15 Unique Benefits of Calisthenics [Why You Should Do It]

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Do you want to know what the top benefits of calisthenics are?

You are in the right place.

In this post, you’ll learn:

  • 15 unique advantages calisthenics training provide,
  • the benefits of calisthenics over weights, and
  • how to get started with bodyweight training at home (even if you are a beginner).

Let’s dive right in.

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Okay, let’s get started.

What Is Calisthenics?

Calisthenics is a form of training in which you use your own bodyweight to build muscle and strength. This is in contrast to other traditional forms of training which often rely on additional tools or exercise equipment.

Despite the lack of fancy equipment, calisthenics / bodyweight training is a great way to build muscle, lose fat, and improve your relative strength.

Let’s go over 15 awesome benefits calisthenics has to offer.

The Back Lever – An advanced Calisthenics Exercise

15 Unique Benefits of Calisthenic Exercises

Ever since the pandemic, gyms across the nation have shut down, forcing us to workout at home.

Interestingly enough, this has several advantages.

You Need Little To No equipment

One of the best advantages of calisthenics training is the fact that you need very little to no equipment to get started.

Your body is the resistance. Therefore, you don’t need to rely on the use of external weight such as barbells, dumbbells, or kettlebells.

If you do choose to get equipment, (which I highly recommend that you do), they are all very affordable one time investments.

The top three things I recommend are:

I go over all the reasons why in The Best Calisthenics Equipment You Should Get For Home Workouts.

But if you choose to get none of these, you can still get a great workout with nothing but your body.

Calisthenics is Free

Another major benefit of calisthenics is that it’s free. Aside from the small one-time investments mentioned above, you won’t ever need to pay to exercise again.

If you’re like most people – exercising at home will be the most convenient.

No monthly memberships, exercise classes, or annoying gym members.

Your living room/garage/basement can become your personal gym.

Calisthenics Can be done anytime & Anywhere

To piggyback off the first two benefits, calisthenics can be done at anytime and at any place.

You can do it at home, in a park, in your hotel room, or in your office.

The beauty is, you don’t need a large amount of space. Plus, you are already carrying almost all the equipment you will ever need – your body!

Calisthenics can also be done at any time. You can also do it immediately after waking up, as soon as you get home from work, or during your lunch break.

Calisthenics Eliminates Several Barriers To Exercise 

Since calisthenics can be done with very little equipment, with very little space, and at anytime, there are few barriers to get started.

You are just seconds away from getting started… like RIGHT now. The mental aspect of this is huge! Knowing that you can start a workout at any time eliminates a lot of the mental barriers associated with going to a gym.

Calisthenics is also very beginner friendly. I’ll go in more detail in a little bit.

Calisthenics Maximizes Exercise Efficiency

Calisthenics can also maximize the efficiency of your workouts. This is especially important for busy professionals who have very little free time to exercise.

In traditional weight training exercises, you need to bounce from one piece of equipment to the next. The squat rack, to the bench press, to the seated row etc etc. There are so many areas where this can waste time.

Chances are, someone will be using the equipment you want to use, in which case you either have to wait or find a way to work in with them.

Calisthenics eliminates this as you can easily go from one exercise to another. You don’t need to set-up any equipment, load any weights, or weight for something to become available.

At the same time, you can always use supersets with calisthenic exercises. For example, you can easily do a set of squats, immediately followed by a set of push-ups.

Calisthenic Exercises mimic natural real world movement patterns

Another great benefit of calisthenics is that almost all of the exercises you can do are functional. This means that they resemble real world movement patterns that we do on a regular basis.

This includes pushing, pulling, squatting, and lunging.

The best part is, you are MOVING YOUR OWN body through space. Nothing feels more natural and uplifting as gracefully moving your body.

This is functional strength at its best.

Calisthenic Exercises have several progressions

You might think that some calisthenic exercises are too easy. This is certainly the case if you can do 20 or more repetitions of a specific exercise like the push-up.

The beauty of calisthenics is that there is always a much harder progression to the all the exercises you are doing. There are at least a dozen variations of every single movement pattern.

You just have to learn how to use your body as a lever to gain the full advantages.

I go over this in more detail in Calisthenics Vs Weights.

Calisthenic Exercises have several regressions

On that same token, calisthenics is also great for beginners as you can always scale back all the movements to easier variations.

We call these regressions.

Here is one very simple example for the push-up that we break down completely in our complete step-by-step home workout program.

You Can Build amazingly Impressive strength

You can get as strong as you desire with calisthenics. It takes a great deal of relative bodyweight strength to be able to do

  • handstands push-ups,
  • planche push-ups,
  • and one arm pull-ups.

