Beginners guide to calisthenics

Published On: April 20, 2018 08:09 AM NPT By: The Week Bureau

Calisthenics is a form of exercise that uses only body weight to build strength, lose weight and develop stamina. The best part about calisthenics training is that you will need very little or no equipments to perform it. To help you understand the basics of calisthenics, we at The Week spoke to Tony Prajapati, calisthenics instructor at The Pump Gym in Patan. According to him this exercise includes a lot of gymnastic movements that facilitates body control and elasticity. Read on to find out how you can sculpt your body at home without spending a rupee. 

Starting with the basics  
Many do not stretch before doing any kind of body weight exercises. That is because chances of injuries in body weight exercises are comparatively low. However, according to Prajapati, pre-workout stretches are extremely important to improve flexibility and prevent any kind of injury. Also, post calisthenics workout stretches help you relax your muscles and spread lactic acid, preventing it from building up at one place. 

Pushups are the basics of calisthenics workout that will help you build strength and sculpt your body. This is also one of the best body weight exercises you can do at home.

 “If not done right even push-up can cause injuries. So you might need expert guidance if you are doing it for the first time,” says Prajapati. 

The correct way of doing push-ups according to Prajapati is by pressing your palms against the ground and your hands need to be shoulder width apart (or slightly wider). After that, make sure your body is completely flat in an inclined position. Your hips should neither sag down nor should it be too high.

When you go down doing your pushups, your body should be parallel to the floor and it must look like a flat plank. The next step is to get your body back in the original position. “While doing push-ups, make sure there is no movement on the shoulders and your core muscles are tight,” adds Prajapati. 

According to him, even starting with zero or one push-up is fine in the beginning. The trick to perfecting calisthenics is building your strength one day at a time. 

There are variations in pull-up exercises such as one hand pull-up and muscle-up. But the most effective way is to start with the basics by using both your hands. Like in push-ups, the positioning of your hands is extremely important in pull-ups too.

“Even in a simple pull-up, there are different ways to hold your grip. You can either grip the pole slightly wider than shoulder’s width or right at shoulders width. Pull-ups also include overhand grip and underhand grip. The underhand grip is good if you are focusing on your biceps whereas overhand grip is good for your forearms and back,” says Prajapati. 

This exercise helps in building definition of the back and the entire upper body. It is also a great strength building exercise. 

Before starting with this exercise, make sure your bar is slightly higher than your hands’ reach. This allows a full range of motion while working out. Relax your body and make sure you are looking straight ahead and not at the bar. Then pull yourself up by initiating your squeeze at the back till your chin reaches slightly above the bar. You can start with relatively fewer pull-ups in a day then slowly start doing 10-20 repetitions for great calisthenics exercise. 

Squats are one of the easiest and the most effective body weight exercises that one can perform. This is good for quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteus maxims. 

“The perfect way to do squats is to first stand straight with your feet shoulder width apart. Then slowly bend your knees and imagine that you are sitting on a chair. Make sure your thigh bones are parallel to the ground and then slowly get back to the standing position,” says Prajapati. 

An important thing to remember while doing calisthenics is not to rush with exercises. You must take your time and focus on each step to get good results. 

Sit-up exercises are extremely beneficial for building core strength, losing belly fat and improving flexibility. It can also help with back pain and help increase flexibility of your torso. 

The best way to do sit-ups is by first lying down flat on a yoga mat facing the ceiling. Make sure that your core is tight and your back is straight. Bend your knees with your feet pressed against the ground. Your feet must be shoulder width apart.

 “First your back must be flat on the ground. Then come up slowly getting your chest close to your knees,” says Prajapati.  “You must exhale as you come up and inhale as you go down,” he adds. 

To make this exercise a little more difficult, straighten out your legs fully and lie back down.  Then lift yourself up with your hands straight in front of you. 

If sit-up is too difficult for you, you can simply do crunches. Crunches are the same as sit-ups but instead of coming all the way up, you just need to come half way up. If you are a beginner, start with a few sit-ups and then go on to doing 10-20 per day.  

Pro tips 
Remember to build your foundation and progress slowly. Don’t push your body to perform heavy and intense exercises right from the start. 

Do not compare yourself to anyone else. Remember, each body is different. 

Remember calisthenics is not just about strength. It involves balancing your body and improving your flexibility as well. So don’t worry if someone tells you that you cannot do calisthenics just because you don’t look strong enough. You can prove them wrong. As you progress further into these exercises, you can try new tricks anywhere and at any time. Just make sure not to hurt yourself. But you can definitely have fun while exploring your body’s strength and flexibility.  

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