The word ‘Calisthenics’ comes from 2 Greek words: Kallosmeaning beauty and Tsthenosmeaning strength. Calisthenics is a combination of bodyweight, gymnastic and skills training variations. As well as Calisthenics being one of the most elite ways to train your entire body, it has a lot of artistic skill and poise involved, producing some amazing feats from incredible athletes.
Because the whole body is involved, Calisthenics is supremely effective at promoting maximal muscle engagement and strengthening end ranges of joints, muscles and the nervous system, helping you to gain strength and build endurance and focus simultaneously. Sounds advanced and complicated right? Actually not so much, you don’t need to be an advanced athlete to get started.
Training for Calisthenics involves very little equipment and because your body is it’s own resistance, you don’t need any large gym or gym equipment to get started. It’s so wonderfully accessible. The fundamental pieces of kit you need are:
And because of the nature of calisthenics, you can always find a way to progress, meaning a fitness or weight loss plateau is normally very rare as there are always new techniques or skills to master.
The thing with seeing these incredible athletes performing amazing feats, is that it can be incredibly inspiring; to make you see what the body is capable of, but this can also be a double edged sword in showing you how far away from that you feel you are. But just remember, all these athletes started somewhere, probably a very similar place to you. And that just shows what the power of Calisthenics can do. As you progress through Calisthenics, you’ll find strength you didn’t even know you had!
To start with, develop goals for your skill level. Start at base camp and work up to the summit. Be realistic and fair to yourself. Due to the extremes the body can be put through training with Calisthenics, make sure you warm up and cool down properly. Get to know your own body, and what it’s strengths and weaknesses are. When I’m teaching Calisthenics to my clients, I like to break down any movement into component pieces, gaining mastery in each, with correct form, and then combine everything together. FBE = Form Before Everything!
You can use resistance bands to learn what a particular movement feels like, or use negative reps, only performing the eccentric part of a movement, as our bodies can take more weight and stress that way.
Everyone likes to learn things differently but I always make sure my clients know the fundamental base moves and perfect them first. These can include but are not limited to:
Compression and L-sit strength
Skin The Cat
Pull ups (when able)
Squats (moving to single leg when able)
Then you can start moving onto skills like:
Levers – Front & Back
Ring Muscle Ups
Always video your form and yourself performing a movement, if you can, or train with a coach or friend. Your body isn’t particularly self-aware when it comes to moving around in different planes of motion, so having a visual guide to help you fine tune or correct anything is incredibly helpful. You will also find you fatigue more quickly using calisthenics generally, as you’re incorporating multiple muscles and muscle groups as well as your joints and nervous system in end ranges, so just make sure you keep sessions to a shorter time that suits you, so you can build up your endurance and help prevent injuries.
There are some incredible people who you can learn from in Calisthenics and the Gravity Fitness Instagram Channel will help you get inspired. If YouTube is more your thing, there are a few channels you can check out to help you get started. Plus Calisthenics is huge on IG right now so I’ve listed some other channels you can check out!
When I took up Calisthenics, I realised the potential exercise could bring and it changed how I trained as well as how I taught clients. The satisfaction it brings is unparalleled and there are some really lovely people out there doing it, who are always willing to help!
So if you’re thinking about diving in, go for it! We are all here to help guide and advise you. We are all looking forward to seeing you progess! Tag @gravity.fitness to share your journey with us.
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