Many fitness trends come and go, often passing through our consciousness before we can blink. Some seem to require odd-looking equipment, specialist gyms or even a degree in mechanical engineering.
Whilst these forms of physical activity definitely have their value, and add infinite possibilities to our workouts, there is one type of workout that will always be accessible. Calisthenics requires nothing but the resistance of your own body weight, making it a great way to stay fit.
Calisthenics can make you stronger while getting fit.
What are calisthenics workouts?
Simply put, calisthenics are bodyweight exercises, often combining strength training, stretches, movement and inertia to create physique-sculpting resistance training that can be done in parks, on beaches or in the comfort of your own home.
They can range from the simple (i.e. a bodyweight squat, push-up or plank) to the physics defying workouts (i.e. muscle ups, handstand walks and planche exercises. Calisthenic workouts can be taken to such advanced levels that it has even become a competitive sport in Australia.
Calisthenics can be done almost anywhere
Calisthenics, or bodyweight workouts, provide a no-excuse way to get your workout in wherever you are. They don’t have to take up much time either. A 20-minute workout with just bodyweight each day can get fantastic results if you’re consistent enough.
Check out some basic calisthenics moves on the next few pages…
The basic calisthenics workout
So, here’s the fun part – when it comes to calisthenics, the possibilities are endless! Here is a basic workout, with some more advanced options and modifications for injury or beginners, for you to try out:
- Regular squats (20 times)
Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart, with your feet turned out very slightly. Your hands can be on your hips, behind your head or out in front of you. Bend at the hips, pushing them backwards, and bend at the knee. Keeping your back straight, bring your hips down as low as you can – aim for your hip joint to be lower than your knee at the bottom. Drive through your feet, pushing your knees out as you stand all the way up. Repeat.
Here, we share with you a video of a basic squat demonstration. It highlights how it is important not to round your back and keep your chest upright.
Begin as with the squats, coming down into the bottom position in the same way. From the bottom position, drive through your feet to spring up and jump. Land as softly as you can, absorbing the impact by sinking down into your next squat.
Squat Jumps is a modifed version of Squat but using more energy and momentum
Start as with the squat, with a stool bench or chair behind you. Squat down with the same form as above, until you reach the stool. Take a deep breath and stand straight up again.
Start in a plank position, with your hands directly under your shoulders and your weight distributed between your hands and toes. Imagine you have a piece of paper under each armpit as you bend your elbows to allow your chest to come down to the floor. Your elbows should point to the back of the room, and your torso should stay rigid throughout the movement – make sure your chest touches the floor before your tummy does! From the bottom, push the floor away from you, keeping your body in a straight line to return to the start.
Push ups tone your arms while strengthening your back.
From the bottom position of the push up (above), push as hard as you can until both hands leave the ground and you can clap quickly before returning them to their position and sinking into the next push up. Do not attempt this variation unless you are confident and strong enough to do so.
Begin in a low plank position, with your weight on your forearms and toes. Place one hand on the mat directly under your shoulder and climb into the top plank position, following with your other hand. With the same side, come back down onto your forearm, followed by the other forearm to return to the start position. Alternate sides.
- Stand-Kneel-Stand (10 times)
From a standing position, step back into a reverse lunge with your right leg. Allow your knee to come all the way to the mat and take your weight onto that knee. Bring your left knee down to meet it until you are in a high kneeling position. Step forwards with the right leg, drive through the right foot to stand up and return to the start position. Repeat with the left leg.
Lunges are a great way to tone your entire lower body.
Start in a lunge position, back knee bent towards the floor, shoulders upright. Drive through both feet to spring into the air and swap leg positions before landing softly and sinking into the next lunge. This should all be one smooth movement.
From a standing position, step back with one leg, allowing your knee to come down towards the mat, keeping your shoulders upright. Drive through the front foot to step forwards into the start position. Alternate legs.
4. Up & ups
Lie on a mat with your hands underneath your tailbone. Legs straight out. As you exhale, push your lower back into the mat and raise your straight legs up towards the ceiling. Keeping your legs straight, lift your tailbone an inch away from your hands. With control, lower your tailbone first, then keep your legs straight as they come down, ending about 6 inches from the mat before lifting them again.
Challenge your abs with these moves
As above, but take 6 seconds to reach the top position, and 10 seconds to reach the bottom.
Start as with the up & ups. Bring both knees in towards your chest, then straighten your legs back to the start position with control.
- Burpees (20 times) – Option A
Start in a standing position at the front of your mat. Take both hands down to the mat and jump both feet back into a plank position, lowering your chest all the way to the floor. Hop both feet back between your hands so you are in a crouching position. From here, jump up and clap above your head. Repeat immediately.
Burpees are a great way to work out the whole body.
- Sit-up-burpee-tuck jump (Option B)
Start by lying on your back on the mat. Sit up, and use this momentum to jump up to your feet. Place your hands on the ground and jump back into a plank position, lowering your chest to the ground. Hop back to your feet (as above), then jump up as high as you can, bringing your knees to your chest. Land softly, then squat down, rolling back onto your back to start the movement again.
Start as with the burpee, but in place of jumping the feet back and forwards, step them one at a time. Stand up rather than jumping to finish the movement. You may even place your hands on an elevated surface e.g. a chair to start with.
Choose option A for a more advanced workout, or option B for beginner’s modification. Repeat the workout up to three times as you become fitter and more confident with the movements.
Cassie Massey is a British qualified Personal Trainer, group fitness, pilates & bootcamp instructor from London. She specialises in core strength, stability, metabolic resistance training & HIIT.
Cassie lives & breathes fitness, trying her hand at everything from half marathons to boxing, yoga to 100kg deadlifts. Cassie loves being able to carry out her passion and profession daily here in Singapore. Cassie trains at Level 137 Telok Ayer, Singapore.
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