What Is Calisthenics

What Is Calisthenics?

Calisthenics is the movement of the body through space in order to build size and strength. There are different forms of calisthenics, namely;

  • Bodyweight Calisthenics – using only the bodyweight as resistance.
  • Weighted Calisthenics – using your own bodyweight with an external weight for added resistance.
  • Calisthenics skill training – usually static bodyweight only skills that don’t really move the body through space, with some dynamic exceptions.

Calisthenics exercises involve movements like push ups, pull ups, dips, squats, running and jumping.

These natural forms of human movement involve several muscle groups that move the entire body through space. They always involve the use of several muscle in order to propel the body or an object in a particular direction.

Apart from the major muscle groups that get worked during calisthenics, the stabilizers also get worked to a large extent.

These stabilizer muscles often get neglected when working on machines in the gym. Machines tend lock the body down in order to isolate certain muscle groups. Your body was never meant to move in isolation.

This is what makes calisthenics one of the most functional forms of training. Exercises that move the body through space carry over directly to day to day life.

The body was designed to move as a unit and calisthenics allows you to do this while building an athletic physique!

So what are the different types of calisthenics and what are their pros and cons?

 

Misconceptions About Calisthenics

There are a lot of misconceptions about Calisthenics. People often debate about which exercises fall under the calisthenics bracket and which do not. 

Calisthenics is often confused with bodyweight exercises only. But this idea is simply incorrect and misleading.

While it is true that bodyweight calisthenics can be used to get fit, it is not the most optimal way to build maximum size and strength.

In fact, calisthenics has branched out into different training modules today.

And TRUST ME, if you’re looking to become as big and strong as possible, some types of calisthenics are much more efficient at doing so that others!

Another misconception about calisthenics are that they don’t need any equipment to perform. You’ll see a lot of calisthenics experts touting this as one of the main benefits of calisthenics. But this is nothing but a marketing ploy and an absolutely impractical way of working out.

Several calisthenics exercises (except those that can be done on the ground) require the use of specialized equipment.

Take the following examples for instance:

  • Pull ups need a pull up bar
  • Dips require a dipping station 
  • Full range of motion handstand push ups require parallelets 

The list goes on and on.

Calisthenics exercises  (bodyweight or not) requires the use of equipment. Now, don’t get me wrong, you can definitely “workout” with the use of any equipment whatsoever. But it is simply sub-optimal and not a comprehensive way to workout. Do not fall for such false claims and shortchange your growth potential. 

In my honest opinion, a trusty pair of gymnastics rings (while not optimal) can be the staple of a good calisthenics program. Rings are inexpensive and will last you a lifetime.

The majority of calsithenics exercises can be performed on a good pair of gymnastic rings. If you’re serious about getting into calisthenics, get yourself a good pair of gymnastic rings.

Rings can even be used for weighted calisthenics!  

Adding weight to your bodyweight while moving through space, is an excellent way to build real world strength.

Humans separated themselves from the rest of the world the moment we started using tools.

And the same goes for calisthenics. Equipping your calisthenics movements with weights opens up a world of exercises that previously weren’t even considered as calisthenics!

Another huge misconception about calisthenics is that it is easy on the joints. Again, this couldn’t be further from the truth. A lot of calisthenics movements can be very demanding on the joints. This is especially true when performing bodyweight calisthenics and skill training.

This is where exercise selection comes into the picture. Proper exercise selection ensures maximum muscle growth and recovery. My article on how to build muscle with calisthenics will be the right place to start!

There are a lot of misconceptions about Calisthenics. People often debate about which exercises fall under the calisthenics bracket and which do not. 

Calisthenics is often confused with bodyweight exercises only. But this idea is simply incorrect and misleading.

While it is true that bodyweight calisthenics can be used to get fit, it is not the most optimal way to build maximum size and strength.

In fact, calisthenics has branched out into different training modules today.

And TRUST ME, if you’re looking to become as big and strong as possible, some types of calisthenics are much more efficient at doing so that others!

Another misconception about calisthenics are that they don’t need any equipment to perform. You’ll see a lot of calisthenics experts touting this as one of the main benefits of calisthenics. But this is nothing but a marketing ploy and an absolutely impractical way of working out.

Several calisthenics exercises (except those that can be done on the ground) require the use of specialized equipment.

Take the following examples for instance:

  • Pull ups need a pull up bar
  • Dips require a dipping station 
  • Full range of motion handstand push ups require parallelets 

The list goes on and on.

Calisthenics exercises  (bodyweight or not) requires the use of equipment. Now, don’t get me wrong, you can definitely “workout” with the use of any equipment whatsoever. But it is simply sub-optimal and not a comprehensive way to workout. Do not fall for such false claims and shortchange your growth potential. 

In my honest opinion, a trusty pair of gymnastics rings (while not optimal) can be the staple of a good calisthenics program. Rings are inexpensive and will last you a lifetime.

The majority of calsithenics exercises can be performed on a good pair of gymnastic rings. If you’re serious about getting into calisthenics, get yourself a good pair of gymnastic rings.

