Calisthenics training, also known as gymnastic strength training, is a form of weight training that utilizes your own bodyweight as the resistance. The word "calisthenics" comes from the ancient Greek words kalos (κάλλος), which means "beauty," and sthenos (σθένος), meaning "strength."
For health, fitness and longevity, all ancient Greek physicians and philosophers recommended, in addition to temperance in food and sex, use of fresh pure air, bathing, friction of the body, and proper exercise. For the latter, Greeks developed a system of both intense and gentle activities that they called gymnastics, a word derived from gymnazein which means simply “to exercise or train.” Thus the word "gymnastics" did not originally refer to what we now know as competitive gymnastics, but to any type of physical fitness training, which is why we still today call halls for physical training gymnasiums or gyms for short.
Gymnastic strength training utilizes calisthenics to develop physical strength.
There are advantages and disadvantages to using calisthenics for strength training.
That main advantages to using your bodyweight for strength training are:
Although gymnastic strength training has all of those advantages, it also has some significant drawbacks. In fact, the limitations of bodyweight training motivated men to develop more effective ways for systematic strength training, such as barbells, dumbbells, and machines.
The main disadvantages of calisthenics training are:
As a result of my own experience getting recurrent injuries by putting barbell training before calisthenics training, I believe that proper progressive calisthenics and mobility training should be the foundation
of all strength training programs. Proper calisthenics training
will identify and correct the weak links in your body awareness,
alignment, mobility and flexibility that must be corrected before you
engage in progressive bodyweight or barbell training.
Some of the remedial strength, mobility and flexibility exercises you need to safely progress in gymnastic strength training employ barbells, dumbbells, or weight plates to correct your imbalances, so barbell strength and mobility training is helpful for progression in calisthenics.
For the best strength training results, the Full Range Strength programs include both bodyweight and barbell/dumbbell training. This way you can take advantage of the unique demands placed on both dynamic and static strength, proprioception, balance and whole body mobility and flexibility by training gymnastic strength skills, and also provide a higher level of strength development for your hips and thighs by using barbells and dumbbells.
Using barbell plates to add resistance to basic bodyweight strength training movements like pull-ups and dips will also enable you to progress more systematically and quickly toward advanced bodyweight skills like one-arm chin ups.
1. Fisher J, Steele J, Brzycki M, DeSimone B. Primum non nocere: A commentary on avoidable injuries and safe resistance training techniques. J Trainology 2014;3:31-34.