Sometimes one of the best forms of exercise and one many people forget is calisthenics. You can do them anywhere, they are free or practically free, and they work.

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What are Calisthenics?

Calisthenics are exercises consisting of a variety of gross motor movements—running, standing, grasping, pushing, etc. — often performed rhythmically and with minimal equipment, so essentially, bodyweight exercises. They are intended to increase body strength, body fitness, and flexibility, through movements such as pulling or pushing oneself up, bending, jumping, or swinging, using only one’s body weight for resistance; usually conducted in concert with stretches.

When performed vigorously and with variety, calisthenics can provide the benefits of muscular and aerobic conditioning, in addition to improving psychomotor skills such as balance, agility and coordination. Many consider calisthenics as “movement through space”, meaning you can move freely without any restriction blocking your full strength.

Most common form of Calisthenics

You know what they are now, how about the ones that are most frequently used? We are sure you have heard of many, and maybe when younger as a child, did some of these. Still very useful as adult though!

In addition to the various stretches, some of the more common calisthenics exercises include:

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Squat jumps (“Toyota jumps”/box jumps) – Performed by entering a squatting position, then using a plyometric jumping movement to jump as high as possible.

Push-ups – Performed face down on the floor, palms against floor under the shoulders, toes curled upwards against the floor. The arms are used to lift the body while maintaining a straight line from head to heel. The arms of the subject should go from fully extended in the high position to nearly fully flexed in the low position, while the subject makes sure to avoid resting on the floor. Resting is only done in the high position of the exercise. Chest, shoulders, and triceps are trained with this exercise. By furthering the range of motion, what is often called a push up, by pushing the shoulders downwards at the top the serratus anterior comes further into play.

Squats – Standing with feet shoulder width apart, the subject squats down as far as possible, bringing the arms forward parallel to the floor. The subject then returns to standing position. Squats train the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and gluteal muscles.

Hyperextensions – Performed in a prone position on the ground, the individual raises the legs, arms and upper body off the ground.

Leg raises – Lying on the back, hands in fists under buttocks, move feet up and down.

Planks – This is the name for holding the ‘top’ position of a push-up for extended periods of time. The primary muscle involved in this exercise is the rectus abdominis.

Shuttle runs – This is running back and forth between two points (or cones) typically separated by 5-40 meters, as fast as possible, with a touchdown. The emphasis should be on stopping, turning back and accelerate back to a sprint as quickly as possible.

Burpees – A full body calisthenics workout that works abdominal muscles, chest, arms, legs, and some parts of the back.

Jumping Jacks – a physical jumping exercise performed by jumping to a position with the legs spread wide and the hands touching overhead, sometimes in a clap, and then returning to a position with the feet together and the arms at the sides.

Jumping Rope – Sculpts your shoulders, chest, arms, and legs, great for cardio/coordination.

Calisthenics workouts are a convenient way to get a full-body workout while you burn calories and build muscle. Depending on which exercises you add to your routine and how intensely you perform them, doing calisthenics every day can cause repetitive-stress injuries. Changing the exercises, you do and how you perform them will help you reduce the negative effects of working out with calisthenics each day.

Change up on what you do if doing daily to avoid injury.

With calisthenics, you have dozens of exercise options, including sit-ups, pushups, squats, lunges, jumping jacks, crunches, dips, butt kicks, burpees and mountain climbers. Crunches are variations of sit-ups that use different movements to target your rectus abdominis and obliques. Dips require you to lower and raise yourself against a bench or sofa, using your arms. You can jog or run in place or run up and down stairs two at a time for added cardio and muscle building.

When you perform calisthenics at a high intensity, you might fatigue your muscles after only a few minutes. If you perform calisthenics such as pushups, dips and crunches slowly, using muscular effort to lower and raise yourself each time, you’ll fatigue your muscles. If you perform your exercises at higher speeds, using momentum and gravity to help raise and lower your body, you’ll use less muscular effort, but raise your heart rate through an increased number of repetitions. Performing high-impact exercises, ones that require significant muscular effort or doing them at a very high heart rate might not allow you to perform a calisthenics workout every day without creating too much stress on your body.

Don’t perform the same calisthenics workout every day if you want to minimize stress on your body and prevent a plateau that can cause your calorie burn to decrease. Alternate your daily workouts to focus on cardio with less muscular effort one day, then focus on more intense muscle-building exercises the next. Alternate high-impact exercises with low-impact exercises throughout the week to avoid putting too much strain on your joints. Consider adding a dumbbell or resistance band workout to your schedule to give yourself a break from daily calisthenics workouts. You’ll target many of the same muscles as you do with calisthenics and get the same cardio and muscle-building benefits.

Except for cardio, your workout should also involve some strength exercises to build muscles and lose weight more effectively shaping up your figure at the same time. The calisthenics can be safely performed with high intensity, and that’s why they are really great for fat fighters.

Can you build muscle doing Calisthenics?

Absolutely, bodyweight exercises don’t beat up your joints as much as traditional weight training exercises do. … However, there are still those who argue that bodyweight training isn’t as effective as weight lifting when it comes to building muscle. That’s because it’s often associated with high reps, endurance and the military. Truth be told, you can build muscle doing these, though we recommend also, weight lifting for the ultimate. Nothing wrong if you don’t, can you can get into great shape just with calisthenics.

How long to do Calisthenics when you do them

Muscle Failure. The length of time for muscle recovery between workouts depends on how hard you exercise. If your calisthenics exercises are challenging and you push your muscles to failure, you will need up to two days between workouts. Do not do sessions longer than 30 to 40 minutes.

For Beginners

When just starting, do only 3 to 4 times a week, for a few weeks

Benefits of Calisthenics

Increased Muscle and Tone

Calisthenics are one of the only ways to build muscle mass and strength without the use of weights. However, it might not be the choice for the hard-core body builder. Muscles are built on the principle of progressive resistance. You can only progress your resistance so far when your only weight is your own body. However, calisthenics can build a reasonable amount of muscle mass, and maintain it, especially for a beginner looking for moderate muscle growth. An added benefit is that calisthenics accomplishes this muscle growth without the tearing and trauma that weight training can inflict.


When you get stronger, you also become more flexible. In fact, you cannot become more flexible without building muscle strength. A strong muscle does not have to strain to contract as a weak one must to perform. This in turn allows muscles to extend and flex with more ease. Calisthenics is an ideal way to increase flexibility through muscle tone.

Weight Loss

Calisthenics tackle the problem of burning excess fat from two directions. First, the strength training builds muscle mass and tone all over your body. Increased muscle mass raises your resting metabolic rate, allowing you to burn more calories every moment of every day. Second, continuous calisthenics causes your heart rate to rise. It constitutes aerobic exercise, one of the most effective ways possible to burn off fat.


One of the most beneficial effects of calisthenics is increased endurance. Circuit training calisthenics requires you to do as many repetitions of an exercise as possible, without rest, until fatigued. Every day that you re-perform these exercises, having allowed your muscles to heal overnight, your endurance will be increased. You will be able to perform more repetitions before fatigue is reached. When performed evenly within all muscle groups, the result is increased endurance throughout every part of the body, including the cardio-vascular system.

Calisthenics can improve multiple aspects of your physicality. It is an excellent exercise for over-all fitness and health. No matter what your physical goals, calisthenics are worth consideration while achieving them.

If you are not currently doing calisthenics, we think it is a good idea to start doing them at least a few days a week in addition to your other activities. Your benefits from this will be tremendous.

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