Rings can even be used for weighted calisthenics!  

Adding weight to your bodyweight while moving through space, is an excellent way to build real world strength.

Humans separated themselves from the rest of the world the moment we started using tools.

And the same goes for calisthenics. Equipping your calisthenics movements with weights opens up a world of exercises that previously weren’t even considered as calisthenics!

Another huge misconception about calisthenics is that it is easy on the joints. Again, this couldn’t be further from the truth. A lot of calisthenics movements can be very demanding on the joints. This is especially true when performing bodyweight calisthenics and skill training.

This is where exercise selection comes into the picture. Proper exercise selection ensures maximum muscle growth and recovery. My article on how to build muscle with calisthenics will be the right place to start!

Types Of Calsithenics

Calisthenics training can be broken down into 3 major groups:

  1. Bodyweight calisthenics
  2. Skill training
  3. Weighted calisthenics

Skill training:

Skill training is a sub-set of the bodyweight calisthenics.

Calisthenics skills are some of the most dazzling displays of balance and coordination. Muscle ups and handstands seem like exercises that could build a lot of muscle mass, especially since they look like they require a lot of strength to perform.

But allow me to let you in on a little secret. Most bodyweight skills do not require a lot of strength to perform. In fact, if you actually do build actual strength with weighted calisthenics, bodyweight skill training will only become easier.

In fact a lot of people are drawn to calisthenics because of these dazzling calisthenics tricks. But calisthenics skill training isn’t the best way to build strength or size.

Here’s why:

  1. A lot of these skills require you to have a low bodyweight. A lower bodyweight means less muscle mass which means less strength. The lower your bodyweight is, the easier your calisthenics skill will become.

Look closely and you’ll start to notice a trend amongst calisthenics athletes. Most of them are slim and short.

This makes it far easier for them to achieve these skills because they weigh less and their bodies are naturally more compact!

While skill training can be cool and quite frankly a lot of fun, it is terrible at building functional full body strength. The bulk of your calisthenics training should focus on moving the body through space, using simple compound movements and focusing on progressive overload.

Bodyweight calisthenics:

As the name suggests, bodyweight calisthenics are exercises that are performed using your own body as for resistance.

Note that the key here still being resistance. Progressively increasing that resistance is what makes you bigger and stronger.

It is true that you can build some strength and size using bodyweight calisthenics. But bodyweight calisthenics has a lot of drawbacks.

The biggest drawback of bodyweight calisthenics is in the leg department. This is because bodyweight exercises aren’t stimulating enough to build strong legs. Our legs were built to carry more than just our bodyweight.

Bodyweight calisthenics borrows a lot of its movements from gymnastics training and is thus very upper body dominant. Although there are several calisthenics movements that focus on the legs, using the bodyweight only to build size and strength in the legs is an absolute waste of time.

Trust me, I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work. Especially not at the rate that weighted calisthenics does.  

But the drawbacks don’t stop there. Bodyweight calisthenics has its demerits as a training modality when it comes to the upper body as well.

It is a sub-optimal way of training because progressing with bodyweight calisthenics is extremely hard and unnecessarily time consuming. If your goal is to build muscle as fast as possible, bodyweight calisthenics will do you a great disservice.

Bodyweight and skill training progression:

Progressing with bodyweight and skill training is one of this type of training’s biggest downfalls. It is not linear, simple or straightforward. It makes training in this style of calisthenics extremely inefficient and time consuming. In fact there is simply no bang for buck with this type of training.

Seriously, unless you live in the middle of the jungle or a maximum security prison, DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME with bodyweight training.

So then, what is the best form of calisthenics?

This is where the weighted calisthenics into the picture.

Weighted calisthenics:

Weighted calisthenics is the most well rounded form of calisthenics and the most effective way to build strength and size.

It not only moves the body through space, but also moves an additional weight along with it.

Weighted calisthenics has the simplest progression system for beginner, intermediate and advanced trainees. 

It also lends itself well to bodyweight calisthenics as well as skill training. It is by far the most advanced and complete form of calisthenics training.

Get good at weighted calisthenics and your bodyweight and skill training will become a breeze.

Loaded barbell squats, lunges and even deadlifts are some of the most functional movements known to man. Almost everything we do revolves around these weighted callisthenic movements.

And these movements are missing from pure bodyweight calisthenics.

In fact, the only way to deadlift is to pick something heavy off the ground! Picking something heavy off the ground is about as primal an exercise can get.

And this is what is missing in the calisthenics community today! It is also the easiest to progress with.

Progressing with Weighted Calisthenics

Calisthenics progression is an important topic. Especially if you you choose to be an all round calisthenics athlete, one that does bodyweight calisthenics, skill training as well as weighted calisthenics.

Progressing with weighted calisthenics is the most straightforward method of building size and strength, but it is not easy. To progress with this type of training, all one has to do is add weight to their calisthenics movements of choice. This is why I choose to train this way.

Conclusion:

Calisthenics movements are the most functional movements to build an athletic physique that carry’s over well to the real world.

There is only one way to train this way and that is with weighted calisthenics.

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