When we talk about strength training, a common perception is huge people lifting huge weights, but is this really the only way we can define strength? Are weights essential in getting stronger? Entering the world of calisthenics has opened our eyes to a new form of training, one which focuses on bodyweight with minimal equipment.
What is Calisthenics?
Calisthenics may sound fancy, however it’s very simple. Put simply, it’s strength training but stripped back, using your body weight rather than equipment. The beauty of calisthenics is the ease it can offer in comparison to other forms of training, it can be practiced anywhere, at any time. Ditch the barbell, dump the dumbbell and go back to basics. This form of strength and conditioning allows you to explore the levels your body can go to on it’s own. It’s amazing how your body can adapt with just itself to rely on.
How to get started:
It may sound obvious but start with the basics. The worst thing you can do is watch a calisthenics expert effortlessly pull their whole body over a bar and try and copy them; it won’t work. Strength at this level will take time and practice, so start by doing what comes more naturally and build up. Not only will this help to boost confidence but it will also prevent any potential injury from doing too much too soon. Start with press ups, squats, pull ups and slowly progress. Work on your form first, perfect this and then add intensity by increasing reps or incorporating tempo variety. The great thing about so called ‘basic’ movements is that they can all be modified as you progress i.e. switching your bodyweight squat for a bodyweight squat jump or moving from a pull up to a muscle up. Whilst movements can also be made harder, they can also be made easier. For example, start with a press up from your knees first. The key thing to remember; go at your own pace.
Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can start to get advanced. Here are some excellent ways of further enhancing your calisthenic training.
- Pistol Squat – Quite tricky to get the hang of, but once mastered a great exercise for balance and leg strength. Simply extend one leg and squat down as far as you can with the other.
- Dips – Grab the bars on the dipping station and jump up so they are straight, then slowly lower yourself until your shoulders are below your elbows, then slowly lift back up and extend arms.
- Hanging knee raises – Hang from a pull up bar, lift your knees to a 90-degree angle and then with your lower abs, lift your legs until they are aligned with the ground. A real ab cruncher
- Explosive push ups – A normal push up, however when coming back up, push yourself off so forcefully your hands come up off the floor, land it and repeat.
- Muscle ups – A pull up x2. Complete a regular pull up however use your legs and a little bit extra force in order to roll your chest over the bar when coming up. Then press down on the bar and extend your arms so your body is over the bar. Keep core engaged.
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So, what are you waiting for? The hardest step is the first step, so just get it out of the way and start your calisthenics journey today! You already have a collection full of everything you need at your disposal, so there are really no excuses.