Bodyweight Training Explained for Beginners

Hi! I am the author and founder of Old School Calisthenics

Table of Contents

Bodyweight training also called bodyweight exercise, is a form of strength training used to develop muscular strength and endurance, where the only resistance applied is by the weight of the practitioner’s own body. Bodyweight exercises may involve minimal equipment or none.

Worldwide, bodyweight training goes under the name of calisthenics. According to Wikipedia:

“The word calisthenics comes from the ancient Greek words kallos (κάλλος), which means “beauty” or “beautiful” (to emphasize the aesthetic pleasure that derives from the perfection of the human body), and sthenos (σθένος), meaning “strength” (great mental strength, courage, strength, and determination). It is the art of using one’s body weight as resistance to develop the Greek God physique.”

Depending on the calisthenics training methods utilized, bodyweight training can perfect many abilities and increase strength, muscular endurance, stamina, power, speed, acceleration, flexibility, coordination, and balance.

Its popularity grows a lot as more professional athletes and army implement bodyweight exercise as a way to improve their abilities but also because of who promotes calisthenics’ benefits by publishing content on the internet.

How Many Types of Calisthenics Training Cultures Exist?

There is a style of outdoor calisthenics named urban calisthenics, and it’s more a form of Street Workout. Calisthenics groups perform exercise routines in urban areas or public parks. Individuals and groups train to perform advanced calisthenics skills such as muscle-ups, one-arm pull-ups, levers, flags, and various freestyle moves such as spins and flips.

Military units or sports teams often do a form of synchronized physical bodyweight training, more of a “call and response” routine to increase group cohesion and discipline. In enhancement to this, bodyweight exercises are often used as baseline physical evaluations for military organizations around the globe. Two examples are the U.S. Army Physical Fitness Test and the U.S.M.C. Physical Fitness Test.

Furthermore, calisthenics is also a component of physical education in primary and secondary schools almost all around the globe.

Street Workout is a sport of itself

Although Street Workout derives from calisthenics, it fits in a league of its own. According to Wikipedia:

“The World Street Workout & Calisthenics Federation (WSWCF) based in Riga, Latvia orchestrates the annual National Championships and hosts the World Championships for all the national champions to compete at one competition. The World Calisthenics Organization (WCO) based in Los Angeles, CA. promotes a series of competitions known globally as the Battle of the Bars. The WCO created the first ever set of rules for formal competitions, including weight classes, timed round system, original judging criteria and a 10-point must system – giving increasing number of athletes worldwide an opportunity to compete in these global competitions.”

Old Calisthenics

It underlines the basic and most fundamental part of bodyweight fitness. It doesn’t comprehend any bar spins and most of the feats belonging to Street Workout or modern calisthenics except:

  • One-Arm Pull-Ups
  • Free Handstand Pushups
  • Levers and Flags maybe

Up to a certain extent, old calisthenics has similarities with gymnastics mostly because of the gymnastic rings and ropes. Many prefer doing calisthenics on both fixed bars as well as on gymnastic rings. One is no better than the other and you have to try both to tell the difference. However, I provide you a list of my best 12 ring exercises below:

The Most Common Bodyweight Exercises

Most Common Calisthenics Exercises

Bodyweight training employs simple and compound exercises, and the major ones are:

  • pushups, pull-ups, chinups, body rows,
  • squats,
  • twists,
  • sit-ups and leg raises
  • dips and variations of different grips and angles.

It also relies on simple abilities such as bending, twisting, and balancing, especially to practitioners who commit to skill dedicated training like free handstand and many others. The most popular exercises though are the pull-ups, pushups, and sit-ups.

Common Calisthenics Exercises:

  • muscle-ups, high pull-ups, towel pull-ups, lever, and uneven pull-ups, plus other grip variations
  • body rows, Australian pull-ups, commando pull-ups,
  • free handstand pushups, hand walking,
  • diamond/regular pushups, inclined/decline pushups, narrow pushups,
  • front lever, back lever, the human flag,
  • planche, planks
  • leg raises, L-sit, v-raises, toes-to-bar,
  • shuttle runs, burpees, jumping jacks, stair climbing or running
  • crouch walk, bridges, calf raises, hyperextensions, lunges, squat jumps, Bulgarian splits, pistol squats.

Is Running Considered a Calisthenics Exercise?

Running and Sprinting is Bodyweight Exercise

First of all, running or sprinting is a bodyweight exercise unless you intentionally attach weights. Even dancing is a bodyweight movement itself regardless if the activity uses aerobic metabolism or anaerobic metabolism:

Calisthenics is a form of training consisting of a variety of bodyweight movements that exercise large muscle groups, and running just as much as pushing or pulling is a gross motor movement.

What Is a Gross Motor Skill?

The gross motor skill is an ability usually acquired during childhood, and bodyweight training supports its development. It continues in refinement throughout most of the years of development into adulthood. These gross movements come from large muscle groups and whole-body movement.

The gross motor skills are divided into:

  1. Gross locomotor skills. It includes running, jumping, sliding, sliding, and swimming;
  2. Object control skills. It includes activities such as throwing, catching, and kicking.

We also have fine motor skills that are involved in smaller movements that occur in the wrists, fingers, hands, and feet and toes. Picking up objects, writing carefully are two examples.

Gross motor skills and fine motor skills work together to provide coordination.

The more advanced and higher your fitness is, the more you’ll focus on fine movements. That’s why you should concentrate on essentials mostly, to basic bodyweight training, which helps enhance gross motor movements.

Therefore, if you father kids, then introduce them to bodyweight training without much hesitation. However, kids should do a variety of sports and bodyweight exercises, more oriented on aerobic metabolism, though. They can reach peak physical performance as they gradually enhance their gross motor skills during adolescence.


Advantages of Bodyweight Training

  • Calisthenics exercise makes you run faster, jump higher, lift more weights, be more explosive, endure more workload, and enhance endurance to overall physical exertion or stress. Not only that, but bodyweight fitness includes a large variety of exercises that trains all three muscle fibers associated with hypertrophy.
  • It requires minimum equipment or almost none. For many, a horizontal tree branch and an empty floor space are sufficient.
  • Another advantage of bodyweight fitness is that there are no costs involved unless you pay for a gym membership and do your workouts indoors.

Disadvantages of Bodyweight Training

  • Women usually find difficulty in bodyweight training because most of the essential upper-body exercises require too much strength and may be discouraged from undertaking these exercises in their routine.
  • Another disadvantage is that from a point on, it requires a lot of experience, mastery, trial, and error to know how to continue to stimulate the nervous system. Experienced athletes find most calisthenics exercises easy, whereas most novices find them frightening.
  • It requires a lot of time and creativity to overcome these plateaus or milestones.
  • You shouldn’t get discouraged by all this and believe me that you should first master your body weight before even lifting anything, although many prefer to lift weights and do calisthenics after. That’s not the correct way of approaching your training routine.
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