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Hello ladies and gentlemen. Welcome; In this article, I’ll explain everything I know about calisthenics, its history, and different approaches to bodyweight training. I maintain a lean physique, and I refuse to be chubby again. It was a struggle from the beginning of my training; most importantly, mastering the basics was necessary. The process was a humbling experience to go through a lot of sweat and soreness so I could lose weight and build lean muscle. Calisthenics is not an easy activity to perform. Even though many people think it looks simple, it’s not. You’ll be thunderstruck when you explore how much variety the human body can do relative to its own strength. The process wasn’t just about contracting my muscles, diet, fasting, and sleep played a role in the process. Let’s start this incredible journey together and explore this beginner’s guide for those who want to know about calisthenics.
What is calisthenics?
Calisthenics is a resistance exercise solely relying on the human body’s weight. Weighted equipment isn’t necessary because your body weight is sufficient to give you enough resistance. On the other hand, having the equipment does help to elevate calisthenics training to perform the most challenging bodyweight exercises known to mankind. All you need to do is follow the principles of body mechanics to get the most out of your workout. The focus is progressive overload because that’s how muscles grow and strengthen. To do this, you must perform high reps ranging from 20 to 50. The body weight alone isn’t sufficient to cause hypertrophy in the classical 8 to 12 rep range, like in weighted calisthenics. Overall, your body is its natural gym and a mobile one that doesn’t need a membership to exercise.
Kallos and Sthenos
Kallos and Sthenos mean beautiful strength in Greek. During ancient times, calisthenics played an imperative role for soldiers and the lower classes. A beginner’s training in the military needed a valuable calisthenics guide because fighting requires tremendous flexibility, strength, speed, and endurance. Without principles, a soldier would lose rapidly in a battle against the enemy. Farmers always exercise because of their labor. No matter the work, a worker always had to grip, push, pull, and squat. Aside from the grind, farmers would participate in some form of sport that included strength, speed, and endurance. The Ancient Olympic Games were a great example of this participation in sports for farmers and soldiers. The games included
- long jump
- javelin throws
- discus throws
- chariot racing
Calisthenics has always been part of exercising because of its natural compound movements and gripping. Calisthenics is as old as modern humans have existed for about 300,000 years.
Just like the word calisthenics means beauty and strength, bodyweight means you only use your body as resistance. All you need is a flat surface, but of course, there are exceptions to this by implementing a pullup bar, but you don’t need one. You can use a door, ledge, tree branch, or monkey bars to perform pull-ups. Not much is mandatory to get an excellent bodyweight workout. But you’ll need simple but effective equipment if you want to alleviate your calisthenics training in the long run.
Then arises the question, “How do you get lean with calisthenics”?. To achieve this, you must follow this beginner’s guide to calisthenics. You need healthy macronutrients, progressive overload, fasting, and sleep. Calisthenics is similar to lifting light weights because you can’t naturally add more weight if you only use your body weight. With heavy lifting, you only need a few reps to reach hypertrophy by using added weight. With light weights, you need many repetitions to achieve the same effect as the guy lifting heavy. Train like a lightweight lifter with just your body weight by doing high reps to reach progressive overload. This is key in growing and strengthening muscles with just your body weight.
Different versions of calisthenics
There’s a variety of bodyweight exercises you can do by performing three versions of calisthenics. You start simple with the basics; then, you move on towards performing intermediate and advanced movements. Each has its own specialty to add great tension when you perform these three variations in calisthenics. Correct form, full range of motion, high reps, and understanding of different angles are the most critical performing parts. Without implementing these principles, you won’t achieve your goal of mastering calisthenics.
Compound means multiple muscles and two joints are moving together to perform a movement. It’s a much more straightforward approach to calisthenics than isolation and isometrics. This version is the easiest to do than the other two. It’s the foundation of bodyweight training that any novice or expert can do. Click here to read an article I’ve done on compound calisthenics.
