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Team JDP Fitness looks at the power of Calisthenics and whether it is the right exercise choice for you. 

What is Calisthenics?

Calisthenics may look and sound flash, but in essence they’re simply bodyweight exercises using your own gravity as resistance – no weights, no machines and with very little equipment.

Classically, that means things like press-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups, but recently calisthenics have moved on from those basic exercises to include more exciting, eye-catching holds such as back levers, muscle-ups and the insane human flag – and they’re enjoying an immense resurgence in popularity.

That’s partly thanks to a shaky four-minute YouTube video that went viral in 2008 showing Hannibal Lanham performing a jaw-dropping routine in an urban New York park, topless and shredded.
Ten million views later, the world was sold. According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual survey of 3,000 fitness professionals, it was the number one exercise
trend of 2016.

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The name comes from two Greek words, kállos, meaning beauty, and sthénos, meaning strength. This more extreme form of calisthenics isn’t completely new; if you search the web there’s footage of men from the ’30s performing what
would then be referred to as incredible feats of strength with their bodies. Think one man doing a one-legged squat with another man balancing on him doing a one-handed handstand – Cirque du Soleil territory. The tougher stuff has exploded in popularity in the era of YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat, when ripped muscle men can share workouts, and you can watch in awe. Classes are being held in parks and gyms nationwide, although it’s still pretty underground, and there’s even a world championships organised by the World Street Workout and Calisthenics Federation.


1 FREE: No gym memberships, no long lines, no crowds, no expensive exercise equipment. Only the use of your own body weight.

2 It’s FUN: What is life if you can’t have a little fun. There are different movements and you feel like a kid in a playground. What could be better than that?

3 Potential: All of us have an unlimited amount of human potential, it is our choice whether we choose to live the life of our dreams. With Calisthenics you have a sense of positive well-being in knowing that you are creating and sculpting the body you want on your own. Of course a better body also translates to better health which is a great consequence of reaching your potential.

4 Self Confidence: Believing in one self, more so confiding or talk to & trust in one self is probably one of the greatest values a person can have, and Calisthenics affords one this possibility. When you workout and train you begin to feel good about yourself which directly and affects your

5 Self Esteem: How you value yourself and what you have done and are doing is invaluable. With body weight training AKA Calisthenics, you begin to value yourself in a way that was not possible before because you are doing something positive for yourself which begins to show inwardly and outwardly in everything you do.

6 Connection: Calisthenics gives you the wonderful opportunity to connect with others and the world as you train. You can choose to train indoors or outdoors, alone and or you can choose to workout with others in a group. I love working out in nature at the local park. Contact with nature and others that might be also their training gives me a sense of connection.

7 Self Discipline: Working out and training day in and day out, begins to create a sense of determined focus and spills over into other aspects of your life. As you train you and stick with it, you begin to notice that same drive and intensity to train regularly helps you to focus on other areas of your life.

8 Natural movements/More muscles are engaged: The movements such as push ups, pull ups, and dips are more fluid in motion and as such engage many muscle groups at the same time thus growth is proportional.

9 Easy to learn: The exercises are relatively easy to do and can be varied to adapt to each person’s strengths and weaknesses.

10 Flexible & On the go: The exercises can be done when and wherever you want.

11 Breaking down stereotypes: Calisthenics is a one size fits all and is one of the few exercise that just about anyone can do, it does not matter your age, race, height, weight, sex, income level, religion. The exercises are can be adapted for any lifestyle.

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1 Time:  Of course I need to stay as objective as possible, and this one is a bit of a stretch but it goes without saying that working out requires time that could otherwise be used for something else. (However I see no better use of time than to spend with one self and being active.) Also time to be patient and stick with the exercises day in and day out could also be construed as a negative.

2 Humility: Like anything in life, as a beginner you need  to start from ground zero and for many that sense of being comfortable being uncomfortable is just too unbearable. That is probably the main reason many quit before they even get started. You have to start where you are and not where others are.

3 Learning Curve: Practice makes perfect and learning the different moves can be somewhat intimidating at first. Just stick with it.

4 Improper form: Like all exercise and pretty much anything in life. If you don’t do the exercises properly it can lead to injury.

5 Repetition: The movements can seem repetitive in nature after a while and some like to incorporate other forms of exercise like yoga, martial arts, weight lifting, core training.

6 Isolation of muscle groups: As they say there are advantages and disadvantages to just about everything, and the advantage of being able to work many muscle groups at the same time could pose a challenge for those wanting to isolate just one muscle group.

In conclusion, Calisthenics, is a form of exercise that can benefit just about anyone. It really all begins with just that first decision to just do it.

Exercise routine

Here is a calisthenics workout for beginners that works various parts of the body for a complete, full-body workout:

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Perform the following exercise circuit three times, with a 30-second rest between each exercise set, and a three-minute rest between each circuit repetition.

10 pullups

1 Stand facing an exercise bar.

2 Grasp the bar from the top with your arms slightly more than shoulder-width apart.

3 Use your shoulder muscles to pull you up, bringing your head up over the bar.

10 chin-ups

1 Stand facing an exercise bar.

2 Grasp the bar from underneath with your arms in a tight, slightly closer than shoulder-width grip.

3 Use your biceps to pull you up, bringing your head up over the bar.

20 dips

1 Stand inside a dip bar and use your arms and shoulders to lift you off the ground.

2 Bend your elbows back using your tricep muscles to move you up and down.

If you do not have a dip bar, you can also perform dips off an exercise ball or bench by keeping your feet on the ground and knees bent at a 90-degree angle.

25 jump squats

1 Stand with your body facing forward and your feet parallel, directly underneath your shoulders.

2 Move your feet a few inches apart with your toes pointed slightly outward.

3 Lower yourself into the squat, lowering your hips back and down while bending your knees.

4 Keep your chest upright, with your head and face forward.

5 Get into as deep a squat as possible, and then explode forcefully upward into a jump.

Never extend your knees over your toes, as that moves the strain of the squat to the knee joints. This can injure your knee joints.

20 pushups

1 Get on your knees and place your hands underneath, but slightly outside, your shoulders.

2 Extend your legs while holding your body up with your arms, getting into “plank” position.

3 Be careful not to let your back sag or backside stick up into the air.

4 Lower your body by bending your elbows close to your body until your chest almost touches the floor.

5 Your upper arms should form a 45-degree angle when the top part of your body is in the lower pushup position.

6 Pause while you are in the lower position, and then push back up to the starting position quickly.

7 Keep your abdomen, or core, flexed during the entire movement.

50 crunches

1 Lay on the ground with your back flat.

2 Place your feet flat on the ground, bending your knees up at a 90-degree angle to your body.

3 Cross your hands on top of your chest and keep your head about a fist’s distance from your chest.

4 Keeping your core tight, sit up until your elbows or chest touch your knees.

5 Focus on using your core muscles to pull you up, breathing out as you sit up and breathing in as you lie down.

author: Matt Williams


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