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Beauty and strength: Gains from calisthenic exercises

SUNDAY MAGAZINE
By Nimoyo Salim | February 28th 2021

Calisthenics, also known as body weight exercises, use only the weight of your body to train, no equipment.

The exercise dates back to ancient Greece and became popular in the 19th Century. The term originates from the Greek word ‘kalos’ meaning beauty and ‘sthenos’ meaning strength.

It is effective in building of muscles, coordination, flexibility and strength. Additionally, it complements other workouts and body composition without the use of any major training equipment. Making it ideal for a good home workout routine.

Scientists are also studying use of calisthenics to help treat health conditions such as obesity and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes obstructed airflow from the lungs.

A major advantage of calisthenics is that it can be done by anyone who has never worked out before, it can be done anywhere and at anytime.

Calisthenics are, however, not only for beginner fitness enthusiasts. They are also popular with the military, martial artists, climbers, gymnasts, and a wide range of other fitness enthusiast and extreme sportsmen.

Easy to learn

Calisthenics workout routines are easy to learn, and the exercises are also easy on your joints as compared to weight training alternatives, greatly reducing the risk of injury.

It is relevant to all persons no mater the level of fitness or exercise prowess. The few exercises that might seem demanding, like human flags, hand balancing, and front levers, are advanced calisthenics movements. 

Others like push-ups, squats, and lunges are much less demanding and ideal for beginners. 

It’s not just home trainers who fancy calisthenics;

Since it has been tried and tested, I feel it is probably the most budget-friendly, underrated  exercise regiment we should all give a try.

Here are some beginner calisthenics exercises. Remember to check with your physician in case you have an injury that might be hazardous to put pressure on.

Crunches

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

Cross your hands on top of your chest and keep your head about a fist’s distance from your chest. Keeping your core tight, sit up until your elbows or chest touch your knees.

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

Jump squats

The jump squat is an explosive body weight exercise targeting the quads, hamstrings and glutes. It is also a cardiovascular challenge guaranteed to make you sweat.

Assume the squat position with legs at shoulder width. Squat down all the way, taking time to work the leg muscles and back up then spring into a jump and repeat. This full range of motion aids flexibility and builds lower body strength. 

Wall walk

Start with your feet next to a solid wall in a push-up position. With your arms straight, lift your feet up and place them on the wall. Push with your hands and start walking your feet up the wall, crawling backwards towards the wall with your hands as you go; so you move upwards towards a handstand position.

Go as far as you feel confident. It’s important to keep your mid-section tight at all times. If your back ends up in a banana shape, take a rest and try again, but don’t go up the wall like this. Perfect form is paramount to this exercise.

To finish, walk your hands forwards again while walking your feet down the wall so you end back in the push-up position. With growth of confidence and strength  you will be able to do a hand stand in good time. This exercise develops strength in the upper body.

Dips

Parallel dips are a progression from push-ups and work your chest, shoulders, and triceps. Grab the edge of a chair/bed/bar with a slightly  greater than shoulder-width grip with your hands behind your back and legs in front of you. Slowly lower yourself and support your weight on your arms. Bend your elbows and descend until your upper arms are roughly horizontal to the floor. Push yourself back up and repeat. 

Planks

The core is the collective term for the muscles that make up your midsection, and planks are a core’s best friend. 

To do this exercise, kneel and put your forearms on the floor in front of you. Walk your feet back until your body is straight, and your weight is resting on your arms and toes only. 

Hold this plank position for as long as you can. Increase the time as you get stronger.

Pull-ups

Stand facing an exercise bar. Grasp the bar from the top with your arms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

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

Change the orientation of your grip on the bar after one set to fully work your forearms. This exercise is great for developing strength and stability through full range of shoulder.

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