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What Are Calisthenics and Why Are they Important?

What Are Calisthenics and Why Are they Important?

The word “calisthenics” might be unfamiliar, but there’s a good chance you’re probably already doing some of these exercises in your daily life. Dr. Adam Rivadeneyra, a Sports Medicine physician with HOI, spoke with us about the importance of calisthenics and some example workouts for beginners.

Q: What is the actual definition of calisthenics?

A: Calisthenics is a broad term used to describe common bodyweight exercises that usually incorporate complex full body movements.

Q: How is it performed? Is it a very common workout regimen?

A: A variety of exercises can be performed in a series or circuit to raise your heart rate and build fitness/strength. Many newer workout programs like "bootcamps" or "HIIT" workouts incorporate many of the classic calisthenic exercises.

Q: How can it be beneficial for your health? Who can benefit from calisthenics?

A: Exercise in general is good for your health. Current recommendations are at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week for healthy adults, and most experts will recommend at least 60 minutes of active play every day for kids. Exercises like calisthenics can improve cardiovascular health, improve mobility and reduce aches and pains, reduce risk of injury, prevent type 2 diabetes and other metabolic problems, contribute to a healthy bodyweight and improve sleep quality.

Q: Why might someone be interested in trying calisthenics? Is it easy to get started?

A: It's one of the easiest exercises for anyone to do at home without expensive equipment. Most exercises rely on body weight for resistance and can be performed in short intervals in any small space.

Q: Is there a certain routine or workout regimen that you recommend?

A: Push-ups: Start with your body flat on the floor face-down. Place your hands a little wider than shoulder width, about even with your chest. Push straight up until your arms are fully extended, while trying to keep your core tight and your back straight throughout the movement. It's ok to modify also by putting your knees on the ground, or doing them standing and using a wall to "push-up" rather than the floor. Try to perform 3-5 sets of 10-20 repetitions.

Squats: With your feet comfortably spread, just about shoulder width, lower your hips to about 90 degrees while trying to keep your body upright, then return to standing position. Modify if needed by using a chair, slowly sitting down, then rising again. Try to perform 3-5 sets of 10-20 repetitions.

Planks: Start in the "up" position of a push-up and hold your body still, tight through the core for 30 seconds. Work your way up to plank holds of 60-90 seconds and repeat a few times. It's also a good exercise to do in between other exercises.

Jump Rope: Hold the handles of the rope near your waist/hips. Use your hands and wrists to spin the rope overhead so that you jump "forward" over the rope. Try to remain relatively still, landing in the same place repeatedly. Try to perform 30 seconds of consecutive jumping at whatever pace you're able. You can build speed, or jump higher, or jump for longer than 30 seconds as your fitness improves. Rest 30 seconds in between sets and try to perform 3-5 sets of 30 seconds.

Pull-ups: Reach overhead to any stable bar with your hands comfortably apart. Pull your body up until your head passes the bar. Slowly lower your body until your arms are straight and do it again. Continue until failure, performing as many reps as you can. You can modify by trying your palms facing you, or facing away from you. If you can't do a pull-up, you can modify by standing on a bench or chair (safely) and assisting with your legs, or having a partner assist you as well.