Have you ever seen those videos where a buff guy grabs onto a pole and pulls himself up as if he was a flag? Looks impressive, doesn’t it? The type of workout he’s doing is a calisthenics workout, which not many people may have heard of. If you want to push your body to do something similar, or you’ve heard of calisthenics but aren’t sure what it is and how to start, this post is for you.
The first question that might pop into your brain is what even is calisthenics? It turns out that this type of workout has been around since Ancient Greece1, and chances are that you’ve done some calisthenics exercises without even being aware you’re doing them. This type of exercise works your body with the help of gravity and your weight. Movements like pull-ups, chin-ups, planks, squats, and lunges are all types of calisthenics movements.
5 reasons calisthenics can work for you
Now that we’ve cleared up what calisthenics is, why should you consider making calisthenics a part of your routine? Here are 5 reasons why calisthenics can be a useful tool in your workout arsenal.
Can be done anywhere any time. Calisthenics exercises don’t typically need any equipment, allowing you to work out from the comfort of your home or in a local park. You can use freely available things like benches or chairs to help you with your variations, like if you want to do an incline push-up.
Supports functional strength. Your body moves in particular ways, and we call exercises that support those movements functional training2. They support the movements we use in our day-to-day, like standing up or reaching up to grab something. Check out why functional fitness is important in our post.
Great for building muscle. Calisthenics also works for muscle building, improving strength and body composition3. This means that if your goal is to look lean and grow muscle, calisthenics can be a great alternative or accompaniment to standard resistance training.
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Works your mobility and flexibility. Remaining flexible and allowing our body to use its full range of motion is great for preventing injury. Calisthenics exercises improve flexibility4.
For your whole body. Many of these exercises target multiple muscles in your body, giving you a great balanced workout.
Calisthenics vs. other types of exercises
If you’re already into a particular type of exercise, you might wonder – why on earth should I bother with calisthenics? If you’re one of these people, we’ve broken down a few differences between calisthenics and other types of exercise.
Calisthenics vs. CrossFit. The two types of exercises have much in common, however, the main difference lies in that calisthenics doesn’t use equipment, while CrossFit often uses weights. This makes calisthenics an easier and cheaper option to do on your own.
Weight training/bodybuilding vs. calisthenics. Both calisthenics and weight training can help you grow muscle. Calisthenics will usually also be able to better support your flexibility and mobility, as many people who train in the gym don’t might not work on their mobility. However, calisthenics can use additional weights found in the gym5.
Common challenges, and how to overcome them
For many of us, starting with a new routine can be challenging. Alternatively, after a little bit of time, you might see your progress start to slow. Here are some tips on overcoming common challenges people who practice calisthenics might have:
- Motivation – when starting a new routine, finding motivation can be hard. Make sure you’re tracking your progress to see how you progress, as that can inspire you to continue. Surround yourself with supportive people. Stay consistent and rely on discipline when things get hard.
- Calisthenics diet – those who practice calisthenics should look to keep their body muscular and lean. Therefore, aim for a balanced diet with plenty of lean protein, veggies, and some carbohydrates for recovery and energy. A great idea is to eat protein regularly, so add a protein shake into your routine – try Malxer Golden 7 Protein Blend for a long-lasting protein boost.
- Progress – progress can slow down after a while, so it’s important to remain patient and kind to yourself. If you hit a plateau, try challenging yourself with a weighted workout or increase the number of reps you do.
- Recovery – make sure you’re sufficiently resting between workouts, as that is key for recovery. Pay attention to your diet, getting sufficient protein and carbs after a workout – Maxler Special Mass is a great tool for that. This blend of carbohydrates and protein delivers plenty of nutrients in one go.
How to begin
Ready to get started with calisthenics? Here is a quick workout you can do without any additional equipment:
- Get your blood pumping with some mountain climbers – do them for a minute three times
- Add in some jumping jacks for 1-3 minutes
- Do 3 sets of 10 squats. For more difficulty, do jumping squats
- Add 2 sets of 20 walking lunges to the mix
- Do 3 sets of 10 calf raises by standing on any sort of ledge you can find, as long as it’s safe. If you can’t find a ledge, walk on your tip toes for a minute three times.
- Try to do 3 sets of 15 pushups. Decrease the number of push-ups if you have to, or alternatively, do incline push-ups
- Do 3 sets of 10 reps of inchworms, walking yourself out slowly. It’s a great calisthenics exercise for the chest and shoulders
- Next up, deadbugs. Do 3 sets of 10 reps. Maintain a neutral spine and make sure you’re doing the exercise slowly to really challenge yourself
- Plank for 30 seconds to a minute. If you can’t, just do 10-second intervals
You’re all done! Take these exercises and increase their difficulty or reps, or look for more advanced exercises. If you have access to equipment, include it in your workouts.
Calisthenics is a challenging but accessible type of workout that you can do pretty much anywhere, from the gym to your home or your local park. This style of workout can help you develop muscle strength and promote core stability and body flexibility. With the tips in this post, you should be able to get started with calisthenics in no time. For more ideas on how to spice up your training or for recovery tips, check out the Knowledge Center.