If you can’t hear the word “calisthenics” without flashing back to high school gym class, you’re not alone. (I promise, I’m right there with you.) But it turns out gym teachers everywhere were onto something. Calisthenics, or exercises that use your own bodyweight as resistance, are one of the most effective ways to build and maintain strength. And since they require little time and equipment, you can fit them in wherever you are, even if your schedule is packed, you don’t have a gym membership or you’re on a tight budget.
Below, we dive into them further, as well as explore calisthenics back workouts and how these can benefit you.
Yes, calisthenics can help support muscles and overall strength! Luke Jones, Movement & Mobility Coach at Hero Movement tells Lively, “It’s entirely possible to build lean muscle mass using calisthenics. As with any form of strength training, it’s important to focus on progressive overload, which means increasing the difficulty of your training sessions over time by performing more repetitions, sets, or harder exercise variations.” Just like any workout, the key is to keep challenging yourself with more reps and different types of movements.
If you do calisthenics regularly and continue to push yourself, you should gain strength and not lose muscle, even if you’ve switched to calisthenics from weight lifting.
But remember, anytime you start a new workout routine, it’s important to ramp up gradually to avoid injury.Hannah Daugherty, CPT-NASM, ACE, who serves on the advisory board for Fitter Living tells Lively. “Starting low and slow is key to reducing injury. Begin with simple bodyweight movements like squats, planks, pushups and slowly progress to harder movements. Ensuring that form and technique is correct is also another starting point that shouldn’t be overlooked.”
Luke Jones added, “Nutrition, sleep, stress management, and recovery protocols are also important to reduce your injury risk and support the muscle-building process.”
There are dozens of calisthenic exercises you can choose from to work new muscle groups and stave off boredom. Plus, switching up your routine is a great strategy for building strength. But mastering a few classic moves is a good place to start. According to Jones, pull ups are the “king of all back exercises.” Pushups, dips, and handstands are very effective for working the chest, shoulders and triceps. Many calisthenics do favor the upper body muscles, so for a full body workout, be sure to balance upper body exercises with lower body exercises, like squats, lunges and burpees, and core strengtheners like the plank.
And if you like exercising with a friend (or your kids won’t leave you alone long enough to fit in a solo workout!) try co-operative calisthenics, which use both your body weight and someone else’s to enhance a workout. (Think push-ups with someone sitting on your back or squats while holding hands.)
Vital note: This article has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Your licensed healthcare professional can best provide you with the diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition and assist you as well in deciding whether a dietary supplement will be a helpful addition to your regimen.