Benefits Of Calisthenics
Calisthenics is the most primal method of unlocking your true fitness potential.
Running, jumping, pushing, pulling, squatting and hinging your way to total body fitness is as raw as it gets.
But can this form training actually build size and strength? More importantly, can you build muscle and burn fat using just calisthenics?
Here are the top 10 benefits of calisthenics and why I choose to train this way!
Read more on: How To Start Calisthenics
Read more on: How To Build Muscle Using Calisthenics
Advantages of Calisthenics
Like every other form of workout, calisthenics isn’t perfect. But it does have a lot to offer.
These are the advantages of learning the art of calisthenics:
1. Calisthenics Is A No Excuses Workout:
I used to have a laundry list of reasons not to workout. I just didn’t want to go to the gym to workout.
The gym was an unfamiliar place to me. Weights, plates, machines and rules, too much for my simple mind to configure.
There had to be a way to workout without all this fancy equipment.
And that way is calisthenics.
Calisthenics is a no excuses type of workout.
Gym too far, expensive or intimidating? No problem.
With calisthenics, you can get a workout in anywhere and at anytime.
Read more on: Greasing The Groove With Calisthenics
Calisthenics will force you to throw out all the excuses.
Just set up a pull up bar/gymnastics rings between your bedroom door frame.
When you wake up, you see the rings staring you straight in the face. And guess what happens when you get home from work?
Same thing. The rings will be right there, staring you in the face.
This way you can get a workout in either before or after you get out of bed!
Thus, if you’re someone looking to get fit and are struggling with the motivation to get to the gym, this benefit alone should have you sold on whether or not calisthenics is the right type of workout for you.
With calisthenics, you can workout anywhere and anytime. Your rings/pull up bar will always check you in at the door.
2. Calisthenics Is A Great Way To Stay In Shape For Those Who Travel A Lot:
What’s more, with calisthenics, the world is your playground.
It’s great for people who travel a lot as you can train the same movements, whether you’re in an urban environment, a tropical rain forest, up on a mountain or by the beach.
This allows you to become proficient in movements with the most bang for your buck, thus making you stronger over time.
This is known as specificity of training – training the same movements over and over again in order to become extremely strong.
When on the road, training specificity goes out the window because you have to make do with whatever equipment you find. And the equipment that you find might not be specific to the moment that you wish to perform!
This used to be the biggest deterrent in my training routine.
I would work really hard for months on end at the gym, and when it was time to take a break and travel, my training would suffer.
Finding a gym with the right equipment while travelling can be a real hassle.
Especially if you’re travelling to secluded places or small towns and villages.
This is where calisthenics shines, you can get a workout in anywhere.
And the equipment (or lack thereof), isn’t heavy and won’t take up too much space in your travel kit!
Check out the equipment I recommend: Calisthenics Equipment
Read more about: Specificity of training
I know the shortcomings of trying to workout while travelling all too well. Because whenever I travel, I never been able to workout. Finding a good gym close to the hotel was always a hassle. The gym at the hotel wouldn’t have all the equipment I required, or the gym in the area would just be too expensive.
In fact, I have been able to exercise more than I ever have on my most recent trip to China. If I couldn’t find parks with monkey bars, I found trees all over the place. I simply had to take out my handy dandy gymnastic rings like this one I bought on Amazon (which barely weigh a Kilogram), fling them over a branch and I had my gym on the go! Full body workout anyone?
Find out what I recommend: Full Body Workout Vs. Split
Say goodbye to expensive gym memberships. Which then brings me to my second point.
3. Calisthenics Doesn’t Need Any Fancy Equipment
This benefit of bodyweight training ties in very well with the aforementioned point.
Unlike conventional methods of resistance training, calisthenics has a low barrier for entry.
In fact it’s so low that as long as you have the ground beneath your feet you can get an amazing workout. If you can find a place to hang from, and you’re pretty much set for life!
A door-frame pull up bar will cost you a fraction of a gym membership.
A small investment can get you a pair of push up handles, a weight vest, a skipping rope and a pair of running shoes.
This much equipment should be all you need to get you through a total body transformation, the one where people won’t even be able to recognize you if they haven’t seen you for a while.
In fact if you’re truly broke and can’t even afford the weighted vest, a backpack filled with books and water cans is what I used for the majority of my calisthenics transformation.
Check out my calisthenics transformation here: My 4 month calisthenics transformation
If you want to be truly mobile though, get yourself a pair of gymnastic rings. This simple tool will get you an excellent full body workout without having to break the bank.
4. Athletic In Nature – As You Move Your Body Through Space
The biggest benefit of calisthenics is the ability to master the art of moving your body through space.
Moving through space is how we interact with the world. If I’m late to work, I run. If I’m not, I walk. I squat to sit in a chair.
Bend to pick something off the floor. Reach my hand out to pull a heavy gate open. Jump up, or jump down depending on how high or low I am in comparison to a ledge.
Thus, being able to move my body through space will help me interact with the world better. I will be able to pull and push harder, jump higher, run faster and lift heavier things off the floor and overhead if and when required.
And all calisthenics movements require the body to move through space.
Take the bodyweight squat or the pistol squat for example. This movement requires you to move your body through space.
The pull up, the push up, the front lever and the handstand push up, all require you to move your body through space.
Compare these movements with their counterparts – the lat pull down, the bench press and the overhead press. Your body isn’t required to move through space to perform these exercises.
In fact, you can perform these exercises from a seated or supine position!
This is why calisthenic movements are so athletic in nature.
Calisthenics exercises build the stabilizers of the body due to the fact that they have to be engaged when moving the body efficiently through space.
These stabilizer muscles help brace the body, thus aiding larger muscles when moving through space.
5. Doesn’t require a lot of space
While we’re on the topic of moving the body through space, I thought I’d touch on the topic of space.
