20/11/2018

Calisthenics: The Ancient Greek Workout for a Shredded Body

As many of you know from my burst training through my BurstFit program and videos, exercise is one my favorite things to do and share with others. Exercise is essential to good health as well as to lose unwanted fat, even losing 20 pounds of fat. Of course, not everyone is capable of doing intense burst training; however, there are modifications for everything, so don’t stop reading.

Frankly speaking, the most successful fat burning workouts typically take you out of your comfort zone. They require hard work both in the gym and in the kitchen — meaning it’s the combination of healthy meal choices and solid workouts that are most effective.

While that does not mean it’s the only way to go, I believe there are certain types of workouts that truly burn more fat, not only while you are performing the exercises but long after. Fat burning workouts generally deplete you of your energy and are physically and mentally challenging.

But that is where the fun starts! Taking that first step is always the hardest, but you will be amazed at what you can accomplish and the results that come with that accomplishment, such as surprisingly losing weight fast.
Mastering the Fat-Burning Process

So let’s talk about what a fat burning workout is. In order to burn fat, you have to burn calories. Now that sounds easy, right. You can burn calories just walking up a flight of stairs. Yes. That is true. But what if you walked up that flight of stairs 30 times without stopping? You would feel fatigued pretty fast. What if you ran up those stairs 30 times. You would definitely be sweating! That is when the fat burning kicks into gear and what we would call higher intensity training.

By continually fatiguing your muscles, you boost your metabolism. This revving up continues throughout the day because it can take up to 72 hours for your metabolism to reset and you burn calories all that time! Now that is some fat burning, for sure.

Therefore, it’s not a coincidence that the best fat burning workouts are of the intense variety: Tabata, HIIT (or high-intensity interval training) and CrossFit.

In fact, a study showed that the more fit you become, the higher the intensity level is required in order to burn fat. That is why you may have heard that you have to change things up a bit because you may hit an exercise plateau. This happens with many of the athletes that I have trained because their body gets very used to the activities and simply are no longer challenged; therefore, we know when it is time to make changes.

It’s common to see someone who is overweight lose weight walking, sometimes a considerable amount, by doing it every day and changing their diet. Yet, over time, more intense exercise will be needed to continue to make a difference.

This is because oxidation occurs as we breathe harder. In the beginning of any exercise program, an individual is likely to breathe harder but eventually, that exercise may become too easy; therefore, their breathing will be more normal and they will burn fewer calories, thus maintaining a more steady metabolism and cause a plateau where little body change may happen. This steady state will burn less fat. For this reason, it’s important to mix up your exercise routines in order to be most effective and continue the fat-burning process. (1)

In my article about the afterburn effect, I share information about leaning out, building muscle and increasing your cardiovascular health. The great news is that you don’t have to spend loads of time exercising, but rather you can focus on doing brief, but intense, intermittent bouts of exercise, like my BurstFit training.

Other terms you may hear are bootcamp and HIIT, as the benefits of high-intensity interval training are significant. These types of exercise formats provide greater strength, improved speed and better fat burning, something that lower intensity exercise just cannot do. And this fat burning happens during the exercise as well as long after; hence, the afterburn effect! These types of workouts are known as some of the most effective means of improving cardiovascular health, respiratory endurance, as well as metabolic function.

According to a study, HIIT or burst training type workouts were compared to steady state workouts, in particular looking at how the exercise training affects the body fat and muscle metabolism. The study investigated the effects of calorie expenditure and fat loss in young adults and found that although HIIT workouts actually burned fewer calories during the workouts than did steady-state cardio exercise (likely due to its shorter duration), the HIIT program produced more fat loss than steady-state exercise did overall. This is great news, especially for anyone short on time.

