zoom quiz).
Calisthenics can provide the benefits of muscular and aerobic conditioning similar to Cross Fit, While also improving psycho motor skills such as balance, agility, and coordination.
Any exercise that you do with weights can pretty much be done using your own body weight, providing your body weight isn’t too heavy for you to work with. If it is, you can use resistance bands to help you to start and work your way up to only using your ever improving torso.
Lots of the exercises are similar to gymnastics, but calisthenics is mostly done outside in the street or parks.
The other thing that’s great about calisthenics is that you don’t need a massive space to train, you can pretty much get by with only a chin up bar, parallette bars, yoga mat and a set of resistance bands and you don’t need that gym membership either.
Why I Made The Shift? – Proper Strength, Functional, Flexibility
The reason I decided to work more with calisthenics than weights was because I found when I used weights exclusively I would gain little size and strength, but I lost some of my flexibility and I felt a little rigid. Plus for me, lifting heavy weights really put a lot of pressure on my joints and I didn’t want this to continue as i’m not getting any younger so needed to find other ways of training.
With calisthenics I found it to be very beneficial to me, in regard to functional fitness. It’s great being able to bench press whatever, but if I couldn’t hold my own body weight it was no good. Some guys at the gym can lift heavy and are large guys, but they can’t even do a pull up and to me personally it’s not what i’m after and is of no use to me. I want to be able to hold my own weight without fear of my body failing, i’ve always been active and love climbing trees, rock climbing, bouldering and having this type of fitness.
When you look at what some top guys can do with calisthenics – Front Lever, Human Flag, Full Planche – it made me realize the potential to this way of training and that it was the type of strength I wanted to work towards (and still am). The thing I like is how you train and build up to the mentioned exercises, as they take real strength to be able to pull them off, there’s a lot more to simply lifting a weight, you have to use your entire body as one.
Don’t get me wrong, the learning curve can be extremely steep, but you will find along the way how your strength for grip, pushing and pulling objects seems to get a little easier, while also using and feeling muscles you didn’t know you had.
How Does It Compare? – Depends on What You Want
It’s not even a case of saying this type of training is better than any other, it just depends on what you want out of your workouts and what your goals are? If you want to be a guy who is big with mass, maybe this isn’t for you. If you want to be more athletic and ripped, then maybe this could be for you? As calisthenics has been proven to increase posture and reduce body fat…FACT!
The easiest thing to do as ever, is to start off sensible and with caution. As some exercises could do serious harm if you fall, twist or buckle while performing them.
Some basic calisthenics exercises are as follows:
- Press ups
- Bench dips
- Boat hold
- Wall sit
- Handstand against wall
- Pull ups
Understandably, many of these exercises will be challenging to the majority but if you preserver, you will soon find that you will be able to increase the number of reps you can do and you may even see a change in your physique. With the help of resistance bands to counter balance the weight off your torso to begin with, anyone can try this type of workout.
Basic Beginners Workout
Below is a basic workout to follow if you wanted to give calisthenics a try (with accompanying video clip). I always work through the exercises in a circuit, by doing one set of the exercise and then move on to the next. Then repeat for another two rounds afterwards (if your body permits). Remember, if you can’t do 10 pull ups in a row just do what you can and then move on. Take a 30-second break in between exercises and 60 seconds when you finish the round, before you start the next.
- 10 Pull Ups
- 20 Jump Squats
- 20 Push Ups
- 20 Jump Lunges
- 20 Bench Dips
- 30 Leg Flutters
There is no doubt that Calisthenics is a great way to workout, it costs next to nothing to start training this way. However, be warned…it can and is a steep learning curve and some may get frustrated with results to begin with, but like anything if you put the work in, you will find it very rewarding/satisfying.
If you enjoyed the workout, have any comments or questions please comment below.
If you do train this way or know someone that does let me know your thoughts, id love to hear about it.