At Caliverse we believe calisthenics to be one of the most effective rewarding types of physical training. Although all of us perform various types of bodyweight movement everyday, there are a lot of myths surrounding bodyweight training. Achieving your fitness goals comes down to how you exercise and not your method of training. So today we are going ti dispel some of the biggest misconceptions and discuss how to approach calisthenics for success.
"You need weights to build muscle" - we hear this one a lot, despite gymnasts having some of the most impressive physiques in sports. They are also some of the strongest athletes, pound for pound and they primarily train with their own bodyweight.
So, how do we gain muscle?
Whether lifting weights or training calisthenics, we need to use the Principle of Progressive Overload - by consistently increasing the total workload we will stimulate muscle growth and strength gain. That is to say, we must continually challenge ourselves. Repeating the exact routine week after week will quickly become too easy - not to mention boring!
It's easy to see how we apply this in weightlifting - we increase the weights, we increase the workload. In calisthenics we manipulate the exercise to increase the workload. Take the push up for example, a fundamental movement in calisthenics. Here are 3 linear progressions, increasing in difficulty from left to right.
Now, how do we select the correct progression?
This point ties in to another myth that tends to be associated with bodyweight exercise - "More reps are always better". Often people training with bodyweight perform endless reps of push ups and pull ups, going to failure and often form suffers because of that. Let's compare that to weightlifting. You don't see people doing sets of 50+ reps on the bench press. That's because the optimal range for muscular hypertrophy is 6-12 reps for 4-6 sets.
So if we are to apply this principle, we must select a progression that challenges us within that range, while still allowing for full range of motion and good form.
For example, if you can do 20 push ups quite easily, this progression is not going to be optimal for muscle growth. But if you elevate your feet and then hit only 10-12 reps, that's the progression you should select.
Remember the Progressive Overload Principle - each week try to increase your workload with an extra rep, or an extra set, progress the exercises as they become too easy and you'll enjoy the rewards!
Tip: Log your reps in Caliverse so it's easy to see your progress
Of course fuelling your training with the right nutrition is important but we'll leave that for another time.
Next let's look at two misconceptions that seem to contradict each other
We have one camp which thinks "Bodyweight exercises are only for beginners" and second camp who believes that calisthenics is "impossible".
On one side push ups, bodyweight rows and lunges, are some of the exercises often dismissed as too easy or something only done as a warm up. On the other end of the extreme we have human flags, handstand push ups and planche, which can seem to be unachievable.
We can overcome these misconceptions by starting to understand the huge spectrum of movements which bridge the gap between beginner and impossible - that is where we find calisthenics training!
These movements (or exercises) we're talking about are progressions and they really are the key to calisthenics!. We break our movements down into pull, push, core, back and legs, incorporating each of these will create a balanced program.
Within these, we have skills which can be broken down into easy to manage progressions. By spending time to master each of them and starting from our basics, like, push ups, planks, pull ups etc. we will learn to move the body as a unit, to generate tension in the muscles and create a strong foundation to build form. Whatever your experience level, whether you wish to build muscle, develop strength, or improve endurance, there is a bodyweight progression to suit your goal.
On top of this, one of the most rewarding parts of calisthenics training is unlocking skills. Whether it's your first pull up, muscle up, handstand or human flag, there is always something to get you motivated and make your training enjoyable.
So while we should certainly begin with the basic push ups and pull ups, mastering them will take us beyond the level of beginner and set us on the journey to more advanced skills. It requires discipline and had work but there is a clear path follow. And with each progression unlocked we step closer to superhuman skills that we all wish to achieve!
Caliverse is on a mission to make calisthenics available to everyone and I hope this inspired you to start your bodyweight journey. We would love to hear about your progress, your goals and your suggestions - remember, the world is our playground - we'll see you in the Caliverse!