Researchers have concluded that not only do interval-type training workouts burn more fat over the duration of the day, they also build more muscle, ultimately improving metabolic function. (2)

You want more muscles for obvious reasons, but did you know that muscle burns way more calories than fat? After age 25, most people start to lose muscle mass, specifically, one-fifth of a pound of muscle per year! Meanwhile, there’s a decline in the metabolic rate as well as muscle strength and muscle mass, all of which is linked to a weak immune system, brittle bones, stiffer joints and slumping postures. Muscle mass even effects our response to stress and some studies have shown that it is linked to cancer mortality. (3)

Another study provided confirmation that more strength occurs with proper interval-type training; however, detraining provoked significant decreases in maximal aerobic power and metabolism. While it’s clear that any exercise will yield positive results, this is evidence that the more effort you put into it, the better results you are going to have. (4)

So what is a fat burning workout? Fat burning workouts are typically a period of time when you are exercising at a higher intensity followed by a short period of rest.

An example of how to achieve this intensity would include 20 minutes of exercising — involving exercises such as sprints or burpees — as fast as you can for 30–45 seconds, repeated for 10 rounds with 15–90 second rest periods between each round of exercise. This will have a higher fat-burning effect as compared to steady-state exercises like running moderately for 30 minutes.
Key Benefits to Fat-Burning Workouts
1. Raises Both Aerobic & Anaerobic Fitness

As noted in the above studies, fat burning workouts, such as interval training, helps improve both aerobic and anaerobic fitness. During high-intensity efforts, the anaerobic system uses the energy stored in the muscles, called glycogen, for short bursts of activity.

The anaerobic system works without oxygen creating lactic acid, which is known as that “burn” you feel during exercise. As lactic acid builds, the body creates an oxygen debt. When in the recovery phase, the heart and lungs work together to get the oxygen back by breaking down the lactic acid.

The aerobic phase is the more steady-state phase that I mentioned. It’s considerably more moderate, which allows the body to perform at that phase for long periods of time. Regardless, fat-burning workouts help improve both aerobic and anaerobic types of exercise.
2. Improves Blood Pressure, Cardiovascular Health & Insulin Sensitivity

It’s no surprise that exercise helps your heart. Your heart is a muscle, too, and for it to be healthy, it requires some regular exercise. A study was reported stating that there are positive effects to interval fat-burning workouts for blood pressure and overall cardiovascular health.

Essential arterial hypertension is the most common risk factor for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Regular exercise is a well-established intervention for the prevention and treatment of hypertension. Several studies have shown that high-intensity intervals and fat-burning training improves cardiorespiratory fitness and insulin sensitivity, which helps the exercising muscles more readily use glucose for fuel to make energy, improve arterial stiffness, and ultimately prevent and control hypertension. (5)
3. Helps Cholesterol Profiles

A study reported that the effects of high-intensity interval training helped to lower cholesterol naturally. This study examined the impact of an eight-week program on high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), total cholesterol (TC) and the atherogenic index (TC/HDL-C) in 36 untrained men ages 21–36 years.

Participants were randomly assigned to an interval training group or a control group. Participants performed interval running three times a week for eight weeks at an intensity of 90 percent of maximal heart rate. It was concluded that high-intensity interval training, as an alternative mode of exercise, improved blood lipid profiles for individuals with normal physical fitness levels. (6)
4. Burns Belly Fat, Reduces and Regulates Body Weight, & Maintains Muscle Mass

Belly fat is one of the most frustrating areas for most people, giving way to that all-too-familiar “muffin top.” I share lots of ways to reduce belly fat in this article, one of which is burst training or interval training. In addition to eating the right foods and eliminating sugar, interval training helps you lose that muffin top due to its fat-burning characteristics provided by a higher metabolism lasting throughout the day.

Ever wonder how some people have a six-pack while others, who seem to spend hours at the gym, do not? They are very lean — meaning they have little body fat allowing the muscles beneath the skin to be more prominent. They achieve this by fatiguing their muscles with shorts bouts of intense training, leading to a higher metabolism that is burning fat all day long. Fat burning workouts also burn calories, which help to eliminate body fat, and help build muscle. While building muscle will improve your physical appearance and strength, what’s even better is that muscle burns fat! (7)
Fat-Burning Workout

After the warm-up, perform the following exercises for 45 seconds with a 15-second rest between each exercise and a one-minute rest between each set. Perform 2–3 sets per session.

