What Is Calisthenics

What Is Calisthenics?

Calisthenics is the movement of your body through space in order to build muscle and strength.

Traditional calisthenics exercises involve movements like – push ups, pull ups, dips, squats, running, jumping and even swimming.

But, there are different ways to train with calisthenics, namely:

  1. Bodyweight Calisthenics – Traditional calisthenics involves the use of your own bodyweight as resistance in order to build muscle and strength. 
  2. Calisthenics Skill Training – Calisthenics skill training is an offshoot of traditional bodyweight calisthenics. It focuses on static and dynamic skills that place the body in awkward positions. Focus is placed on mastering entertaining tricks and stunts that are not optimal for real world performance. These tricks include handstand training, planches, backflips and other acrobatic movements that look cool. The emphasis here is NOT on building muscle and strength for real world performance.
  3. Weighted Calisthenics – Modern calisthenics athletes have realized the shortfalls of bodyweight calisthenics and skill training when it comes to real world performance. In the real world, we move weights through space, and our bodies along with it! This is where weighted calisthenics shines. Heavy weighted pull ups, dips, squats and even deadlifts move massive amounts of weight while moving the body through space. This is the most effective way to build size and strength that carries over into the real world.

Thus, calisthenics involves the use of several muscle groups in order to move your body through space.

Apart from the major muscle groups that get worked during calisthenics exercises, the stabilizer muscles also get worked to a great extent.

These stabilizer muscles often get neglected when using machines in the gym.

Machines tend lock the body into movement patterns that isolate certain muscle groups. And our bodies were never meant to move that way. 

The body was designed to move as a unit and calisthenics allows you to do this while building an athletic physique!

Calisthenics exercises carry over well to activities of daily life, as they require you to move your body through space.

This is what makes calisthenics one of the most effective forms of training.

Calisthenics Secrets - What Calisthenics Athletes Want You To Believe

Calisthenics is a misunderstood training concept.

And “experts” capitalize on misconceptions to make you believe that calisthenics training is more complex than it actually is.

Here are the 3 major myths and misconceptions about calisthenics training that the community wants you to believe:

Myth #1 – Bodyweight Calisthenics is the BEST way to get BIG and STRONG:

Bodyweight calisthenics athletes will often tell you that using ONLY bodyweight exercises is the BEST  way to gain strength and size. But this idea is far from the truth.

Falling for such false claims will shortchange your potential for growth.

While you can get bigger and stronger with bodyweight calisthenics; this is NOT the most optimal way to train.

Bodyweight calisthenics athletes are often weaker and more frail than powerlifters or weightlifters when it comes to size and strength.  

Depending on your training goals, certain types of calisthenics are much better at getting you big and strong than others!

If you’re looking to fulfill your size and strength potential, then weighted calisthenics is the way to go!

Adding weight to your bodyweight while moving through space, is an excellent way to build real world strength.

Humans separated themselves from the rest of the world the moment we picked up and started using tools.

And the same goes for your calisthenics workouts as well, using tools will help separate you from the pack!

Myth #2 – Calisthenics Doesn’t Require ANY Equipment To Perform:

This one irks me. In fact, it is a little pet peeve of mine. 

You’ll see a lot of calisthenics “experts” touting this as one of the main benefits of calisthenics, but:

It is practically IMPOSSIBLE to build significant amounts of size and strength without ANY equipment!

In fact, the majority of calisthenics exercises require the use of specialized equipment.

For instance:

  • Pull ups need a pull up bar
  • Dips require a dipping station 
  • Full range of motion handstand push ups require parallettes, chairs or whatever else you can get your hands on. 

And the list goes on and on.

Of course you can do push ups on the ground and pull ups on trees, but you can do the same with “weightlifting” by lifting large rocks or heavy logs. 

If you’re truly looking for a “minimalist equipment” experience – read my article on How To Build A Budget Calisthenics Home Gym.

Long story short – trusty pair of gymnastics rings can be the staple of a good calisthenics program.

Rings are inexpensive and will last you a lifetime. The majority of calisthenics exercises can be done on a good pair of gymnastic rings.

Rings can also be used for weighted calisthenics movements as well!

Read More: Calisthenics Vs. Weights – Why I Choose To Train This Way

Myth #3 – Calisthenics is EASY on the joints:

Another huge misconception peddled by the “experts” is that calisthenics is easy on the joints.

This couldn’t be further from the truth!

Calisthenics movements can be very demanding on the joints! This is especially true during bodyweight skill training.

When training calisthenics skills – your joints need to be fully primed and prepared for the awkward positions you put your body through.   

Of course, learning proper form and technique is crucial for optimal joint health when it comes to any form of training. 

But at the end of the day, calisthenics skill training is not the way our bodies were meant to move. 

People also think (as I once did) that training these cool skills will make you jacked and ripped. 

