Calisthenics… does it remind you of how your mum used to exercise in the ‘80s? Do you have a mental image of Jane Fonda in a bright leotard, disco music blaring? Calisthenics may sound old-fashioned but it’s a form of exercise that never really went out of style. In fact, it’s enjoying a huge revival lately, and for good reason. Calisthenics is the perfect form of exercise, particularly for women on the go. Wherever you are, whatever the time of day, no matter your fitness level, a calisthenics workout is always possible.
Calisthenics, by definition, requires no equipment. So there really is no excuse for not getting a workout in! It will help you get fit and stay fit without bulking up, and you literally can do a calisthenics workout anywhere. Read on to find out more about the benefits of calisthenics and why it’s such a great form of exercise for women on the go. Then try the beginner’s calisthenics workout for women to get started!
What are calisthenics?
Calisthenics is a catch-all term that refers to exercises using your own body weight. Calisthenics are designed to trim, tone, and build strength. Think of gymnastics, squats, sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, that sort of thing. Any and all exercises that use only your own body weight.
Calisthenics combine aerobic and anaerobic exercises. Aerobic exercise is that which gets your heart going and works on strengthening your cardiovascular system. Anaerobic exercise on the other hand is about building strength and working on your muscles. If you want to get technical, anaerobic means ‘without oxygen’ while aerobic means ‘with oxygen’. Both forms of exercise break down glucose in the body, but the former does it with oxygen and the latter without. A combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercise is best for the body, making a calisthenics workout one of the best things you can do for overall fitness.
The benefits of calisthenics
We all lead such busy lives nowadays. Most of our time is taken up with daily life things: work, family, chores, running errands. Much of it is also spent sitting – at a desk, in a car, bus or train, or on the sofa at home. Often, we are too exhausted to get up and go to the gym or out for a run or bike ride, even take a walk. They can also take up precious time, more hours than we perhaps have in our busy days. The benefits of calisthenics are many and varied, starting with how much time we need to spend doing them. Which is really not much at all!
That’s a big part of their appeal and probably why they have been experiencing such a revival. For busy women who are always on the go, calisthenics are a way of staying fit and keeping trim, without going beyond their living room.
A 30-minute session of calisthenics 3-5 times a week is a great way to get into shape or stay fit. The benefits of calisthenics include:
- Weight loss. If your goal is to lose weight, calisthenics will help you do that in a safe way
- Trimming and toning. Calisthenics exercise the whole body, with most exercises working on more than one muscle group at a time. It’s a great way to sculpt your body!
- Building functional strength. Calisthenics will help you to build strength using nothing but your own body weight
- Lower risk of injury. Without fancy equipment and heavy weights, the risk of injury is lower.
- Saving time. You can do a calisthenics workout anywhere. No more wasting time getting to the gym or to an exercise class
- Saving money. Working out at home costs nothing, so you can save money on gym memberships and class fees. You also don’t have to buy any equipment
- It’s perfect for beginners. Calisthenics is a great way for someone to begin to build up strength and endurance. Work at your own pace, in the comfort of your own environment
- You can do it anywhere, anytime. Calisthenics can be done anywhere – at home, in your hotel room if you travel, or in a local park. You’re also not tied to anyone else’s class schedule. Just get exercising!
- You don’t need any equipment. Your own body weight is all you need for a great workout.
Calisthenics benefits for women
Weight training is particularly important for women to help prevent diseases such as osteoporosis. When we talk about weight training, your own body weight is more than enough. Using your own body weight will help you do resistance exercises that work with your whole body, not just individual muscle groups. The benefits of calisthenics for women are plenty. Here are just some:
- Builds strength for anything from day-to-day tasks to full-on unassisted chin lifts
- Aid weight loss, tone and sculpt the body by working numerous muscle groups at once as well as your cardiovascular system
- Reduced risk of injury by using only your body weight. Calisthenics are also much more natural moves than lifting weights, reducing the stress on your body
- You can do calisthenics anytime, anywhere. You don’t need to waste time getting to a gym or looking for fancy equipment – perfect for women on the go.
