Calisthenics /ˌkalɪsˈ θɛnɪks/
I’d like to throw out an idea for your consideration; the idea of creating a training program with calisthenic movements that are contextual. The context I want to refer to (apart from a specialist strength or sport program) is the real world and the physical activities that stress our bodies on a daily basis or from time to time. If we are not preparing ourselves for our current and those potential physical activities and challenges we really are doing ourselves a disservice.
I totally get the reason for hitting up the local equipment packed gym with the intention of getting bigger muscles, to pull a bigger deadlift or to row a faster 5km. It feels good to see results. I’ve been there and (mostly / kind of) enjoyed the process.
You know what feels better though?
Being capable, competent and safely confident when met with physical challenges. I was reminded of this recently when a client spoke of a friend who goes to the gym frequently (and trains hard) but gets his kids to lift the shopping out of his car because… wait for it… he’s afraid of hurting his back!!!
I am a fan of purposeful training, much like I’m a fan of purposeful anything. Time is not for the wasting. Don’t get me wrong, I love to explore new things, but anything I do try out is for the greater cause and if it fails to benefit in any way, it’s gone.
So to recap, ideally the majority of our time exercising, training, practicing (whatever you want to call it) should be benefiting us.
Next, let’s look at traditional calisthenic movements. Calisthenics is defined as a form of strength training that uses our bodyweight as resistance and involves multiple muscles in full body movements. These range from pushing, pulling, gripping, squatting and hip hinging as well as jumping and climbing activities. Breaking these down to the usual suspects we have moves like:
- Push ups
- Pull ups
- Vertical and broad jumps
These form the basics and they are great. In fact, the FitStrong January program is built around ‘reviving’ foundations with these movements.
Street calisthenics has been a growing progression to calisthenics over the 15 years or so but really takes the concept of bodyweight training to a much more athletic or dare I say performance level. Do most of us need to do a human flag, levers, flips and spins? Whilst cool, I don’t agree that it’s what we need to do if our goal is to live stronger and for longer.
Real World Calisthenics
Most us of will have a life that requires rather similar physicality’s. Carrying in the shopping, gardening work, taking out the bins to the roadside, lifting our kids or elderly (it’s going to happen at some time), cleaning up the house and all those other household DIY jobs. And it’s all good. We are meant to move and do all of these plus more. Most of us don’t have to hunt and forage our food anymore, but we still have a huge capacity to manage many physical tasks – if we are prepared.
Prepare by practice.
I’ll now start to break down how we could practice or ‘train’ with real world calisthenics. Again, let me categorise our real world movements.
- Lifting and carrying
- Getting down to the ground and back up again
- Jumping over something, onto, off and across
- Low to ground locomotion, aka crawl like manoeuvres
Mostly, these are rather similar to traditional calisthenics. With a thoughtful couple of minutes you can easily imagine how these fit potential physical eventualities.
How would a training program look?
First off, a great program doesn’t need to be sterile and void of fun. A great program also doesn’t need to take ages. A lot of benefit can be gained from 30 minute sessions, three or even twice per week. Each session could be used to work on a handful of movement skills in a circuit or over three 10 minute blocks. You could practice the same movement skills per session and gradually build up the effort, or reps or repeat efforts.
There are so many options.
What I will do next is provide two training sessions that demonstrate this idea of real world calisthenics. I’ll pop up a follow up video post to check out or follow along with.
If you like what you see, I will have a progressive program made available soon.
Got any thoughts or ideas? Get in touch.