So just what is Calisthenics, and why do people choose it over “Gym-bro” weight training?
Basically, Calisthenics is just resistance training using your own body weight as the weights. It requires minimal fitness equipment because it uses the human body itself to put muscles under tension, rather than external training equipment such as barbells or machines. It has been around for a long time. A very long time. So long, in fact, that the word itself comes from a Greek root: "Kallos" meaning beauty, and "Sthénos" meaning strength.
Progress comes through being able to master lifting and moving your body in new ways. This makes progress much more tangible for us compared to regular weight-training, which involves simply adding extra plates. Wouldn't you rather be able to show off a handstand push-up outside than lift an 80 kg barbell over your head?
You probably already do Calisthenics without even realizing it. Ever done a push-up? Yep, calisthenics. A squat? You guessed it.
So, just why do these bodyweight training nerds claim it is the superior method of training? For a start, it is the best way to create functional muscle, which has the capability to combine muscle groups to provide optimum strength from your body, rather than isolating a single muscle with a strength training exercise such as bicep curls. Can you think of a single situation in the real world in which you would need to lift an object using just your biceps? Natural training methods prepare the body for real-world situations.
Combining muscle groups to perform an exercise using minimal training equipment also improves our coordination. Why? Because the muscles involved in the exercise need to coordinate with each other to complete it. For those of us that play sports, this can have huge implications for improving our skills on the field.
A very basic and superficial benefit of training calisthenics is being able to show off the latest cool tricks you have learned to your friends. Who wouldn't love to be able to show people that they can do a muscle-up? Remember, the root of the word Calisthenics is beauty...
On the other hand, there's nothing beautiful about "gym-bros" who can bench 200kg but can't touch their toes. A real danger of overtraining with weights is that the body becomes muscle-bound and you can begin to lose basic functions, such as the ability to swing a golf club or kick a football. No matter how much you may train calisthenics, this tends not to happen because mobility is required to perform the more complex exercises. This is a major benefit of using functional training equipment.
Let's face it, many of us lift weights because it's easy and doesn't require much concentration. This is why many of us can get stuck in a rut with strength training: we get too used to doing the same repetitive thing at the same time on the same day of each week and end up at the same strength level after years of consistent training. Using home calisthenics equipment challenges us to get creative in our home training routines.
Another risk of weight training is joint damage from lifting too heavy. Our bodies are not designed to lift things that are twice the weight of ourselves, and joints can often give out under the pressure, causing very painful and long-lasting injuries. Thankfully, our bodies ARE designed to lift our own body weight, so these types of injuries are far less common with calisthenics. This makes sustainable calisthenics equipment the safer option for resistance training.
I could go on and on, but I think we will leave it here for today. If you still need more convincing, do some of your own research on calisthenics vs. weight training. There is plenty of evidence-backed research out there that does a much better job of explaining these points than ourselves.
We will leave you with some links here as a starting point for if you are interested in researching this further: