I have lifted weights for the best part of 10 years. In the process, I built muscle but got bored and wanted more of a challenge. I turned to “calisthenics”. The word originated from ancient Greek language, “kallos” meaning beauty and “sthenos” meaning strength.
The history of calisthenics is steeped in military training used by warriors, soldiers and military specialists. Nowadays, you are more likely to see “ calisthenics” classes being run in specialised or “boutique” type gyms or indeed on YouTube videos. You rarely come across the word and very few people are aware of its actual meaning.
So, what is calisthenics?
When you use your own body weight to put yourself into a stressful position which will help you build strength, mobility, flexibility, agility, co-ordination and eventually a skill. Ultimately, this will lead to you performing practised movements in a flow and with grace. Look at the link below, the following calisthenic exercises (I’m only listing a few) lead to me being able to do this “flow”. Press ups, planks, crows & L-sits :
Think of the gymnasts you watch on TV. They’re a great example. Yes, you might watch and think there is no way I can do that. BUT that doesn’t mean we can’t find out what our bodies current limits are and go on to excel beyond our expectations.
Now we have all heard of press ups, pull ups, squats & sit ups. Yes, they will, like anything, get a bit boring if we continue to repeat the same exercises over and over. Calisthenics is much more than this. There are hundreds of different variations that will test our bodies and brains in different and exciting ways.
When your sole focus is lifting weights, you progress by increasing the load. Yes, no doubt, this will improve your strength in whatever muscle group you are working on, but it will not challenge your body or brain in the numerous ways a calisthenics work out would. By purely lifting weights your body doesn’t need to adapt to its weaknesses. It finds a way (by cheating) to get through the exercise. This leaves you gaining strength in the area you were already strong and remaining weak in the areas you were already weak resulting in imbalances throughout the rest of your body.
Calisthenics will immediately identify your weaknesses which will show in your form. When you realise this, then you work on your weaknesses to perfect your form in order to perfect your skill.
You must have a goal or challenge set to be doing what you’re doing, otherwise you will not persist, improve and perfect. These strengths that you gain through body weight training can then be used to eventually perfect a skill. For example the ability to perform a handstand, crow or pistol squat are not merely good skills to display as your “party trick” but are transferable to any sport or lifestyles such as playing with your kids or grandchildren. If you play any sport requiring speed and acceleration your power in your legs can hugely increase from performing pistol squats. This also identifies your stronger and weaker legs, resulting in increasing speed and less risk of injury.
I’ve saved the best part until last. You do not need to be a member of a gym! There is no cost and you can do it anywhere. You can do it with anyone. Your child, your baby, your partner or by yourself. NO EXCUSES!
Below is a video to give you an example of some progressions for body weight exercises you can work on. I’ve kept it simple but there is a whole world of different ways to push our bodies to limits we didn’t think we have.
*Don’t be so dirty minded
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