Isolation means moving one joint to affect one muscle. As far as I know, I found eleven isolation exercises to be effective in targeting weak areas that compounds can’t strengthen. Some of them rely on your body weight. Other movements require some equipment to add more resistance or assistance to perform. Click here to read an article I’ve done on isolation calisthenics.
Isometrics is the king of calisthenics. It’s about holding a position for an extended period until your body can’t hold any longer. What’s unique about isometrics is tension builds up over time in a static hold. This causes the muscle fibers to strengthen, and grow. There are three levels in this training style: basic, intermediate, and advanced. The basic is holding a position during a regular compound or isolation by finding the midpoint. The intermediate part is holding your body weight with your elbows extended mid-air. The advanced part combines two isometric holds into a fluid compound isometric motion. Click here to read an article I’ve done on isometric calisthenics.
The best part about calisthenics
A beginner’s performance in calisthenics is advantageous because you can exercise anywhere; feel free, and I have a guide to show. You can work out anywhere with just your body. You can work out at home or park; it doesn’t matter. Calisthenics allows you to work out for free without paying a membership to exercise. I just never understood why many people go to a facility to exercise. The human body already possesses all the body mechanics required to develop a well-rounded working body. Since we live in the internet age, we can purchase and deliver tools to our homes. This, in turn, makes our home a home gym without needing to go to the gym.
The worst parts about calisthenics
The development of Calluses happens when a lot of repeated friction occurs in the upper region of the palm. It happens to everyone who does a lot of pull-ups and loses a piece of skin. It has happened twice in my calisthenics career. I suggest wearing protective gloves to reduce your chances of developing calluses. If not, then obtain your calisthenics credentials like a true calisthenics athlete. Or wear gloves.
Getting Golfer’s Elbow happens to everybody. The point where this happens is at the medial epicondyle of the elbow. It happens because of the flexors’ excessive wrist motion. An exercise that develops this pain is the pullup. When I first started, I would do a pull-up and slightly flex my wrist pronated when my chest reached the bar. After a pullup, I would position my wrist back into a normal position when I would bring my body down. After doing this for some time, I felt a tight elbow pain. That’s because I was affecting the tendon attached to the medial epicondyle. To correct this, I kept my wrist locked and did not flex my wrist when I performed a pull-up.
Having equipment does help guide a beginner’s journey toward calisthenics performance, and I will explain it to you. You can do more when you have the best calisthenics equipment in your home. You get to explore new bodyweight movements and focus on isolation far better than your body weight can do alone. Also, some of these apparatuses help with intermediate and advanced isometrics because it’s too challenging to perform them initially. What matters the most is realizing that calisthenics tools can make your workouts more fun and robust and aid you.
You don’t need it
Equipment isn’t necessary to start calisthenics. Just a flat surface is all you need to do most basic exercises. The problem arises when you don’t have a pullup bar to do pullups. So instead, you focus on the environment around you to perform pull-ups. In your house, you can use a door. Remember to put a book between the bottom gap of the door and the floor. It will help keep the door sturdy so you can do pull-ups. Another way to use the door is to lay a flat towel on top of it and close and lock it from the inside. Second, you can go outside and find a ledge, a monkey bar, or a sturdy tree branch to perform pull-ups. When you have this covered, you can complete calisthenics training.
A beginner’s guide to understanding the benefits of calisthenics
Various benefits go into calisthenics practice, but you can’t negate other aspects that help your calisthenics training. If you deviate from other practices and only stick to one, you won’t feel and see results. You have to combine in unison to get the complete package. Those practices include high reps, static holds, proper nutrition, fasting, stress-free, and sleeping. Believe me, it’s not easy in the beginning, but you’ll reap the benefits if you are consistent and disciplined.
