What are Calisthenics?

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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 August 2019
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Calisthenics refers to a type of exercise done without the use of machines, weights, or other apparatus. Calisthenics are done to strengthen and build muscle tone and flexibility. The exercises are meant to use the body’s natural resistance for toning and strengthening muscles and are typically performed in a series of repetitions. Sit-ups, push-ups, squats, jumping jacks and leg lifts are examples of calisthenics.

Calisthenics are the exercises that make up the bulk of any gym class, as nothing is needed but the body. While calisthenics is loosely associated with gymnastics and dance, there is no tumbling and little coordination involved. Calisthenics performed over a period of time builds muscle strength and endurance, and thus is often incorporated into athlete’s workout routines as well as acts as an integral part of boot camp training.

Developing a calisthenics routine depends largely on the fitness goals of the participant. Targeted muscle toning is possible with calisthenics, such as targeting the stomach muscles through site ups and the thigh and buttocks muscles with leg-lifts, squats and thrusts. If strength and endurance are the goal, calisthenics routines need to be adjusted to maintain an adequate balance of resistance and repetition. The more repetition can be increase, the more resistance should be added, which may lead to other forms of muscle strengthening such as weight lifting. However, excess resistance and too much repetition can cause muscle soreness or even damage.


The beauty of calisthenics routines is simplicity. No gym memberships or equipment are required. However, before you begin an exercise routine of any kind, it is important to consult a physician, physical therapist, personal trainer, or other professional to ensure you have developed a proper plan and practice that will work for your current level of health and physical fitness.

To achieve the maximum benefit from calisthenics, it is important to know how to perform each exercise. Many exercise classes at gyms, fitness clubs, recreation centers, and YMCAs teach calisthenics exercises. Once you have mastered the execution of each exercise, you can continue to workout at home or wherever is convenient.


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