These are all tremendous skills that can be accomplished with nothing but your bodyweight and a pull-up bar.

You Can Build a lot of muscle

Similarly, you can also build a lot of muscle with calisthenics alone.

Don’t forget, building muscle requires 3 things:

  1. Tension
  2. Recovery
  3. and a Progressive stimulus

Your body cannot tell the differnce between the tension produced from weights (barbells and dumbbells), and the tension produced from your own bodyweight.

As long as you continue providing your body with a progressively overloading stimulus, you will build muscle.

I go over more detail in 3 Principles of Fitness You Must Understand Before Exercising.

It Helps You Burn fat as all exercises are compound

Remember when I said that calisthenic exercises are all functional? Well, as functional exercises, they are also all compound exercises.

This means that bodyweight exercise trains several muscle groups at once. For example, the push-up will train your chest, shoulders, triceps, core, and serratus anterior if done correctly.

By training multiple muscle groups at once (rather than isolating them individually) you will burn more calories, build more muscle, and lose more fat than if you did regular isolation based training.

Calisthenics Improves Your athleticism and mobility

As you are learning how to master your bodyweight, calisthenics will automatically improve your overall athleticism.

In addition, calisthenic exercises often require you to take your joints through full ranges of motion, which will help improve your mobility.

For example, it takes good hip, ankle, and knee flexibility to get into a full squat. You also need good shoulder mobility to do pike push-ups and handstands.

Now, this doesn’t mean you don’t need to stretch – check out these 5 Flexibility Test to determine if you have adequate mobility or not.

Your Joints can handle higher volume (builds endurance)

In addition, bodyweight exercises lend themselves to higher volume. Your joints are better capable of handling the weight of your body compared to external weights like barbells and dumbbells.

This is why many experts say that you can take some low intensity calisthenics based exercises close to failure without significant detriment.

This type of training will also improve your overall muscular endurance.

To learn more about the different ranges of sets and reps (check out this article: How many sets and reps should I do?)

Calisthenics Looks cool

Lastly, calisthenics just looks really cool. I mean, nothing looks cooler than planche push-ups.

It’s almost like a party trick.

So those are the 15 benefits of calisthenics / bodyweight training.

In the next section, we will talk about the disadvantages of calisthenics.

The Disadvantages of Calisthenic Exercises

As with all types of exercise and training styles, there are pros and cons.

Here are the top three disadvantages of calisthenics / bodyweight training.

Leg Training is Limited:

Your legs contain the most powerful muscles in your body. There will come a time where calisthenic leg exercises will be limiting.

If you think about it, you can only lift what your current body weight is. Even if you are performing one leg pistol squats.

Your legs will quickly become accustomed to lifting your weight. Once you master the pistol, there isn’t much more you could do to this exercise to significantly increase the intensity.

To counteract this limitation, you will need some form of external weight to continue progressing this challenge. This includes weight vests and dumbbells.

Some Exercise Variations Are Really Difficult:

The goal of training is to either

  • continue improving your fitness,
  • or maintaining your current level of fitness.

If your goal is to keep getting stronger and building more muscle, you will need to use harder calisthenics exercises.

Unfortunately, some of the complex movements in calisthenics can be very difficult to perform and take a lot of time to master. As these movements require coordination from multiple body parts, calisthenic movements can be more complicated than those in weight training.

For example: handstand push-ups might be a big jump in difficulty for you after training pike push-ups.

Difficult To Isolate Specific Muscles

The last disadvantage of calisthenics is that it is fairly difficult to isolate any specific muscle groups.

If you want to train just your biceps, or just your rotator cuff, it’ll be difficult to find calisthenic exercises that don’t train many other muscle groups as well.

If you think about it, this is a pro and a con.

The pro is that you can easily train your entire body using just a handful of exercises. The con is that you may not target the desired muscle to its full capability.

Either way, you should limit the number of isolation exercises you do anyway.

Other than that, there aren’t any other major disadvantages to training with your bodyweight.

So, are you convinced yet?

Do you want to start bodyweight training?

Let’s go over the 5 best calisthenic exercises.

What are the top 5 calisthenic exercises?

Below are the top 5 calisthenic exercises you should do.

1. Push-up

This push-up is a classic. This exercise will help train the horizontal pushing movement pattern, which targets the chest, tricep, shoulder, and core muscles. As always, it is important that you maintain good spinal position while doing it.

Here are some simple regressions and progressions you can do based on your skill level.

