What is Calisthenics?
You might have heard the term ‘Calisthenics’ being thrown around in conversation or read an article about it on the internet. Despite the slightly clinical name, it’s basically good old fashioned ‘keep fit’. Chances are that you’ve even done this in some other guise at the gym, within an exercise class or just hoofing around at home.
Calisthenics is actually a form of strength and resistance training which uses gravity and body weight. It’s come to prominence during the recent lockdowns because it’s easy, can be practised alone and is often done outdoors.
Benefits of Calisthenics
Let’s face it, using the same gym equipment and machines day in, day out can get so boring. That’s why so many people lose motivation within the first three months and give up. If you’re short on time, we won’t berate you for resenting the time it takes to travel to and from the gym either.
Fortunately, calisthenics is a great solution to such problems. For a start, there are hundreds of exercises so every workout can be completely different. You can do it anywhere, with minimal or no equipment. If you do like a mat to prevent slipping and sliding however, we can highly recommend the Yogi Bare Paws Mat, our natural rubber mat for extreme grip, perfect for all those push ups too.
No travel is required, and this form of exercise also capitalises on the fact that our bodies were made to move. So, it’s a natural way to keep healthy! Calisthenic exercises ask more of the body in a relatively short space of time, burning more calories than a regular cardio workout. They build functional strength, making everyday tasks much easier, build stamina and endurance, and reduce stress on the joints. And to cap it all, it’s free!
Calisthenics for Upper Body
Having a strong upper body and core is a key aspect to keeping fit and healthy. It ensures better balance, posture, strength, stability, a healthy back, less injuries, and even tighter abdominals.
Calisthenics uses multiple muscles at any one time so it’s a great form of exercise for strengthening and developing muscles of the upper body, including the upper back, neck, head, chest, abdominals, arms, and shoulder.
Quick calisthenics routine
There are four fundamental exercises to include in a Calisthenic upper body workout:
- Pull ups
These might sound simple, and it’s true there really isn’t anything fancy about them, but they’re incredibly effective.
Pull ups strengthen the back, arms, shoulder, pecs, and oblique muscles. This can be a challenging exercise so if you find them difficult, even just getting into position and hanging from the bar, with an overhand grip (palms facing away) and with hands positioned on the bar just slightly outside of your shoulders for 10-30 seconds will begin to build strength.
To move into a full pull up, pull yourself upwards until your chin is a little above the bar. As you get more stamina over time, you could progress to the chest to bar pull up where you get your chest to the bar.
Although very similar, the chin-up is slightly different because you have an underhand grip (palms face towards you). This also means that your hands tend to be shoulder width or narrower. All of the same muscles are activated as its close cousin, the pull up. However, the pectoral and bicep muscles are more engaged with this one.
Dips move the body up and down by hinging on the elbows. They’re particularly great for working the triceps. These can be done using gym equipment, parallel bars, dip bars (often found alongside other outdoor exercise equipment) or 2 parallel objects with a steady surface. In simple terms you dip down in a controlled movement, whilst keeping the chest upright, then pull yourself back up to complete a rep.
A push up, also commonly known as a press up, is used as a form of punishment in the army! It certainly requires stamina but despite its reputation, it’s fantastic as an all-round upper body exercise, targeting chest, arms, and shoulders. Start in a high plank, then controlling the movement, lower down. As you come towards the floor and chest or chin makes contact, that’s your cue to push upwards, keeping your core tight, back up to the high plank again.
We’d recommend incorporating at least 2 upper body workouts into your calisthenics routine per week. If you can, do 3 sets of each exercise then rest for 3 minutes. Try and do that for at least 4 rounds to feel the full benefit. If you can’t manage that to begin with, just do what you feel comfortable with and build up from there.
Once you’ve finished, don’t forget that you need to give your body a minimum of 2 rest days in between each upper body workout for recovery time.
If you enjoyed this article, click here for more calisthenics exercises to increase core strength. Don’t quite want to leave the yoga just yet? Why not combine it with calisthenics by reading ‘How to Combine Yoga and Calisthenics’.