Even if you’ve never heard of calisthenics before, you’ve certainly seen what it can do.
Pull ups? Human Flag? One-finger Push ups?
Okay, so some workouts are harder than others. But no one can deny the level of strength and skill required to channel the power of the human body.
While it can be difficult, the benefits to calisthenic workouts can be life-changing. Not to mention, it doesn’t require an army of trainers or a room full of equipment to get you there.
If you think this might be something you’re ready to try, let’s break down the basics of calisthenics.
What is Calisthenics?
Simply put, calisthenics is a form of exercise that harnesses the power of your body weight to build strength. It uses minimal equipment, if anything at all.
Calisthenic exercises focus on building strength. Sometimes when people talk about strength, they have a tendency to look at other factors like endurace without realizing it. Calisthenics focuses on building muscular strength in particular. Muscular strength is the amount of force that you can generate using only your muscles.
Once you’ve built up your strength for a particular muscle group, then you can move on to building the skill. Without the use of equipment, your body can eventually reach a plateau.
However, just slight adjustments to your training and workouts can get you back on the road to reaching your fitness goals again. The great thing about calisthenics is that it works multiple muscle groups at once, rather than focusing on just one at a time. So if you’re starting out on your fitness journey, this is an excellent option for building up your basic coordination and muscle control.
History of Calisthenics
As you watch someone do a calisthenic workout, it’s hard not to be in awe of the beauty and capability of human strength. Apparently the Greek’s thought so too, since word Calisthenics is derived from the greek words Kalos, beauty, and Stenos, strength.
The term became popular as Greek Soldiers used body strength workouts as part of their discipline. However, they were hardly the only ones. Around the same time, the Shaolin Monks used calisthenics as part of their martial arts training as well. Known for their flexibility, endurance, and strength, their workouts are still popular today.
Why were these workouts so popular? For starters, there were no 24 hour gyms in Ancient Greece. Athletes had to rely on what they had. And there is one piece of equipment that we always have available to us: our body weight.
And because our bodies are made up of so many muscle groups, calisthenics is a workout that provides lots of options and variations. Consider all the motions you make with your muscles: lifting, pulling, swinging, etc. All of these represent muscles and joints working together, and all of these things can be strengthened through basic calisthenics.
And let’s not forget how fun all of this movement can be. Traditional workout methods like weight lifting and running endlessly on a treadmill can feel boring and daunting. But testing the limits of your body can be interesting and exciting.
Because of this, a lot of schools use calisthenic-style workouts for young children. It is unhealthy for young kids to lift weights as it can stunt their muscle growth. But calisthenics is a safe way to get them moving and condition them for a healthy level of activity as they get older.
A calisthenic workout is so versatile because it works for everyone. It can help condition the most basic beginner without making them feel overwhelmed. And it can give an advanced athlete a competitive edge.
The Pros and Cons of a Calisthenic Workout
One of the most appealing aspects of a Calisthenic workout is that it is free. Who doesn’t love a free workout? And, because it requires little to no equipment, you could do it from practically anywhere. Since the workouts use multiple muscle groups at once, it’s also fantastic for conditioning your entire body. Because these workouts improve strength, they can help prevent injuries.
However, there are some situations where calisthenics are not recommended and might even be harmful. If you are training with a series injury, Calisthenics can do more harm than good. They can be strenuous and work muscles you might be trying to heal.
Also, calisthenic workouts are not specific to any one muscle group or joint, so if you are wanting to hone in on one area of your training, you might want to try a different workout method. And because you need to understand how to properly adjust your work out plan when you hit a wall, it can be hard to progress with calisthenics. Harder, but not impossible.
Many people believe that Calisthenics can’t help you build muscle. So people brush it off as unhelpful. But this is a myth. Calisthenic workouts can build muscle as long as you’re coordinating your workouts, giving your muscles the right amount of tension overload.
The goal of calisthenics is to promote muscle strength and then growth. You want to use your own body weight as resistance. The most accurate test of muscle strength is known as the 1 Rep Max. This is where you try to perform one repetition at your maximum weight. It’s the most accurate because it focuses solely on strength alone, removing other factors like endurance (since it’s only 1 rep long).
Doing about 4 to 6 movements in a repetition, or lasting between 10 and 30 seconds can improve your strength by placing your muscles under a great amount of tension for a short time. For that rep, you want to push yourself to your limit. That way, you are adding enough stress and demand to your muscles that it will fire the muscle fibers.
While calisthenics itself does not use additional weights, pairing your workout plan with a weightlifting workout plan can help you achieve another level of fitness.
Once you have laid a foundation of strength for your muscles, you can start to focus on building skill and technique for that exercise or movement. In turn, this can help condition you to build strength even more. But that is not all.
Surprisingly, one of the most important aspects of a calisthenic workout is the recovery period.
Allowing for proper recovery actually gives your muscles the time to build strength. They have to have a chance to adapt to the new levels of stress you are putting on them. You should be leaving at least 3 to 5 minutes between sets to let your body relax and adjust. It is much better in the long run to have a quality set with adequate rest time than to rush through a set.
This is especially true if rushing leads to an injury that keeps you away from your new favorite workout.