Calisthenics exercises are simple body weight movements, performed without using any weights or machines. The idea behind calisthenics is to improve coordination, balance and muscular strength and endurance.
Typical exercises involve, jumping, squatting, swinging, twisting, or kicking using your body weight as the resistance. Objects, such as sand bags, rocks, branches or even a partner can be used to add additional resistance.
Advantages of Calisthenics
If you are a complete beginner and have just started to exercise, calisthenics are a great way to learn core exercises, whilst at the same time building a foundation.
The marines often perform drills made up of calisthenic exercises, such as squats, chin ups, situps, star jumps etc. Marines do this because they need to train in random locations, where equipment is not available. Often, they work in small teams, using their partners, bags or other objects as additional resistance.
So, If you travel often or don’t have access to any weights, then callisthenics are a fantastic way to stay in shape. Complete beginners will also see vast improvements in balance, coordinaton and overall fitness.
Disadvantages of Calisthenics
The major downside to callisthenics is that you cannot perform heavy repetitions. Most people can lift their own bodyweight for multiple repetitions, so if you are looking to get bigger and stronger you need additional resistance. Whilst you can use surrounding objects, there comes a time when the need to use weights is your only option.
You also can’t safely warm-up with calisthenics, due to the fact you are lifting your body weight from the offset.
Push-ups are great for working the chest, triceps and shoulders. You start by lying face down on the floor with elbows at the side, making sure your firsts are touching the ground. Don’t make the mistake of doing a pushup with your palms, it places far too much pressure on the wrists. Now, begin be pushing up until your elbows lock out, at this point go back to the start position and stop when your arms go just past 90 degrees, this is one complete repetition.
Pull ups are the toughest body weight exercise you can do, to be able to perform 10 + consecutive pull ups is tough, even for intermediate weight trainers. If you want to improve back muscles then pull ups are the answer.
Start by gripping the bar with a wide, overhand grip (slightly wider than shoulder width). From hanging position start to lift up, bringing you chin to the bar, the whole time keeping your body tight and avoiding over swing.
Squats are a great exercise for the leg muscles. However the legs muscles are the strongest collection of muscle groups you have, therefore, most people can perform many repetitions doing body weight squats. To increase the difficulty you can carry objects, such as sand bags, heavy backpacks etc, you can also try squatting as slow as possible, keeping your leg muscles under constant tension.
Start with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart with your toes pointing outwards (about 30 degrees). Begin to lower your body by sticking your butt out, like you are sitting on a chair. Go down until your hips are below parallel and then immediately come back up, always using the hips to drive upwards.