Calisthenics are the exercises, or movements, done without any external load, using our own bodyweight as the only resistance. The most known are the classic push ups, pull ups, squats and crunches.
The word Calisthenics comes from the ancient Greek kallos, which means beauty, and sthénos meaning strength. It is the art of using your own body weight and qualities of inertia as a means to develop your physique.
The legend tells that in a horribly cold day the god Kallisto decided to wrestle hand to hand with his friend the god Yemo (not sure if this is his name in English) to get warmed up. The thing is Yemo hated secretly Kallisto, so they begun a fight to death. Kallisto, horrified and about to die because Yemo was very strong, asked for help to the demigod Heracles. This one did not ignore his pleas and gave him the skill to move his muscles harmoniously so he could defend himself with grace. The legend ends with Yemo sent into exile to the barbarian islands.
Talking about Greeks, how do you think that the Spartans became so strong and feared? It was clearly by the continuous and intense practice of calisthenics.
The bodyweight exercises are the most natural and healthy way to strengthen the body, and it is also the most fun, because it is not about moving something but yourself, and instead of adding weight to the bar, you remove one hand or one leg! This is why it is important to learn how our body works and the fundamentals laws of physics.
Simply put, the force you have to create to overcome a resistance is not equal to the weight of the resistance, but to the product of the weight and the lever arm. This is the law in which is based the lever, and the reason why it is easier to hold the top of a pull up than an iron cross, or to press a pair of dumbbells than to do flies with them.
How can we use this boring law to help us in our way to become strong and awesome? We will apply it to make exercises easier or harder, depending on our needs.
This is why the iron cross, which is shown below with an L-sit, is one of the hardest exercises there will always be.
Besides, bodyweight exercises will keep you honest. You won’t be able to eat your way through a plateau as you can when lifting weights. If you get fat, you will notice it, and it will serve you as an incentive to lose all that extra load you are carrying with you all day long. But don’t let being heavy be an excuse to avoid calisthenics, because the heavier you be, the more awesome you will be when doing one arm chin ups!
Once you give calisthenics a chance, you will get hooked on them, because it is much funnier and you will not have the necessity to put a foot in a gym again. You won’t need any fancy equipment, because even with just a towel, a rope, or a bar, you can get the job done, but you gotta be creative. And who doesn’t like to train outdoors, breathing fresh air, doing your chin ups while raining like a good soldier, feeling the warm sun light in your skin while you rest and contemplate the twilight. And you can do it while listening to the nature around you, or to your favourite songs, instead of the shitty music they play on commercial gyms.
Do you really want to be in a Globo gym with people annoying you, looking at you strangely because you are training hard instead of checking your phone? People train while watching TV or reading a magazine… There is no worse place to train at!
I do not know about you, but I prefer to train in my backyard, in a playground, in a park, even in a construction (you will find lots of places to hang from and things to lift and carry) or in the beach, anywhere but in a commercial gym!
I am not going to introduce you to calisthenics without sharing with you a beginner routine:
Bodyweight Routine for Beginners
1A) Australian Pull up (also known as Inverted Row, Fat Man Pull Up and Bodyweight Row)
1B) Push Up
1C) Free Squat (Air/Bodyweight Squat)
Complete the workout in a circuit manner. This means you do a set of Australian Pull Ups, rest, then a set of Push Ups, rest, then a set of squats, rest, and restart. This way you will increase your rest between sets of a same exercise without waisting your time sitting.
Complete 2 to 3 rounds, this will be more than enough for strength and muscle, specially if you are starting.
To progress, start with an easy variation of the exercise, and once you can do 20 with perfect form on your first set, progress to a harder variation next workout. The other sets will help you to add practice and volume.
Do not ever go to failure, always keep 2-3 reps in the bank.
The least you should train is 2 days a week, even if with one day a week you can still do something. You should never train more than every other day. Rest as many days as you need to attack you workout with energy and focus.
I will write new posts about the exercises progression and upload videos showing you how to do it.
And then, I will give you another routine for those who have achieved the intermediate level (or not so newbie status ;P )
Train hard, and please do not hesitate to ask me any questions you may have about anything. I will upload the videos as soon as possible!
But please, don’t ask me if this routine is to gain muscle, strength or lose fat. It does everything. If you don’t understand, read my previous post here. And be sure to check my Facebook page, where you can ask me anything!
To read this post in Spanish, click here.