Calisthenics may remind some of PE classes from a foregone era, but like all fitness trends they cycle around again.
Trendy workout formats like Crossfit, bootcamp classes, Strong by Zumba, and others are fully or partially based on calisthenics. Even Pilates, barre, power yoga, and dance fitness classes contain exercises that may be described as calisthenics.
What Are Calisthenics? Is It Just Another Name For Bodyweight Training?
The term Calisthenics refers to exercises that don’t require weights, machines, or equipment. People also frequently refer to calisthenics as body-weight training.
Most classic Calisthenics are a form of resistance or strength training exercises. Popular bodyweight calisthenics include squats, pushups, lunges, crunches, and planks. Some high-intensity calisthenics raise the heart rate and trainers and boot camp instructors often arrange them into circuits for an interval-based or steady state cardio workout. In addition to the previous examples, calisthenics that fit this category include jumping jacks, burpees, and mountain climbers.
Many prefer calisthenics and bodyweight training because they don’t need expensive equipment to get an effective workout.
Pros And Cons Of Bodyweight Calisthenic Workouts
Some people base their fitness routine around bodyweight training and calisthenics. Others prefer to supplement their weight lifting workouts with calisthenics. You don’t have to choose one approach exclusively, however there are some key benefits and disadvantages to bodyweight training.
Benefits Of Calisthenics Based Workouts
- You use your own body or gravity as resistance so you don’t need additional equipment.
- Most calisthenics can be made more or less challenging by adding equipment such as resistance bands. For example, people training to do pull-ups can use a heavy resistance band to make the pull-up a little easier while they build their strength.
- Many calisthenics require only a small amount of space so people can do them in hotel rooms, dorm rooms, and other crowded spaces.
- You can adapt calisthenics to many training strategies. For example, many trainers leaders arrange bodyweight exercises into circuits for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) workouts. Others may arrange them into a classic bootcamp style workout.
- They offer a fun, excuse-proof way to workout. Some people mix it up through apps, workout card games, or following their favorite YouTube trainer. The options are limited only by your fitness and creativity.
Disadvantages of Calisthenic Based Workouts
- Like any exercise, you need to use good form for a safe and effective workout. If a bodyweight exercise is too challenging, it may not be possible to modify certain exercises.
- Weight lifting is so effective because you can progressively increase the resistance as your body adapts. For some bodyweight exercises, once you master it you have to switch to more challenging variations or add extra resistance to see more gains.
- People who use step counting fitness trackers often feel disappointed when they work up a sweat but see a very low step count. Many effective strength exercises like squats, pullups and pushups do not register as steps for most trackers.
Calisthenics And Your Biometrics
Calisthenics affect your biometrics in different ways depending on how they fit into your routine. Vigorous circuit workouts using calisthenics will affect your Heart Rate Variability (HRV) readings as they involve anaerobic training. You may need to allow yourself an active recovery day after a vigorous calisthenics circuit session. As you get fitter, you may find that this style of program causes your and HRV to trend downwards over time.
As mentioned, people who wear popular step counting devices sometimes feel cheated by how few steps they accumulate during a calisthenics workout. Fortunately, exercise classification functions evolved and Biostrap can recognize, classify and track over 100 exercises including many popular calisthenics. This function also may help you refine your technique in response to the feedback.
Finally, many use heart rate training to pace their bodyweight workouts. Your working heart rate may prompt you to ease up or work harder depending on conditions that day. Monitoring your heart rate also helps you better time your recovery intervals.
Calisthenics are ideal whenever you want or need an efficient, no-equipment workout. They are a classic in bootcamps, gyms, PE classes, and boutique studios throughout the world.
Sources And Resources
Drop and Give Me 20! – A research study on the effectiveness of bootcamp style fitness trends by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) By John Porcari, Ph.D., Kirsten Hendrickson, B.S., and Carl Foster, Ph.D., with Mark Anders
The Seven Minute Workout – The Well, New York Times, by Gretchen Reynolds