Calisthenics

Calisthenics are exercises consisting of a variety of gross motor movements; often rhythmical and generally without equipment or apparatus.

They are, in essence, body-weight training. They are intended to increase body strength, body fitness, and flexibility, through movements such as pulling or pushing oneself up, bending, jumping, or swinging, using only one’s body weight for resistance; usually conducted in concert with stretches. When performed vigorously and with variety, calisthenics can provide the benefits of muscular and aerobic conditioning, in addition to improving psychomotor skills such as balance, agility and coordination.

Urban Calisthenics is a form of street workout, calisthenics groups perform exercise routines in urban areas. Individuals and groups train to be able to perform advanced calisthenics skills such as muscle ups, bars spins and both front and back levers. Sports teams and military units often perform leader-directed group calisthenics as a form of synchronized physical training (often including a customized “call and response” routine) to increase group cohesion and discipline. Calisthenics are also popular as a component of physical education in primary and secondary schools over much of the globe.

 

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In addition to general fitness, calisthenic exercises are often used as baseline physical evaluations for many military organizations, such as the U.S. Army Physical Fitness Test and the U.S.M.C Physical Fitness Test.

The word calisthenics comes from the ancient Greek words kálos (κάλλος), which means “beauty”, and sthénos (σθένος), meaning “strength”. It is the art of using one’s body weight and qualities of inertia as a means to develop one’s physique. A longstanding urban legend has claimed that the exercise was named after one of its earliest promotors, the Greek historian Callisthenes.

 

Disciples of Friedrich Ludwig Jahn brought their version of gymnastics to the United States, while Catherine Beecher and Dio Lewis set up physical education programs for women in the 19th century. Organized systems of calisthenics in America took a back seat to competitive sports after the Battle of the Systems, when the states mandated physical education systems.

Calisthenics is associated with the rapidly growing international sport called street workout. Street workout as a sport consists of athletes competing against one other by each showing their body-weight strength and body-control in timed routines to impress a panel of judges.

The World Street Workout & Calisthenics Federation (WSWCF) based in Latvia orchestrates the annual National Championships in up to 50 different countries (as of 2015) and hosts the World Championships for all the national champions to compete at one competition.

The World Calisthenics Organization (WCO) based in Los Angeles, CA. promotes a series of competitions known globally as, Battle of the Bars(R). The WCO created the first ever set of rules for true 1 vs 1 competitions, including weight classes, timed round system, original judging criteria and a 10 point must system. Giving the growing amount of amazing athletes worldwide an opportunity to compete in these world wide competitions.

Calisthenics is the act of working out with little more than the weight of your own body, running, gymnastics, even martial arts are all forms of calisthenics, but more specifically I’m referring to strength exercises.

Calisthenic training involves any exercises performed using no added weight, and is commonly referred to as body-weight training. Calisthenic training can be done as a stand-alone routine, or programmed into any weight loss, bodybuilding or fitness workout. It has many benefits and is convenient, and it can be tailored to suit beginner, intermediate or advanced trainees.

The most well-known upper-body calisthenic exercises are pushups and pullups. Pushups are great for building muscle in your chest, shoulders and triceps muscles, as well as improving your core stability and muscular endurance. Pullups work your back, biceps and grip, and are a great test of upper-body strength.

One of the beautiful things about calisthenics is that we celebrate movements that use the whole body cohesively, rather than attempting to isolate small body parts one at a time.

There’s no doubt that different exercises emphasize certain muscles more than others, but let’s be clear: 100 percent isolation in any modality is impossible. However, you can still try to isolate. We don’t, and the reason is because we know that to do something as difficult as a one-arm pull-up, strong arms and lats aren’t enough to get the job done. We need to utilize strength and tension from the entire body.

The principles of calisthenic strength training have a direct physical manifestation, because the strength-to-weight ratio required to perform advanced movements has specific demands. Practitioners of calisthenics develop an ideal balance of muscle mass and body fat that allows for dominance of their own realm. They’ve got everything they need and nothing more.

What Is The Best Calisthenics Workout?

