Calisthenics (from Greek kallos sthenos, beauty and strength) is a physical activity of training using the load of one's own body. Let's start with the fact that it is not new to humanity and has been with it for centuries. Mythical warriors in ancient times, in addition to martial arts, also practiced exercises to increase overall physical fitness.

They performed:
• push-ups - strengthening the chest and triceps,
• chin-ups - back muscles, biceps and forearm muscles,
• standing on your arms - rim strength of the upper limb, balance and coordination,
• crunches, pulling up legs hanging on a bar - abdominal muscles,
• squats - leg muscles,
• climbing stairs - leg muscles.

These exercises are carried out to this day in schools during physical education classes. So we can say that each of us once practiced more or less calisthenics.

Calisthenics then and today

In the second half of the 20th century, this discipline as the main training method for developing muscle was forgotten. The increase in popularity of gym exercises with specialized equipment has eclipsed calisthenics for many years. For several years, we have again noted an increase in interest in this sport. Currently, calisthenics presents the hallmarks of a "movement" in which the cult of body and fitness is emphasized, but the gym itself raises resentment. People who practice this sport are very fond of outdoor training. You can see large investments made by cities for the construction of training grounds. They are equipped with all kinds of rods, handrails and posts for performing impressive evolutions. Trainees of street workout, as otherwise known as calisthenics, feel a strong connection with the street and in the United States there is also the concept of ghetto workout which results from circumstances (gangs, violence and racial dominance in neighborhoods) that prevail in places where trainings take place.

Modern-day calisthenics draws a lot from sports gymnastics (Olympic discipline). Exercises such as muscle up, planche, human flag, front lever can be watched both in the Olympic struggles and on thousands of videos on You Tube performed by amateurs. Movies with online stars of this sport (Hannibal for King, Denis Minin, Frank Medrano) have several dozen million views.

Advantages and disadvantages

The advantages of calisthenics include its simplicity. No equipment is needed for training - it is enough to load your own body. This is also her biggest disadvantage. At some stage, body weight is too low to be a significant stimulus for further development of the figure. However, let us not forget that calisthenics is also efficiency. In exercise such as human flag or 360 muscle up, low body weight is our ally.

All the most difficult exercises included in calisthenics are unreachable for the average beginner. Therefore, to achieve championship in each of them you must first go through many simpler stages to strengthen our weaknesses. At the beginning, it is particularly important to build basic strength and body control by correctly performing exercises with increasing the degree of their difficulty.

The technique of some of them and proposed methods of progression and variations:

1. Push-ups

Technique - move to front support. Set your hands at 1.5 the width of the shoulder girdle at chest height. Keep your hips in a straight line thanks to active abdominal and gluteal muscles. Bend your arms at the elbows until your nose touches the floor. Return to the starting position all the time keeping your hips straight. Breathe in, breathe down, push yourself up - exhale.
Progression - if you put your feet up, this will result in a higher percentage of weight on your shoulders and chest due to your weight.
Variations - placing your hands close to your body below your chest and keeping your elbows close to your torso during movement will involve triceps more.

2. Chin-ups

Technique - grab the bar with the handle on the 1.5 width of the shoulder girdle. The bar should be at such a height that the legs do not touch the ground in free hanging. Pulling your shoulder blades down and pushing your chest, pull yourself up until the chin is over the bar. Return to the starting position in a controlled manner. Breathe out, pull up, lower - breathe in.
Progression - manipulate the pace of repetitions, the slower the performance the more difficult they will be. You can also bend your hips to 90 degrees keeping your legs straight in front of you. When viewed from the side, your torso and legs should be in the shape of the letter L.
Variations - using a narrow grip will involve your forearms more in your work. Pulling yourself up with a grip, you will engage two-headed arms (biceps) to work.

3. Squat

Technique - stand straight apart, stretch your arms out in front of you. Back and bend your hips slightly, and then begin to bend your knees at the same time while maintaining contact with the ground with the entire surface of the foot. Get as low as you can (below 90 degrees in the knee joint) keeping your spine straight (the torso should be slightly inclined forward). Go down, breathe in, get up - exhale.
Progression - squat on one leg (gun) although it is a very difficult exercise requiring high strength, mobility and coordination. Unfortunately, the other option could be only the extra load.
Variations - depending on the width of the foot spacing, we will practice other parts of the leg muscles, respectively: wide spacing - adductors, buttocks; narrow spacing - quadriceps thighs, buttocks.


Tens or even hundreds of repetitions mentioned above will allow us to move on to more advanced exercises. A lot of online guides and videos on how to perform a given gymnastic figure, exercise comes with help. In many large cities there are also groups of lovers of calisthenics. It's often easy to find their pages on FB by entering Street Workout [city name]. You can join such a group, arrange training together and under the guidance of more experienced colleagues, polish your skills. Specialist personal trainers teaching street workout according to the established methodology are also available. Some gyms also offer group classes on this discipline. As you can see, there are more and more opportunities to start your adventure with calisthenics and it is a good alternative to training with equipment.