You may have seen videos of people at the beach or working out in the gym, performing gravity-defying exercise routines on nothing but a pair of bars.
Like an Olympic gymnast, they move from position to position holding their bodies up in incredible poses or at awkward angles, and often, it just doesn’t look possible.
Welcome to Calisthenics!
Muscle-ups, one-legged squats and an ability to seemingly defy gravity are all part and parcel of the world of Calisthenics, and if you’ve ever wondered where to get started and how you would even begin to try such difficult movements, in this article, I am going to tell you the basic movements that you should be practicing as you start your Calisthenics journey.
What is Calisthenics?
Although you can use some basic equipment such as bars or stands, Calisthenics is a form of fitness training that focuses on using your bodyweight.
The name comes from ancient Greece, where the terms ‘Kallos’ and ‘sthenos’ translate to mean ‘Beauty’ and ‘Strength’, giving you a true explanation of what Calisthenics is, the practice of creating beautiful movements through strength.
Although you are only using your bodyweight, Calisthenics exercises are mainly compound exercises, working big powerful muscles in your body, giving you more bang for your buck as you work multiple muscles and joints at once.
Being able to lift your body weight with weights, is often considered a true sign of strength in the gym, and as you are able to truly do that, and with much greater control and grace, Calisthenics exercises are some of the best exercises you can perform to truly change your physique.
The Benefits of Calisthenics
Calisthenics exercises offer many benefits for fitness enthusiasts and people looking to make some meaningful changes to their physique.
They don’t require any equipment, meaning you can do them almost anywhere (although pull-ups can be difficult without a proper bar) and as they are utilizing your own body weight, they allow you to make some impressive improvements to your strength.
They’re much easier on your joints than most gym-based strength exercises and also have the added benefit of helping you to gain more control over your body and your movements.
Performing Calisthenics exercises will help you to improve your mobility and agility, greatly reducing your risk of injury and they also offer a very simple way to improve your health and fitness.
Many people that enjoy Calisthenics also talk about the mental benefits of the exercises as it helps them to practice mindfulness and meditation.
You are able to redefine the possible when it comes to Calisthenics and you are constantly working on self-improvement and mastering your own body.
This, when added with the great physical benefits are some of the main reasons why so many people fall in love with Calisthenics.
Pull-ups work the upper body and the abdominals and are one of the best full-body exercises you can do. Often considered one of, if not the best, back and arm exercise out there, the pull-up is a key component of Calisthenics and is important for overall Calisthenics progression.
One of the most difficult movements to complete, there are many modified variations that you can use to practice before completing a full pull-up. (I’ve done a few articles on pull-ups, so depending on which site this is going on, you can link to any of those articles).
Dips, whether chest or tricep, are another great Calisthenics exercise that you will need to master.
You may have done the basic tricep variation, where you place a bench behind your body before stabilizing yourself and performing a set of dips.
Both the behind the back tricep dips and front-facing dips using a power tower or dip stand are great moves for beginners to practice and they will help to build your strength and overall body control.
Once you can successfully perform both variations of dips you will find the more advanced Calisthenics exercises easier to complete.
I think it’s safe to say that everyone knows about squats and why they are so good for you. One of the best exercises you can do, the squat works your lower body, including your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves and your core and stabilizing muscles which help with everyday balance and control.
It seems simple but being able to perform a successful set of squats will help with your overall Calisthenics development so make sure you include this awesome full-body exercise in your routine.
For many people, performing a successful push-up is one of the things they struggle with the most. There’s a reason so many military courses include them in their physical readiness test, push-ups are hard.
Another exercise that involves moving and controlling your full bodyweight, the push-up works your chest, back, arms and core all at the same time.
As so many Calisthenics exercises require good core strength and a strong upper body, push-ups will help you immensely when it comes to your overall progress.
Hanging leg raises have made this list as they offer two huge benefits.
One is that by being able to perform this great core exercise you will also help to develop shoulder, chest and arm strength, not to mention bodily control and lower body strength.
It’s a simple yet effective, and extremely powerful, full-body move.
The second is the dual benefit you get by being able to perform the hanging leg raise.
Some of the more advanced exercises require you to hang or hold your bodyweight from a structure, a bar or a frame of some sort and by nailing this skill now, you’ll be much better prepared for the harder moves that will follow. It’s also a fantastic exercise in its own right.
Calisthenics is some of the most eye-catching fitness exercises you can do, as well as being some of the toughest and most rewarding, but like anything in fitness, you need to nail the foundations first.
You cannot progress to a muscle-up without first being able to do a pull-up or a dip and attempting to complete a pistol squat, without actually being able to squat would simply be foolish.
If you want to make some serious improvements to your physique and take your training to a whole new level then Calisthenics could be the thing for you.
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