What Is Calisthenics?
Calisthenics involves the movement of your body through space in order to build muscle and strength.
There are different forms of calisthenics, namely;
- Bodyweight Calisthenics – Using ONLY your bodyweight as resistance.
- Weighted Calisthenics – Using your own bodyweight along with an external weight for added resistance.
- Calisthenics skill training – Consists of static skills and dynamic skills, without any emphasis on building absolute strength or muscle.
Calisthenics exercises involve movements like push ups, pull ups, dips, squats, running and jumping.
These natural forms of human movement involve several muscle groups that move the entire body through space.
Calishtneics movements almost always involve the use of several muscle groups; in order to move the body or an object in a particular direction.
Apart from the major muscle groups that get worked during calisthenics exercises, the stabilizer muscles also get worked to a large extent.
These stabilizer muscles often get neglected when working on machines in the gym.
Machines tend lock the body down in order to isolate certain muscle groups. Your body was never meant to move in isolation.
This is what makes calisthenics one of the most functional forms of training. Exercises that move the body through space carry over directly to day to day life.
The body was designed to move as a unit and calisthenics allows you to do this while building an athletic physique!
So what are the different types of calisthenics and what are their pros and cons?
Misconceptions About Calisthenics
There are a lot of misconceptions about Calisthenics.
People often debate about which exercises fall under the calisthenics bracket and which do not.
Calisthenics is often confused with bodyweight exercises only. But this idea is simply incorrect and misleading.
While it is true that bodyweight calisthenics can be used to get fit, it is not the most optimal way to build maximum muscle and strength.
If you’re looking to become as big and strong as possible, certain types of calisthenics are much more efficient at doing so than others!
Another misconception about calisthenics is that it doesn’t require any equipment to perform.
You’ll see a lot of calisthenics experts touting this as one of the main benefits of calisthenics, but:
Trying to build muscle without any equipment is an absolutely impractical way of working out.
In fact, everal calisthenics exercises (except those that can be done on the ground) require the use of specialized equipment.
- 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.
Calisthenics exercises (bodyweight or not) will require the use of some form of equipment.
Read More: How To Build A Budget Calisthenics Home Gym
Now, don’t get me wrong, you can definitely get a “workout” in without the use of any equipment whatsoever.
But it is simply sub-optimal and not a comprehensive way to get strong and build substantial amounts of muscle.
Do not fall for such false claims and shortchange your growth potential.
In my honest opinion, a 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 calsithenics exercises can be performed on a good pair of gymnastic rings.
Rings can also be used for weighted calisthenics movements as well!
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!
Equipping your calisthenics movements with weights opens up a world of exercises that take your bodyweight as well as weighted movements to the next level!
Another huge misconception about calisthenics is that it is easy on the joints.
Again, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
A lot of calisthenics movements can be very demanding on the joints. This is especially true when performing bodyweight calisthenics and skill training.
Learning proper form and technique is crucial for optimal joint health when it comes to calisthenics or any other form of movement in general!
People also think (as I once did) that building muscle with calisthenics is great because you get to do all these cool stunts and skills.
While learning certain calisthenics skills will build you some muscle and strength, don’t expect it to have a huge impact on your physique and performance.
This is where exercise selection comes into the picture.
Proper exercise selection ensures maximum muscle growth and strength gains.
Read More: How To Build Muscle With Calisthenics
Types Of Calsithenics
Calisthenics training can be broken down into 3 major groups:
- Skill Training
- Bodyweight Calisthenics
- Weighted Calisthenics
1. Skill training:
Skill training is a sub-group of the bodyweight calisthenics.
Calisthenics skills are some of the most dazzling displays of balance and coordination.
Muscle ups and handstands seem like exercises that could build a lot of muscle mass, especially since they look like they require a lot of strength to perform.
But allow me to let you in on a little secret. Most bodyweight skills do not require a lot of strength to perform.
In fact, if you build strength with weighted calisthenics, bodyweight skill training will only become easier.
A lot of people are drawn to calisthenics because of these dazzling calisthenics tricks.
If you’re planning to build size and strength, then calisthenics skill training isn’t the way to go.
- A lot of calisthenics skills require you to have a low bodyweight. The lower your bodyweight is, the easier your calisthenics skill will 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 slim and short.
This makes it far easier for them to achieve these skills because they weigh less and their bodies are naturally more compact!
While skill training can be a lot of fun, it is terrible at building functional full body strength.
The bulk of your calisthenics training should focus on moving the body through space, using simple compound movements and focusing on progressive overload.
2. Bodyweight calisthenics:
As the name suggests, bodyweight calisthenics involve exercises that use your own bodyweight as resistance.
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 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 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 extremely hard and unnecessarily time consuming.
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.
Read More: Benefits Of Calisthenics
Progressing with bodyweight calisthenics and skill training is neither linear, simple nor straightforward.
Unless you live in the jungle or a maximum security prison cell, DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME with bodyweight calisthenics, if your goal is to build maximum muscle and strength.
So then, what is the best form of calisthenics?
This is where the weighted calisthenics into the picture.
Weighted calisthenics is by far the most complete form of calisthenics and is the most efficient way to build strength and size.
Weighted calisthenics requires the body to move through space, and also moves an additional weight along with it.
Weighted calisthenics has the simplest progression system for beginner, intermediate and advanced trainees.
It also lends itself well to bodyweight calisthenics as well as skill training because the strength that you build with weighted claisthenics transfers very well to all forms of movement.
Get good at weighted calisthenics and your bodyweight and skill training will become a breeze.
Loaded barbell squats, lunges and even deadlifts are some of the most functional 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 something heavy off the ground is about as primal an exercise can get.
Bodyweight calisthenics doesn’t have any exercise that can replicate this essential everyday movement.
Calisthenics exercises are the most functional movements that can build an athletic physique.
There are several way to train with calisthenics, although weighted calisthenics is the most effecient way to build real world strength with this training modality.