Calisthenics – a beginner’s guide to getting started at home

Healthy living consists of various essential elements, and exercise is one of them. Most people can’t find the time to work out for numerous reasons, but calisthenics is an exercise you can do at home.

What is calisthenics?

It’s a workout involving various exercises and movements using your body weight for resistance. Although many gym-goers can be discouraged by weight-lifting sections of gyms, calisthenics has a slightly more artistic flair.

The exercise originated in ancient Greece and became widespread in the early 19th century. Calisthenics is effective for aesthetic development and strength building, combining strength and conditioning training while incorporating movements from gymnastics and acrobatics.

Aside from being a favourite for people who want to stay in shape, scientists are also currently studying the use of calisthenics to help treat various health conditions, from obesity to Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) [1, 2].

Benefits of callisthenics

Here are some fantastic benefits:

  • Great for beginners – the exercises are simple. If you’re new to fitness, calisthenics exercises can help you learn the proper form safely before advancing to weighted exercises.
  • You can do it anywhere – the movements use your body weight as resistance and can be done practically anywhere: your home, the park, or your hotel room when on holiday or travelling for work.
  • It uses your whole body – stabilising your core is required through many exercises to remain balanced and maintain good technique and coordination [3]. It also helps to increase strength across your entire body.
  • It makes you stronger – the movements help sustainably build full-body strength over time. As your muscles improve, you can make the activities more demanding to increase resistance. 
  • It allows you to move better in everyday life – a 2014 article defines “functional” movement as an essential aspect of human movement [4]. Functional movements materialise throughout athletic activities, including calisthenics, and help with strength, coordination, mobility, and stability in everyday living. 

A 2015 study analysed the effects of calisthenic strength exercises in Physical Education classes in school children [5]. It found that combining bodyweight calisthenics exercises increased their strength compared with recreational sports activities alone.

  • It’s fun – once you’ve grasped the basics, it can assist you in building strength and flexibility so you can advance to challenging your body with more complex movements.

Calisthenics at home

You can immediately begin practising workout routines at home. You first need to know how to train all the major muscle groups using just bodyweight movements.

Three basic movements

There are three general types of calisthenics moves [6]. They are:

  • The Push Calisthenics Exercises – the first type is the push exercises, which mainly train your upper body’s anterior side (chest, shoulders, and triceps). The most basic exercise example is push-up. Pushing exercises also apply more advanced movements such as handstands.
  • The Pull Calisthenics Exercises – the second category trains the muscles in the posterior side of your upper body (rhomboids, lats, trapezius, posterior shoulders, and biceps). The exercises need equipment such as a pull-up bar or gymnastic rings. The most basic exercise example of this movement is the pull-up or the bodyweight row.
  • The Leg Calisthenics Exercises – the last category involves various squats, lunges, and hip extension exercises to toughen the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles. The major drawback of pure bodyweight leg exercises is that you will ultimately outgrow them. Your legs are strong, and your bodyweight won’t provide enough resistance to stimulate them continuously. With that, you can progress to do pistol squats.

Calisthenics for beginners

Here are some Calisthenics activities to try [7]:

  • Push-ups – you can start by doing push-ups on your knees or standing with hands up against a wall, and eventually progress to further variations on your feet to challenge your strength. This exercise is excellent for building upper-body and core strength.
  • Planks – planks are a straightforward yet challenging exercise for stability, balance, and core strength.
  • Squats – bodyweight squats are a simple and effective exercise you can do as a beginner. These can be done unassisted or with a resistance band around your thighs for a better challenge.
  • Lunges – bodyweight lunges can be done as a static exercise, where you alternate your legs as you step forward. You can raise the intensity and do these as jump lunges.
  • Bent-leg raises – bent-leg raises can be performed lying on the ground to enhance stability in your lower back. As your muscles improve, you can try using a bench or progress to hanging bent-leg raises while holding onto a bar.

Diet to supplement your workout 

The objective of calisthenics is to build muscle mass for power and fitness purposes, as well as for aesthetic appreciation. You need to provide yourself with the proper energy to accomplish this.

Try including different sources of protein in every meal. Preparing your food in an air fryer, oven, or pan is an option to explore. 

Protein is critical after working out, as it helps repair and builds muscle. Try tuna on toast, yoghurt with nuts and seeds, or milk.

On the other hand, try to avoid:

  • Simple carbs like rice, pasta, and white bread and swap them for wholegrain versions. They can sometimes be a little less flavourful but will provide more fuel for your workout.
  • Protein powders because many gym-goers are shifting to powdered forms of protein for an extra boost. Nevertheless, wide varieties also contain preservatives, fillers, and thickeners.
  • Highly processed food (HPF) like ready-meals, processed meats, and noodle pots; follow the general rule that the more processed food is, the fewer nutrients it holds.

Note that you must define rest periods between sets to no more than one minute to maintain your heart rate. With the variety of movements available, mixing up your calisthenics routine is possible to keep it an exciting and effective routine.

[1] https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/calisthenics
[2] https://respiratory-research.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1465-9921-15-36
[3] https://www.sweat.com/blogs/fitness/how-to-engage-your-core
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4060319/#B1
[5] https://bit.ly/3a979fH
[6] https://whitecoattrainer.com/blog/calisthenics-workout
[7] https://www.sweat.com/blogs/fitness/calisthenics

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