Fri Apr 14

What is Calisthenics? How is it different from other disciplines?

Yerai Alonso

Yerai Alonso

What is Calisthenics? How is it different from other disciplines?

Thanks to the popularity that it has been acquiring in the last decades, Calisthenics has been evolving, establishing itself and defining itself, so that we can see more and more clearly what it consists of and what its properties are as a training system.

In this article we are going to give a clear and concise definition of what Calisthenics is, its main characteristics, how it differs from other disciplines, its historical development and other frequently asked questions.

What is Calisthenics?

Calisthenics is a sports discipline based on body weight training that is usually performed in outdoor bar parks using distinctive exercises such as pull-ups, dips, push-ups, muscle ups, handstand, planche or front lever.

Etymological root of the word Calisthenics

The word Calisthenics comes from the Greek "kalos" which means beauty and "sthenos" which means strength.

What are the main characteristics of Calisthenics?

- It is based on training with body weight. Calisthenics are compound exercises that use multiple muscle groups and work with body weight. Some of the most typical exercises are pull-ups, dips, push-ups, squats, muscle up, handstand, planche, front lever, back lever, flag, pistol squat, etc.

- Continuous learning. The way to advance in Calisthenics training is to be able to do more difficult, more technical exercises, learning skills and tricks and better controlling your body.

- Training several physical qualities. In Calisthenics, strength, resistance, agility, balance, self awareness, flexibility and mobility are worked on, in addition to achieving aesthetic results of increased muscle mass.

- Strict technical and aesthetic execution. In Calisthenics you try to perform the exercises in the strictest way possible, without sacrificing the technique to seek to do more repetitions. Balancing, inertia, "kipping", asymmetries or unwanted partial ranges are avoided. In the static exercises, locked elbows, pointed feet, correct positioning of the scapulae and hip, "hollow" position and correct alignment of the body are valued.

- You can train on bars or without equipment. Calisthenics is usually trained in outdoor barbell parks, but it can also be trained at home without equipment. By simply training on the floor, with a wall and with a height such as a bench or a chair, you can carry out intense and complete training of all kinds.

- Is free. Modern Calisthenics emerged as an alternative to gym training for people without resources, so you can train on the street or at home without equipment or with very basic urban equipment.

- Creates community. Training groups are usually created in Calisthenics parks, which give a positive influence, motivation and support for people who may be going through difficulties.

What are the most common exercises in Calisthenics?

The exercises that are considered basic of Calisthenics are pull-ups, dips, and push-ups. In addition, there are very distinctive exercises to this sport, such as the muscle up, the front lever, handstand, planches, the human flag, the pistol squat, the handstand or the back lever. Most of this exercises are also performed in Gymnastics, but on the rings and in a completely different environment or setup, which makes it easy to differentiate between them.

From the Calisteniapp team we have developed an app so that you have free calisthenics routines at your disposal, training programs to learn the different exercises and tricks, smart routines and much more. Take a look here.

Calisthenics competitions types and differences

We currently have Freestyle, Powermoves, Endurance, Workout Style and Street Lifting competitions.

In Freestyle competitions we find a demonstration of static (tension), strength, balance and dynamic tricks, which is usually done combined in isolated rounds or in 1 vs 1 battles.

Powermoves competitions are similar to freestyle but only with tension, strength and balance movements, discarding the more acrobatic part of dynamic tricks.

Workout Style consists of a demonstration of movements in the bars coordinated with the music, creating a synchronized and impressive choreography.

In endurance competitions, the ability of athletes to do many repetitions of certain exercises is measured, either with or without a time limit or in a battle format.

Finally, Street Lifting competitions are based on calisthenics exercises but adding weight. They typically include pull-ups and dips in the basic category and add muscle ups and squats in the "All 4" category. Participants are divided into weight categories and try to get the best marks in each of the exercises.

In Calisteniapp we have added an added weight section for exercises and routines, and soon we will add more content. You can see our weighted calisthenics routines here.

Brief summary of the history of Calisthenics

Since ancient times, exercises with body weight have been used as a training method, from warriors and soldiers, athletes and people concerned about their physical health. In modern times the term Calisthenics was used anecdotally and there are a few book references to this type of exercise, but it was not until the early 2000s when the movement we know today as Calisthenics became popular.

