Your guide to calisthenics, the bodyweight workout that builds muscle

So you took on the challenge of CrossFit and got slightly abused at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. However, if you’re the type of guy who prefers a no-fuss, muscle-building workout without the bells and whistles of a gym, training partner, or fancy equipment, Calisthenics has got you covered.

Calisthenics is often the workout responsible for the gravity-defying feats of strength you see on Instagram (think human flag). Despite its name, all that minimalist exercise entails is a repetitive sequence of movements that use your own body’s resistance to build strength, burn fat, and increase flexibility. Even a weight room junkie who practically lives by the squat rack could use some of this.

Calisthenics vs Weightlifting

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While the main difference is that calisthenics doesn’t require free weights and a fully equipped gym like weightlifting does, it still offers a solid total body workout overall. Since weightlifting tends to isolate individual muscles, it doesn’t simulate real-world situations like lifting a large box off the floor or hoisting it back onto the ledge of a building in the event of a crisis – Mission Impossible style. It also reduces the risk of poor posture and injury, as is the case with weightlifting.

Sure, calisthenics doesn’t build specific muscles as quickly as weightlifting, but it does offer the benefit of moving your body as a whole. A lat pulldown, for example, targets the lats, biceps, and forearm muscles, but a pullup does the same thing with the added involvement of the core and rest of the body, expending more energy and burning more fat.

Overall, the goal of calisthenics is to improve your aerobic and muscular condition simultaneously, alongside coordination and balance, making it a common adjunct to other fitness practices like yoga. Weightlifting, on the other hand, requires constant attention from free weights to maintain the size and condition of your muscles.

The benefits of calisthenics

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Muscles are based on the concept of progressive resistance, and the only downside to calisthenics is that the progression stops once you’ve conquered your own bodyweight. While not the best option for hardcore bodybuilders, calisthenics can still build and maintain a respectable amount of muscle mass over the long term without the extreme muscle trauma and tear that weightlifting can cause.

Because all muscles work and build in tandem, calisthenics is a great way to improve flexibility because a strong muscle doesn’t have to strain like a weak muscle to contract. Efficient fat burning is achieved through a higher resting metabolic rate from increased muscle mass as well as its aerobic nature. This in turn spurs a surge in increased stamina.

Circuit training calisthenics consists of doing as many repetitions of an exercise as possible without rest and to the point of exhaustion, pushing your cardiovascular system and muscles to new heights with each session.

The workout

If you’ve ever done a push-up or plank, you’ve definitely tried calisthenics. Pushing, pulling, balancing, and core stabilization are gross motor movements that are performed rhythmically throughout the workout. Since your freedom of movement is not restricted by machines and barbells, you are free to adapt your routine to suit your needs.

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Other moves that are basic calisthenics fundamentals are planks, pull-ups, burpees, and lunges (among many others), although there are more advanced variations like the one-leg push-up and prisoner squat jumps. Leaning forward as you plank instead of leaning on your elbows also gets your core revved up and challenges your entire body to work harder for balance.

Calisthenics’ flexibility makes it easy to quantify your gains – faster reps and longer holds aside, you’ll find it easier to perform tasks like touching your toes or, one day, even nailing the human flag.

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This story appeared first on Lifestyle Asia Singapore

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