Our today’s article, it’s good news for those of you who enjoy bodyweight training, as we’re looking at the benefits of calisthenics.
When we think of exercise, specifically for strength and function, we think of weights, complex machines, bench presses, leg presses, and more.
While it is true that there are now some truly remarkable pieces of equipment to be found in gyms all over the globe, sometimes all that is needed to build a strong and powerful frame is your body weight.
The fitness industry is currently home to a number of fads and trends, which will likely not be in fashion this time next year.
Fads in the fitness industry come and go, yet some have withstood the test of time, and calisthenics is the perfect example of that.
In truth, calisthenics is certainly not a fad or a trend, but what they are, is incredibly beneficial.
Having been a mainstay in the world of fitness for thousands of years, here’s a look at 16 curious benefits.
- 1 What Are Calisthenics Workouts?
- 2 The History Of Calisthenics:
- 3 What Are The Many Benefits Of Calisthenics?
- 3.1 1. Build Functional Strength And Fitness
- 3.2 2. Burn Fat
- 3.3 3. Build That Six-Pack
- 3.4 4. Stronger Core
- 3.5 5. Something Unique
- 3.6 6. The Natural Form Of Physical Activity
- 3.7 7. Can Be Done Anywhere
- 3.8 8. No Equipment is Needed
- 3.9 9. So Much Variety
- 3.10 10. Work The Entire Body
- 3.11 11. Better For The Joints
- 3.12 12. Become A Better Athlete
- 3.13 13. A Very Little Experience Required
- 3.14 14. Customize Your Workouts
- 3.15 15. Build Muscle
- 3.16 16. Great For Your Mental Health
- 4 Bottom Line:
- 5 Frequently Asked Questions:
What Are Calisthenics Workouts?
We’ll be getting to the benefits of doing calisthenics a little later on, but first, allow us to take a detailed look at precisely what calisthenics are in the first place.
Way, way before we had free weights, treadmills, fancy machines, and gym memberships, real-life warriors relied heavily on something else to get them in fighting shape, and that was what we now know as calisthenics.
Now, you’ve all heard the famous ‘This is…SPARTA’s line from the movie 300, which was very, very, very loosely based on a true story, about the Spartan warriors from Ancient Greece from between 400 and 600 B.C. Well, the Spartans, who were indeed fierce warriors, would use calisthenics to train for battle.
Calisthenics is a series of movements primarily utilizing your own body weight for resistance.
The History Of Calisthenics:
So, we can see that calisthenics have Ancient Greek origins, but what’s the actual history behind this hugely popular and hugely unique method of training, and is it really as awesome as historians, and the movies, would have us believe?
Let’s find out, shall we?
Here’s a look at a brief, yet detailed, history of calisthenics.
Calisthenics And The Bronze Age:
Yes, despite the calisthenics we know and today having deeply seeded roots in Ancient Greece, the earliest forms of the practice as we know it today can be traced back to the Bronze Age.
During this period of time, people were competing against each other, particularly in the form of wrestling.
Back then, calisthenics was not a thing, the movements were simply performed when training and when competing.
Basically, the exercises back then were done purely from necessity, rather than by choice when making a conscious decision to train.
Calisthenics In 20th – 14th century BC:
In Minoan Crete, from the 14th – to 20th century BC, acrobatics were performed, primarily for entertainment purposes.
Back then, there were no safety harnesses, no crash mats, and no safety equipment, so getting it right was vital.
Considering handstands and similar movements all formed the basis of acrobatics, calisthenics were technically performed back then, as part of the acrobatic routines, and during practice.
Calisthenics in 16th – 11th BC:
After the Trojan War, Homer wrote about an ancient athletic event which was organized by Achilles, to commemorate the memory of his dead friend Patroclus.
This event had acrobatics, wrestling, disk throwing, sprinting, javelin, and other sports.
Again, when training and performing, calisthenics would have been performed here, even if the participants weren’t aware.
Calisthenics In Ancient Greece And Rome :
So far, the history of Calisthenics has been a bit hazy, but here is where things finally start to become much clearer.
In Ancient Greece from the 8th century BC to – the 5th century AD, athletic events were a staple part of Greek society.
When the Olympic games were founded, they became a huge part of Ancient Greek culture, and to compete was not only an honor, but it gave great bragging rights, as you were considered elite and to be the best of the best.
When training for these athletic events, athletes would perform a series of bodyweight exercises and movements to help make them stronger, bigger, faster, and more muscular in the process.
It wasn’t just athletes who performed calisthenics, however, as the Spartans would also take part.
The Spartan army was notoriously tough, as were its training camps.
