Calisthenics: Enjoy working out with your own bodyweight
by Rodrigo Molina Dacaret
July 9, 2019
I know what itâ€™s like to want to get into fitness but not knowing how to start. You want to get in better shape but signing up to a gym membership doesnâ€™t sound like the best solution for you. Maybe you canâ€™t pay a gym membership right now, or you simply donâ€™t feel too comfortable working out while everyone in the gym can see you. I understand that feeling; gyms can be very intimidating for a beginner, especially when you have no prior experience in fitness.
I was in that position once, looking for ways to get in shape without having to spend money on a gym or much equipment. At the time I was a student at university; My budget was very limited, I wasnâ€™t eating properly and I didnâ€™t have too much free time to go to a gym and workout every day (so I thought).Â But I decided to start making small changes, starting by replacing some things on my diet with healthier options and also to start working out at home doing some short calisthenics routines I found online. That was exactly what I needed! I started to progress slowly and I was enjoying it!Â
Iâ€™m 25 years old now, a little more than two years after starting, and I havenâ€™t stopped! Now I train 4-5 days a week after work and feel and look better than ever before. My past self wouldnâ€™t believe what Iâ€™ve achieved in terms of health, strength, and physique compared to how I was then. It hasnâ€™t been easy, but the process has been fun due to how much I enjoy calisthenics. I hope with this article you will see the beauty of calisthenics and consider it as an option for you to achieve your fitness goals.
What is calisthenics?
Calisthenics is a form of physical training in which you use your own bodyweight in different ways to stimulate your muscles and challenge your body. In a certain way, it could be compared to weight lifting because you are taking advantage of gravity working against you as a form of resistance, except instead of only using weights (dumbbells, barbells, etc.) you are mainly using your own bodyweight.
You have most probably seen calisthenics in action. Whenever you see someone doing dips on parallel bars, pullups on a bar, handstand pushups or even doing a human flag on a pole; that is calisthenics. Now, these movements might sound too hard for you if you are a beginner, but you can start with simpler movements like pushups and then build your way up progressively. That is the beauty of calisthenics: the process of constantly challenging your body to achieve things you were not able to do before.
Is calisthenics the right choice for you?
Working with your own bodyweight with minimal equipment can be a really good way to get in shape, but this doesnâ€™t necessarily mean it is the perfect way to achieve your personal goals.Â Everyone has different fitness goals so what benefits someone could be a drawback for someone else with different goals. I will try to expose some aspects of calisthenics and present how they can be a pro or a con depending on what you want.
It can be less social than other forms of training
If you practice calisthenics, most of the time you will probably be training alone, especially if youâ€™re starting out at home. For me, this was a positive thing because I felt more comfortable being by myself while learning all the exercises and with nobody to see me. This might also be the case for you if you are a bit of an introvert like me.
However, some people prefer the social nature of going to a gym, seeing their friends and interacting with other people while they also work out. Thatâ€™s not necessarily a bad thing but it might not be something you will get if you decide to train calisthenics at home. You can definitely do calisthenics with other people but it might be a little harder to find a group. If you can find a group (maybe a calisthenics gym or park) or even convince a friend to train with you, it could be a good way to get your dose of healthy competition that motivates you to progress.
Itâ€™s hard to get that â€śbodybuilder lookâ€ť
One of the main reasons people want to start working out is to get stronger and better their physique. This is definitely possible with calisthenics, but donâ€™t expect to have those giant arms and pecs all of a sudden. Yes, you can get bigger doing calisthenics, contrary to the popular belief that you cannot build muscle with bodyweight training. I have seen these changes in myself and in many other people, but you might find it harder to grow with calisthenics than with conventional weight training.
You have to be creative
There are many ways to stimulate muscle growth. One of the main ways is to vary resistance and increase it over time as you progress. This can be harder to do with calisthenics because the main source of resistance is gravity and your own bodyweight.
But this is not necessarily a bad thing because it forces you to be creative with your workouts. Instead of simply adding more weight you need to play with leverage and think of new variations for each exercise in order to increase resistance and push yourself to new limits. I enjoy this a lot but it can become a bit complicated to think of variations or to go from one progression to the next. You have to think if that is a challenge you would like to undertake or if you prefer the traditional way of simply increasing the weight on a machine or dumbbells.
How to get started
You donâ€™t need much to get started in calisthenics: you can do it anywhere! I guarantee you have all the necessary tools around to start right now; you could even start with nothing in an empty room. There are so many exercises you can do with no equipment, like pushups, squats, pistol squats, all the pushup variations, etc.
If you want to add more variety you can find a bar, maybe there is one in a park near you, or you can install one in your door frame. Then you can start doing pull-up negatives, then move to regular pull-ups and chin-ups, etc. One of the best pieces of equipment you can get is a couple of gymnastic rings; find somewhere to hang them and there you have an almost infinite amount of exercises and variations you can do. Working out with rings is my favorite way to work out and it forces me to challenge myself and try new things.
I will not get into much detail on how to do those exercises or which routine you should do, because that would require a whole article to really explain it well. This article is mainly looking to get you interested in calisthenics, to know if it is right for you and to get you to see that you can have fun while working out and getting fit, like I do.