To achieve a lean look, you must perform high reps, ingest healthy foods and beverages, do aerobics, stretch, fast, and sleep. A beginner’s starting point may seem complicated, but this guide will help you achieve outstanding performance in calisthenics. You shouldn’t perform 6 to 12 reps in calisthenics to reach hypertrophy for 4 sets. Instead, the sweet spot to aim for is 20 to 30 reps because the body’s weight cannot grant extra weight to be append. If you were lifting handheld weights, you could lift extra weight, allowing you to reach hypertrophy faster. This rep range will build you a lean muscular look. Men must have 15 to 12 percent body fat to achieve that athletic look. Women must be between 25 to 15 percent body fat to look lean and gorgeous.
Burning fat involves high reps, aerobics, a healthy diet, fasting, and adequate sleep. High reps help build and maintain muscle. Why? Because muscle hypertrophy happens when muscle fibers sustain damage. After a couple of days, the muscles repair damaged threads by synthesizing them and increasing their size and strength. Aerobics is an exercise that helps the heart be more efficient. It allows the heart and lungs to pump more blood and oxygen effectively to the muscles and other organs. A healthy diet consists of eating healthy macronutrients like carbs, fats, proteins, and beverages.
Fasting is about not eating anything for a certain amount of time. Fasting helps burn fat by going through 16 hours without food because you no longer rely on glycogen as an energy source. Instead, the body will start relying on fat as a secondary energy source to function. Sleeping helps release growth hormones from the brain’s pituitary gland to repair the cells in the body. All of this enables the process of burning fat away through multiple factors.
The way to increase endurance is simply by consistently doing more reps than the body can do until fatigue. The more repetitive you are, the more endurance you’ll have. What endurance means is sustaining a certain period until fatigued. An example of this is push-ups. If you can only do ten pushups, go for five more the next set and build up until fatigue. Doing this will enable you to last longer and have shorter breaks until you can do another set. This will cause your muscles and heart to strengthen over time by doing high reps and pure aerobics. Muscular endurance is my calisthenics style to build my muscles and exercise my heart.
I see people with stiffness in their bodies rather than mobility, both young and old when I go out and notice. What mobility means is moving around freely in an open space without restriction in the joints and muscles. It all comes down to not stretching the muscles and loosening the joints to be mobile. There are a couple of stretching techniques; they are
- Static Stretching
- Dynamic Stretching
- Active Stretching
- Ballistic Stretching
- Myofascial Release
- Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF)
- Functional Stretching.
My absolute favorite type of stretching is static stretching. Static stretching allows you to stretch for an extended period. It’s a slow movement that prioritizes posture awareness and alignment. I typically extend between thirty seconds to one minute for each body stretch. It feels excellent to feel elastic. Making circular motions with the wrist, ankle, neck, and ball and socket joints allows fluid motion. Flexing and extending the knee and elbow joints is excellent for mobility.
A beginner’s guide toward different types of calisthenics
A variety of bodyweight styles exist. Some are more explosive, like the stuff I’m showing you, and others are more laid back but provide excellent results. These styles are very interesting; each benefits the mind and body to reach strength, flexibility, and tranquility. No matter what style of bodyweight you partake in, they have great benefits to the body and mind.
Weighted calisthenics is weight added to your body, such as a weighted vest, ankle weights, and neck harness, to make the workouts more robust. The training style can include dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells as weighted calisthenics. To back up my claim about why dumbbells, barbells, and kettlebells, are considered weighted calisthenics equipment, I’ll explain. When you do a bicep curl, you pull some weight when you flex your forearm without a dumbbell. There’s weight on the hands and forearms when you perform elbow flexion because gravity constantly pulls down vertically. You will clearly see the bicep shorten when you flex the elbow. But the forearm’s weight alone doesn’t provide enough tension on the bicep. So, you add an external weighted object to feel that tension more on the bicep with a dumbbell.
