What is Calisthenics? Calisthenics Definition & Modern Adaptions

by | Aug 1, 2013 | 0 comments

10 min read


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Calisthenics originated in Ancient Greece and is a form of full body strength training. The simplest way to think about Calisthenics is


gods calisthenics 


through asking a simple question; if today’s latest strength and fitness innovations such as weights, machines and gyms weren’t available to you – how would you stay strong? Since gyms only became accessible in the 70’s/ 80’s, how was it possible to be strong without such possibilities. This is calisthenics; a method of strength training which uses the body’s own natural weight to provide a full body workout following a series of progressions targeting a variety of muscle groups. Calisthenics is an individual recreational sport.

Calisthenics comes from the Greek words:

Kalli = beautiful

Sthenos = strength

Calisthenics Definition 1

A gymnastics exercise to achieve bodily fitness and grace of movement

Calisthenics Definition 2

‘Gymnastics exercise designed to develop muscular tone and promote physical well-being’ 

Nowadays, you will more commonly find calisthenics names under a different term; one of the most common names is Bodyweight Training. The difference between bodyweight training and bodybuilding – the most popular form of strength training – is that bodyweight training is free of weights or machines. You will find almost no body builders capable of the flexibility, genuine strength or grace of a bodyweight (calisthenics) trainer. Part of the reasoning behind this, it that rarely survival depends of strength of fitness and for most getting by with the appearance of being big and muscly is enough.

When barbells and machines took off in the second half of the twentieth century, all the hard earned ancient knowledge became rendered near forgotten. Nowadays, bodyweight strength has been totally replaced by bodybuilding. What has been preserved of calisthenics is merely an impression of what the true experience actually is. Since most people have been dazzles by new and exciting gym equipment, as mention previously, the hard earned knowledge has almost died out. This has brought about calisthenics as being referred to as with ‘old school’ or ‘new school’.

Old School calisthenics involves bodyweight systems designed to progressively develop inner power and strength has almost completely died out. What has survived of calisthenics has dwindled down to only a fraction of its potential.

Calisthenics, in its basic form has been kept alive through exercises given to weaklings, children or used as a warm up before taking part in other physical activities. However, more relevantly, new school calisthenics is emerging in a variety of places taking interesting new forms.

 However, calisthenics is disguised in other art forms;

Pole Dancing


Martial Arts

Street Workouts


Calisthenics is disguised in other sports, particularly gymnastics. This is demonstrated through the slight, petite little girls who take part in gymnastics are capable of lifting and holding their bodies in positions no bodybuilder could ever dream of and in the same way that gymnasts are able to gain such strength not by using weight resistance but by using a combination of flexibility, and rarely using anything more than the same apparatus and floor space they train on.

Pole Dancing  

The same has emerged in pole dancing. Despite the taboo nature of this provocative type of dancing, the agility and strength of the more experienced dancers can more than easily put an ‘strong man’ in their place. Check out this video. Pole dancing requires stimulation of the entire body engaging in maintaining a position.

Yet for someone to become this skilled, agile and strong will take lengthy training progressing through varying skill levels and progressions to achieve more advanced moves. The video demonstrates a girl using various training progressions on wall bars to demonstrate her fitness in a challenging and impressive workout.

Street Workout

Street workouts are again another modern workout based on old school calisthenics, taking the concept and adapting it to accomplish a very urban street workout, which demonstrates the suppleness, agility but complete and utter power of these men – showing nothing but the ultimate in fitness. 


Today, the definition of calisthenics has adapted and evolved to become both something forgotten but kept through other faces. Bodyweight training arena is trying to make that world of calisthenics in its original form accessible and better understood.





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