The Importance Of Calisthenics

by Matt Hodges
16 July 2012

Fitness Instructor London, Personal Trainer London

Calisthenics are exercises that use your bodyweight for resistance and are designed to strengthen and tone your muscles and increase muscular endurance. Derived from the Greek kalos, meaning beauty, and sthenos, meaning strength, calisthenics don’t necessarily require any exercise equipment.

While many trainers dismiss calisthenics as only being suitable for beginners or the less fit, I always believe that this type of no-frills exercise can be a valuable addition to just about any training program for absolutely EVERYONE!

The Benefits of Calisthenics

Bodyweight exercises such as lunges, press ups, jumping jacks, squats and step ups can be performed just about anywhere. This means that you never need to miss a workout just because you are unable to make it to the gym. Also, because calisthenic exercises require no setting up time, you can transition from one exercise to the next quickly and easily which makes your workout effective and efficient.

Calisthenic exercises teach you to master your own body. They teach coordination, balance, proprioception and self awareness. Unlike resistance machines that guides your movements, performing bodyweight exercises effectively means you must control your limbs and maintain proper body position. This has a positive carryover to sports and other “functional” activities.

It’s very easy to adjust the difficulty of calisthenic exercises according to your fitness and strength levels. For example, a press up can be as easy as a wall press up with your body only slightly angled to very demanding – such as a handstand press up. No additional equipment is required – simply change your body position. At MPH Fitness, we know how to select the exercises that are challenging enough to improve your fitness and then, once you have mastered them, how to progress you onto more demanding versions of each movement.

Calisthenic exercises are easy on your joints. Exercises such as leg extensions and machine chest presses are safe enough but for some exercisers, these movements can be hard on your joints. If you have a long history of hard training or are over forty and beginning to experience the onset of joint pain, calisthenic exercises are one of the best ways to keep your joints moving while minimizing any discomfort. As many martial artists and ex-military personnel have proven, callisthenic exercises are suitable for older exercisers looking to maintain a high level of fitness despite worn joints.

Size & Strength?

There have been a good many articles on Prison training that I have seen in the past couple of years, that all seem to incorporate calisthenics. Its true that cons have a lot of time to spare in prison and often a lot of them crack on with their training with limited equipment. On 3 square meals a day you should see some of their strength stats! It just goes to prove that you don’t need to be lifting heavy to make serious strength or muscular size gains. An amazing example is the famous Hannibal. Watch the full video – I assure you that you will be amazed!

As I am sure you will agree that Hannibals’ strength is incredible and all built from Calisthenic training. Not only that he has a physique to match!

Famous Proponents of Calisthenic Exercises

When it comes to bodyweight training and calisthenic exercises, you don’t just have to take our word that they provide a great way to train! There are a huge number of well-known athletes, coaches, sportsmen/women and celebrities who have enjoyed great results from this traditional form of exercise…

Jason Statham: The actor has a true action hero physique which he directly attributes to high repetition calisthenic training. His busy schedule and travelling commitments often mean he can’t make it to the gym. This has not stopped Statham developing one of the best physiques in Hollywood.

The cast of 300: In addition to their strength workouts these guys burnt fat and built muscle using many traditional calisthenic exercises. Like the Spartan warriors they portrayed, the actors wanted to look good and move well. Their tough as nails workouts built around pull ups, press ups, sprinting and other common calisthenic exercises resulted in actors who truly looked the part.

Mohammed Ali: was undoubtedly one of the best boxers of the 20th century and his speed and conditioning can be directly attributed to training hard and often with calisthenic exercises. In fact, Ali’s coach did not believe in traditional strength training for boxers and only allowed his fighters to perform bodyweight exercises. The success of Ali and other fighters who trained in the same way goes to show how effective this type of training can be.

Bruce Lee: was famed for his lean and muscular physique as well as his astounding skill as a martial artist. Although Lee trained with traditional weights for bodybuilding purposes, when it came to developing speed, power and endurance, calisthenic exercises were a mainstay of his training.

Special Forces: groups around the world including the British SAS and the American navy SEALs use calisthenic exercises almost exclusively to prepare these modern-day Spartans for the demands of warfare. As these exercises can be performed anywhere and anytime, they allow these elite soldiers to stay fit and strong regardless of where in the worlds they are deployed.

Our Personal Trainers in Hampstead, London, know the value of calisthenic exercises and from the list above, you can see we are in good company. Remember, you are your own gym so contact us to find out how you can get the most from these traditional and super effective exercises.

This article was written by Matt Hodges, you can see all his articles here.