Warm-Up: Stand with feet hip-distance apart and perform each warm up exercise for one minute.

March in place
Shallow squats
Easy side to side lunges
Jog in place
Butt kicks

Now start the fat-burning workout!

1. High knees

Standing with feet hip-distance apart, begin running with high knees. Keep upper body upright and knees as high as possible the entire time.

Modification: Do the same as above but instead of running, just lift the knees as high as possible, alternating.

2. Push-ups with a side knee tuck

Facing the floor, get into push-up position with hands and toes on the floor. While keeping your neck and back aligned in a flat position, bring your right knee to your right elbow as you lower the body down. As you push back up, return the leg to starting position and repeat on the other side. Keep abs tight!

Modification: You can perform this exercise on your knees. Maintain the neck and back alignment while keeping abs tight.

3. Deep squats with a jump

Stand with feet hip-distance apart, push the butt back as if sitting in a chair while you go down into a squat position and explode upwards into a jump, reaching up towards the ceiling. Continue this movement without stopping for the entire 45 seconds.

Modification: Do the same as above but without the jump.

3. Mountain climbers

Start in push-up or plank position with hands and toes on the floor. Begin by bringing the right foot towards the right elbow and switch to the other side by jumping or quickly alternating, taking the left foot to the left elbow in a continuous movement.

Modification: Do the same as above but walk the foot forward instead of jumping.

4. Jumping lunges

Start in a lunge position with the right foot and leg extended way back so that you create a 90-degree angle with the left knee. Switch legs by jumping, then landing in the same position with the right knee at a 90-degree angle. Continue this movement making sure that you land softly in the lunge position.

Modification: Position your body in the same way, but eliminate the jump by stepping backwards, then pushing off the heel and back to the start position, alternating legs.

5. Burpees

Start in standing position. Feet hip-distance apart. Squat down placing hands on the floor. Jump both feet out behind you so that you are in push-up position, jump feet back into squatting position, then jump upwards into the air and repeat in a continuous movement.

Modification: Begin the same as above, but instead of jumping the feet back behind you, just walk them back one at a time. Also, eliminate the jump upwards.


Fat Burn Workout - Dr. Axe
Fat-Burning Ab Workout

To really get a slimmer core, you should also incorporate some ab workouts into your week. Here’s a great one. Perform the following exercises for 30–45 seconds with a 10–15 second rest between each exercise and a one–minute rest between each set. Perform 2–3 sets per session.

1. Double leg extension

Lie on the floor with arms extended behind your head. Raise your arms and feet at the same time reaching up towards your feet, slowly lowering to a couple of inches off the ground and repeat. Keep your lower back pressed into the floor. If you are arching, do not lower legs too much. Add a 10–15 pound weight, by holding it with your hands, for added fat burning.

Modification: Perform same as above but do not lower the legs as much. The lower the legs, the more difficult.

2. Plank

Facing the floor, get in push-up position with hands and toes on the floor, arms extended. While keeping your neck and back aligned in a flat position, hold the abs tight and slightly tuck the hips to help maintain the correct flat position the entire time.

Modification: You can perform this exercise on your knees, but maintain the same neck and back alignment while keeping abs tight.

3. Bridge

Lie flat in the floor. Bend knees so the the heels are close to your butt. Pushing off with the heels, raise the hips towards the ceiling squeezing the butt. Hold for 10 seconds, release and repeat. For an added challenge, hold for 20 seconds while lifting one leg, then switch sides. Make sure to keeps the hips up. Abs are always tight.

Modification: Perform as above but hold for 5 seconds, release and repeat.

4. Side Plank Left

Lie on left side with hand near side of chest. Raise so that the arm is extended. Feet can be staggered or on top of each other. Keep hips lifted and neck aligned with the body. Tighten abs.

Modification: Get into the same position, but instead of extending both legs, bend the lower leg at the knee, keep the knee on the floor, then lift hips.

5. Side Plank Right

Lie on right side with hand near side of chest. Raise so that the arm is extended. Feet can be staggered or on top of each other. Keep hips lifted. Tighten abs.