Essentially, traditional weightlifting is weighted calisthenics. The weight added makes the motion more complex because you’re not relying on relative strength but absolute strength. Relative strength is about force generated with just your body weight. Absolute strength is the maximum amount of force exerted through lifting weights. In a nutshell, weighted calisthenics are both worn or hand-held to provide extra resistance to add tension.
Parkour is a discipline that requires a person to navigate and overcome obstacles in the easiest and fastest way possible. Many people wouldn’t view parkour as a form of calisthenics because most see it as a running activity. But it’s actually not. Calisthenics involves a couple of movements that can guide beginner’s practice toward parkour.
The first move is climbing a wall. You put two actions into one; the vertical pullup and the vertical pushup used to perform a climb. This movement relates to the muscle-up, the movements needed to climb over a wall. The second move is squat jumps. The squat jumps provide the power necessary to jump high enough. A parkour athlete often needs to perform a jumping action to land on something flat. Overall, calisthenics and parkour go well together. Calisthenics provides adequate body strength for a parkour athlete to perform.
Pole dancing is more than just an exciting form of sexual entertainment in the eyes of men. The art of pole dancing involves dance and acrobatics. The discipline of pole dancing is one of the most challenging forms of bodyweight exercises. It’s no different than working out on parallel bars, pullup bars, or gymnastic rings. You need a strong body and a great mind and muscle connection to pole dance. The hardest part is performing isometrics. As you can see in the photo, this gorgeous lady has incredible body weight strength. This move reminds me of the human flag.
The art of pole dancing dates back eight hundred years in the traditional Indian sport, Mallakhamba. In America, this art form dates back to the 1890s were the traveling sideshows called Little Egypt had belly dancers. They were called Ghawazi. In the mid-2000s, promoters such as the International Pole Sports Federation promoted pole dancing as a sport.
Yoga is a traditional practice in India that dates back to 2700 B.C., giving mental and physical exercise that provides the practitioner with serenity and strength. The serenity aspect clears the yogi’s attachment to external forces that taint the mind’s clarity. The physical part strengthens the body’s muscles and provides stretches to promote flexibility. Mind and body become one in a physical meditation discipline that offers the yogi balance. Exercises like the plank pose, cobra pose (push-up), and garland pose (squat) are similar to calisthenic moves. The only difference is that there’s a pose and an active movement, but it’s still a bodyweight discipline on both sides.
Joseph Pilates was the inventor of Pilates. He was born in Germany in the year 1883. During Joseph’s youth, he was an ill child with medical conditions such as asthma, rickets, and Rheumatic fever. He became interested in fitness to help alleviate his health issues and improve his strength. In 1912, he was a pro boxer, circus performer, and self-defense instructor in England. The British authorities put Joseph into an internment camp because every German citizen was under suspicion during World War 1. Around this time, Joseph refined his method into what he called Contrology. Contrology means complete coordination of mind and body. In 1926, Joseph came to America and opened his fitness studio. He died in New York in 1967.
What makes Pilates similar to Yoga is stretching and breathing correctly in harmony. Performing complete stretches throughout the body makes joints smoother and the muscles elastic. The difference from Yoga is that Pilates emphasizes complete body strengthening and using equipment to make the exercises robust. Pilates and calisthenics do share the same goal, and that’s a complete body workout. Calisthenics is much more brutal because you lift your body weight off the floor under challenging angles and extended elbows. Pilates is more laidback because most exercises are done on the floor with a pilates mat or with their own equipment.
A beginner’s guide towards Calisthenics wellbeing
I listed a few remedies that can guide you in doing the right thing to promote the well-being of your mind and body. Following the guidelines for a well-balanced lifestyle with a proper diet and life choices will impact positively. The real process of losing weight is through having a healthy diet, fasting, and great sleep.
The foods we eat depend on how we look and function throughout our lives. If we eat the right macronutrients, our bodies will develop and grow. If we eat the wrong foods, we will underdevelop and not increase our physical capabilities. It’s very important to understand that we cannot rely on developing an excellent physique without understanding nutrition.
