When we talk about training methods, it is common to hear terms that we do not know what they refer to specifically and that are used to publicize the activities offered in gyms and sports centers. If they talk to us about TRX, Pilates, essential, wiringbuzz or cross fit We feel these words define workouts that are the most, procedures by which an enviable form will be achieved. And one of the most fashionable lately is the one referring to calisthenics.

This training method is used today in the world of fitness to refer to the exercises that a person does with his own body, to seek a defined and sculpted muscle contour, but without the need to use gym equipment or machines. we all remember The Barceloneta Lizardwho carried out his exercise routine with his own body as soon as the state of alarm was lifted during the covid 19 pandemic. In places like the beaches of Santa Monica or Miami Beach, in the United States, the so-called “calisthenics” gather in parks bars where they carry out their exercise routines.

Where does that name, calisthenics, come from? Its etymology tells us that it comes from the Greek words Kalos (beauty) and Sthenos (strength), and that it has a very ancient history. It is the way that the ancient Greeks had to prepare themselves physically in their gyms, seeking to define the body through strength exercises and with the body itself mainly as a load. We all know that back then the fun of exercise was outweighed by the need to prepare for war. An obvious case is observed in the famous film 300, where King Leonidas and his soldiers showed a terrifying and almost invincible image; their bodies looked like they came from a bodybuilding competition. In ancient Rome, strength training through calisthenics was used by gladiators. Its evolution in the Middle Ages during the Crusades became a method of strength work in knightly schools as part of their education; Let’s remember that dumbbells, weights or specific machines for strength training, like those in modern gyms, had not yet been invented in that period. The body itself was the burden to be handled.

It wasn’t until the 1800s that a pioneer of physical education in Sweden, Peter Henry Ling, brought calisthenics back to the fore and highlighted the value of free body movements as part of his hygienic gymnastics. It was from that moment on that gymnastics pioneers such as the German Jahn promoted natural muscular strength training (Turnen), which would be the germ of sports gymnastics. Both the Swedish and the German School advocated gymnastics centered on the mechanics of movement, exercise and calisthenics, with a focus on discipline and mental health. Along the same lines, calisthenics is linked to increased strength, as can be seen in many of the images in Geronimo Mercuriale’s book on the art of gymnastics that today evolves into what is known as bodybuilding.

In the early 1900s, a more precise and detailed calisthenics work began to be developed, which sought to allow men, women and children to be physically fit in small outdoor spaces and with apparatus specially designed for this purpose. The first calisthenics manuals and books for women and children appear for use in the classroom, including with music. These exercises had a military aspect, where the social image called for big, strong men and slim, slender women. In this period, calisthenics can be considered as the origin of Olympic gymnastics. While calisthenics as a women’s sport leads to rhythmic gymnastics in the Olympic Games, based on calisthenics for women, where in countries like Australia the sport of calisthenics continues to exist.

Over the years and the emergence of modern gyms and new training trends, calisthenics has been forgotten, although it has re-emerged as a form of street training (street training) which includes exercises using body weight to improve health and fitness. However, it is not recognized as a federation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), although there is a private organization, the WSWCF (World Street Workout and Calisthenic Federation) based in Latvia.

It is an activity that does not require excessive financial expenses and is mainly practiced in parks, beaches, sports facilities or at home. It is easy to perform as it requires little or no material (one bar or two parallel bars or rings) and allows you to improve your physical appearance. It has gained a lot of popularity in recent times, including full-body, aerobic or targeted exercises on different parts of the body (push-ups, working the triceps on the parallel bars, building muscle endurance and building combinations of skills related to weight loss). recommended at any age and condition, being beneficial for improving quality of life and health. Likewise, it is considered a good addition to sports training. Although the approach must be adapted to the characteristics of the person and be supervised by physical and sports educators to customize the workloads and their progression.

In the case of children and adolescents, the proposals are centered on low-impact exercises and movements, where attention turns to routines that can last 15-20 minutes with circuit work (with a 5-10 minute warm-up with light jogging, displacements, joint mobility and jumps) including stations where you work for 30 seconds in each station, performing 3 series and with 1 minute intervals between series:

  • Squats or lunges.
  • Push ups
  • Triceps Workout on the Swedish Bench
  • horizontal/vertical jump
  • irons
  • Sit-ups (roll up)

In adults, calisthenics focuses on aerobic exercises (running), full body (barbell, burpee, jumping jacks…) essential (dishes). The work base is aimed at beginners (general work) or advanced level (high intensity interval work) between 2-4 series, 4-10 repetitions of 6-12 exercises, where the work of each exercise is performed for 20 seconds and 4 minutes, and rest between 10 seconds and 2 minutes, with 1-3 minutes rest between sets.

In the case of the elderly (>60 years), aerobic, strength and flexibility activities for upper and lower limbs with 60-minute routines that may include:

  • warm-up (5 minutes)
  • Walking, jogging or running in different directions (15 minutes)
  • Multi-joint exercises that include resistance with elastic bands, medicine ball or kettelbell; or with autoloads (20 minutes)
  • Static and dynamic flexibility exercises (15 minutes)
  • Cool down with relaxation activities (5 minutes)

For all these reasons, it doesn’t seem like a bad option for me to become something more calisthenics.

INFORM YOURSELF it is the space of EL PAÍS SALUD where we will talk about aspects related to physical activity, sport and physical and mental health. From the Sciences of Physical Activity and Sport, an attempt was made to advance scientific knowledge about the importance of movement and physical exercise in the body, as well as the processes that explain why certain adaptations, modifications or changes occur at different levels. (physiological, anatomical, motor, emotional or cognitive). This space seeks to find scientific explanations that support and justify the reasons that are so beneficial for physical activity and sport. Likewise, it will try to discuss and refute certain myths or false beliefs existing in society about specific issues of physical exercise and health.

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