Modification: Get into the same position, but instead of extending both legs, bend the lower leg at the knee, then lift hips.

6. Walk Out Roll-Ups

Start in push-up position. Walk hands in towards feet to a slightly squatted position until you can stand up, (rolling up to standing position). Then reach down to touch the floor in a slight squatting position and walk back out to push-up position. Repeat. If you are very limber, you may be able to keep knees mostly straight during this exercise.

Modification: Perform the same way but eliminate standing, instead just coming to a squatted position, then walking back out to the push-up position.

7. Challenge Exercise!

If you have a stability ball, (make sure it is firm), place your belly on top of the ball, hands over the front edge and reach to the floor. Walk out until just the tops of the feet are on the ball. Raise the butt into the air until you have formed an upside down “V” position and slowly roll back out to the starting position.
Risks of Fat-Burning Workouts
If you have not been in an exercise program, please make sure to go into any fitness routine with caution. Start slowly and add on over time. You will get more fit and be able to do more as long as you are consistent. Consider working with a personal trainer or check out my Burstfit videos. Every exercise has a lower impact option for you.

Family history, cigarette smoking, hypertension, diabetes (or pre-diabetes), abnormal cholesterol levels and obesity will increase risks, so get with your doctor to make sure you are ready to move forward with a fitness program. Prior to beginning any fitness program, it is important to understand your level of fitness, also known as base fitness level.

Regardless of age, gender and fitness level, one of the keys to safe fitness training is to modify the intensity of the work to your level, then as you get fitter, you will be able to increase that level. Not all exercise programs are suitable for everyone, and some programs may result in injury if not performed properly. If you have a heart condition, dizziness, pain in your chest, have joint or bone problems or on medication, please consult your doctor first.

The No. 1 reason (okay, after simply not wanting to) for not working out? Time, or lack thereof. With our fast-paced, always connected, never-enough-time-to-do-anything lifestyles, making time to get that workout in may seem like a Herculean task. In fact, it often requires exercise hacks because putting on workout clothes and getting to a place to get that sweat on … just takes too much time.

So even if it was on your to-do list to start the day, it might not last long. Wait … there is hope! Actually even better than hope, there is scientific evidence that suggests you can radically increase your overall levels of fitness in just minutes a day doing the Tabata workout.

The Tabata workout is a form of high-intensity training, or HIIT workouts, that uses a :20 on/:10 off ‘protocol.’ What that means is that for 20 seconds you perform an activity at a high level of intensity, followed by 10 seconds of rest, for a total of 8 rounds.  

Can the Tabata protocol be the answer we’ve been waiting for? If we want to oversimplify it, the answer is a resounding, “YES”! However, as you will see, like most things in life, it’s a little more complicated than that. One of the biggest obstacles to efficacy is the unfortunate truth that regardless of the proliferation of Tabata classes and workouts, you are most likely NOT performing the actual Tabata protocol.
The History of Tabata

Back in 1996, Dr. Izumi Tabata published the groundbreaking study that would be the basis for the Tabata training method. (1) It was through his collaboration with the Japanese Olympic Speed Skating team that he initially began to study the effects of short bursts of extremely high-intensity exercise on athletes. The skating team’s head coach, Irisawa Koichi, actually designed the workout.

Originally completed on a cycling ergometer (a stationary bike with an ergometer that measures the amount of work that’s performed) the format was 20 seconds of high-intensity work, followed by 10 seconds of rest repeated for 8 rounds, giving it it a total time of 4 minutes. Koichi wanted Tabata to analyze the effectiveness of this method.

The test looked at two groups of amateur athletic males in their mid-20s. The first group performed familiar, steady-state training on the ergometer, maintaining a moderate intensity of about 70 percent of their VO2 max. Pretty similar to what you may do at the gym when you’re jogging on the treadmill. It’s work, but it’s sustainable.

The second group pedaled at maximal effort for 20 seconds and were then given 10 seconds of rest. This cycle was repeated for four minutes or what would essentially be 8 rounds. The term maximal effort (170 percent of VO2 max) becomes important here, as the 20 seconds of work were to be sprints. If the participants were no longer able to maintain the speed requirements, they were asked to stop after completing just 7 rounds.

