When you mention the word calisthenics, you may come to realize that not so many people know what it is exactly. The surprising thing is that almost everyone you know has done calisthenics at some time in their life. Now let’s get into just what is calisthenics? Let’s also take a look at what are the benefits of calisthenics.
Calisthenics are exercises in the form of strength training that uses the weight of your own body. Calisthenic exercises are free body exercises performed with varying degrees of intensity (3). They are repetitive in nature and use the resistance of a person’s body to build strength, increase flexibility, increase agility, increase balance and coordination, increase aerobic conditioning as well as burn fat (14). Calisthenics can be used as the warm up or cool down exercises for another workout plan or they can be used as a workout plan all on their own. These exercises typically involve the movements that use large muscle groups.
Are Calisthenics ‘Street Workouts’?
Most people refer to them as ‘street workouts’. This is due to the fact that they can be done anywhere, at any time, by anybody. When you are into calisthenics, the world is your gym. Calisthenics utilizes gravity together with your bodyweight as leverages to improve your fitness level (10). Calisthenics are certainly not a new thing as we know that the Greeks were using them back in the day. In fact, the word calisthenics comes from two greek words, Kallos and Sthenos. Kallos means beauty and sthenos means strength. Examples of calisthenics are: pushups, crunches, jump rope, chin-ups, pullups, lunges, squats, bear crawls, mountain climbers and sit-ups (8).
People are using calisthenics for different purposes. From the fact that they are part of strength training exercises, people mostly use them to build strength and gain muscle. Apart from that, calisthenics have a wide range of advantages that make them a good exercise for people with variable needs and wants. Calisthenics are mostly compared to weight lifting as there is a never ending debate on which of the two is better. The debate exists due to the fact that both belong to strength training, hence people from both camps will always argue which of the two is better when it comes to building strength.
Read More: What Does Calisthenics Do To Your Body: A Blow-By-Blow Explanation
Benefits Of Calisthenics
The benefits of doing calisthenics everyday are many. This is definitely something you want to hear if you are pro-calisthenics. Calisthenics have health benefits, physical benefits as well as economical benefits. Just like every other workout plan, they also have their share of disadvantages which we shall look at later on in the article. Here are the advantages of doing calisthenics.
They Do Not Need Equipment
This makes it quite easy to join this workout plan. When you are into calisthenics, the only thing you need is your body. Your body acts as your equipment. Apart from your body, the other thing you need is space and then you are good to go. The fact that you don’t need any equipment means you can do them somewhere in a field, at work, in school and so on (6). It also makes it possible for you to stick to your workout plan even while you’re travelling as excuses like you don’t have your dumbbells cannot be used in this case.
Calisthenics Help Build Strength
Most people think that the only way to build strength is through weight lifting. This is not the case as calisthenics are also quite effective when it comes to building muscle and strength. You can build a lot of strength by using your own body. For example, if you are 200 lbs and you perform a bodyweight pull-up, you are basically lifting 200 lbs. The thing with muscle growth is that you get to a point where you are used to a certain weight and you need to lift heavier weight. This is due to the fact that muscle mass is only built with progressive resistance (15).
When it comes to weight lifting, it is quite simple to deal with this as all you have to do is get heavier weights. When it comes to calisthenics, you should know that the key to solving this is to be a little bit innovative. As an example, you can use elevated surfaces to change the angle of exercises, this in turn increases the percentage of body weight you are lifting.
Another option is that you can use vertical surfaces to challenge your body in new ways, and recruit your core like you wouldn’t have done if it was any other type of exercise. One other possibility is that you can always adjust the rate by going faster, going slower, having longer sessions, trying the exercise in an upside down position, as well as reducing your rest time and increasing your range of motion so as to keep moving the limits with physical and mental adaptations.
Building muscles using calisthenics has also an added advantage because you are able to build muscles across your whole body simultaneously. This is because unlike weight lifting, you are not training muscle groups in isolation. In calisthenics, you are training multiple muscles across your whole body. You achieve this by focusing on movement patterns such as push and pull movements.
