Calisthenics - A Systematic Approach to Develop Strength

Calisthenics is a form of physical training focused on teaching you to master your own bodyweight using minimal equipment.


The word comes from the Greek, Kalli ('Beautiful') and Sthenos ('Strength’). Gravity Laboratory was established to enable you practice the art and leverage the science of beautiful strength movements.

Whether you want to develop core strength and lean muscle mass, learn a new skill such as a front lever or human flag, or you want to explore the most natural form of physical training so you can do a workout anytime, anywhere, we have have everything you need.


Whilst common place and wildly popular in other parts of the world, the Candian fitness scene is generally missing this proven and enduring offering (dates back to 600 - 400BC, Spartan soldier training). What has been apparent since opening Gravity however, is that the majority of members understand weight training and HIIT 'circuit' type training - as these are pretty ubiqitous in North America. So this article draws some comparisons / differences to traditional resistence (weight) training in an attempt to provide some simile and/or relatedness for the reader.



Image from a Handstand Clinic led by Sascha Bachmann, Cirque Dui Soleil Performer


Calisthenics comprise of a wide range of gross motor maneuvers, often rhythmical and generally ‘connected’ (think full body tension, correct sequencing of joints, firing of muscles and leveraging strong connective tissue). Compared to weights, where participants generally use only one muscle group at a time - and intense weight lifting can be harsh on the joints - calisthenics develops whole body strength as joint stabilization and recruitment of those smaller stabilizing muscle groups in forced. This type of training also helps boost energy, build better stamina and increase mental concentration. It’s also much easier on the joints which will help keep you away from injuries.


Some other important distinctions from weight training and calisthenics include, but is not limited to; weight training generally relies on ‘bent-arm strength’ and is primarily focused on developing muscle size and/or strength whereas calisthenics leverages both bent and straight-arm training to improve the integrity of connective tissue and build stable joint structures as well as build muscular size, strength and endurance.


The various skills one can train for in calisthenics (handstand, planche, muscle up, levers etc.) require the central nervous system, skeletal structure, muscles, tendons and ligaments to work as an integrated unit and call for the practitioner to work on multiple aspects of fitness simultaneously, namely power, mobility, flexibility, balance and coordination. This is important as calisthenics training in necessarily a more natural and functional type of training modality that builds genuine, interconnected strength and requires the practitioner to have good control and awareness of the body (proprioception) whereas weight training does not necessarily mean the participant is functionally strong, and does not require balance, coordination, general proprioception as selectorized machines take away the need to work those other important elements. Unlike calisthenics, which has some play and skill development avenues, the primary method of progression in weight training is simply to add another plate.


To conclude, below is a summary of some of the key benefits of Calisthenics both distinct from and when compared to weight training:

  1. Joint friendly: Bone mineral density will be maintained and the diseases of the bones and the joints, such as osteoporosis, can be prevented. Correctly functioning and mobile joints will also help protect us from injury.

  2. Develops whole body strength: You cannot perform many of the key training movements or skills without appropriate and balanced strength across the whole body.

  3. Improves muscle coordination: The rhythmic movements involved improve co-ordination among the body muscles and make the body active, reducing the response time of the reflex actions of the body. Everything you do in calisthenics is how your body would move naturally, so it really helps to improve your overall muscle co-ordination and strength.

  4. Greater flexibility: A lack of flexibility can cause multiple problems in the body/result in injuries. A flexible body will stay active and will not lose its mobility with age.

  5. Say goodbye to body fat: Excess body fat is an invitation to many health diseases. Calisthenics works on the excess fat accumulated in the body and helps your body get rid of it, keeping your body in shape.

  6. Dispense with monotous Workouts: Calisthenics offers a variety of exercises for the whole body which help you get rid of the boring monotonous strength training workout. It makes exercising routines interesting and fun to do.

  7. Improves muscular endurance: Muscular endurance is essential for your body to do daily life errands without feeling tired easily. Calisthencis increases the capacity of the muscles to work more.

  8. Better neural adaptation: Calisthenics improves the responsiveness of the sensory system of the body towards external stimuli. It makes the body capable of responding well to any sudden danger.

  9. Psycho-Motor Skills: These skills involve physical movements, well coordinated with the mental state of a person. Calisthenics improves the ability of the practitioner to balance the physical and mental attributes of the body to achieve certain goals.

  10. Accomplish and Goal: There is nothing that calisthenics cannot help you achieve. So if you are not comfortable with a heavy weight training program, you can always opt for calisthenics as a tried and tested alternative.

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As Frank Madrano said; “Excuses are the nails used to build a house of failure.” The majority of failures are encountered by those people who are habitual to making excuses. So, come try calisthenics at Gravity and experience the health and fitness benefits first hand - no excuses!

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