Both of the groups did this for 6 weeks, 5 times a week. The group of moderate-intensity participants worked a total of 5 hours, while the high-intensity subjects topped out at just 20 minutes (sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?)

The research concluded that the 4-minute Tabata workout had the same effects on aerobic performance improvement as the 60 minutes of moderate-intensity workout. In addition to that, the Tabata group also experienced a 28 percent improvement in their anaerobic capacity as well. The long-duration group did not get that benefit. Not only is Tabata a much shorter workout, but it offers two benefits in one.


Tabata guide - Dr. Axe
Tabata vs. Interval Training

One of the most frequently asked questions regarding Tabata workouts is, “what’s the difference between Tabata and HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training)?” The most notable difference comes down to timing.

In a Tabata training session, the work and rest periods are shorter than they are in HIIT. The theory being that the shorter the session, the higher the intensity will be. Remember, in the original research the whole workout was 4 minutes of trying to work at 170 percent.

In HIIT, participants are aiming for only 80–95 percent of maximum heart rate. Meanwhile, the work-to-rest ratios associated with more conventional interval training programs is usually 1 or 2 minutes of work followed by anywhere from 30 seconds, up to 2 minutes of recovery.
5 Big Benefits of Tabata
1. Fat Loss

In order to lose weight, we have always been told that the best way to do that is good ole aerobic exercise. But what if you don’t have leg-warmers, aren’t coordinated enough for a dance class and just flat-out hate the treadmill? The good news is that research is showing that the effect of regular aerobic exercise for weight loss is negligible and that short bouts of high-intensity exercise is a lot more effective for reducing fat. (2)
2. Efficiency

When done properly, Tabata workouts are short and sweet. Perhaps “sweet” isn’t the right word, but I think you understand what I’m trying to say here. When you can get such an effective workout done in just a few minutes, it becomes a lot harder to use “not having time” as an excuse.
3. Reduces Risk of Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a metabolic disorder that involves not one, but a combination of three or more of the following health issues: abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, high triglyceride levels, high blood pressure or low HDL (“good”) cholesterol. But high-intensity exercise has been shown to be an important factor in improving aerobic capacity and reversing the risk factors for metabolic syndrome. (3)
4. Preserves Muscle

Muscle deterioration is associated with long sessions of steady-state cardio, while Tabata has been shown to increase levels of testosterone, which can actually help preserve muscle. (4) When you are trying to drop a few pounds, it’s the fat you want to lose, not the muscle.
5. Fountain of Youth

Mitochondrial dysfunction has been shown to be an important component of different diseases associated with aging, such as Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Even though your body’s ability to produce mitochondria declines with age, research shows that intervals of high intensity work can trigger what mitochondrial biogenesis, which is the formation of new mitochondria in your cells. (5)
Are You Ready To Try a Tabata Workout?

Before you get out your Tabata timer, let’s talk for a second about the best way to structure a Tabata workout for the hardest 4 minutes you’ve ever experienced. Keep in mind that the original research was done on a cycling ergometer, you may or may not have access to one of those.

I would also like to add just one more time that the 20 second work intervals were done at 170 percent of max effort. Again, you are more than likely not going to be doing anything close to that amount of work, nor would I recommend it.

Most likely, you will want to choose a multi-joint, or compound, movement that gets your whole body moving and quickly increases your heart rate. Rowing on a Concept 2 ergometer or doing squats with a weighted overhead press would be a couple of good options. You can do burst training on a treadmill, too, but only if you feel comfortable hopping on and off. Sprinting on a treadmill can be a little tricky, so just be extra careful!

Once you have chosen your activity, make sure you do a warm-up before diving in. The participants in the original study warmed up for 10 minutes at 50 percent of their VO2 max before they started. Also, make sure you have some way to time your rounds. There are apps you can download, special timers you can buy, including fitness trackers, and even music that has cues for each round. You may just want a friend to time it for you so they can cheer you on or just watch in amazement at the intensity of your workout.

