Calisthenics, more commonly referred to as body weight training, is one of the most important methods we use in our training. While simple at first, it’s also very complex in the way it can be used. Read on to have a look at what’s brought us to love calisthenics, and how it can become a wonderful part of a balanced fitness program.
For some reason, when I was a kid, all I could think about (well not ALL, but let’s just make this dramatic for a minute!) was what I’d do if I had nothing. This usually pertained to sports, so often I would think to myself, “OK, if (insert sport of your choice) was taken away from me, at least I could do (insert another sport).” As I grew, the trend continued. As I found and participated in different sports, I’d often think about having an injury and what that could mean to the potential of my training. Then I’d take it even one step more, entertaining the possibility of living in a far off country with no access to any gym or equipment. What could I do in order to get an effective workout!?
I think it’s safe to say that I’m a “Fitness Prepper” I’m always thinking of what I can or can’t do, and where and when it’s appropriate. In a lot of ways, I think that’s what draws me to love unconventional training so much. As we’ve covered in the past few blogs, items like the sandbag and kettlebell are extremely simple tools that can be brought almost anywhere to give you the “gym in a a bag” feel. You don’t need much, but with these you can get an awesome, heart-thumping workout anywhere. But then, what do we do if we don’t have access to even those!!?? What are we to do when we only have our body weight and a floor? Well we use that of course!
Perhaps truly the oldest and most storied fitness “tool” is our own bodies. It’s honestly the only thing we truly own in this life, and in most cases, all we REALLY need to achieve most of our fitness goals. With a little creativity and know how, we can turn ourselves into the ultimate gym.
A quick Google or Youtube search will yield plenty of instructional videos detailing all sorts of body weight movements. It’s quite easy to get carried away with the variety, but lets start with just the basics for the moment. There are five pillars to an exercise routine: Push, Pull, Squat, Hinge, and Anti-rotation. These pillars should form the foundation of any balanced workout program. Without any one of them, you will be neglecting an important aspect that will leave some part of your program unbalanced. Wonderfully, basic calisthenics exercises demonstrate all of these pillars!
Let’s start with the obvious ones-the Push up, Pull up, and Squat. All three of these movements build power and strength, but can also be either modified to help novice trainees the ability to perform them properly, or they can be built on to create a more advanced routine. Either way, they cover Pushing, Pulling, and Squatting-literally!
For the final two pillars, we have to think a little more out of the box. The hinge movement is one that’s often overlooked in conventional training, and certainly with body weight training it can be a bit more challenging to perform. In terms of the hinge, we’re looking at how the hip moves. The easiest way to illustrate this is to think about a kettlebell squat done correctly. In doing so, the knees are only slightly bent, and the hips are pushed slightly back. The upper body remains nearly straight, as the chest and shoulders move toward the floor. To complete the hinge, the trainee then stands back up straight, to the starting position.
The most basic way to perform this with only your body weight is to mimic a straight legged deadlift, only without the weight. Remember to keep your back straight and knees minimally bent when going down, and stand up tall at the top, but don’t arch your back. You’re looking for absolute perfect posture at the top of the movement.
Anti-rotation is a lot simpler than you might think. While there can be some actual movement when accomplishing this pillar, the basic element of it begins without. That is, you’ll be contracting your muscles, but only in order to hold an anti-rotating position. Probably the easiest way to accomplish this is to set yourself up in a push-up position, and once you’re comfortable, remove one hand from the floor and bring it up to your opposite shoulder. Hold that position for a given amount of time, with only three points on the ground, return the hand to the floor, and repeat on the other side. This anti-rotating movement builds up strength and stability in your midsection that will make it possible to move onto more dynamic movements later, such as one arm push ups and pull ups.
Calisthenics are a wonderful way to workout when you either don’t have equipment, want to challenge yourself in a different way, or truly want to live a minimal lifestyle. There is nothing to buy (other than maybe clothes-we don’t want to be working out naked in public!), and you’ll gain a command over your body that you never thought possible. Learn more with us and give it a go, let us know what you think!