Calisthenics is perhaps the most underrated form of exercise.
Many people poo-poo calisthenics because it’s supposedly “too easy” for fit and experienced athletes.
It’s commonly believed that, because the maximum you can lift is your own body weight, that your results will plateau quickly.
This is overly simplified thinking.
Calisthenics is incredible for improving your strength, fitness, muscular definition and flexibility, no matter what level you’re starting from.
These exercises can be particularly beneficial for older men or those recovering from an injury, but extremely fit athletes can get insane results from these routines as well.
It’s truly useful for everyone.
The key advantages of calisthenics
Any exercise that only makes use of your body weight can be considered calisthenics.
It’s useful because the basic exercises can be completed anywhere with ease. You can complete a great calisthenics workout in less than ten minutes.
Most calisthenic exercises target multiple muscle groups. For that reason, you typically burn more calories than by expanding similar effort through weight-lifting. If you’re looking to get leaner and stronger, it’s a great option.
Most calisthenic exercises are fantastic for strengthening your core, which is key for improving your strength in all other areas of the body.
As you get fitter, you can upgrade these exercises by upping your reps or sets. You can also lower the rest period, perform the exercise with small dumbbells, or hold the strain of the exercise for longer. Alternatively, you can modify most calisthenic exercises to make them more difficult.
How to get started with calisthenics
There are plenty of calisthenic exercises, which can be completed by an absolute beginner TODAY, with no equipment in your house or garden.
Try three sets of this routine. It should take about 15 minutes.
- Lateral lunge (10 per side);
- Plank (one minute);
- 20 crunches;
- 10 squats;
- 10 push-ups.
Alternatively, complete as many reps of these exercises as you can in one minute, with a minute’s rest between sets. There are plenty of interval timer apps you can download to assist you with this. It’s highly important to keep good form, so don’t compromise on this to try and bust an extra five reps.
Consistency is important with calisthenics. Do your best to engage in these exercises at least four times a week. When you consider the speediness and convenience of the above routine, there really is no excuse not to.
As with any form of exercise, it’s important to keep your body guessing, so feel free to substitute any of these exercises on different days.
- Mountain climbers;
- Squat thrusts;
- Standing bunny hops;
- One-legged toe touches;
- Tricep dips;
- Calf raises;
- Walking lunges.
For more detailed ideas on how to perform these moves with good form, see our ‘prisoner workout’ guide.
Advanced calisthenics: how to up your game
You can get extremely lean and ripped in just 20 minutes a day, using only the exercises above.
However, if you’re looking to take your fitness and gains to the next level, there are plenty of advanced exercises for you to try.
A pull-up bar could be a smart investment to help you. There are plenty of cheap options that can be installed in your house. As well as traditional pull-ups, you’ll now be able to perform hanging knee raises, hanging leg raises, muscle-ups or typewriter pull-ups.
Gymnastic rings could also be a fun investment, provided you’ve got a solid tree or some other nearby object to tie them too. On these, you can perform all manner of pull-ups, dips and leg raise that’ll completely shred your abs.
For more ideas on advanced calisthenics, check out this list of ridiculously difficult moves.