Calisthenics: a body weight exercise experience

by Shavon Crawford

July 29, 2019

I have never considered my self the athletic type. Hence, I left the gym and did my own weight lifting at home in moderation. Nothing compares however to the fascination I had with calisthenics when I first saw it at 22.

Since then, the fascination has never left. I’ve been alternating between weight lifting and calisthenics ever since.

Now at 26 I have made the decision to switch to calisthenics completely.

It’s a great form of fitness over the conventional gym workouts. So let’s get started on all you need to know to embark on your calisthenics journey.

Calisthenics Workout

You don’t need much of anything to start a calisthenics workout routine. Calisthenics can be done anywhere, outside at the beach, on monkey bars in the park, in the middle of your living room or hanging from your doorframe.

Calisthenics is the use of one’s own body weight with little to no equipment. Calisthenics workouts can range anywhere from a simple pull up to the insane handstand pushup with added weight.

It is specifically tailored for but not limited to those seeking to gain strength and stay lean.

No gym is required. Calisthenics is therefore cost effective. It puts no strain on you financially, which means it is perfect for those of you who maybe be attending university or college like I was or those who don’t want to spend funds in monthly gym membership.

Workout routines may consist of push ups, pull ups, dips; which you can easily do on a chair or stairs.

You receive a holistic workout with calisthenics. It’s quite adaptable; you can use it for strength training, muscle growth and even strength endurance.


 

Calisthenics Body

The body you obtain through calisthenics is amazing. With time, patience and effort you can create a lean, sculpted physique through calisthenics.

This is due to the fact that you are using your own body weight, so your body is going to have to keep lean naturally for you to pull and push it around, especially if you’re doing a lot of hanging movements.

Of course diet is essential, if you over eat and get too big too quickly it will be more difficult to move with the extra weight. The key is steady progression.

Compound Movements

Calisthenics forces your entire body to be engaged. There isn’t as much isometric movement like say with a dumbbell curl. If you are doing a pull up; your back, biceps, abs even chest are all engaged.

Hence, you perform more compound exercises where multiple muscle groups are worked simultaneously.

Especially your abdominal muscles, as they are worked heavily in majority of calisthenics exercises. Which is why calisthenics practitioners have such pronounced abs and toned bodies.

Can Calisthenics Increase Muscle Mass?

For those of you who may want to gain mass in your fitness routine calisthenics can help you as well. It’s a common misconception that body weight exercises don’t allow you to gain muscle mass.

This could not be further from the truth. The same rules apply for growth with body weight exercises as that with weight lifting. 8-12 reps, rest 1 minute to 90 secs and you do this for 3 to 4 times. Other factors are resistance and how intensely you perform the exercise.

So yes, you can still have that jacked look you’re striving for with calisthenics once you apply it correctly but it won’t be the same as a bodybuilder physique.

However with that being said. One draw back with gaining mass via calisthenics, is that it may take longer than weight lifting as progressions may be more difficult.

With weights you can add 5 to 10 pounds very easily as you increase in strength. Where as with your own body weight you may have to make changes to exercises. For instance a slight shift in postion or adding equipment.

 

 

Calisthenics Exercises

You may be wondering what kind of exercises you will be doing if you decide to embark on this calisthenics journey. They are a wide range of exercises in calisthenics. The type of exercises you do and the way you do them will depend on your goals.

As I stated before, if your goal is muscle mass. Then you use the 8-12 rep system.

For those who are looking for muscular endurance. You can start from 15 to higher reps. As for the exercises, these can be done with push ups, chin ups, and muscle ups.

Now if your goal is to acquire calisthenics skills, which is the fancy stuff such as handstand, planche and front lever. Just to name a few.

Then you will have to do progression exercises until you can acquire these skills. These are basically smaller incomplete versions of the skills.

For exampe handstands where you lean on a wall and work on handstand strength or exercises where you push and kick up into the handstand.

However these skills are extremely difficult to learn and take a very long time. You are going to have to be patient in order to master them.

If you’re goal is simply strength, then you have to change the exercises to make them harder. But this is not easy. As I said before. You can easily add 5 to 10 lbs to weight that is too light for you but with calisthenics you have to do progressions to make it more difficult.

For example, if I want to make push ups and pull ups harder, then I have to start doing one armed push ups and pull ups. But the progression to one armed pulls ups may be to use three fingers with one hand while I use five finger with the other.

After mastering that progression I still have to master the one armed pull up.

Another drawback to calisthenics is that it does not allow you to work out with injuries easily. Calisthenics workouts call for you to engage more than one body part when you exercise.

If you have an injury, a body weight exercise may cause you to strain that particular body part. This is the advantage weight lifting has over body weight, you can isolate body parts while working out.

 

 

Calisthenics Equipment

A home pull up bar is a must if you plan to practice calisthenics. I usually use my door frame or monkey bars in the park near me.

If you don’t have access to an outside gym or park or your doorframe isn’t suitable, you can easily use one of these. It is cost effective and you don’t have to set it up like those home gym equipment sets.

As far as progressing with calisthenics goes. Variation in exercises isn’t the only way to progress. Instead of working your way up to a one armed push up. An alternative can be using a weighted vest to increase your over all body weight.

Gymnastic rings are also a great way to advance when pull ups or dips have become too easy. They add the extra challenge of having to keep your body stable while executing the exercise.

You can also use push bars or paralletts. They give you deeper harder push ups and are easy to store in your house.

Calisthenics Gym

Calisthenics has become very popular over the past few years, to the point that competitions are held for judging skills and technique. There is no shortage of groups that you can join to start your journey.

They are many online communities that you can join if you want to practice calisthenics with a group. Many of them use outside gyms along with indoor gyms as well.

Start Today!

The calisthenics experience is a worth while journey to embark on and mine is far from over! Calisthenics has many application for you to use, whether it is just to gain strength or learn gravity defying skills. The calisthenics journey is one of a kind.

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