man doing handstands

All About Calisthenics: Getting Started

Callisthenics is all about mastering your own body weight, derived from the Greek word ‘Kalos’ meaning beauty and ‘Stenos’ meaning strength. The discipline places a strong emphasis on functional strength and revolves around using your body weight as resistance. It encompasses a wide range of movements, from simple push-ups and squats to more advanced moves like muscle-ups and handstands. 

The best part? You can do it pretty much anywhere. Simple movements can be performed without equipment, although parallettes - two bars on a stand sitting parallel to one another, and pull up bars are often used. 

What Callistenics Does For The Body 

  • Builds Strength and Muscle - Calisthenics engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously, which is great for functional strength. The movements are also brilliant for building core strength, as many of the movements require core engagement. 

  • Improves Mobility and Flexibility - Many callisthenics exercises involve dynamic movements, which can benefit our range of motion and joint flexibility.
  • Enhances Cardiovascular Fitness - When performed at high intensity, callisthenics can really elevate the heart rate, helping to improve cardiovascular fitness.

A 2017 study analysing the effects of callisthenics on posture, strength and body composition divided 28 men into two groups. Across the course of eight weeks, one group practised callisthenics, whilst the other group continued their normal workout routines.

At the end of the eight weeks, researchers performed a body composition analysis, postural assessment, handgrip, push-up and pull-up test on the participants. The results showed that those who trained callisthenics had not only lowered their fat mass and improved their posture, but could perform a greater amount of push and pull-ups than they could prior. Conversely, the group who continued with their usual training showed little noticeable improvement. 

The Benefits of Callistenics

Aside from the obvious strength benefits, callisthenics can help to develop a better awareness of the body, resulting in heightened coordination and balance. Callisthenics builds strength that can be directly applied to our daily activities, helping to not only improve our performance when training at the gym but in our day-to-day lives. 

As little to no equipment is required to perform callisthenics, it can be practised almost anywhere, and the wide range of exercises allows for variety, adding a little something different to your usual workout routine. 

A common misconception is that you can’t increase resistance without adding weights to your workout. However, to progress your training you can incorporate a resistance band, increase the number of reps, the speed or try plyometric versions of exercises, such as jumping squats, to increase your heart rate. 

Getting Started 

If you’re new to callisthenics, it’s best to start with the basics. Mastering the fundamental exercises, like push-ups, squats and plank, will help you to develop a strong foundation before moving on to more advanced moves. In order to improve, you need to make sure to challenge yourself progressively.

This can be done by using a technique called progressive overload, increasing the difficulty of the exercise, advancing from assisted pull-ups to non-assisted, or by increasing the repetitions. As with any form of exercise, consistency is key, so don’t get disheartened if progression takes time. Taking a class is a great way to get started, equipping you with the knowledge and movements to practice on your own before your next session. 

Motivated to get moving? Smash your next callisthenics workout in our Men’s Workout Shorts.