After you’ve warmed up and have a way to time it all, you are ready to go. Remember, the challenge is to work as hard as you can for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and repeat that cycle 7 more times. 

Okay, once you’re done with that 4-minute workout, you may feel like you just started. Here are some great moves to put together for a longer, Tabata-influenced workout routine. Put these 5 bodyweight exercises together for a hardcore 10 minutes. Try to perform 10 reps of each move within about 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds before moving to next move. After each cycle, rest for 30 seconds before repeating 3 more times.

1. Push-Ups

Lying face-down on floor with hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Raise your body up off floor by extending arms with body straight. Keeping your body straight, lower yourself back down to the floor by bending your arms.

2. Squats

Squat down by bending hips back and allowing knees to bend forward, keep your back straight and knees pointed same direction as feet. Go down until your thighs are just past parallel to floor, stand back up and do it again.

3. Burpee or Squat Thrust

Bend over and squat down. Place both hands on the floor, just a little bit wider than your shoulders. While holding your upper body in place, jump your legs back into a plank position. Jump your legs back in underneath you and stand up. To make that same move a burpee, when you jump back into the plank position, simply lower your chest to the ground. If you want to increase the intensity of either of those variations, do a little jump at the top instead of just standing up.

4. Vertical Jump

Pretty straightforward, squat down and jump up as high as possible, after landing, immediately jump up again.

5. Mountain Climbers

Begin in a push-up position, with your weight supported on your hands and toes. Start the move by bringing one leg in until the knee is approximately under the hip. Then, explosively reverse the positions of your legs, extending the bent leg until the leg is straight and supported by the toe, and bringing the other leg up and in.
Any Risks with a Tabata Workout?

Tabata training is not recommended for beginners, and it’s better suited for someone who has been working out consistently and is comfortable with high-intensity exercise. There is also an increased risk for injury when performing exercises at a high-intensity for time.

Make sure you can complete all the moves with proper form (which becomes extra challenging when you begin to fatigue) and that you did a thorough warm-up. Be sure and pick moves that are appropriate for your current level of fitness and remember, everything can be modified. 
When thinking of calisthenics, if you have a mental picture of the military performing jumping jacks to cadence, you’re not far off. The truth is, though, that calisthenics exercises are rooted much deeper in history, dating all the way back to ancient Greece. (More on that later, interesting stuff.)

When it comes to your personal history, you probably first experienced calisthenics workouts in elementary school gym class in the form of sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks and other bodyweight exercises. Calisthenics, when performed vigorously, actually help people gain muscle and serves as an aerobic form of exercise at the same time. Talk about a timesaver. (1)

Speaking of that, with people’s time-crunched schedules, fitness programs seem to be largely focused on how to get the benefits of exercise in the least amount of time. (That’s right, one-minute workouts are a thing.) Packing a lot of exercise, including lots of bodyweight training, into a short amount of time, has become quite popular, as evident with CrossFit and programs such as P90X®.

These workouts all feature calisthenics to some degree, but what I want to stress is that, as mentioned before, this type of workout is nothing new. In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine reports that workplace wellness programs incorporated calisthenics into employee breaks as far back as the 1960s. The purpose? To develop employees’ mental and physical fitness. Sadly, most of our corporate structure today does not allow for extended time off in the middle of the day or week. (2)
What Are Calisthenics Workouts?

Simply put, the calisthenics definition is using your bodyweight and gravity to perform exercises (some of which are pretty intense) using good form. What’s great is that it does not require a gym membership and could include various activities such as gymnastics, Pilates, running, squats, lunges for great legs, crunches, jumping and walking, just to name a few calisthenics workout ideas.

A more common term for calisthenics today is bodyweight training. Regardless of what you call it, this type of training can be the core of a fitness plan or used in conjunction with other training programs, including cardio workouts, HIIT workouts (including my Burst training), marathon or triathlon training, weight training or all sorts of other exercise. Mixing it up is a great way to ensure that you are working all of your muscles and can provide a healthier way to fitness.
Types of Calisthenics Workouts

There are many types of calisthenics workouts; push-ups and pull-ups are most common. Push-ups are one of my favorite calisthenics exercises because they build strength in numerous areas of the body and can be done anywhere. You can achieve great muscle development without lifting a single weight.