And many calisthenics athletes will have you believe that this is the case. But, skill training is probably the worst way that you could build your dream physique – disregarding the amount of injuries you might accrue training this way. 

While learning certain calisthenics skills can build some muscle and strength, don’t expect skill training to have a massive impact on your physique and performance. 

Building muscle with calisthenics is easy, simple and straightforward. The basics will carry you all the way! 

Don’t overcomplicate your training by pursuing useless tricks and stunts, the guide below will show you all you need to build your dream physique with calisthenics.

Read More: How To Build Muscle With Calisthenics

Types Of Calisthenics Training - Which Should You Choose?

Based on the aforementioned myths and misconceptions which type of training should you chose to build maximum strength and muscle? 

Let’s find out!

1. Calisthenics Skill Training:

Calisthenics skills are some of the most dazzling displays of balance and coordination out there!

From the outside – muscle ups and handstands seem like exercises that require a massive amount of strength to perform.

But allow me to let you in on a little secret.

Most bodyweight skills require very little strength to perform – they are more skill based/balance based.

In fact, you’ll see young children, women and lightweight men having an easy time mastering these skills. 

This is because their bodies barely weigh enough to present a massive challenge while performing these spectacular skills. 

If you’re planning to build size and strength, then calisthenics skill training isn’t the way to go.

Here’s exactly why:

  1. A lot of calisthenics skills require you to have a low bodyweight. The lower your bodyweight is, the easier the skills become. A lower bodyweight means less muscle mass which means less strength. 

Look closely and you’ll start to notice a trend amongst calisthenics athletes. Most of them are skinny and short.

This makes it far easier for them to achieve these skills because they weigh less and their bodies are naturally more compact!

When it comes to calisthenics skill training, the regular sized men and women are few and far between. 

While skill training can be a lot of fun, it is terrible at building size and strength.

The bulk of your calisthenics training should focus on moving the body through space, using simple compound movements and focusing on progressive overload.

This is where the next two styles of calisthenics training come into play.

2. Bodyweight calisthenics:

As the name suggests, bodyweight calisthenics uses your own bodyweight as resistance in order to build size and strength.

Note that the key here still being resistance.

Progressively increasing that resistance is what makes you bigger and stronger.

It is true that you can build some strength and size using bodyweight calisthenics. But bodyweight calisthenics has a lot of drawbacks.

The biggest drawback of bodyweight calisthenics is that bodyweight exercises aren’t stimulating enough to build strong and powerful legs.

Think about it, your legs were built to carry more than just your bodyweight.

Bodyweight calisthenics borrows a lot of its movements from gymnastics training and is thus very upper body dominant.

Although there are several calisthenics movements that focus on building your legs, using just your bodyweight to build lower body size and strength is an absolute waste of time.

Trust me, I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work. Especially not at the rate at which weighted calisthenics does.  

But the drawbacks of bodyweight calisthenics don’t stop there.

Bodyweight calisthenics has its demerits as a training modality when it comes to upper body training as well.

Training the upper body using just your bodyweight is sub-optimal because progressing with bodyweight calisthenics is unnecessarily hard and time consuming.

Progressing with bodyweight  calisthenics and skill training is neither linear, simple nor straightforward.

After a while you’re confined to increasing the difficulty of your exercises by increasing volume (sets and reps) over time. Doing so is inefficient and a waste of your time!

Read More: High Volume Calisthenics – Why It SUCKS

If your goal is to build muscle as fast as possible, bodyweight calisthenics will only hold you back.

Unless you live in the  jungle or a maximum security prison, DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME with bodyweight calisthenics. There are better ways to build size and strength.

This is where the weighted calisthenics into the picture.

Weighted calisthenics:

Weighted calisthenics is the most complete form of calisthenics and is the most efficient way to build strength and size.

It requires the you to move your body through space, while also moving additional weight with it.

Weighted calisthenics has the simplest progression system for beginner, intermediate and advanced trainees. 

The strength you gain from weighted calisthenics carries over to bodyweight calisthenics as well as skill training. 

Think about it, if your weighted pull up goes up, bodyweight pull ups will be a breeze!

Loaded pull ups, dips, barbell squats, lunges and even deadlifts are some of the most useful movements known to man. Almost everything we do revolves around these weighted callisthenic movements.

And these are the movements that are missing from bodyweight calisthenics training.

In fact, the only way to deadlift is to pick something heavy off the ground! Picking heavy weights off the ground is about as primal an exercise can get.

Bodyweight calisthenics cannot replicate this essential everyday movement.

If you are looking to be a well rounded athlete or a an overall strong person, weighted calisthenics is the way to go!


Calisthenics demands involvement of several muscle groups in order to move the body through space.

While there are several ways to train with calisthenics, some types of calisthenics are better than others when it comes to building an athletic physique. 

Leave a Comment