Aged just 7, a Spartan boy would be taken from his home and placed into a Spartan training camp where he would train to become a ruthless killer and Spartan soldier.
Using rope climbing, push-ups, burpees, sprints, and other calisthenic exercises, the Spartans would train for hours to get themselves into prime physical condition, ready to face the enemy head-on.
It isn’t just the Spartans that would benefit from calisthenics, though.
Chinese Shaolin Monks would also perform calisthenics on a daily basis to help them to defend their monasteries from thieves and looters.
They would perform bodyweight exercises to develop great strength and explosive speed and power, which allowed them to punish their enemies and run rings around them.
Today, calisthenics are a staple part of everyday fitness as we do them at home, they’re found in CrossFit routines, strength training routines, military training programs, police training programs, and much more besides.
What Are The Many Benefits Of Calisthenics?
Now that we know what calisthenics are, let’s check out some of these curious benefits, shall we?
1. Build Functional Strength And Fitness
If you head over to any CrossFit box (gym) you’ll almost certainly notice that they’re carrying out a series of calisthenics exercises and movements.
CrossFit is all about functional strength and fitness, which is why calisthenics is such a key component of it.
Calisthenics is the ultimate example of exercise designed to build functional strength and fitness.
This is basically strength and fitness that will benefit you in the outside world, rather than just inside of a gym.
2. Burn Fat
If you’ve seen the movie 300, you’ll notice how Gerard Butler and all of his Spartan soldiers were sporting six-packs that would make Greek Gods themselves jealous.
Okay, there may have been CGI involved in the movie, but back then, ancient Spartan soldiers were sporting lean and defined physiques complete with six-pack abs that you could grate cheese upon.
Calisthenics is a fantastic group of exercises and movements for burning fat as they’re so physically demanding.
Because you’re working so hard when performing calisthenics, you’ll find that you burn off a large number of calories and can lose fat very effectively.
3. Build That Six-Pack
Okay, when talking about the benefits, even though we’ve mentioned six packs already, we haven’t gone into them in a great deal just yet.
If you want a ripped set of six-pack abs to show off on the beach next summer, one of the best things you can do is bodyweight exercises.
Calisthenics work for multiple muscle groups at once, including those in the core used for stabilization, so your abs are always being worked.
Not only that, but when you have exercises like planks, sit-ups, leg raises, and mountain climbers that all obliterate your abdominal muscles, it’s easy to see why people looking for a six-pack will perform calisthenics on a regular basis.
4. Stronger Core
You can probably see a bit of a theme going here, but in terms of your core strength and power, calisthenics really cannot be beaten.
Having a strong core will help you in so many different aspects of your life.
It will make you stronger, you’ll have a better posture, you’ll have a better balance, you’ll be more mobile, you’ll be a better athlete, and your daily life will be much easier.
Because so many different bodyweight exercises performed as part of a calisthenics workout will work on your core, you’ll find that your core strength increases slightly after each workout.
5. Something Unique
One of the most interesting things associated with calisthenics is the fact that doing them will offer you something unique when training.
The next time you’re due to work out, rather than just doing the same boring cardio or weights circuit, you can instead go ahead and perform a calisthenics workout and reap the benefits that way.
Having something different and unique when training is very important because it helps mix up your training and prevent it from becoming boring and monotonous.
6. The Natural Form Of Physical Activity
When it comes to natural forms of exercise and physical exertion, you can’t get more natural than calisthenics.
With calisthenics, there are no machines or free weights involved, no kettlebells, no ab rollers, or foam rollers, nothing like that.
Instead, it’s just you, your body, and wherever you decide to work out.
Because calisthenics is so natural, you’ll find that your body adapts to them more efficiently and you’ll find it easier to make the necessary gains required.
7. Can Be Done Anywhere
You want to go to the gym but you’ve got to pick up the kids and do groceries?
No problem, you can bring the gym home instead, thanks to calisthenics.
One of the greatest things about calisthenics is the fact that it can be done virtually anywhere, at any time, with no equipment required.
All you need to perform a brutal calisthenics workout is a little open space, and a few minutes to spare.
So, whether you’re at work, at home, at the park, or anywhere else for that matter, if you want to get a quick but effective workout in, just go ahead and bust out a calisthenics workout and you’ll be amazed by what you can do.
8. No Equipment is Needed
Right now, there are heaps of pieces of gym kit and equipment to choose from, yet in reality, if you’re lacking space or just don’t want to purchase any more gadgets, gizmos, and pieces of kit that are going to sit gathering dust, just do calisthenics.
With calisthenics, the only equipment you need is yourself, as the resistance comes from your own body weight.
This makes the form of exercise practical, and great for people who are struggling with time and space.
