Calisthenics are exercises in which you use your own body weight instead of using any real weights to gain strength and achieve a higher level of fitness. The word calisthenics comes from two Greek words: kalos meaning beauty and sthenos meaning strength, and so it is the art and science of beautiful strength or beautiful movement.
Calisthenics can be performed at your home with minimal equipment since all you are using is your own body and its weight. While they are convenient and can be done anywhere, they also add to your strength, endurance, flexibility and overall fitness, much like what weight exercises do for your body.
These exercises are so useful that militaries and armies around the world perform calisthenics as part of their daily exercise routine and workout. Professional athletes, bodybuilders, wrestlers and even UFC fighters use calisthenics as a big part of their daily workout training.
To compare the effectiveness of these exercises on your fitness level and performance with weight exercises, numerous studies have been performed which have proved that calisthenics are as effective as weight exercises. For example, an eight-week study performed in 2008 compared the effect of calisthenics to the effect of weight exercises on military physical performance.
There were two groups of participants in the study in which one group of 15 men followed a weight-based training workout and the second group of 17 men followed the U.S. Army’s calisthenics-based Standardized Physical Training program for eight weeks (1.5 hours each day). The researchers found at the end of eight weeks that both training programs yielded similar physical performance results, proving that calisthenics can provide similar results compared to weight exercises. Scientists are also trying to prove whether calisthenics can be beneficial when it comes to the treatment of various diseases and health problems such as obesity and COPD.
Unlike most weight exercises, most calisthenics can be easily performed by beginners and more importantly at no risk of getting any injury since there are no weights involved. Most people are familiar with push-ups, squats, crunches and pull-ups, but there is much more to calisthenics than these few important exercises, especially on an advanced level.
In this article we have compiled a useful list that a beginner can follow in order to get started with calisthenics in the most effective way:
Starting with pull-ups, this exercise is performed using an exercise bar or a rod fixed at a height a few feet above your head. The first step is to grasp the bar or the rod from the top by jumping. The second step is to keep your hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart. The final step is to pull up using your shoulder muscles until your head reaches above the bar at the nose level. This simple exercise can be performed in sets of five, with five reps in each set. Pull-ups can help build your shoulder muscles (primary deltoid muscles), biceps, and the muscles of your back, especially latissimus dorsi and the rhombus muscle.
The next one, quite similar to pull-ups, is the chin-up. This calisthenics exercise can be performed in a similar way with the same equipment as the pull-ups. However, this time, you are holding the bar from the bottom such that your hands face toward you and you are pulling up using your biceps. More muscles are trained compared to pull-ups: you are training your biceps, muscles of the back, muscles of the abdomen, and muscles in the forearm.
The next important calisthenics exercise to mention is the jump squat. It is very similar to the squats we do using weights, except in a jump squat, you are jumping after performing a squat which trains your leg muscles and increases stamina. To start, you need to stand straight, and your toes must point outward and at an angle. Bend your hip backwards and downwards while slowly bending your knees into a squat until the upper part of your leg is 90 degrees to the ground.
While performing the squat, your head must face forward and your chest must be upright. After the squat is complete, you can finally do the jump. And then repeat. Jump squats can be done much more than pull-ups and chin-ups since they are a lot easier and involve fewer muscles. Jump squats are very beneficial and a must to include in your workout since they improve your agility, balance and boost sports performance, especially if you play basketball, football, and other similar sports that require stamina, endurance, and speed. Jump squats can also be quite helpful in burning calories and fat.
Push-ups train your triceps, shoulder muscles, chest muscles, abs, and the muscles of the lower back. Push-ups can be done in several ways and there are several types, however, most of these push-up types are left for more advanced trainers and athletes. Start by placing your hands on the ground at a slightly greater width than your shoulders. Your arms and back must be kept straight and your body must be at an angle of about 45 degrees to the ground. The next step is to lower your body until your chest touches the ground and your elbows are parallel to the ground. This is important if you want to get the most out of push-ups and maximise your results. Next you push back up quickly into the initial position you started in.
The last calisthenics exercise on this list are crunches. These are especially important if you want to build those six-pack abs. To start a crunch, lay on the ground with your back flat and push your feet as close to your hips as possible by keeping the knees at a ninety-degree angle to your body. The next step is to perform the actual crunch and to do that you must bring your face towards your knees by sitting up until your chest touches your legs. The most important thing to keep in mind while doing crunches is to keep your core tight and focus on your abdominal muscles. For beginners, 50 crunches a day are more than enough to achieve good results.
Lastly, consistency and rest are important for seeing results. It is suggested that you perform these exercises only five days a week, and rest for two days. This will keep your muscles from tiring out and will help prepare your muscles for the next workout.