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Calisthenics Make You Move Better
This is particularly possible since calisthenics involve a lot of body movement. They are the ultimate kind of functional movement training. Functional training means training in a particular way that will have a direct impact by enhancing the way you perform your normal daily activities or particular physical requirements of your work or sports (15).
They Help You Maintain Better Form
Calisthenics helps you to always stay in form. This is because you will rarely skip these weight free exercises. This is due to the fact that they can be done at any time, at any place. This advantage helps to keep your body in top form always. Being in better form means you are able to do all your exercises to completion and better. We can say this always means that you will be able to do all your daily activities with ease (15).
Calisthenics Help Target All Muscles
While doing calisthenics, you are able to work multiple muscle groups at once. An exercise like pull-ups for example, works out your arms, lower back, and abs. The movement patterns of bodyweight exercises are natural and require the use of multiple parts of the body at once hence there is no isolation training in calisthenics. This cannot be said for weight lifting exercises. Every workout in weight lifting exercises targets certain muscles.
Although this might be important in ensuring you work each muscle specifically and concentrate on each muscle. When you miss days you are supposed to work on certain muscles it usually leads to those muscles being underdeveloped. This is certainly something you don’t want to have happen, as an example of that it would be like having a buff upper body and a tiny lower body (15).
Calisthenics Help Reduce Risk Of Injury
This is mostly due to the fact that these exercises have no equipment involved. It is easy to perform certain weight lifting exercises incorrectly, especially when you are new to such exercises, or when you are not being directed by an expert. Performing weight lifting exercises improperly can happen by either lifting weights that are too heavy, or even lifting weights too much without giving your body time to rest.
When you incorrectly perform certain exercises, there is a high chance of putting undue stress on your soft tissue structures such as your tendons, ligaments, and fascia (12). Calisthenics does not easily cause injuries, this is because you are first of all lifting the weights that you can actually handle which is your body weight. Secondly, it is because these exercises involve natural movements that it is hard to cause strain on your ligaments, tendons, or even joints.
Read More: Calisthenics vs Weights: Which Road Should You Go Down?
Calisthenics Help Improve Your Brain-Body Connection
This type of strength training helps improve body awareness. This is because calisthenics develop those motor skills that require your brain to work as hard as your body. Making progress in calisthenics requires that you not only get stronger, but also that you develop balance, stability, flexibility, and control (13).
These are qualities that are usually overlooked in other strength training workouts. By developing these qualities, you are able to experience a heightened sense of body awareness. This means you’ll feel lighter, more agile, and more coordinated not only in the gym, but in your daily life. You’ll also find that this sense of body awareness carries over to other areas of life besides training, such as eating and relaxation, making life much richer and more satisfying.
Calisthenics Are Cheap
The fact that there is no equipment required, they can be done at any place and are quite easy to perform makes them ideal as an economical workout plan. If you say you are going to do your weight lifting exercises at home, you will need to buy equipment like dumbbells and the likes. If you do your weight lifting workout at the gym, you will need to pay the subscription fee. You might even be required to hire a personal trainer which will cost you even more money. You do not experience any of these expenses when it comes to calisthenics.
Calisthenics Bring Variety Into Your Workout Plan
Doing the same thing over and over again can be monotonous. For a workout plan to be sustainable, it has to be enjoyable. Calisthenics are diverse. They involve any type of exercise that utilizes your own body as resistance (1). There are so many exercises that fit into this description of exercises. They include push-ups, pull-ups, dips, squats, planks, sit-ups and the like. This gives you a wide variety of exercises to choose from, hence you rarely get bored with your workout plan.
Calisthenics Help Build Endurance
Calisthenics help to increase endurance (4). These are repetitive in nature. Circuit training in calisthenics requires you to do as many repetitions of an exercise as possible. These exercises might be done without rest until the point that you are fatigued. When you perform these exercises every day after allowing your muscles to rest and heal overnight your endurance will be increased. This enables you to perform more repetitions and longer repetitions before you get tired. The fact that calisthenics target muscles all over the body, these repetitions help increase endurance throughout all the parts of your body.
Calisthenics Help In Weight Loss
Calisthenics help burn excess fat in two various ways. The first thing to note is that it happens through the increasing of your resting metabolic rate. Your resting metabolic rate is the amount of calories your body burns while you are at rest or while you are not doing anything. Your resting metabolic rate depends on the muscle mass you have. The more muscle you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate. This is because muscle tissues burn more calories when they are at rest than other types of tissue including fat tissues (5).
