Here’s a new tool for your training goals—calisthenics. Calisthenics are systematic rhythmic bodily exercises performed usually without an apparatus.

Typical bodybuilders and gym rats have forgotten about the old school ways of developing a great physique. Back in the old days, great physiques were made without the use of free weights or machines. Think back on boxers in the old days, men in the armed services, or gymnasts and Olympic athletes. The list can go on and on. Calisthenics or body weight training has been around since the very beginning of fitness. Using calisthenics alone or even with your daily weight training routines are great ways to build a lean and strong physique.

Below is a list of the benefits of calisthenics for size, fat loss, conditioning, and strength development.

Strength development

“Think about this. How much could you bench press the first time you tried? 200? 300 perhaps? Now how did you achieve that level of strength without ever having benched before? You did it through simplified training such as push-ups and pull-ups.” —Louie Simmons

As Louie Simmons states, calisthenics build a good foundation of strength for beginners. They will also help Elite powerlifters. It isn’t a secret that powerlifters train very heavy and with a lot of intensity. However, they also do many high reps and GPP work to help recover from training sessions. Many powerlifters will do push-up variations, body weight squats, and abdominal work to help them recover from heavy training sessions. The more blood flow in the muscles, the better the recovery and the more strength.

Have you always been able to do a pull-up? When I first started wrestling in high school, I could only do around three or four pull-ups. As the season went on, I got stronger. As a team, we did pull-ups every day, and by the end of the season, I was doing 15–20 pull-ups without stopping. I noticed I had much more thickness in my back (upper and lower) and my rear delts and shoulders were much wider and dense. My biceps also gained some size. That year we did many different push-ups, abdominal movements, and squat variations. I saw great results in my chest, abs, and legs. The results were better than my results from two years of lifting weights because we never lifted weights during the season.

Conditioning and fat loss
I’m not a big fan of running. I would rather do circuit style body weight training to burn those extra calories or get in good physical shape. Have you ever seen one of Ross Enamait’s crazy workout videos of him doing pull-ups on a tree or nonstop burpees with a push-up? Look at the guy! He is in tremendous shape and is lean as hell. Look at boxers back in the old days. They ran, but they also did many different push-up, pull-up, and sit-up variations.

Just try this circuit:

  • 10–15 burpees
  • 25–50 body weight squats
  • 25 push-ups
  • 10 pull-ups
  • 25 sit-ups

Do this circuit for 4–5 sets and tell me how you feel.

The bottom line is that the use of calisthenics is just another tool to put in your training toolbox to get stronger, leaner, and in better shape. In my next article, I will show you some sample programs for specific goals.

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