If you have been wanting to get into shape, but you don’t necessarily want to deep dive into the fitness culture, then you are in luck my friend. Calisthenics doesn’t require you to ever leave your house. You can workout at home and pretty much anywhere really. Why? Calisthenics uses your own bodyweight, as the resistance or weight you might call it. The exercises are extremely catered for beginners but they can easily be progressed to an advanced stage. Calisthenics are often the beginning workout regimen that many people in sports will do, because it offers a good estimation to coaches on an athlete’s pound for pound strength. So how could it help you? Stick around if you care to find out.
What is calisthenics?
Calisthenics is a form of strength training. It is not bodybuilding and it isn’t cardio or aerobics. There are elements of those things in it, but it's mainly for bodyweight strength training. There are varying degrees of exercises as calisthenics is easily moderated to give you the ability to lessen or increase the resistance of your own bodyweight. It increases flexibility and a large part of it will be isometric holds. This is whereby you stay in a locked position with your arms and or legs straight, holding for as long as you can. This creates more body tension and you essentially end up training every part of your body. Calisthenics is also very affordable. You can do most of the exercises with no equipment at all, but if you want to progress quicker, you should buy a few things. Overall, calisthenics is a workout style that focuses on strength, core stability and progressive overload.
Common mistakes people make about Calisthenics
Craig Salmon Premier Global NASM says "People often think, you need to do weight training to gain muscle. But weights such as barbells, dumbbells and plates, just provide resistance for your body. That’s all it is, your body needs to work against resistance to tear muscle fibers which will then grow back stronger and bigger."
People often think, you need to do weight training to gain muscle. But weights such as barbells, dumbbells and plates, just provide resistance for your body. That’s all it is, your body needs to work against resistance to tear muscle fibers which will then grow back stronger and bigger.
So, contrary to what you may have heard, yes you can build muscle with calisthenics. But wait, it's not bodybuilding like we have said. You will not get super massive, but you will get stronger. If you look at powerlifters, they aren’t super big and muscular. Instead they have been training for strength, so their tendons and central nerve system has been improved so that they can fire every single muscle fiber in their body, demand higher performance without getting fatigued as quickly and perform superhuman feats of strength. This is what calisthenics is about. It's about being able to utilize as much muscle and strength as possible so you can do things like a planche hold, handstand pushups, front lever, and pistol squats.
How To Start Your Calisthenics Regimen
Easy peasy, you can get started today if you like. Remember, we are just going to be using your bodyweight, so essentially, you already know certain exercises. Here is a simple beginner workout routine for your upper body.
- 6-8 reps x3 sets - eccentric pushups
- 6-8 reps x3 sets - diamond pushups
- 6-8 reps x 2 sets - piked pushups
- 10-15 reps x 2 sets - levitation crunches
- 10-15 reps x 2 sets - Russian twists.
Simple, easy, you don’t need any equipment at all. All of these exercises can be done with just you in some workout clothes, a mat and a bottle of water. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on gym memberships, when the first thing you should be doing is being able to complete a calisthenic workout.
You can find all kinds of beginner calisthenic workouts online. There is no shortage of information as calisthenics has exploded during the past few years. It's the perfect way to get into working out, because you don’t have to go to a gym and feel embarrassed about the way your body looks or your lack of strength. Just be sure to time your rests, keep them between 1-2 minutes to start off and then slowly work on your progressive overload.
What Is Progressive Overload?
It's simply, introducing your body to newer and newer levels of resistance almost every time you workout. It's recommended that you don’t focus on this while you are starting out but after a couple months in, this is definitely something you want to know how to use.
So think of it this way. Progressive overload is a way to gradually increase the stress put on your muscles, in a systematic way. Let’s get into the detail.
Week 1, you do 8 reps for pushups. Week 2, you find that you can do 8 pushups and still have something left in the tank, for each set. Week 3, now you increase the rep range for pushups to 9 or 10. Once that gets easier, you either increase it to 11 or 12, or you add more weight. You can also, decrease the amount of rest time between each set. You could also do a more complex overload plan, such as drop sets and supersets. A drop set would be 10 pushups, and then 4-6 eccentric pushups at the end of that set. A superset would be something like 10 pushups, then followed by 6-8 reps of diamond pushups. A superset is whereby you follow an exercise with a different exercise, instead of a lighter load of the same exercise for reps.
Do You Still Need To Eat For Growth?
Yes, of course. You can carry on as you are with your diet, but it won’t help you progress as fast. Many people find, they don’t need to change their diet much, to still see gains from calisthenics, but we want you to be pound for pound strong, remember? So you will need to increase your protein intake, watch your calories and get some healthy fats to help your joints take the punishing loads of your own bodyweight.
Calisthenics isn’t bodybuilding, so you don’t need large quantities of protein. Bodybuilders usually eat between 1g - 1.5g of protein per pound of bodyweight. You don’t need to do that. You can stick to 0.7g or 0.8g of protein per pound of bodyweight. You can also not be so stringent on the type of protein you intake. You could be wondering, can you build muscle with vegan protein powder? Yes absolutely, you just need a high-quality refined plant-based protein that has been proven to increase muscle growth and aid repair.
What Equipment Would Help?
You don’t need to buy a single dumbbell to do calisthenics. In fact many municipal parks have all the equipment that you might need for your workout. Realistically though, most calisthenics exercises can be done without any equipment whatsoever. However, some equipment can be very useful to make the exercises a bit more productive. Here is a list of things you could consider buying on your new calisthenics journey.
Parallel bars / Dip station:
These are great. They are simply two bars hooked up to a stand each. They allow for tricep dips to be performed. There’s no added weight, you just simply use your own bodyweight. But, you can hook chains and more weights to your waist as you become advanced. Dip station bars are also good for pullup and chinup progression for when you get a pullup bar. They can also be used for pushups, static or isometric holds and other great workouts.
This is something you will want to buy, if you want a seriously strong back. Pullups require a lot of lateral muscle strength; a lot more than bicep strength. These can fit over the door frame, stored relatively easily, and they give you up to 3 to 4 different exercises. They are, chinups, pullups, lat pullups and leg raises.
These are something that beginners should get because unlike dumbbells and barbells, they provide you with constant tension. In other words, they build strength, not just muscle. Dumbbells have a resistance curve that peaks in the middle. The resistance bands provide greater tension throughout the motion but they peak at the top. Which is where you need to contract muscles to get a good squeeze, isometric hold and tear more muscle fibers.
Although this is technically a weight, it's not a dumbbell. It can be used for lots of static holds which many dumbbells cannot. The kettlebell can be slung over your shoulders for standing squats or Bulgarian split squats. You can also use kettlebells for explosive motions without the danger of it falling out of your hand thanks to the circular handle. You can also use kettlebells to improve joint health, by doing a workout full of swinging exercises. Swinging the kettlebell in front of your in a vertical motion to help shoulders and increase core and hip strength.
Calisthenics is possible for anyone. You don’t need to spend a single cent on equipment but we hope you’ll go through the trouble of buying some decent workout clothes anyway. You will build strength using progressive overload which you can actually manage. You’ll learn to hold yourself still off the ground, and eventually work your way up to being pound for pound strong.