So first off you might be thinking what the hell is Calisthenics, well many people think it’s just exercising using your own bodyweight and to a certain extent it is, but it’s also a whole lot more.

The words calisthenics actually comes from the Greek words Kallos meaning beauty and Sthenos meaning strength. This is a much more accurate explanation and it’s not until you start trying to learn certain calisthenic movements that you have a real appreciation for these words.

The pro’s make it look so fluid and effortless which believe me is not to be frowned at, I consider myself as reasonably strong deadlifting 2.5 x bodyweight, but I didn’t even know what strength was until I tried to learn some even basic progressions to the planche.

By changing lever lengths and manipulating the position of your body you can make it extremely tough to hold and move through positions. For example try a normal push up, then try a planche lean push up where your hands stay closer to your waist rather than beside your arm pits putting more tension on the shoulders and wrists. Even trying to hold a planche lean is enough to get you thinking “WHAT, how do they even do a planche, it’s not humanly possible”. To move through these movements to the next fluidly and without looking like your chewing something from a bush tucker trail is very impressive and awe inspiring.

What I truly love about this type of exercise is it’s really easy to track your progress, you don’t need to check the scales, skin fold callipers or your training book. You simply see if you can hold an exercise for longer with better form, you progress to the next progression in the exercise which there are normally plenty or you do more reps with better form.

For example a planche progression could look like this

Frog Hold

Tuck planche (Rounded back)

Tuck Planche (Straight back)

Single leg Planche

Straddle Planche

Full Planche

So you can see the progressions are plenty and they set clear goals towards learning a new movement, and because you work the majority of your body and train your nervous system you inevitably get stronger at other exercises too.

It’s also very cheap and you have a lot of freedom, you actually need little to no equipment and you can even make DIY paralette bars super cheap following instructions on YouTube. Your local park often has bars in which you can learn exercises like, Scap pulls, pull up’s, chin up’s, muscle up’s, back levers & front levers.

I’m honestly loving this training with my friends it’s very social and you learn from each other, it also looks badass! I think we all had reservations to start with off  “we will never be able to do that” and yes it’s very tough but we are progressing at a steady rate. You can see our progression over on our Instagram page www. Instagram.com/theleanmachinesofficial

I don’t want to hear that girls don’t have the upper body strength either, we filmed with Ed, Chuck, Annika & Oona from Barstarzz and these girls are incredibly strong and talented!

See here for yourself

Wether you just want to have some fun, get strong or mix up your training i’d really recommend giving some calisthenics a go!

Three things you will quickly understand is that your need to have scapula control, straight arm strength and to be aware of the position of your pelvis, basically so much of calisthenics relies on you being able to control and hold joints in position to allow you to use them as fulcrums or lever points. For example straight arm strength is crucial for the front lever to perfect the hold and then you can allow the lats to do the brunt of the work.

The same applies for the planche the arms are locked so you can lean over the wrists to create the balance point to hold the move parallel to the floor.

Although Scap control, straight arm strength and control of your pelvis are crucial in all these moves when using handstands if you don’t control your pelvis you will hyper extend and start to scorpion over, squeezing those glutes tight and maintaining correct alignment position is crucial.

I’ve never known a type of exercise that makes you so aware of your body and the positions you hold it in, not only that you have to control these body parts when upside down which makes proprioception much harder.

All in all it’s a very involved way of training your brain, body and patience will all be tested!

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment or question.

John Chapman

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Andrew Barnes says:

    Hallelujah on all of the above. It’s an awesome move that looks impossible but with the right conditioning, training and progressions is achievable. Just takes a while.

  • Money Order says:

    I’m still learning from you, but I’m improving myself. I certainly liked reading everything that is written on your site.Keep the aarticles coming. I enjoyed it!

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