EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CALISTHENICS
BY HIRANMAYII AWLI MOHANAN
The ripped guy at your gym who’s able to lift his whole upper body above a pull-up bar – that’s a muscle-up and he’s practising calisthenics. The guy you saw on YouTube who’s turned himself into a human flag by holding his body parallel to the ground, he’s doing calisthenics too, and that guy you’ve seen doing dips in the park, yep, he’s doing calisthenics too.
What is Calisthenics?
The term calisthenics comes from the Greek words “Kalos”, meaning beauty and “Stenos”, which translates as strength. Originally, calisthenics was a method of promoting health, “and thus securing beauty and strength”, in school children, but it’s evolved into a training method that shares a lot in common with gymnastics. Unlike gymnastics, though, it can be practised outdoors and is known as a ‘street workout’.
Calisthenics exercises range from very simple movements (like squats) to advanced movements such as muscle-ups (the same as a pull-up, except you pull your entire torso above the bar), and more complex exercises similar to gymnastics – where you’ll use an apparatus like a pull-up bar to do flips. Calisthenics can complement different training styles, or you can focus on calisthenics alone.
Calisthenics vs Weight Training
Calisthenics and weight training can be performed on their own or in conjunction with one another. Both forms of strength training promote a range of benefits, depending on your fitness goals. Calisthenics uses your own bodyweight as resistance, whereas weight training uses an external weight. Weight training gives you the option of continually increasing the amount of weight you can lift to help increase your strength. Calisthenics is convenient as it doesn’t require equipment and is a great starting point for beginners to learn the correct form for all kinds of exercise.
Benefits of Calisthenics
Calisthenics are appealing because they engage large muscle groups, which increases your calorie burn. In addition, they can be done anywhere, with minimal access to equipment.
Here’s why you might want to add calisthenics to your workout routine:
Help you move easier throughout the day
The functional movements you perform in calisthenics can improve your mobility, reduce aches and pains, and decrease your risk for injury.
Calisthenics engage major muscle groups like those in the chest, core, back, arms and legs. In addition, you’ll use multiple muscle groups at once. All that muscle engagement means more calorie burn. For example, a 155-pound person will burn about 167 calories in 30 minutes of moderate calisthenics. With vigorous calisthenics, you’ll burn 298 calories in 30 minutes.
Improves long-term health
Calisthenics exercises may reduce your risk for health complications in the following ways:
• Help you lose weight
• Allow you to sleep better
• Improve your heart health
• Reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes
While you can buy some equipment like a jump rope or pull-up bar if you’re doing calisthenics, you don’t really need anything. In addition, calisthenics exercises like squats and planks can be done at home, even if you only have a small space.
Beginner Calisthenic Workout:
To do a basic push-up, start with your body flat on the floor face-down. Place your hands a little wider than shoulder width, about even with your chest. Push straight up until your arms are fully extended, while trying to keep your core tight and your back straight throughout the movement.
There are many challenging push-up variations you can use to push yourself. You can also make the exercise easier by putting your knees on the ground, or doing them standing and using a wall to ‘push up’ rather than the floor.
To do a basic squat, start with your feet about shoulder width apart. Lower your hips to about 90 degrees while trying to keep your body upright, then return to standing position. Try to perform 3 to 5 sets of 10 to 20 repetitions. You can also try advanced squat exercises, like jumping squats, when you have the proper form down.
To do a basic plank, start in the raised position of a push-up and hold your body still, tight through the core for 30 seconds. Work your way up to plank holds of 60 to 90 seconds and repeat a few times between sets of your other exercises. The main health benefits of planks include a stronger core and improved posture. You can also try modifications like side planks to target the obliques, or reverse planks to boost upper body strength.
4. Jumping exercises
Jumping exercises like jumping rope or doing jumping jacks will boost your heart rate during a calisthenics workout. Perform 3 to 5 sets of jumping for 30 seconds, with 30 seconds of rest in between. As your fitness improves, try to jump faster or longer.