Performing push-ups, for instance, strengthens the muscles in your chest, shoulders and triceps while also strengthening your core. You can add variety by doing push ups on a medicine ball or adding a clap between each one. One of my favorites is the spiderman push-up, which works the obliques by bringing the knee up towards the arm as you lower into the push-up.

Pull-ups are great for working your back and biceps. The most popular style is with the palms facing forward; however, the chin-up, palms facing towards you, is a great challenge, too. While you can do these using a pull-up bar at the gym, you can also perform them with a sturdy tree branch or find a bar at a nearby park. There are some options available for installation in doorways of your home, as well. (3)

Another type of calisthenics workout is the abdominal workout. For many, having a six-pack is the ultimate goal. While having a six-pack can be awesome, it’s really more about losing abdominal fat for an overall healthier body.

There are various ab exercises that you can do to contract the muscles and work towards strengthening them. Even the push-ups mentioned above can help do this if you focus on contracting the muscles while performing the push-up. There are lots of exercises that are amazing for the abdominal area such as the plank, crunches, and hip raises — all of which can be done with your body weight, making these types of exercises great for a calisthenics workout on their own or combined with incorporated into your routine. (4)

Cardio is great for burning fat since it provides an opportunity to burn calories. Running and cycling are good cardio workouts, but you can choose exercises that can easily be incorporated into a daily routine no matter where you are, such as traditional jumping jacks or high jumps.

Jumping jacks are great because they get the heart pumping — not only offering fat-burning benefits, but keeps the heart healthy. The full body movement combined with jumping gives the body a great overall cardio burn. If you are not able to jump at this time or need to work up to it, you can do a low impact version by extending one leg at time as the arms go overhead in the traditional jumping jack form. (5)

Most bootcamp workouts provide calisthenics-specific exercises and can be found at your local gym or you can do one on your own in your living room. Burst training using my Burstfit DVDs may be ideal for this which is another type of calisthenics workout.

I even have a burst training workout for beginners right on my website. The majority of the Burstfit workouts do not use any equipment and provide amazing strength benefits from muscle toning to cardio and a blend of the two. They are also useful for the beginner as well as the advanced providing modifications for all exercises.
6 Top Benefits of a Calisthenics Workout
1. You Can Do Calisthenics Anywhere

Because calisthenics can be done using only your bodyweight, this type of training can be performed anywhere. What a beautiful thing. (Read between the lines: No excuses!) You can do an entire routine in the privacy of your home, at the gym or in a nearby park. I’ve even done short workouts at the airport.

There are numerous ways to perform calisthenics exercises at different levels. For example, a push up can be performed on the knees for beginners. Over time, you can work up to the toes and eventually add in claps or side knee tucks. The options are many and will build muscle and stamina.
2. Calisthenics Can Help Provide Improved Coordination

The Journal of Sports Rehabilitation published a study investigating how Pilates and calisthenics impact a person’s coordination. The participants included healthy females ages 25 to 50. The results indicated that calisthenic exercises were more likely to improve coordination after 3 and 6 months of training compared to Pilates. Pilates is great, but if you’re looking to increase coordination, you may benefit more from calisthenics-type exercises. (5)
3. You Gain All-Over Muscle Tone

Calisthenics offers the ability to build amazing muscle tone and you can pretty much take it as far as you want. Ever notice how some guys at the gym seem to have huge chest, arms and shoulders, but a small back and legs? This can occur when using specific weights that are targeting specific muscles; however, using your own bodyweight can allow you to focus on specific muscle groups and overall body tone at the same time.

Typically, when lifting your own body weight, it requires focus and engagement of many more muscles to ensure proper form. That means that all of these muscles are getting work which will result in a more evenly distributed physique. 
4. Provides Support for Other Sports and Fitness Goals

Calisthenics-type exercises are a safe choice because it puts less strain on the muscles and joints of the body. It is considered a “natural” form of training because you are using your own bodyweight to perform the exercises. This is not an injury-free guarantee, but with proper form and gradual increase in intensity, it can definitely provide a safer option for an effective workout.

