How to begin calisthenics – and what’s calisthenics?

It’s not hitting the gym and lifting heavier and heavier weights. Calisthenics is about becoming physically stronger, so you can perform more complex movements. Instead of increasing the difficulty by increasing the gravity over your body with weights, calisthenics uses human architecture to build complex exercises requiring more and more strength and agility.

Unlike going to the gym without a break, calisthenics is quite different in the fact that it’s not the amount of rep nor the weight of the exercise you practice that makes you level up. There’s way more technique in doing complex calisthenics movement than lifting some weights. Don’t get me wrong, lifting weights isn’t easy at all. To practice calisthenics, you must have a near perfect mind-muscle coordination. Knowing exactly how to contract a muscle. When. And how it affects the rest of your body. More than a simple strength test, practicing calisthenics makes sure you understand HOW your body works.

Calisthenics is the art of training your body to make it stronger without using tools – read weights, dumbbells and barbells. Spartans trained practicing calisthenics. They built the lean & mean look modern men want. And could do movements you can only dream of. Spartans were war machines. That’s probably why they dominated all their opponents – some were afraid of fighting Spartans. These young men developed their body with rudimentary food and no tools. They had no gym. Only their bare hands and some rocks and structure. That’s how calisthenic was born. Spartan had it harder than you and they were better looking and more agile. They invented a specific strategy to get lean & mean against all odds and it worked. It’s called calisthenics.

Now, I’m giving you some pictures, so you can grasp what’s calisthenics. Because it’s not defined clearly. We could say it’s some bodyweight exercises… But doing 20 push ups isn’t practicing calisthenics. It’s the basics. We could say it’s the art of using the complete strength of your body to move it, it would be wrong. It’s a mix of these ideas and more adding to the complete mastery of your mind-muscle connection.

Here’s how I’m defining calisthenics:

Performing complex movements most people can’t do.

Spartans didn’t even used parallettes and pull-ups bar to train their body. Bare hands training. Once you learn fundamental calisthenics movements, you’ll be able to train wherever you want. Without needing anything more than your brain to think of new exercises.

These days, most people call the old calisthenics “street workout”. To be fair, it’s the same exact thing. Except they changed the name. Calisthenics principles are immortal. They will never get old. And what seems to be brand new… street workout, HIIT and co, that’s military training techniques stolen from ancient civilization – mainly Spartans

Material you need to begin calisthenics

You don’t need much. You need nothing to begin with. Then when you come to more complex movements you’ll need some equipment to boost your growth.

  • Parallettes – you can craft your own parallettes, I’ll write an “How To” article
  • Pull-ups bar – to do pull-ups, chin-ups… obviously

Both items are cheap to buy – or craft – and you can find them everywhere – most of the time they don’t look like training facilities. Some trees can very well do the job. And most kid playground contains dozens of bars you can play with.

If that’s a concern for you to train around kids in playgrounds, choose empty hours to show your talents. Most playgrounds are empty early morning and late night – and yes, there’s light!

You’d like some more solutions… Most gyms have parallettes and pull ups bar. Your gym doesn’t? You shouldn’t train there in the first place.

And for you who’s super motivated, you can craft your own parallettes and train at home. For the pull up bar, buy one and install it in a door’s frame.

When you begin calisthenics, you can do so without these tools. If you don’t have parallettes you can do the same exercises with your hands on the floor. It strengthens a different type of grip.

Now, for the pull-ups bar it’s interesting to have one at your disposal. Most back exercises are done with the bar, not having one will impair your results and put you in trouble when you’ll need epic shoulders and upper back to do a handstand or no-legs push-ups.

For most exercises you don’t need any specific tool or installations. Push ups, crunches, handstand, plank…

Beginning calisthenics

Just like any sport you must start somewhere. No different for calisthenics. Except you can’t do most movements and must train so you can perform them.

Your calisthenics level will be measured by the difficulty of the exercise you can perform.

12 push-ups. Beginner

12 no-legs push-ups. Young master

Just like any other sports there are some requirement before you push through the higher levels of the discipline. Those are made up requirement. You can proceed further even if you don’t meet them, but you’ll put yourself in risk of injuries and are unlikely to succeed at complex movements.

Now, good news for you there are 5 fundamentals exercises you can train at. Those are the basics. If you can’t perform them well and can’t lend some reps… That’s where you train.

You name it, your 5 fundamentals:

  • Push ups
  • Pull ups
  • Dips
  • Squats
  • Leg raises

Fail at them and you’ll fail at building necessary strength to carry on harder exercises. Here’s a complete article on how to do them right and how to progress in the fundamental 5 quests. If you’d like to begin calisthenics, you should certainly give it a read.