Calisthenics: Should you do it?
Sheikh Nadir Siddiquee
We often find excuses for not going to the Gym. Some really do not have enough time or money to afford a gym and some do not enjoy it. Well we have a solution - ‘Calisthenics’. The term ‘Calisthenics’ has been derived from the Greek word ‘kallos’ which means beauty and ‘sthenos’ that means strength. Calisthenics is basically body weight workout that can be done at home, park and requires bare minimum equipment like a bar/ring. It is the cheapest workout option available and is very effective. It is a form of resistance training wherein body is used to apply resistance. Resistance is stressing a muscle with a load of training to move against a force. The muscles do not understand how much weight you are lifting to build muscles. It just understands resistance and if your body faces enough resistance, it tends to grow. One of the earliest mentions of Calisthenics can be found in the chronicles of Herodotus on the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC). Yes, the Greek bodies were made mostly by doing Calisthenics because back then there was no hi-fi equipment to build muscles. The Greek geographer and traveller Pausanias also observed that athletes were trained in Calisthenics. Needless to say, Calisthenics has been a part of various cultures. For example, we all know about the famous art of Indian wrestling and the term ‘dand’- Hindu Pushups and ‘baithak’- Hindu Squat. These all are body weight exercises and the primary Calisthenics training tools. Even the ancient yoga is done all using body weight. Calisthenics is very similar to yoga which involves hand-stands( Adho Mukha Vrksasana) /headstands( Sirsasana) etc. Calisthenics fulfills the three dimensions of fitness which is strength, agility and mobility. Training with equipment can give you strength but fails to help with agility and mobility. Doing yoga can give you strength and mobility but no agility. Also doing an endurance activity like running/sprinting would give you agility and mobility but fails to provide strength gains. The basic workouts of Calisthenics are push-ups, pull-ups, squat, jumps, planks and lunges. Once you master these skills, you can move forward to advanced techniques like hand stand push-ups , kip ups, pistol squats, flips, dragon flag, human flag etc. They all look really cool but they are extremely difficult to perform. Your body gradually learns to balance and hold your body in a certain position for a certain amount of time. Calisthenics is dynamic in comparison to the regular weight training. We can always add variety to the training and still implement the basic push and pull strategy for muscle growth. And yes a great looking ripped physique can be achieved by doing just Calisthenics and taking care of Nutrition. It can be mixed with weight training to enhance muscle growth while still being able to achieve mobility and flexibility. I personally train Calisthenics every day along with my regular weight training. It helps me achieve all aspects of Fitness i.e, body, mind and soul. The best way to master Calisthenics is to start with basics like push-ups, pull-ups, squats and planks and then gradually improvise on the balancing part of the advanced Calisthenics strategies. There are two ways to train- one for improving skills which involves picking up 3-4 skills and performing every day to learn to do it and be better at it, second one is making training splits for push, pull and legs and push your muscles to reach threshold for Muscle growth. There are also various books available on Calisthenics like Combat Conditioning by Matt Furey, Dinosaur Bodyweight Training by Brooks Kubik, The Naked Warrior by Pavel Tsatsouline and Convict Conditioning by Paul Wade. You can go through these books and learn the art of Calisthenics. Calisthenics is also a famous sport and the World Street Workout & Calisthenics Federation (WSWCF) based in Latvia orchestrates the annual National Championships in up to 50 different countries and hosts the World Championships for all the national champions to compete at one competition.