Calisthenics Bodyweight Training

Calisthenics, also known as street workout, is a bodyweight training discipline founded in Eastern Europe. In the past decade it has been gaining tremendous momentum around the world. Calisthenics takes elements from well established disciplines such as gymnastics and breakdance, while adding its own unique fusion to the mix.

Calisthenics parks, the origin of calisthenics, are popping up all around the world. Although much of the equipment at these parks are used by athletes, the high bar and parallel bars are the most heavily used.

Although gymnastics in Melbourne, and other major cities around the world is still a lot bigger, calisthenics is quickly closing the gap as more and more people are exposed to it.

Why calisthenics over traditional gym workouts?

It has many advantages over the traditional gym. The most obvious is that you don’t need a gym membership. All you need is some quality calisthenics equipment. You can workout at your convenience for free. Training outside is a great way to ease the mind and get away from the busy city life.

Calisthenics training also presents a new and refreshing perspective on training. Often people that practice orthodox training find excitement in their training initially, however this quickly dies off as results begin to plateau several months in. There are only so many variations you can do with dumbells.

On the other hand, calisthenics never gets old because there’s always something new to learn. Calisthenics training is largely focused on skills, rather than on busting out reps. As such, there’s always a new goal in sight.

Functional training is another perk of calisthenics. The bodyweight movement patterns in calisthenics are both natural and helpful in everyday life. This is more than can be said about traditional workouts where there are often exercises completely irrelevant to functional strength.

How to get started with calisthenics?

Anyone can get started with calisthenics, irrespective of ability. Every calisthenics exercise can be progressed and regressed depending on your strength and experience. There are several bodyweight movement patterns that make up what can be referred to as the basic movement patterns.

Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Vertical push
  • Horizontal push
  • Vertical pull
  • Horizontal pull
  • Core – abs
  • Core- lower back
  • Legs – extension

It’s important to introduce exercises that target all of these movement patterns.


Vertical push

Vertical push is associated with shoulder (deltoid) and triceps strength. The best bodyweight exercise for this are handstand push ups against a wall. Many people aren’t strong enough to do these, so pike push ups present another alternative. Although you are not strictly generating vertical force, there is a large vertical component that will still provide you with great benefit.

Horizontal push

Horizontal push is all about the chest and triceps. Regular push ups are your best bet here. Again, these can be made easier or harder depending on your level. They can be done on the knees -easier, or they can be done elevated at the feet – harder.

Vertical pull

Vertical pull is associated with the biceps, back and lats. The best exercise to develop vertical pull strength are pull ups. If you’re unable to do pull ups grab a resistance band for assistance!

Horizontal pull

The horizontal pull targets the biceps, rhomboids and mid/lower traps. There are several exercises you can do here. If you’re a beginner, your best bet is to do rows with a resistance band tied around a pole. If you’re more advanced, you can try inverted rows on parallel bars.


The core is made up of mostly postural muscles and so it’s important to target them for their specific purpose. Core exercises should be isometric holds (that is, holds for time rather than repetitions). 2 great exercises are the dish (for abs) and the superman (for the lower back).

Leg extension

Another great function movement! This one targets the quads, calves and glutes. There are several exercises that can be done here, but the most basic is the squat. This is a great exercise for both beginners and advanced athletes. Body-weight squats can be made harder by jumping!