What are calisthenics?
What are calisthenics and why should you be doing them?
Developed in ancient Greece, calisthenics are exercises of differing intensities and rhythms that can be completed using nothing but your own body weight – although you also have the option of introducing light handheld equipment. The variety of exercises you can perform target everything from strength to endurance, flexibility and coordination and are great for getting your body warmed up before a more strenuous activity. Furthermore, studies have shown that calisthenics can also be used to help treat health conditions such as obesity.1
How are calisthenics different to weight training?
Weight training always requires special equipment such as dumbbells, kettlebells or weight machines, which are used to perform strength-training movements. Calisthenics, on the other hand, require nothing but your own body weight. Don’t be fooled into believing this will deliver a less beneficial movement workout though, as studies have shown that the health benefits of physical exercise are similar for both calisthenics and weight training exercises.2
A simple calisthenics movement workout to try at home
The following workout does not require any additional equipment and will target various parts of your body for a complete, full-body workout. Try to complete the circuit, doing each exercise 5-20 times depending on ability and allowing yourself a rest in between each exercise if needed. Repeat the circuit if you are looking for an additional challenge.
• Stand with your feet parallel, directly under your shoulders
• Spread your feet a few inches apart and point your toes slightly outward
• Lower into a squat position, bending at the knees with your hips back and down
• Keep your head and face forward and your chest up
• Lower into as deep a squat as you can, then explode up into a jump
Always make sure that your knees don’t go over your toes, as this can strain and potentially injure your knee joints.
• Lower down onto your knees with your hands underneath and slightly outside of your shoulders
• Extend your legs, using your arms to keep you upwards in a plank position
• Keep your core tight
• Don’t allow your back to arch
• Bend your elbows close to your body and lower it until your chest almost reaches the floor and your upper arms are at a 45-degree angle
• Pause and then push back to the starting position
*If you find this too challenging, you can try a modified pushup where you keep your knees on the floor
• Lay flat with your back against the floor and your feet flat on the ground
• Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle
• Cross your hands over your chest
• With a tight core and your head about a fist’s distance from your chest, raise your body towards your knees
• Breathe out as you sit up and in as you lower back down
• Stand with your arms at your side and your feet shoulder-width apart
• Bend at the knees and lower into a squat
• Drop your hands forward in front of you, a little narrower than foot width
• Lean into your hands and jump softly back onto the balls of your feet, with your body in a straight plank position
• Jump your feet forward next to your hands
• Jump back up, pushing your arms up over your head
*Should you wish to include some additional apparatus to your movement workout, these are also great exercises to add to your full body workout:
• Grasp the top of an exercise bar with your arms slightly more than shoulder-width apart
• Pull upwards using your shoulder muscles and bring your head over the bar
• Grasp the bottom of an exercise bar from underneath with your arms tight and slightly closer than shoulder-width apart
• Pull upwards using your biceps to pull and bring your head over the bar
• Hold a handle in each hand and move your hands to the side of your body and the rope behind your feet
• Rotate the rope with your wrists and jump into the air, clearing the rope on each rotation, keeping your knees slightly bent
With no equipment needed, calisthenics are a great movement workout to try at home. All you need is your own body and you’re good to reap the health benefits of physical exercise!