What is Calisthenics?

Do you want to build strength, gain more muscle mass and increase your fitness? Then it’s a logical step to go to the gym or create a home gym. Of course, you can also choose to go out and play sports. But what if there are also ways for which you don’t need any fitness equipment or other stuff at all? There is one, and we call it Calisthenics. With this training method, you will use your own body weight, using supporting objects from the street scene (e.g. a climbing frame). In this blog, I will answer the question ‘What is Calisthenics’ and discuss the benefits and possible exercises!

It is a trendy way of training nowadays, and there are many people involved in it. But where exactly does it come from, how does it work, and what exercises can you do with it? We’re going to show you in this article along with the pros and cons that Calisthenics has.


How did Calisthenics come about?

Calisthenics is on an upward trend, and you can also see the training method appearing more and more often in Western countries. It’s a simple yet snappy workout that you can do without expensive fitness equipment. But where did it originally come from?

To put everything in the right order of time, we begin in Greek and Roman times, from which we can trace it back. However, the modern Calisthenics variant comes more from America’s ghettos, where people don’t have access to expensive fitness equipment or other stuff. Therefore, they use playgrounds where climbing frames or other objects are often used to train, based on their own body weight.

You can also see it in Africa, where you train with elementary materials and your own body weight. Furthermore, it is also trendy in several Eastern Bloc countries, where they sometimes work with it in competition. So you can say that Calisthenics is becoming increasingly popular worldwide.


The characteristics of a Calisthenics training

The most characteristic thing about Calisthenics is that you perform workouts without using fitness equipment or lose weights. Your own body weight is used during the exercises you do, sometimes using objects present. A few good examples of this are chin-ups, pullups, pushups, squats and lunges. Later in this article, you will find more exercises and explanations about this.

But it’s more than that because Calisthenics has a rather playful character. You see this mainly in the somewhat advanced athletes who have already mastered calisthenics well. The swing and twist, along with smooth transitions between exercises give it a gymnastic character. In a way, it’s kind of like gymnastics.


Calisthenics training goals

If you are going to do calisthenics, you will take bodyweight training, which can be quite heavy. Often training outdoors is the most obvious, but of course, it can also be performed in other locations. It is a combination of strength, cardio, agility, coordination and balance. Quite versatile, then.

Often the drug is trained “core” and upper body, by many people who do calisthenics. However, it is important to train your whole body. So be sure to add squats, lunges, calf exercises and more leg exercises. You can also do explosive jumping (also called plyometric labour).


Different versions of calisthenics training

Calisthenics is een lichaamsgewicht training, waarmee je op verschillende manieren kan trainen. Zo kan je isolatie oefeningen doen maar ook variëren in uitvoeringen, herhalingen en sets. Het is logischerwijs zo dat naarmate je trainingen vorderen de nadruk gaat liggen op herhalingen, gezien jij met jouw eigen lichaamsgewicht traint.

De focus kan echter ook juist meer gaan liggen op de techniek, die oefeningen zwaarder maakt. Denk hierbij aan heel geconcentreerde uitvoering, 3 tellen op en af, maar je kan natuurlijk ook altijd gewicht verzwaren met bv. iemand die tijdens pushups op je rug duwt, een belt met gewichten omdoen tijdens je pullups, of door bv. gebruik te maken van elastiek waarmee verschillende oefeningen mogelijk zijn. De mogelijkheden zijn best groot.

Het is een hele andere manier van sporten, die voor beginners best een uitdaging kan zijn. Zo kan een bodybuilder die 120 kg schoon aan de haak is, het best pittig krijgen met calisthenics. Dat heeft te maken met dat niet iedereen hetzelfde is, waarbij verhouding tussen kracht en spiermassa verschilt …waarbij in sommige gevallen de extra spiermassa niet direct te linken valt aan meer kracht. Dit heet ook wel myofibrillaire musculaire hypertrofie. Waarbij sarcoplasmatische hypertrofie juist wel direct in verband staat met meer kracht.


Calisthenics exercises for beginners and advanced

If you want to start with this training method, there are several exercises you can do for this. For convenience, we divide them into exercises for beginners and advanced riders. You can find them below.

Calisthenics exercises for beginners:

  • Pushups
  • Pullups
  • Dips
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Calf raises
  • Stiff leg deadlift

Calisthenics exercises for advanced:

  • Dragon flag
  • Planche
  • Human flag
  • Pistol squat
  • Handstand
  • Muscle-up
  • Back liver
  • Front liver

Are you new to calisthenics? We recommend that you first master beginners’ exercises before you start with the more complex exercises for advanced.


