What is Calisthenics? Do you value being fit and strong? Prefer training outdoors instead of the gym? Calisthenics is likely the sport for you. The global community of calisthenics practitioners is rapidly expanding. But what exactly is Calisthenics? Dive into this blog post to uncover all the details!
What is Calisthenics?
In Calisthenics, the primary goal is to achieve comprehensive physical fitness through bodyweight exercises that engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously. This dynamic form of training not only targets muscle growth but also places a strong emphasis on developing overall strength and endurance. By leveraging the resistance provided by one’s own body weight, individuals engage in a wide range of exercises, such as pull-ups, push-ups, and squats, fostering a holistic approach to physical development. The beauty of Calisthenics lies in its simplicity and versatility, offering a pathway to not just muscular prowess but also improved flexibility, balance, and functional fitness.
Calisthenics = Kalos Sthenos
What is Calisthenics?
The name itself might not immediately suggest a sport, given that the term “calisthenics” is a combination of two Greek words: Kalos and Sthenos. Roughly translated, these words together mean “beautiful strength,” alluding to both physical and mental prowess. The essence of Calisthenics extends beyond the physical, emphasizing the beauty found in the harmonious blend of strength and grace, encompassing not just the body’s capabilities but also the resilience of the mind.
Calisthenics has been practiced since the time of ancient Greece, with Spartans incorporating ‘Kalos Sthenos’ as early as 500 BC. In this regimen, young Spartan men underwent preparation for the military, where calisthenics exercises like pull-ups, squats, dips, and sit-ups formed a fundamental part of their training. The roots of Calisthenics in ancient Spartan military training highlight its enduring history as a method for cultivating strength, agility, and endurance.
Discplines within Calisthenics
Within the practice of calisthenics, there are various disciplines you can focus on. To provide you with a better understanding of Calisthenics, I’ve described four disciplines below.
Reps & Sets
In the realm of Reps&Sets within calisthenics, the spotlight shines on endurance—a facet that distinguishes itself from the typical cardio pursuits like running or cycling. Here, the challenge lies in pushing the boundaries of your body’s capacity by elevating the counts of pull-ups, dips, muscle-ups, and push-ups. The objective is not just to build strength but to enhance and push the limits of muscle endurance.
Unlike routines focused on increasing the maximum weight lifted, Reps&Sets emphasizes the ability to sustain effort over an extended period. The art lies in mastering the delicate balance between intensity and consistency. Practitioners aim to maximize the number of repetitions within a single set, pushing their bodies to endure and perform at peak levels.
Participating in competitions, an annual occurrence both globally and in the Netherlands, adds a competitive edge to the discipline. These events offer a platform for individuals to gauge their progress and showcase their endurance prowess within their specific weight class. It’s not just about physical strength; it’s a test of perseverance, mental resilience, and the ability to maintain optimal performance throughout the challenge. Reps&Sets in calisthenics, therefore, becomes a journey of continuous improvement, where practitioners strive to surpass their own limits and compete against like-minded individuals in the pursuit of elevated muscle condition.
Contrary to Reps&Sets, street lifting centers around acquiring raw strength, akin to the principles of powerlifting with weighted calisthenics. The essence of street lifting lies in maximizing your 1RM (1 rep max) for various bodyweight exercises. The key exercises in street lifting include:
To introduce additional resistance during training, tools like a dipping belt or a weighted vest come into play.
In street lifting, the primary objective is to achieve the highest possible single repetition with added weight for these fundamental exercises. This discipline aligns itself with the traditional strength sports, emphasizing the capacity to lift heavy loads efficiently.
Street lifting not only demands physical prowess but also strategic planning in weight progression. The incorporation of tools like dipping belts and weighted vests allows practitioners to incrementally challenge their strength thresholds. It’s a journey that involves meticulous attention to form, gradual progression, and the pursuit of achieving personal bests in terms of raw strength.
Participating in street lifting is not just about the external display of strength; it’s a demonstration of the body’s inherent ability to handle substantial loads and the commitment to continual improvement in lifting capabilities. As practitioners work towards maximizing their 1RM, they navigate a path of incremental challenges and triumphs, sculpting a physique that embodies the epitome of raw, unbridled strength.
Static exercises, also known as isometric positions, involve holding the body in a fixed position. Many of these exercises draw inspiration from gymnastics. Here are a few examples of statics:
In static training, the emphasis shifts from dynamic movements to maintaining precise, challenging poses that demand significant strength and stability. Each static exercise targets specific muscle groups, contributing to overall muscular development and body control.
Take the handstand, for instance—a foundational static hold. Mastering the handstand requires not only upper body strength but also a keen sense of balance. The Front Lever and Back Lever challenge the core and upper body, requiring a seamless fusion of strength and control.
The Planche demands extraordinary upper body strength and shoulder stability, as the body hovers parallel to the ground. Achieving a Human Flag, where the body is held horizontally on a vertical pole, is a testament to core strength and full-body coordination.
Incorporating static exercises into a calisthenics routine adds a dimension of isometric strength, enhancing overall physical prowess. The journey to mastering statics involves progressive training, gradually increasing the duration and difficulty of holds. As practitioners refine their form and endurance in these challenging positions, they cultivate not only muscular strength but also a heightened awareness of body alignment and control. Statics in calisthenics offer a unique avenue for individuals to showcase strength in stillness, pushing the boundaries of what the human body can achieve through precision and perseverance.
Rise of Calisthenics
Social media has made a significant contribution to the rise in popularity of calisthenics. The sport is perfectly suited for creating impressive videos, and when you’ve worked hard to master a skill, you naturally want to share it with the world.
In addition to individual athletes sharing cool skills and tips & tricks, you see communities emerging worldwide. Calisthenics crews are being formed, and the focus is shifting from individual training in the gym to group workouts in the park.
In the Netherlands, over 200 calisthenics parks have already been established, and this number continues to grow each year. To further promote the growth of Calisthenics in the Netherlands, the Dutch Calisthenics Federation (NLCB) has been established. It focuses on the development of the sport in the country.
What are the benefits of Calisthenics?
#1: Raw Power
By training with your own body weight, you build functional strength that directly translates into movements in daily life. Consistently challenging yourself with incremental increases in intensity allows your muscles, joints, and nervous system to adapt. Soon, you’ll notice that everyday movements become easier. In fact, you become not only physically stronger but also more energetic, precisely because you are getting fitter.
In addition, Calisthenics is a holistic way of training, where you make extensive use of compound exercises. This means that during the execution of the exercises, multiple muscle groups are engaged simultaneously. This approach goes beyond specifically targeting muscle growth; it focuses on enhancing, strengthening, or speeding up specific movements.
#2: Balanced Physique
#3: Amazing Skills
#4: Freedom to Exercise Anytime, Anywhere
One of the significant advantages of calisthenics is that you’re never dependent on a gym to be able to train. This not only saves you money, as it eliminates the need for an expensive gym subscription, but it also offers flexibility when you’re on vacation or living in multiple locations.
Little to no equipment is required for calisthenics, as the primary resistance comes from your own body weight. Playgrounds are ubiquitous and serve as perfect locations for a workout. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, there is a growing number of dedicated calisthenics parks.
Furthermore, exercising outdoors brings a multitude of additional benefits. It enhances your resistance by providing increased exposure to vitamin D. The fresh air you breathe while training outdoors also contributes positively to your well-being.
#5: Accessible for All Levels
Start today with calisthenics
What are you waiting for? If you were looking for a sign to transform your life and become the fittest version of yourself, this is it! Click here for a calisthenics workout plan for beginners, so you can kickstart your calisthenics journey.