In simplest terms, calisthenics is body weight fitness training. Calisthenics can be so much more, however. It is functional fitness at its best. What can you do with your body? Can you move your body this way or that way?
The term comes from the ancient Greek words “kalos” meaning beauty and “sthenos” meaning strength. Appropriately named, calisthenics creates balanced, dense muscles and fluid movements that are quite beautiful to watch. Calisthenics can be as simple as a push-up, or as difficult as a planche. Equipment is not necessary, so calisthenics is accessible to everyone. You can do these movements at home, at work, in the park, or at a gym. Calisthenics can be as personal as yoga. Countless progressions exist to build up strength to do the flashy moves like handstands and muscle-ups, but they all start you at the beginning. It’s your body, your strength, and your mobility. It’s up to you to train it to perform the skills you want it to perform. Maybe a pull-up is your goal, or maybe it’s a handstand. Both of those skills make great party tricks! When’s the last time you saw someone just lift something really heavy at a party?
Besides the spectacle, calisthenics is perfect training for rehabilitating injuries. Hundreds of people injure their shoulders, knees or back from improper exercising techniques with too much weight. Calisthenics can correct imbalances and strengthen at the same time. Flexibility and mobility are just as important as strength in this method of training. Not that you need to be yoga-bendy, but you should be able to move your legs or arms out of your own way. The constant stretching and strengthening keeps muscles supple and mobile which keeps you injury and pain free.
Calisthenics is empowering for women and impressive for men. Strength equals confidence. It doesn’t make you “bulky” or “boxy,” instead lean, toned, “cut” muscles emerge. Size can be achieved with calisthenics if you’re a dude looking to get big, too though. It is so customizable to what you personally want to achieve.
Calisthenics is foundational to many other sports and skills as well. The strength developed in the stability muscles is essential for heavier weight lifting, rock climbing, acrobatics, running, ninja warrior training, etc, without injury. If you can safely control your own body weight, you can safely add another element to the mix. Injuries are a major setback to your fitness program, so a method of training that is effective, safe, and fun can’t really be beat. Many of the skills are the moves you did as a kid on the playground; you’ll remember. Our bodies are amazing, fun, and strong tools that can do more than carry our brains from home to work. Movement is therapeutic; you need to move. Make it feel good.