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Calisthenics is a form of exercising that has become increasingly popular due to the younger generations' interest in achieving a cost-effective whole-body workout, that can be done even from home.
This article aims to examine what calisthenics is, how it can be done, and what type of routine is possible to have both at home and outdoors, as well as investigate the benefits associated with this exercising.
Calisthenics introduces a series of exercises where you use the weight of your own body to build muscle. Therefore, there is no need for weights, dumbells, or gym machines.
The premise of calisthenics is to activate muscle groups so that a maximum level of muscle contraction is achieved. Body shaping and improving posture are also main objectives of this type of workout.
The word originates from the Greek kallos (beauty) and sthenos (forceful), and it was introduced in France and the United Kingdom during the 18th century.
Calisthenics is a type of exercise that allows you to train from practically anywhere, without needing any special workout gear. The only things that you need to perform the full range of movements found in calisthenics are your body and willpower.
This way of exercising has become very popular in the last years, seeing how it offers a perfect at-home routine which appeals to many young people as well as to those who don't have time for the gym.
There are infinite calisthenics exercises we can incorporate into our workout routine, and the beauty of it is that they are all variations of a handful of basic movements, which we can use to start practicing this sport. We only need our bodyweight and one essential tool which is a fixed bar which we can grab when doing specific exercises.
We will present the most basic beginner exercises that can be done in record time from the comfort of your own home.
If we look at the number of muscles activated (especially in the upper body), the push-up is of the complete forms of exercises. It has many variations, changing either the position of the hands and legs or adapting the flexing style, which allows you to activate the shoulder, chest, or the triceps muscle depending on how they are performed.
Some of the most common variations are:
Squats are another example of a complete exercise; it works on the glutes and leg muscles in a simple, weight-free way that you can easily incorporate in any routine. It has many variations so we will only introduce the most popular versions:
Bulgarian split squats
This type of calisthenics exercise works on the hip flexors and the abdominal muscles, as well as the lumbar back muscle.
Beginner adaptations of leg raises are usually done on the floor, and in the case of more advanced versions, a fixed bar is used to allow you to hang and then raise your legs. This last version implies more force as well as builds more powerful forearms, that help with resistance while hanging for other types of exercises.
A handstand puts the upper body under pressure, and it focuses on the shoulders and upper part of the back, although the lumbar muscles and the abdomen are also engaged as to avoid falling.
It's a complicated exercise to do, and it requires a lot of practice in the beginning but once mastered, it can be adapted into different versions. More experienced individuals may choose to flex their arms once in the handstand position, while others flex, hold the position for a few seconds, and then return to the initial pose.
To do correct pull-ups, you will only need a fixed bar to hang from, which is the case for home pull-ups as well.
If you want to workout from home, a fixed bar would be a valuable acquisition as it would open a world of possibilities regarding the variety of exercises you can incorporate into your routine.
You can perform various types of pull-ups depending on how far apart your hands are on the bar, if your palms face away from you (for a back workout), or if they face you (ideal for biceps training).
Classic pull-ups (palms facing away from you)
Chin-ups (palms facing you)
If we want a full body workout, we cannot forget about the glutes and leg muscles which we can exercise perfectly with glute bridges (combined with squats). Seeing how it's an easier exercise which doesn't require much practice, you could do one leg variations, or try to hold the bridge for a few seconds at a time.
Considering its many health benefits as well as its esthetics value it's no accident that calisthenics is in fashion. This form of exercise can be done at home as well as outdoors, as a form of street workout, where we could make the most of the elements surrounding you and incorporate even more exercises into your routine.
Some street workout exercises include:
Climb a rope or a vertical bar
Parallel bar pull-up
Many of these exercises require a vigorous training and diligence. The key to perfecting the activities is practicing them every training session and slowly building strength, all the while paying attention to correct posture.
Training outdoors has the benefit of breathing in fresh air (especially if we're in nature), exposes us to sunlight which gives us the much-coveted vitamin D3, a more efficient workout, and an increased sense of wellbeing.
There are many tutorials online that explain the types of calisthenics exercises for beginners that can be practiced to perfection.
Sanchez-Martinez, J., Plaza, P., Araneda, A., Sánchez, P., & Almagia, A. (2017). Morphological characteristics of Street Workout practitioners. Nutrición Hospitalaria.
Thomas, E., Bianco, A., Mancuso, E. P., Patti, A., Tabacchi, G., Paoli, A., & Palma, A. (2017). The effects of a calisthenics training intervention on posture, strength and body composition. Isokinetics and Exercise Science.
Williams, M. H., Anderson, D. E., Rawson, E. S. (1983) Nutrición para la salud, la condición física y el deporte.