Calisthenics barely requires any space at all. That’s one of the reasons why it is such a popular method of prison strength training.
A small room or garage will do just fine.
Even if you want to do weighted calisthenics, you don’t need long barbells and huge weight racks. A weighted vest, or a dipping belt with weight plates will suffice.
You could even use a backpack with books or weights like I did to gain strength and size through calisthenics.
Want to build some cardiovascular endurance? Pick up a skipping rope. As long as you have enough ceiling space, you’re good to go.
In fact if you don’t have a skipping rope, spot jumping, spot jogging or even jumping jacks work just fine!
This is what makes calisthenics such a fundamental fitness tool. You don’t need benches, racks, barbells or any fancy equipment to get a good workout in.
Which means you don’t require too much space to be as fit as possible!
6. Builds superior grip strength
Several staple calisthenics exercises involve gripping the bar or the rings with your entire body hanging in the balance.
This places immense pressure on the fingers, wrists and forearms, which strengthens the grip.
The grip is a vital component of everyday life and is an often overlooked facet of strength training. In fact several studies link longevity to grip strength.
A strong grip is great for holding onto things like heavy grocery or shopping bags, someone’s arm or shirt in a grappling match or fight. It is also extremely useful for sports and comes in handy when opening that pickle jar.
In fact, studies also link a stronger grip with stronger force production.
For more on how to build an iron vice grip read my article on: Calisthenics Grip Training
Thus, grip strength transfers into better performance on and off the field.
In fact there will come several points when the weight you are trying to manipulate is limited by your grip strength and not your muscles.
This means that building crushing grip strength has direct carryover into any force bearing activities.
7. Calisthenics is minimalist in nature – It Saves Time
Calisthenics exercises are compound movements.
Compound movements involve several muscle groups at the same time, which translates to more muscles being worked per exercise.
This means that we can use fewer exercises by selecting ones that recruit overlapping muscle groups.
For instance, the biceps get worked tremendously with the pull up, while the pull up also works on the lats. You can therefore forfeit the bicep curl as the pull up will build your arms while also building bigger lats, traps and rhomboids.
In fact, the biceps get used a lot during bodyweight rows as well, thus negating the need to isolate the bicep specifically with a set of bicep curls.
This saves a lot of time by reducing the number of sets and reps required to build a more balanced aesthetic physique.
These compound movements also translate well into real life scenarios.
This is because the body moves as a unit through space. It requires multiple muscles to work in tandem with each other in order to run, jump, squat or pull itself up and over a ledge.
Therefore training the body as a unit (with compound movements that move the body through space) translates to better improved performance on the filed and life in general.
Read more on: Minimalist training
8. Just looks cool – Skill training
Let’s face it, calisthenics just looks cool.
Learning calisthenics gives you the ability to acquire strength and balance based skills that many would never acquire over a lifetime.
Like the handstand for example, you can take it a step further and build it into a handstand push up! Now that is a display of strength, balance and power that looks super cool.
You could take it another step further and perform one single arm handstand. I mean, who in the world comes close to doing these things?
Skills are what make calisthenics a fun way to train, because you can break up the monotony of your regular workout with something that can be a lot of fun.
But, this does not mean that other forms of training cannot be extended to skill training. Far from it, but the progression of exercises in calisthenics extend themselves extremely well to skill training.
Almost everybody can perform a regular push up. Heck, a lot of people can perform a one arm push up. But not everybody can perform a planche push up!
These are the natural progressions of bodyweight training. Even pistol squats for that matter look quite cool.
There is a reason why we feel these moves look cool. It is because the practitioner has had to acquire the strength, balance and power to master these movements.
While some skills take a lot of time to master, some are nothing more than a party trick that could lead you down the path to injury.
9. Greasing the Groove
Greasing the groove is one of my the most underutilized methods of building strength used today. Not everyone knows about this underground method of strength training.
Read More On: Greasing The Groove
This is because Greasing the Groove can only be used effectively with calisthenics exercises! It is hard to utilize this method of strength training with heavy barbells and machinery.
In short, Greasing the groove is a strength training protocol that requires you to repeat a movement over and over again until the pattern gets ingrained in the nervous system.
This makes you more proficient at performing that movement and allows for more muscle recruitment thus increasing muscular strength.
Greasing the groove ties in extremely well with calisthenics because of the lack of equipment required and the ability to perform the movements virtually anywhere.
This allows you to perform reps of an exercise or skill you want to master anywhere and at anytime!
Greasing the Groove is one of the easiest ways to build strength, because you are working with sub maximal reps only for a couple of minutes at a time.
It doesn’t fatigue the body like other forms of strength training, which means having more energy throughout the day!
10. Core is always engaged (great ab workout)
If you want a set of rock hard abs, then there is no denying that calisthenics is going to benefit you. Calisthenics has several abdominal exercises that can challenge your body for a long time.
But the best part about calisthenics is – there is no need to perform additional abdominal work.
This is because the abdominal muscles have to provide a high level of stability when moving the body through space.
Take the chin up for example. The chin up when performed with a hollow body hold (which is how it should be performed) will produce abs of steel. This is because the abdominals get stimulated throughout the movement of a chin up. Which is more true when loading the chin up with a dipping belt and weights.
In fact the abs are also engaged when doing push ups, dips, handstands and pistol squats. The handstand requires incredible core strength to hold the torso upright. All these movements build abs of steel without the need for separate abdominal exercises.
While bodyweight calisthenics is not the most optimal way to train, it does have its benefits.
The bulk of these benefits extend to survival training when one has no access to training equipment. This is what makes calisthenics great at building strength anywhere and at anytime.
These benefits apart, there are far more efficient ways to build strength and size than weighted calisthenics.
Read more on: Calisthenics Vs. Weights