Calisthenics workouts are perfect for adding strength without adding bulk. This is often needed to become more efficient at other sports as well as helping to prevent injury. Endurance runners often need to strengthen the hips in order to be more efficient at running while minimizing the risk of injury. A study tested athletes by increasing their strength training but decreasing their overall volume of training. The group that increased their strength training resulted in improved performance through improved muscle development. (6)

Another study found that “explosive strength training” improved results by improving endurance due to improved neuromuscular efficiency. This occurs when the nervous system uses the correct muscles to produce or reduce force while stabilizing the body in all three planes of motion. (7)

The National Academy of Sports Medicine shares that resistance training, in this case using your own body weight, can improve running economy without added bulk, an important component for endurance athletes such as Ironman athletes and ultra trail runners. (8)
5. It’s Perfect for Beginners to Advanced

Calisthenics is perfect for anyone just starting a physical fitness plan or someone who is advanced, but wants a more shredded physique. By starting slow, a beginner can begin a smart program that will provide amazing benefits, especially if consistent; however, make sure to choose a program that offers modifications so that you can have options that are right for you and at your level. Starting at a too-advanced level puts you at an increased risk of injury.

In terms of frequency, I would suggest 3 to 4 days per week for about 20 minutes each session to start. Over time, you can work more exercises and longer time periods into your training schedule. An advanced exerciser can develop amazing overall body tone, muscle development and strength by performing more intense variations of calisthenics.

For example, if strength is a focus, an advanced exerciser can work towards performing one-handed push-ups. This will create an phenomenal amount of strength and muscle development in the entire body because it requires numerous muscles groups and additional focus to perform this exercise well. (9, 10)
6. It’s an Option Even If You’ve Got Health Issues

Calisthenics isn’t just for people who are already in shape. If you’re living with chronic disease, check with your doctor to see if it’s right for you. But in 2016, Turkish researchers published a study showing that calisthenics is as safe and effective as even cycling for people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (11).
Full-Body Calisthenics Workout

If you are looking to get great muscle tone, consider a calisthenics workout a few times a week. If you want to get results, create a routine that you can commit to doing and stay consistent. Check out my Burstfit videos for some variety. Here is a great workout that you can try.
Calisthenics - Dr. Axe
History of Calisthenics

Calisthenics has been around for a very long time originating from the ancient Greek words kálos, which means “beauty,” and sthénos, meaning “strength.” It is defined as the use of body weight and “qualities of inertia” to help develop the physique.

It may have been named after the Greek historian, Callisthenes, who was tutored by Alexander the Great. Gymnastics and physical education programs were developed in the 19th century, in particular due to the Battle of the Systems, an effort to determine the most effective form of exercise spanning from the 1830s to the 1920s. (12)

Later, calisthenics became associated with crowd-drawing street workouts, much like choreographed performances by well-trained individuals. These routines would occur in parks, in particular where there are playgrounds with bars, in a competition style, drawing crowds with their amazing ability to suspend their bodies using their developed muscles and a lot of practice. These competitions often had judges creating even more authenticity to the art of calisthenic fitness.

Even today, The World Calisthenics Organization (WCO) based in Los Angeles, California, has a well-known competition series called Battle of the Bars, adding to the the increasing popularity of worldwide competitions. (13)
Calisthenics Precautions

Like all new exercises programs, please check with your doctor prior to performing these exercises. Start slowly and work your way into more advanced moves over time. If anything causes unusual discomfort or injury, or if you feel dizzy or dehydrated, stop immediately and consult a physician.
Final Thoughts on Calisthenics

Calisthenics is an amazing way to start your fitness journey (or to dive deeper into the path you’re already on). What’s great is you can take it with you wherever you go, even when traveling. You can even get the kids to join you. Consider preparing a notebook of workouts you like or check out some of the great workout apps available today. Make fitness a priority in your life and results will follow, especially when combined with a healthy eating plan.

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