Not everyone has access to weight training equipment, but not all hope should be lost. Bodyweight exercises are an excellent substitute, giving you a quick muscle burn. Because there aren’t a lot of bodyweight exercises in existence, it’s important to get as much variety in your calisthenics workout as you can.

If you want run of the mill results, then just do push-ups, squats and crunches, but if you want to get the absolute most out of your workout, it’s necessary to delve deeper into each exercise, and each variation of that exercise to ensure you are training as much like you were at the gym as you can.

EXERCISES

CHEST:

Push ups
This is a good exercise to build your upper body with. It works your pectorals, triceps, and anterior deltoid. For this exercise work up to high rep range and then add weight.

Say someone could only do 12 body weight push-ups, well then they shouldn’t add weight and work on getting the rep ranges up. Then start to add weight gradually with some standing next to you pushing down on your back (lightly or hard depending on strength).

Chest Dip
This is another good exercise to develop and strengthen the pectorals, triceps and anterior deltoids. Most people will not have any equipment as seen in the demonstration above.

You can easily use two couches put together or two chairs together. Be creative with whatever you have, and make sure you are safe doing it. A bad setup can lead to instant injury, so be careful with how you set this up.

Incline Push ups
Perform a regular push up and then elevate your feet with a bench, bed, chair, etc. This will target more of the upper pectorals and developing those.

 

BACK:

Chin-ups
This is one of the best mass builders for the back. It develops the lats well, more so than most exercises, and can really build a nice back. Find a place were you can do these safely that is sturdy. If you can do these for a high amount of rep ranges then get someone to push down on your shoulders standing on a chair.

Underhand Chin-ups
This is the same exercise just with a different grip. Most feel more comfortable doing the underhand grip. You will be able to lift more when you do these, so use resistance if needed.

Hyperextensions
This exercise is good to strengthen the lower back. Another way to perform this exercise is on the edge of a bed or chair with someone holding your feet so you’re solid in place and won’t fall. Make sure you do this exercise safely; injury can happen if you fall.

THIGHS:

Squats
Now for this exercise you don’t need to do weight. Go all the way deep and back up and when you need resistance, get a friend or someone to hold your shoulders and apply pressure downward. This is great for developing the quadriceps.

Sissy Squats
This is another great exercise to develop the quadriceps. Be careful with this exercise and grab a hold of a sturdy structure to help support you through the movement. Most of the time you won’t need this weighted, but if you do have a friend apply pressure to your shoulders.

Lunges
This is a good exercise for developing the quadriceps. Just focus on getting low on this exercise and high repetition sets. It is hard to add weight, unless you want someone to sit on your shoulders.

Split Single Leg Squats
This exercise is good without weight, great developer of the quadriceps. It is one of my favorites. You can put your leg up on a chair, step and anything you can find that is sturdy and safe.

 

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Glute-Ham Raise
This exercise is really good for developing the hamstrings. You will need someone strong to support you on this exercise, basically like a hyperextension, but you curl your leg when you go up.

Straight-Leg Deadlift
This exercise is a little more difficult. You will probably need to add some resistance with it when performing it. Always keep your lower back straight through this whole movement. Apply pressure to the shoulders and do it safely.

DELTOIDS:

Upside-down Shoulder Press
Stand up against a wall and do a handstand, have someone spot you when you do this. Then bend your arms to a 90º angle or until your head touches the ground.

BICEPS:

Chin-ups
This hits the biceps as well, good mass builder that some don’t realize.

TRICEPS:

Bench Dips
Basic exercise that builds the triceps. Good for mass and strength. Set-up two chairs and do dips, add resistance to shoulders if needed.

ABDOMINALS:

Crunches
Just a basic crunch is all you need to work your abdominals.

CALVES:

Calf Raises
Do calf raises on a step or block that is sturdy.

Benefits

The main benefit of calisthenic training is that it can be done anywhere, and you require minimal equipment to do it. The U.S. Army recommends calisthenic training to its recruits, saying that it helps to build muscular strength and endurance, as well as improving bone and joint strength, which aids in preventing injuries. If you’re a beginner, then this method of training is also perfect to help you develop a basic level of coordination, stability and muscular control, before moving on to weighted exercises.