Calisthenics benefits

Now that we’ve discussed Calisthenics and what exercises there are, we’re also going to show you some benefits. Indeed, there are certainly some advantages to this training method. We will also show you the disadvantages of giving a complete picture of this playful way of training.

It’s cheap

The first big advantage is clear, and it is that calisthenics is affordable for everyone. The reason for this is simply because, in principle, you don’t need anything for it. For any other strength training, at least a set of dumbbells, bars with weights and possibly some benches are required. If you go to the gym, you will have access to much more equipment, which you will pay through a monthly subscription. You don’t have this with calisthenics, only good sportswear that is suitable for sweating. (Tip: here, you can read how best to wash your sportswear).

Do you need some extra equipment during your calisthenics training? Many athletes who use this training method use climbing frames, running tracks or playgrounds for these exercises.

More than just getting stronger

Calisthenics is a versatile training method that combines strength, fitness and coordination. This gives you more control over certain movements and the execution of exercises, but you can also use force functionally. Furthermore, keeping the balance during your training sessions will also be promoted.

In addition to strength, you will also build up a lot more fitness. You will get fitter quickly. Furthermore, you also become more flexible and agile, with a playful way of training … which is calisthenics. So you can see that it combines many different training methods into an action-oriented workout, which can be performed quite intensively.

Outdoor training with bodyweight training

And then calisthenics has another big advantage, namely outdoor training. You need pretty little for it because you’re actually doing a bodyweight workout. For this, you can; of course, use attributes that you can find in different places. For example, most people live reasonably close to playgrounds, grooming courts, parks or other places where you can find useful objects for your calisthenics training.

It also allows you to go for a run before or after your workout, where you also take your cardio right away. Outdoor sports are of course wonderful, but you can, of course, also find an indoor spot to do your calisthenics in case of a temporary shower of rain… You have all the freedom in this.


Disadvantages of calisthenics

This training method has quite a few advantages, but we also show you the negatives of it. This way you can decide for yourself if it is really something for you. Or that a different training method is better chosen.

Not the most effective way of power sport

When you want to build up muscle mass, a point of criticism is that calisthenics is not the ideal training method for this. You train with your own bodyweight so that at some point you will hit a limit in maximum muscle load.

Of course, you can train in many ways to stimulate the growth incentives and come a long way with this. But you don’t realize the same thing, compared to strength training in a gym or by purchasing the necessary stuff yourself. These give you a bigger boost and allow you to build up more muscle mass faster.

Do you want to get a lot fit in general? Then calisthenics is very well suited to you. If you go for greater muscle mass, you’d better really dive into the gym.


You depend on the circumstances.

Although many people do have something nearby where they can work with calisthenics, not everyone has such a location in hand. It therefore sometimes makes calisthenics dependent on the living environment, or at least not for everyone very easy. Of course, you can choose to go for a drive when this is a bit further away. But the charm lies in the fact that you can go out and find something nearby where you can do your workouts.

Furthermore, it is a beautiful training method with wonderful weather, but the rain shower a little less fun. Although you can temporarily look for a covered spot to do your training there, it is originally a training you perform in the open air.


So what is Calisthenics?

Calisthenics is a way of training where you combine different training methods. It lets you train without too much stuff in the open air using your own body weight. This way, the costs are minimal, and you can get fitter quickly.

So it has advantages but also limitations. If you want to do very focused fitness workouts, for example, it is less suitable. For this, you can look up the gym, buy weights and other stuff or take targeted classes.

In summary, you will have to weigh up for yourself, whether this is for you. It is suitable for many people who want to get fitter in the general sense of the word. Anyone who wants to get a little more fanatical can choose a different training method.


Start with Calisthenics?

For the beginners, it is recommended to start doing the basic exercises. Try to train 2 to 3 times a week and then do 10 to 15 repetitions per exercise. When you’re done with an exercise, move on to the next one (do a circuit). And repeat this round 1 to 3 times. It doesn’t matter when you can do less initially, and only later more, this is hot building up and is very good for your sporting developments.

Of course, you can also do it in a group, or together with people who already have more experience with it. This way, you can also immediately move on to the advanced level to take the more professional exercises together and slowly increase the intensity further.

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