On the outside looking in, before getting into calisthenics. The road ahead can look long and dreary. Especially for a beginner who hasn’t developed all the right skill sets yet to even start their calisthenics journey.
A good way to start calisthenics workouts is by mastering the basics of bodyweight exercises. Beginning with push ups, sit ups, pull ups and dips. Will give you a stronger foundation to the progression of more advanced exercises.
The good news is that starting the journey is the hardest part. And beginner workouts would be as simple as they get. The basic push up will set the stage of the many intermediate type of workouts that involve the pushing motion. Pull ups for the pulling motion and so on.
Although a full transformation could take months or even a year of full dedication and consistency. It’s also typical to see results in a couple of months as well. However, many factors do play a role also, such as diet, age and how consistent and effective you are working out.
What Is Calisthenics?
So with all that said, what exactly is calisthenics? It almost sounds like a trademarked exercise such as crossfit. A formal meaning from dictionary.com is that it’s a gymnastic exercise…usually performed with little or no special apparatus.
(used with a plural verb) gymnastic exercises designed to develop physical health and vigor, usually performed with little or no special apparatus.Dictionary.com Calisthenics
Calisthenics are types of workouts that only use your own bodyweight as the primary form of resistance. If you’re not using weight such as barbells and bench presses, then you are doing a calisthenic workout.
Gymnasts are a good example of this, as their art requires them to fully perform their exercise while only using their own physical capabilities. In order for them to perform as well as they do, a lot of their workouts consist of them managing their balance and building their strength, all off of their own body weight.
So why would you want to do calisthenics instead of lifting weights? Well, for starters, bodyweight exercises helps increase your overall mobility and everyday movements. More so then a weighted exercise and in my opinion, it is a more well rounded type of workout.
A big part of calisthenics is body control and stabilization. For example, even with exercises that focus on arms or chest or legs. Because calisthenics is body weight, you will be working out your core and using stabilizing muscle to keep in control for proper form.
Compare a gymnast physique to that of a weight lifter. They’re both strength training, but most of the time you should see some key differences in size and mobility.
The Basics For Starting Calisthenics
To get the most out of a calisthenics workout and be able to successfully build the skills needed for your progression. It is a good idea to master or perfect the previous exercises needed in order to go to the next level.
As mentioned previously, push ups are the foundation to all exercises that involve pushing. Exercises like that ( push ups, sit ups, pull ups) although seem very basic, but are needed in order to grow with calisthenics.
Unless you have mastered them, meaning you’re able to make multiple reps with perfect form. It’s not recommended to try and do a more advanced exercise.
If you just started calisthenics, start with baby steps. Use a number goal of how many of each exercise you want to do and make it into your daily exercise routine. Even with the basics you will get a tremendously great workout.
Beginner exercises are found easily online. When I started I kept my goal bar relatively easy, and made sure to pull them off with ease and confidence before starting the next phase.
- 20 x Push Ups
- 20 x Pull Ups
- 15 x Sit Ups
- 20 x Squats
In order to consider the exercises “mastered” you should be performing each type of exercise in complete control and perfect form. Some tips in helping you ensure that success in calisthenics as well as basic principles you should have for almost any kind of workout is controlling your movement, develop a strong core and building a range of motion.
For more info on calisthenics basics, check out our article here.
Controlling your movement
A full bodyweight workout is an opportunity to make the most of muscle building in your body. The goal in your calisthenic workout should always be form over rep (the amount you can do). This is especially true to a more advance workout where there is no base or foundation developed.
For every workout, no matter how basic or advanced before moving on to the next level, be sure to be completely smooth and in control of the previous one. Your confidence in how you do a more basic workout will determine the success on the next one.
To do this, focus on the details of your form. Are your hips dipping in a push ups? Is your back straight? Are you kicking when making a pull up?
These details are important to make sure you’re working out effectively. Being able to do 50 pull ups but all while kicking and leverage other parts of your body, would not help you in the long run.
In fact, you would likely be putting yourself at a higher risk for injury and not to mention your efforts are going to waste as you would not be working out the muscles you should be when doing the specific exercise.
Develop A Strong Core
Using bodyweight as the main form of resistance in any calisthenic workout requires tremendous core strength. Control of your body while you exercise helps increase the quality of your workout as well as reduce the chance of injury.
Although you are focusing on specific area groups of muscle when doing an exercise. Because you are using your bodyweight you need to make sure the rest of your body is stable and in control.
Constantly working out your core would help you get there. Your core is the central part of your body that connects everything together. Without the strength from you mid area the rest of your body will not be as effective.
Build Your Range Of Motion
From the start of your calisthenics journey, it is crucial that you maintain your form and stability. A good way to do this is by building your range of motion, or even partial range.
For any exercise there are different parts of the work out that you can focus on specifically. Using a pull up for example. There is a movement of going up over the bar, and a second movement of coming back down.
If you’re finding that you have some trouble keeping your form or doing the pull up altogether. You can work your way up by using a chair or sturdy box first to boost you up to the height of your pull up. And as the exercise slowly lower your self to the bottom of your repetition without the help of the chair.
This is also known as pull negatives and with this exercise you build the muscles that are associated in the pull up workout. After being able to do this a few times and develop the strength to comfortably perform a pull negative with perfect form.
You would be well on your way to making complete pull ups and pulling motion exercises.
How Often Should You Do Calisthenics
The amount of calisthenics you can do ultimately would rely on you. It is important to let your body rest after intense workouts in order for them to repair and grow.
With that said, it is ok to have calisthenic workouts daily if your body allows. If you’re a beginner and would like to start your calisthenics journey, keep it light.
You will likely experience some pain and aches for the first few weeks. And thats ok, don’t beat yourself up if you’re unable to show up every day and workout.
But keep it consistent and put in what you can. One way to help you stay on schedule is alternating muscle groups everyday. Such as one day arms, and next day core workouts. Doing this would allow you stay on a daily schedule while letting certain muscles to rest.
For beginners and gym pros alike, the barrier of entry to start calisthenics is really not as tough as you may initially think.
Building the foundation needed is the very start of where you should be looking. And from there you exercises could accelerate and advance techniques could be achieved.
Keep in mind it’s a marathon and not a race, slowly building on the relevant workouts is how you will progress and succeed in this workout.