It began its journey in the United States, specifically around the year 2002, in different marginal neighborhoods where young people with few resources trained on the streets, either using kids playgrounds or some parks that had pull-up and parallel bars.

This is how the first training teams such as the Ruff Raiders (2002) and the Bartendazz (2003) arose. They published some DVDs where they appeared doing these workouts with impressive physiques that drew attention. This caused a small expansion and popularity of this type of training to begin in different American neighborhoods.

The term "Street Workout" was used more at this time but was also occasionally called "Calisthenics". Also, teams like Bartendazz put a lot of emphasis on the social and inclusive aspect of the sport.

A few years later, from 2006 - 2007, Youtube began to gain a lot of importance as a video platform, and some athletes like Hannibal for King, Dennis Minnin, Beast, Juice, Zeff Zakaveli... went viral and spread the influence of this sport to the whole world. At this time the term Street Workout continued to be used more than "Calisthenics"

In Eastern Europe there is a great gymnastics historical tradition, which made the streets of this region full of parks with bars. So it was very easy for them to join this wave and their gymnastic skills made them stand out a lot, beginning to give more importance to static movements such as planche, front lever, back lever and others.

From there and during the following years, there was a gradual expansion worldwide, establishing itself as another sport or training method. Also from 2011 international and national competitions were established.

Over the years the term "Calisthenics" began to be favored, prevailing over the term "Street Workout". Although both were still used quite frequently.

Finally, as the last stage in the history of this sport, we have the 2020 COVID pandemic, which caused a large part of the world population to be locked up at home in quarantine, for which reason Calisthenics emerged as a good option to train and made it have a "boom" of popularity.

From the Calisteniapp team we have accompanied this development of the sport since 2018, where we created our app to offer help to people who wanted to train, learn different exercises, tricks or movements or any other objective.

What is the difference between Calisthenics and Street Workout?

Today they mean the same thing. When modern Calisthenics emerged in the early 2000s, the term Street Workout was more frequently used, but little by little the word Calisthenics became more popular until it became the majority. Some purists said (we said) that "Calisthenics" encompassed any type of bodyweight training and that "Street Workout" was the specific sport we practiced, but eventually the two terms converged and became generally used interchangeably.

What is the difference between Calisthenics and Gymnastics?

Gymnastics has a huge influence on Calisthenics, which takes some exercises and techniques from this sport, but taken to a more unbounded and street-like style. Although it must be said that calisthenics also takes influences from other sports and types of training, as well as its own creations to have its differentiated identity.

What is the difference between Calisthenics and Crossfit?

In Crossfit you generally seek to be able to do a large number of repetitions of an exercise in a short time, using specific techniques such as kipping. In Calisthenics, the aim is to do the exercises with a strict and clean technique, without using that type of "tricks". In addition, in Crossfit weightlifting and powerlifting exercises are used, while in Calisthenics the only thing that is optionally added is added weight to the basic exercises of this sport.

What is the difference between Calisthenics and Street Lifting?

Street Lifting is based on adding extra weight to Calisthenics exercises: pull-ups, dips, muscle ups and squats. It is also known as weighted calisthenics.

Can you train Calisthenics at home?

You can perform very complete calisthenics workouts without the need for any type of equipment. Push-ups, sit-ups, squats, handstands, planks, etc. can be done with the ground. If we also add a wall, a bench or chair and a place to hang, we already have practically everything we could need.

Take a look at our section of routines at home without equipment.

Can girls train Calisthenics?

Due to its historical origins, modern Calisthenics began as a very masculine sport, but little by little women have been encouraged to train it and currently women's Calisthenics is booming, both at the level of training method and at the competitive level. There is a wide variety of progressions for all the exercises that you can do whatever your level and whatever your goal.

Can you train legs with calisthenics?

Many people believe that you need to add extra weight to grow leg muscles, but this indicates a lack of knowledge about how muscle hypertrophy works. The leg musculature grows when it receives an adequate stimulus, which can be with heavy exercises, but it can also be with difficult exercises, weekly training volume, intensity techniques and other variables that can be modified so that leg training without added weight is effective.

Take a look at our leg routines section. If you think that with calisthenics you cannot give a good stimulus to the legs, we recommend you try the advanced ones to see what you think when you have done them.

We hope that with this article the definition, differentiation and context of the sport that we love so much is clearer and we hope to see you training and enjoying it!


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