You don't need access to expensive equipment or a gym membership to lose weight and become physically fit. Do calisthenics several days a week, and you may reap the benefits of increased strength and improved cardiovascular performance, developing strong muscles, a toned body, strong lungs and a healthy heart.
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What Are Calisthenics?
The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee explains that calisthenics are exercises that use your own body weight, meaning they don't require external resistance or weight. Exercise against gravity, and your body weight will create the challenge. The U.S. Army and other branches of the military, physical education programs in schools, and law enforcement programs often incorporate calisthenics into their training programs. You can exercise your major muscle groups with various calisthenics.
Importance of Form
Squats, pushups, lunges and dips are basic calisthenics, as are jumping jacks, sit-ups, pullups and crunches. More advanced calisthenics include jumping lunges, single-legged squats and power pushups. Pay attention to your form while you are doing calisthenics — it is far more important to maintain correct form and posture throughout the exercises than to complete a certain number of repetitions or sets. Keep a soft bend in your elbows and knees throughout the exercises; locking either of those joints can lead to injury.
Benefits of Calisthenics
Use calisthenics for strength training, and you will save money and avoid gym membership costs, and you won't have to purchase equipment for your workout routine. Perform a circuit of calisthenics exercises and your heart rate will increase during the routine, burning additional calories and contributing to weight loss. Body-weight resistance eliminates the possibility of cheating — or using other muscles to help — that arises when using machines for strength training. Calisthenics increase flexibility, build endurance and contribute to strong, toned muscles.
Recommended Training Frequency
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least two days of strength training a week to meet health and weight goals. Do a third weekly session to increase your strength and accelerate weight loss. Rest a day between sessions and allow your muscles to recover and build their strength. Overtraining may lead to early fatigue and contribute to higher exercise dropout rates.
Run, jog, walk or do another form of cardio on the days you are not doing calisthenics to burn more calories. For example, Harvard Medical School estimates that a person who weighs 155 pounds can burn 175 calories in 30 minutes of walking at a pace of 4 miles per hour.
Calisthenics: A Few Considerations
Steer clear of calisthenics that require jumping if you have any issues with your hips, knees or ankle joints. If you have a history of back pain or problems, avoid any exercises that require you to bend or twist at the spine. Progress slowly. Start with beginner exercises and build enough resistance and strength before moving to advanced routines. Combine a healthy diet with exercise to boost weight loss and don't rely solely on exercise to meet your weight-loss goals.
- U.S. Army: "Army Pocket Physical Training Guide"
- American College of Sports Medicine: "Trending Topic | Physical Activity Guidelines"
- Harvard Medical School: "Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights"
- United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee: "Fitness - Challenge Yourself With This Calisthenics Workout"