Nutrition plays a very imperative role in developing our bodies. That being said, it’s also crucial to know that if you want to increase the size of your muscles, you need to eat more. This doesn’t mean eating a lot of fast food to grow. If you do this, your dirty bulking will lead to muscle gain and fat gain. Instead, you must eat clean by avoiding fast foods and eating healthy macronutrients to grow your muscles without excess fat. To lose weight by reducing body fat, you need to eat fewer calories and fast.
Examples of my food consumption
Much of my food consumption involves healthy grains, fruits, vegetables, and protein. The most nutritious grains I like to eat are wheat, rice, oats, and maize. My favorite fruits are watermelon, bananas, pineapples, red apples, dragon fruit, kiwi, and many types of berries. Of all the vegetables I love to eat, spinach is my absolute because of all of its nutrients packed. Vitamins in spinach include vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, folate, and potassium and it’s high in fiber. Of course, other vegetables like carrots, kale, cucumber, cilantro, potatoes, and other vegetables are great for health and wellness. As far as protein goes, I love chicken, beef, fish, and a little bit of pork. These examples should help beginner’s to guide them towards having a healthy eating lifestyle and performing well in calisthenics.
Studies have shown that we can go without food for almost a month. When it involves water, we can’t make it past three days. We can’t survive long without water because the body needs to regulate many factors. Those are
- body temperature
- P.H. balance
- oxygen delivery
- eliminating waste
Without water, we cannot function normally. Besides, water is the healthiest form of liquid to drink. Other fluids are beverages like tea, coffee, or smoothies. Both have rich nutritional benefits because they contain vitamins and minerals the body requires. Other beverages are terrible for consumption, like soda, because it contains no vitamins and minerals. It has high grams of sugar and high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup is the primary cause of obesity and other horrible factors in the U.S.A. Those factors include heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease, and dyslipidemia. This is why I stay away from fast food, and carbonated drinks with these ingredients.
The pills known as supplements aren’t supposed to replace eating food. It’s to supposedly obtain a faster response to absorbing vitamins and minerals when digested without the breakdown of solid food. Some people do only consume supplements and not eat any food. I think that’s insane. I don’t take supplements because I get all my vitamins and minerals through the food and beverages I consume. If you prefer to consume them with your diet, go ahead. Just make sure you check in with a doctor before taking supplements.
To burn body fat, you need to fast. The reason why everyone should fast is that the digestive system needs to rest from food consumption. Food is converted into glucose (sugar). If you don’t exercise after several hours of eating, the body stores the sugar and converts it into fat as a second energy reserve. During fasting, the body’s insulin goes back into homeostasis, and glucose levels drop, which allows the body to use fat as energy. The best fasting method is 16/8. The 16/8 is straightforward, you eat during the eight hours, but you fast for sixteen hours after the eight hours. During the eight hours, consume healthy food and beverages to sustain a healthy body.
Today, more people sleep less because of overworking and going out at night partying. It is not ideal for a person’s well-being. The perfect amount of sleep a person should aim for is eight hours. A lack of sleep robs you of performing well in all tasks in life. An example of this is exercising because you feel lackadaisical that your brain isn’t focused. You’ll only screw up in tasks when you don’t focus well. Another imperative reason to get adequate sleep is to heal and repair muscle tissue. This is where muscles grow and develop. I try my best to get the most out of my sleep to function well enough to perform daily tasks.
I just gave you guys a summarization about a general blu print into what calisthenics is to me. Calisthenics, to me, is about mastery of your own body and mindset. Using my body to work out indoors or outdoors without paying a yearly membership is fantastic. I’ve just begun exploring my calisthenics journey. To every beginner’s journey, I hope this guide will lead you to the fantastic world of calisthenics and help you progress.
Please comment below. If you have any doubts or questions, please be specific about the questions you have that you want me to answer. I’ll answer them as soon as possible. Thanks.