This time on Mybestfitnessgear.com we discuss a calisthenics workout routine. Calisthenics are exercises consisting of a variety of motor movements like running, jumping, pushing, pulling, grasping and so on. They are typically performed without any equipment and the exercises are in essence body weight training, meaning you are not usually adding additional weight even though you can add weight to some exercises. Calisthenics exercises are intended to increase body strength, flexibility and body fitness through movements like bending, jumping or swinging using only body weight for resistance. Calisthenics are used in coordination with stretches and if you perform these exercises often can provide muscular and aerobic conditioning as well as improving balance and coordination. Be sure to add exercise bands for additional support or resistance.
Calisthenics are used in some forms of synchronized physical training for sports teams and military units to keep in peak physical condition. The United States Marine Corps perform a physical fitness test consisting of push-ups or pull ups, sit ups and a 3-mile run which are all forms of calisthenics. There are many benefits for performing calisthenics, from fat loss to muscle growth, there’s no excuse to not implement calisthenics into your workout routine.
Pros and Cons
I have a few reasons for and against calisthenics that I want to get into initially before talking about the different exercises and benefits.
- Calisthenics is the most inexpensive for of training due to the fact that it is purely body weight training.
- Since there is little to no equipment required you can train calisthenics indoors and outdoors.
- Body weight exercises are more athletic since they are usually compound movements.
- Calisthenics exercises are fantastic for fat loss and muscle conditioning.
- Compound movements are not good for training with an injury as they include multiple muscles and joints instead of isolating one area and working around the injury.
- Calisthenics requires massive coordination more so than most weighted exercises.
- It is harder to progress in calisthenics as the more advanced movements take a lot of practice and quite of few steps to get to, let alone to do them consistently.
Now a lot of people think that a calisthenics workout routine is not good for muscle growth but that is just not true. With varying and consistent training you can burn fat which will show more of your muscle. Once you get into the more advanced movements and continue consistent training you can really build a large amount of muscle. Now we can talk more about the individual exercises and their benefits. I will include images when possible.
Foundation of Calisthenics
The foundation of calisthenics will strengthen tendons, ligaments and joints. The first steps are supporting yourself through exercises like side planks or bridges. Side planks are done by starting in push up position and then turning 90 degrees onto your side while keeping your body as straight as possible.
Negatives are the eccentric phase of any exercise, for example, the second half of a pull up when letting your body down. Performing negatives slowly will add greater muscle damage during an exercise giving more power, flexibility and stronger connective tissue. Negatives are often a great stepping stone when performing harder exercises for the first time.
A number of these exercises can be assisted with the use of resistance bands. This will help progression of exercises like the push up, Australian push up or even some more advanced movements like the front and back lever. Amazon has some great resistance bands to choose from, like these bands which are longer and easier to use for these exercises.
The bridge is basically a backward push up and holding this position with extended legs is the harder variation of this exercise. This exercise is great for working the gluteus as well as your entire core. The extended variation works additional muscles like the hamstrings and obliques.
Levitation squats are a body weight squat variation. This exercise uses one leg to squat down with your other leg hovering off the ground. As you lower your body, your lifted leg will move back into a lunge position while your hands stretch forward to help balance your body. Alternate legs for muscle equilibrium. Levitation squats are great for working lower to mid-body muscles, for example, hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, gluteus and core muscles.
The burpee is our next beginner exercise and is one of the best beginner compound workouts in calisthenics. To do a burpee, start in a standing position, from here, place your hands on the ground in front of your feet, with your hands on the ground, jump your feet backwards into a push up position. Reverse the movements to finish the burpee, jumping your feet back up towards your hands then stand back up. This exercise will work a plethora of muscles and can be implemented in and around other exercises once you master the standard burpee. The next step of the burpee is adding a push up at the bottom and adding a jump at the top. There are many variations of burpees for beginner and advanced exercises so let me know if you want me to cover those.
Australian pull ups are great for people starting to learn pull ups and is also a great back and shoulder workout. This move is done on a very low bar by laying under it and pulling yourself up. Progression of the Australian pull up starts with a higher bar, about waist high, and progressing to higher difficulties’ means you are using lower bars, about knee level or just above knee level. This exercise works primarily back and shoulder muscles like the traps, lats, rhomboids and deltoids. Minor muscle activation also occurs in your biceps and core when performing Australian pull ups.
Advanced Moves – Godlike
Some of these exercises are hard to explain in words so I will attempt to show videos or pictures as reference.
Pistol squats are a more advanced version of the levitation squats that require more balance and coordination. To do these, you would do a levitation squat but your elevated leg sticks straight out which makes it more of a challenge to balance. You can have your arms out in front of you for additional balance or have your hands behind your head for an added challenge. When first learning this exercise, you can grab onto a pole to stabilize yourself until you feel comfortable balancing.
The front lever, when mastered, is a very impressive looking exercises requiring great strength and coordination. The front lever is basically a suspended straight arm push down which is a back workout (Latissimus Dorsi). This move will activate many more muscles as well. There is a good amount of progression to lead up to performing the front lever and this video explains it very well.
The hefesto bicep curl is a beastly body weight exercise for your biceps. It starts by hanging from a pull up bar and flipping your body backwards so your hands grip the bar behind your body which is the starting point for the back lever, which is basically the opposite of a front lever. In the backward hanging position, you would pull your body up with your biceps until your back touches the bar and you body is more vertical. You can use a resistance band in front of your waist when attempting this exercise for assistance. Hefesto negatives are necessary for some people to ultimately learn the exercise correctly.
Muscle ups are one of the most well know advanced calisthenics exercises. They make you seem strong and even better, you have to be strong to do them. This is basically an add on to the pull up as you push your body over the pull up bar at the end of the movement. As with most calisthenics moves, you can combine exercises here like the L-sit to incorporate more the core and lower body into the movement. There are, again, many variations for the muscle up like the explosive muscle up and if you’re feeling a little ‘extra’ you can add a clap towards the end of the movement.
The planche push up! One of my most favorite workouts I’ve seen (as I can’t yet do them), the planche push up is a godly exercise first consisting of a planche. The common explanation of a planche is where you hold your body parallel to the ground with your arms straight and holding a horizontal bar. You can see how adding a push up to it makes it godly, especially if you can’t do one. The planche push-ups works many major muscle groups from the chest to the glutes and is one of the most demanding exercises. The progression of the planche is explained in great video detail here.
Be An Athletic Phenom
I have a ton of respect for people who perform calisthenics especially the advanced exercises as they are very tough-looking. I will continue to study these movements myself and hopefully I can get to the point where I can share movements I’ve mastered. If anyone else does calisthenics, let me know how it’s going, and thanks for reading!