Is Calisthenics The Same as Bodyweight Exercises?
Calisthenics has been on an upward trend for the past decade. Not only that, you see a lot of fitness enthusiasts exercising in the park; big Fitness centers and smaller boutique Fitness studios are offering this minimalist workout that seems to promise great results for both beginners and advanced practitioners alike.
As a whole, you can classify all Calisthenics movements to be bodyweight exercises but not all bodyweight exercises can be considered Calisthenics. For example, a regular Yoga class can be a type of Bodyweight training as it only uses body weight for resistance but the attendees are not doing Calisthenics exercises.
Let us discuss deeper onto these terms so we can understand them better.
Bodyweight training is the broader term
Bodyweight exercises cover a broader topic of different types of training that only uses your body weight to complete the movements. This makes it a very minimal approach to fitness training as you will not rely on any equipment.
It is very convenient to do anywhere while you are on vacation, at home, or in the office as long as you have the required space for your exercises. If you learn the exercises properly, you will be able to achieve just as good results as equipment-based training.
What are examples of Bodyweight training?
The list can be long if we include all the types of bodyweight training, but to give you a better picture, we will list the most common ones you can find in the industry.
- Calisthenics training
- Yoga class
- Pilates matwork
- Dance class
- Dance fitness class
- Step aerobic classes
- Feldenkrais approach
- Most HIIT classes
- Gymnastic training
- Most types of martial arts
And the list can go on and on...
As long as the method of training only uses the bodyweight to develop strength, one can already argue that it is a type of bodyweight training.
What are examples of Calisthenics training?
Though it is a very grey area where to demarcate the boundary to what are the pure Calisthenics exercises, especially when you relate it with Gymnastic training, there are specific movements that are silently agreed from the Calisthenics community to belong to Calisthenics training method only.
These exercises are:
- Dips - this is where you place both hands on an elevated surface, usually a parallel bar. Then you up and down by bending and extending your elbows.
- Pull-ups - a very common exercise where you hang on the bar and pull yourself up. Here is an article where I describe deeper how to do pull-ups if you still cannot do one.
- Chin-ups - this exercise is almost the same as the pull-up but with your hands facing toward you when you pull yourself up. It uses slightly different muscles in your arms and forearms with this movement.
- Rows - a beginner version of pull-ups or chin-ups where you use a lower bar normally at chest height to work on your pulling strength.
- Push-ups - one of the most popular exercises but one that is also commonly done incorrectly. If you are still in the process of achieving your first push-up and you want to do it correctly, here is an article I wrote that can help you.
- Planche training - this is an advanced move that looks like a regular high plank on the floor but with the feet off the ground.
- Front lever - a static move commonly done on the gymnastic ring where the practitioner hangs with the body held in a horizontal position.
- Human flags - this is a very popular move that attracts people to start calisthenics. It is generally done on a vertical bar or a series of horizontal bars like a ladder. The person will float horizontally using a good level of combined pushing and pulling strength.
- Dragon flags - popularized by the late Bruce Lee where you lie on a bench with your hands holding the edge closer to your head, and you lift the body up to vertical and back to horizontal while keeping it straight.
- Pistol squat - literally you squat up and down with one leg while the other leg is straight pointing to the front.
- Handstand - balancing on your hands with your entire body upside down
- Handstand pushups - this like like the equivalent of squats but done on your hands. It will require an advanced level of upper body strength and the ability to balance inverted.
There will be many more variations of the list above but if you actually look at it closely, gymnast does all these exercises in their training as well.
What is the difference between Gymnastic Training and Calisthenics training?
One question that is very debatable to answer, as almost all if not all of the Calisthenics exercises are covered in Gymnastic training in one way or another. The only difference here is the way they approach these exercises and the end goal of the training.
In Gymnastic training, the Calisthenics exercises are just drills to achieve another higher-level Gymnastic move. In Calisthenics training, these exercises can be the goal in itself.
For example, the pull-up exercise for gymnasts is a preparatory exercise for their Gymnastic ring routine, but in Calisthenics, doing the pull-up exercise can be a competition in itself.
Is Calisthenics uses only bodyweight?
Though it is commonly described as a bodyweight exercise, high-level practitioners will need more challenges to progress further. So they will include weights in their Calisthenics exercises to create more resistance.
These additional weights come in weighted vests, ankle weights, or common gym plates or kettlebells attached to a weight belt.
Is Calisthenics easier if you weigh less?
As a general rule, considering that you use your body weight to resist the movement, lighter practitioners will find it easier doing Calisthenics movements. Though this is not a hard and fixed rule as some individuals who are very light can also have very low muscle composition and a higher percentage of fat, which makes them relatively weaker in relation to their weight.
Can you do Calisthenics if you’re overweight?
You can do Calisthenics training at any weight. You might be struggling to do the common Calisthenics exercises at first, but if you know the regressions of the exercises, you can safely progress in your Calisthenics training without getting overstrained. Here is an article I wrote about getting started with Calisthenics. Enjoy the journey.