9. So Much Variety
Another of the many benefits which we need to look at today is the fact that it allows you so much variety when you exercise.
With calisthenics workouts, you can perform a series of exercises and movements, each one slightly different and therefore able to train different parts of the body accordingly.
With exercises such as sit-ups, leg raises, push-ups, burpees, squat thrusters, lunges, alternatives to lunges, mountain climbers, plank, and many, many more besides, you can combine different exercises together to create a series of different workouts so no two training sessions are exactly alike.
10. Work The Entire Body
Thought you only needed weights and machines to get an awesome full-body workout in?
Thanks to the fact that there are so many different calisthenics exercises and movements to choose from, you can work your entire body using nothing but your own body weight for resistance.
There are exercises for the chest, the legs, the back, the core, the arms, the shoulders, the traps, and a whole lot more so for the ultimate full-body workout without even picking up a single weight, calisthenics are ideal.
11. Better For The Joints
If you deal with joint issues, another benefit of performing calisthenics is the fact that they allow you to be more forgiving on your joints.
If you have joint issues, calisthenics is ideal because they are far better for the joints as they place them under less pressure.
If for example, you have issues with your knees, squatting 315 pounds with a barbell on your back will place a great deal of pressure on your knees, hips, and other joints.
If however, you simply perform basic bodyweight squats like those found in calisthenics, your joints are placed under far less stress because they’re used to carrying your weight around on a daily basis anyway.
12. Become A Better Athlete
When mentioning the benefits of doing calisthenics, another awesome advantage of them is the fact that they provide benefits that will carry over into other sports and activities to make you become a much better athlete.
Calisthenics will help build speed and strength, they’ll work on endurance and mobility, and they will even work on your fast-twitch muscle fibers so your explosive strength and speed increase as well.
From an athletic perspective, all of these benefits are ideal and will help you to perform at the top of your game.
13. A Very Little Experience Required
Some forms of exercise are very complex and require a great deal of prior knowledge and experience before you can get started.
With calisthenics, however, this is not the case at all.
Because calisthenics exercises are so simple to learn and perform, virtually anybody can take part in calisthenics workouts, regardless of how much or how little fitness and exercise experience they may have.
This means that calisthenics is perfect for seasoned athletes, or complete fitness beginners.
14. Customize Your Workouts
Okay, so assuming you’ve been doing calisthenics exercises and workouts at home for the last few months and are now bored and looking for new challenges, that’s precisely what you can get.
Calisthenics workouts are very adaptable, so you can adapt and customize them as you see fit.
You can create your own workouts, you can use fitness accessories such as resistance bands, straps, or weights, as well as benches, and a whole lot more besides.
Basically, you’re in charge of your workouts and if you feel like mixing things up and trying something different, that’s exactly what you can do.
15. Build Muscle
Not only will doing calisthenics workouts on a regular basis help you to burn fat and tone up, but it will also help you to build muscle.
Remember, calisthenics exercises are still resistance-based, just like those performed using weights.
The only key difference is that, instead of resistance coming from weights or machines, it comes from your own body.
Push-ups, for example, are perfect for working the pecs, along with your core, rear delts, and triceps.
Different exercises will target different muscle groups but if anybody tries to tell you that you can’t build muscle without free weights, just point them in the direction of a calisthenics coach and they’ll soon change their tune.
16. Great For Your Mental Health
This isn’t a benefit exclusive to calisthenics, but rather exercise in general.
Exercise and physical activity are great for mental health as it gives you a purpose, boosts endorphins, promote sleep, and help you to look and feel better in the process.
And you can also check the differences between calisthenics vs Weights.
With that, we’ll bring this look at the benefits of calisthenics to a close.
We hope that you’ve found the benefits listed above informative and useful.
If so, be sure to incorporate more calisthenics training into your weekly training regime and you’ll be amazed by just what a difference it can actually make.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Is Calisthenics A Hobby?
No, Calisthenics isn’t a hobby because it’s a sport. Sports are played competitively, while hobbies are things that you do just for fun.
Is Calisthenics Better Than Weights?
Calisthenics are exercises that use only body weight and no external weights. Weight lifting is a type of exercise that uses external weights to increase muscle mass. Calisthenics are often performed without any equipment at all.
Calisthenics have been around since ancient times and were originally used to develop physical fitness. Today they are still practiced by athletes and people who want to lose weight.
Weight lifting is a popular sport where people lift heavy objects using their own bodyweight. People who do weightlifting use different types of equipment such as dumbbells, barbells, kettle bells, medicine balls, etc.
Both calisthenics and weight lifting require a lot of practice and dedication to achieve good results. If you decide to start doing either of these activities, make sure you get proper guidance from a professional trainer.