This is the beauty of calisthenics – you don’t need any equipment! Your own body weight is enough to give you a great, full-body workout. It’s also ideal if you are just starting out as calisthenics will help you to get the correct form right from the start. This will reduce the chances of injury and become the building block for increasing resistance as you progress on your fitness journey.
For those who are looking to go a little further in their workouts, who are either already fairly fit or more experienced with calisthenics exercises, there are a couple of simple equipment options for your workouts:
- Resistance bands. These are easy to find and cheap to buy. They work by creating greater resistance for the muscle you are working. This means that you will need to work a little harder and by doing so exercising the muscle even more
- Pull-up bar. Found in many local parks, they will help you build greater upper body strength. You can also buy an inexpensive doorframe pull-up bar to use at home. Use your resistance band to assist you when you first start, and build up to a full pull-up without it
- Dip bar. Also found in local parks, dip bars are great for upper body and arm exercises. They also add a greater element of resistance to your workouts.
- Parallettes. Admittedly these are for next level after beginner calisthenics, but you also incorporate more wrist mobility, which in turn increases wrist strength.
- Gymnastic Rings. Once you have gotten to a level of comfort in your beginner calisthenics journey you can tackle the rings, which will increase your core strength and and an extra challenge to mastering your body. Top tip: us ladies tend to have smaller hands so make sure you buy the thin (less wider grip) rings, oh and wood is always better for grips too!
Will I bulk up?
No. You will not bulk up with calisthenics. There is a misconception that anaerobic exercise will make women bulky, but that’s not true. For a start, women have usually around 20-30 times less testosterone than men so freaking out about turning into Arnie after doing calisthenics is a waste of time.
By using the resistance created by your own body weight, you build lean muscle, and the cardio elements will also help you burn calories. The benefit is a stronger, leaner, more confident you, without the muscle bulk. So no… anaerobic exercise will not make you bulky!
Beginners’ calisthenics for women workout
Intrigued and been thinking of trying it out for a while but never got around to it? Now is as good a time as any. Get started with a beginners’ calisthenics workout designed for women.
Mountain climbers. Get your heart rate going with some mountain climbers. They will work on your abs, shoulders, legs and arms.
- Start in a plank position, arms shoulder-width apart and feet together, resting on the balls of your feet
- Bring your right knee into your chest. Return it to its starting position
- Bring your left knee into your chest. Return it to its starting position
- Alternate right and left knees, bringing them into your chest.
Reps: 30 seconds, with 10 seconds of rest between each set
Push-ups. The most basic push-up is one that you do against the wall (an incline push-up). If you are comfortable with this, then progress on to knee push-ups, and once you have mastered those, go into a full push-up. Keep your belly pulled in at all times to keep your core working. When you feel stronger, hold your plank position for 10 seconds at the end of each round. Push-ups and plank holds will work on your shoulders, arms, and core.
Squats. If you’ve never done squats before, the best way to ensure you’ve got the right (and safe) form is to do them with a chair. With a chair or bench behind you, bend at the knees as if you are about to sit down. Make sure your knees don’t go out over your ankles. When you touch the chair, come back up to standing, squeezing your thighs and glutes. If you are comfortable and more experienced with squats and want to take it to the next level, add a resistance band around your thighs. Squats will work on your glutes and legs.
Jumping jacks: Keep that heart rate up through your workout! You may know them as star jumps. Either way, they’re great for your core, legs and heart.
Reps: As many as you can in one minute
Dips: A great exercise for women working the shoulders and arms, particularly the triceps. You will need a chair, bench or coffee table for this one.
- Start in a seated position and place your hands on the edge of the chair, under your glutes, shoulder-width apart
- Keep your knees bent (or extend them, heels on the ground, toes up, to increase resistance) and keeping your back straight, bend your elbows, lowering your glutes to the floor
- Make sure you keep your wrists, elbows and shoulders in line to avoid injury
- Once you have a 90-degree angle in your elbows, push yourself back up to the starting position using the heels of your hands (not your legs!).
Remember to cool down and stretch after every workout, and to hydrate. Eating well also helps to keep the right balance between calorie intake and calories burned for that lean, mean, toned body that calisthenics can give you.
Bonus tip: Feel free to check out our suggestions of the amazing women: 7 Amazing Female Calisthenics YouTubers To Follow in 2020