After doing strength training exercises which calisthenics are part off, your body continues burning calories for hours, sometimes up to 24 hours. Cardio workouts typically burn more calories per session than strength training workouts. However, your body doesn’t continue to burn calories after the session. With strength training, you burn fewer calories per session but the calorie burn continues after the workout. This in turn helps you burn calories and lose weight.
How Many Calories Do Calisthenics Burn?
The number of calories your body is likely to burn from doing calisthenics depends on certain factors. These factors include weight and age among other factors. On average, doing calisthenics for about 30 minutes burns (2):
- 135 calories if you are 125 pounds
- 167 calories if you are 155 pounds
- 200 calories if you are 200 pounds
If you do vigorous calisthenics for half an hour, your calorie burn will be more like this:
- 240 calories if you are 125 pounds
- 298 calories if you are 155 pounds
- 355 calories if you are 200 pounds
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What Does Research Say About Calisthenics?
In 2017, a study on the effects of a calisthenics training intervention on posture, strength and body composition was conducted by scientists from the sport and exercise science research unit at the University of Palermo in Italy (11).
Twenty eight men were divided into two groups. One of the group practised calisthenics for a period of eight weeks while the other group was to continue with their normal workout routine for the same period of time. After the eight weeks had elapsed, all of the participants from the two groups underwent a body composition analysis, a posture assessment, a handgrip test and a press-up and pull up test (11).
The group of men who trained in calisthenics only had improved their posture. They also had lower fat mass compared to when they began the study. When it came to press-ups and pull-ups, they were able to do a larger number of the two compared to the start of the study. This was not the same for the group that had continued with their normal training routines. They did not improve in the number of what they could do before the weight weeks had begun. This indicates that calisthenics are effective in improving your posture as well as improving your body composition (11).
The Bottom Line
The benefits of calisthenics are many to say the least. Calisthenics are a perfect workout for beginners as well as experts. They offer a wide variety of exercises for everyone. They are not limited to people of a certain age, or weight (9). Calisthenics are easy to follow and deliver efficient results. But before you start doing calisthenics it is advisable to consult an expert as they will direct you towards the best exercises for you to follow to acquire the results you want.
What Are The Benefits Of Calisthenics?
There are a number of benefits associated with doing calisthenics. These advantages are:
- Calisthenics work multiple muscles at once.
- Doing calisthenics helps increase a person’s endurance.
- Calisthenics help promote weight loss.
- Doing calisthenics increases a person’s flexibility.
- Calisthenics are economical.
- Doing calisthenics is simple.
- Calisthenics help a person to maintain better form.
- Doing calisthenics helps you move better.
- Calisthenics help build muscles.
- Doing calisthenics brings a sense of diversity in your workout sessions.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Doing Calisthenics?
The major disadvantage is that you may not know when you are doing something wrong. This is due to the freestyle nature of calisthenics. The fact that they can be done at any time and in any place means the chances of involving an expert while doing them are very low. This then means that if you are doing something in a wrong way you won’t possibly be able to know. This may lead to harming your body.
Another disadvantage is that calisthenics cannot build big muscles. If you are a professional bodybuilder, calisthenics are not the way to go. There are only so many ways you can manipulate calisthenics to increase the resistance of your body weight. Once you are done with these ways what is next? For professional bodybuilders and all those other people who want to gain large muscles, lifting weights would be the best way to do so (6).
What Are The Similarities Between Calisthenics And Weight Lifting?
Although most of the times these two types of strength training exercises are mentioned, it is to prove which of the two is better than the other, the two actually share a couple of similarities. These are (7):
They both increase resting metabolic rate. This is from the fact that both increase a person’s muscle. A person’s resting metabolic rate depends on the muscle mass they have. The more muscle they have, the higher their resting metabolic rate. This phenomenon is due to muscle tissues burning more calories than other types of tissues when they are at rest. This equates to both helping you burn fat faster than normal. One more shared benefit is that they both strengthen your ligaments through regular practice.