Calisthenics is a type of physical training which involves the use of your own body weight against itself, in order to perform controlled movements such as push, pulls, and balancing. It’s all about manipulating the body, focusing on strength, stability, mobility and coordination.
If you’ve seen someone at the park, or at the gym pull themselves up using nothing, balancing their whole body on two arms, a handstand, or doing the human flag (ie. two arms hanging horizontally off a vertical pole), those are all examples of calisthenics.
Calisthenics takes a lot of dedication and practice to master, but like a dance routine, the more you practice the more your movements become more fluent. The physical discipline needed is not for the faint of heart, but it’s something anyone can do if they have the passion to learn.
You will target every single muscle. Unlike other exercises, calisthenics normally require full focus as your body will be under intense tension. When lifting machines, people tends to lift more than they can, which the body will end up looking for compensations. There’s a saying I love to use for my clients, “if you’re unable to lift your own body weight, there’s no reason to lift more on anymachines”.
Here are some tips on how to get started:
- Start with one progression at a time. Don’t try to attempt everything you see online or those muscle-ups you see other people doing. They’ve probably had months if not years of practice. Good things take time, and so will this. Start with more minor movements in order to avoid injury.
- It’s okay to use equipment’s to aid you! We all need to start somewhere. It’s not uncommon for beginners to use a wall to practice their handstands, resistance bands to help assist them for their pull-ups, and having friends lend a helping hand!
- Go to a park or beachside with pull up bars (there are quite a few in the Vancouver area as well as greater Vancouver). Being outdoors will actually help you be more in tune with nature and therefore with yourself. This may sound weird, but working out indoors and outdoors are completely different, especially since calisthenics isn’t a sport like deadlifting which usually occurs indoors.
- Practice with a friend! When I first started out, I was one of the few trainers that was exposed to calisthenics was and would practice it continuously. Soon I drew in the attention of my coworkers, clients, and other gym members! Now there’s many individuals that are into calisthenics!
Ultimately, calisthenics will require a LOT of core strength and muscle control. Don’t give up, it’s also a good way to break the ice and it adds a few bonus points to your party dance moves.
Calisthenics fun fact: calisthenics is a Greek word, with “kallos” meaning beauty, and “sthenos” meaning strength. So not only does this exercise help tone and build muscle, it’s a form of human art. Best of both worlds.