2. Pull-ups

Pull-ups are the king of upper body exercises. It trains the vertical pulling pattern, strengthening the lats, the rhomboids, the traps, the biceps and the foreamrs.

The movement may be difficult at first, but I believe that everyone could work their way up to do a pull-up.

If you can’t, check out my article on how to get your first pull-up.

If pull-ups are too easy for you, you can do one of the many progressions seen here.

3. Lunges/Squats

Lunges and squats are equally beneficial calisthenic knee flexion exercises that you should try to master.

Either one is fine, but lunges require a higher amounts of hip flexibility.

These exercises train and strengthen the quadriceps, adductors, and glute muscles. Ultimately, you should get to the point where you can do Bulgarian split squats with added weight.

4. Glute Bridges

The glute bridge and its variations are one of the best hip extension exercises you can perform to target the posterior side of your lower body.

This includes the glutes, hamstrings, and abductor muscles.

There are so many clever ways to progress this exercise. One of the best progressions is the ball leg curl.

If you don’t have a stability ball, you can also do this exercise by sliding your heels back and forth with socks on a sleek floor.

Don’t neglect the posterior lower body muscles. You need a strong set of glutes maintain a strong spine.

5. Pike Push-ups

The last top 5 calisthenic exercise is the vertical pushing exercise known as the pike push-up. This is a pre-requisite exercise for handstands and handstand push-ups.

This movement primarily targets the shoulder muscles, as well as the triceps. As simple as this exercise looks, it is often done incorrectly. Here is how to do it properly.

By the way…

I also created two other Calisthenics Workout Plan PDFs that you can download to give you even more workouts to use at home.

You can use these as a guide to build even more calisthenics workout plans.

The WCT Calisthenics Workout Tempates

Included you will recieve two different templates
A 4 Day/Week Upper Lower Workout Template
A 3 Day/Week Push Pull Legs Template
DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE TEMPLATES TODAY

 

The first is a PDF workout of a 4 day/week upper-lower split.

The second is a PDF workout of a 3 day/week push-pull leg splits.

Other Related Questions

Is Calisthenics better than weight training?

Calisthenics is better than weight training in a few regards:

  • It’s free and accessible at all times,
  • It requires little to no equipment, and
  • It trains your body holistically

Weight training is better than calisthenics if you:

  • like training with equipment or in a gym setting
  • you desire to build more muscle than what is possible with calisthenics (especially in the lower body)
  • you specifically want to isolate certain muscle groups

Either way, both are a great way to build muscle, gain strength, and improve your overall health and fitness.

Is calisthenic effective? Can you build muscle with calisthenics?

Yes, you can build muscle with calisthenics provided you give your body:

  1. a sufficient stimulus from resistance training
  2. proper nutrition to maximize muscle protein synthesis and recovery, and
  3. progressive overload

You can do all three of these things with your bodyweight!

To learn more, check out How To Build Muscle Naturally Using Scientific Principles.

How strong will Calisthenics make you?

Calisthenic training can make you very strong in terms of relative strength.

If your goal is to build strength, then you must use the appropriate rep range for strength training. Choose an exercise variations where you can perform no more than 6-8 repetitions per set.

The most challenging bodyweight exercises that require the greatest amount of strength include:

  • handstand push-ups
  • planche push-ups
  • one arm pull-ups
  • front levers

You can also add external weights to any calisthenic exercise to build even more strength.

Does Calisthenics burn fat?

Calisthenics can help you burn fat by increasing your muscle mass percentage.

The more muscle you have, the more calories your body will burn at rest, and the more calories you will burn while you exercise.

With that said, fat loss is most determined by your diet, primarily your caloric intake, nutrient intake, and your consistency.

Learn more in Diet Vs Exercise: Whats More Important?

Is It OK to do calisthenic exercises every day?

Yes, you can do calisthenic exercises every day, but this isn’t necessary. You can get all the benefits of bodyweight training with just a 3-5 day a week workout schedule.

If you choose to train more than this, just make sure to give each muscle group the appropriate amount rest and recovery- (i.e dont train the same muscle group two days in a row).

Final Words On The Benefits Of Calisthenics Over Weights

So those are all the benefits you can experience from calisthenics training that weights cant provide.

Now I want to hear from you.

What do you hope to get out of calisthenics? Any benefits you are most excited about?

Comment below and let us know.

Don’t forget to download your calisthenics template above!

Related Posts On Calisthenics Training

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Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM CPTs, health & fitness experts, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a site dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals. Their advice has been featured on KevinMD, The Doctor Weighs In, My Fitness Pal, Reader's Digest, Livestrong, and The Active Times. Learn more about them here.

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