Maintaining optimal physical fitness has long been a major priority of mine. I put a great amount of time over many years of my adult life towards studying and routinely practicing with several different strength and muscle building programs. However, it wasn’t until just a couple years ago that I decided to venture away from the weight-room for the first time and instead see what strength-based calisthenics could do for me.
What I found was that doing these holistic bodyweight exercises enabled me to function, look and feel far better than any of my previous weight-training endeavors ever did.
Plus, I no longer needed to spend an exorbitant amount of my time training, cooking and eating in order to make such progress.
The overall benefits I’ve experienced since making the shift to calisthenics have been superb, and I’m confident that anyone at any fitness level who gives traditional calisthenics a shot will prosper similarly.
Whether you want to be a shredded super-athlete, or just get in better shape through the most practical and effective means possible, calisthenics is the best way to go.
Here are 7 important reasons why:
1.) Very Little Equipment Necessary
You most likely already either own or have easy access to every piece of “exercise equipment” you’ll ever need:
- a flat, solid floor at least the length of your body
- a wall
- a high, horizontal apparatus you can hang from
- a basketball (or other similar sized sports ball)
- a table or some other sturdy object about hip height
- a vertical, cylindrical pole
- a towel
You should be set for life on those alone. At most, you might have to spend $20 on a door frame pull-up bar if there’s nothing else like it nearby.
But that’s still a heck of a lot cheaper than weights or exercise machines. You’ll also save a ton of money not having to drive to a gym and pay its membership fees.
Not only is such simplicity economical, but highly convenient as well.
You can train pretty much anywhere at any time you wish. Being out of town or working long hours won’t prevent you from getting a solid workout in.
2.) Look Better
Believe it or not, only a very small percentage of women are attracted to the bulky bodybuilder look. Just do a little research and you will come across plenty of evidence verifying this fact.
You’ll also see that the vast majority of women are attracted to the physique that calisthenics naturally bring about: fit, evenly-proportioned and with some (but not too much!) noticeable muscle definition.
“The Greeks understood that the practice of calisthenics developed the physique to its maximum natural potential; not in an ugly, bloated way like today’s bodybuilders, but in perfect proportion with the harmony of natural aesthetics. It achieves this harmony effortlessly, because the resistance used by the body is the body itself—not too light, not too heavy. Mother nature’s perfect level of resistance” (Convict Conditioning, pg. 10).
Another aesthetic perk to calisthenics is that you can exercise outdoors and develop a nice, natural tan.
3.) More Functional Athleticism
Calisthenics are far more effective for improving well-rounded athleticism.
They develop balance, synergy, coordination, agility, mental focus, flexibility and core strength to a much greater degree than weightlifting exercises do.
They make your body work as an integrated unit, and are quite similar in motion to some of the most common athletic movements:
- Leg-raises will help you develop a much stronger kick than any weighted or machine-assisted abdominal exercises will.
- One-arm pushups much more closely resemble a punching or throwing motion than bench-pressing does.
- Bridges most effectively develop the spinal strength and mobility needed for effective ground grappling.
- Most jumps and take-downs are powered from one leg, just like the pistol squat.
You can get as big and buff as you want, but to be able to move your body around as nature intended is the epitome of true, functional athleticism.
4.) Shreds Your Core
Because calisthenics naturally force you to activate your core muscles, they more effectively shred it in the process.
Think about it: You have to stabilize your core in order to keep your body aligned while doing pushups. On the other hand, laying down on a bench to press weights up requires barely any core flexion.
5.) Safer Exercises
Weightlifting injuries and are a dime a dozen, whereas calisthenics injuries are few and far between.
Some weightlifters suffer horrific accidents and hurt themselves all at once (WARNING: Disturbing Content):
Others develop chronic joint pains over time that never seem to go away. Soft tissue tears, tendonitis and arthritis are the bodybuilder’s constant companion. This is because heavy weightlifting primarily targets the muscles and causes them to adapt at a much faster rate than the joints.
Calisthenics, on the other hand, develop the joints in proportion to the muscular system. This brings me to my next point:
6.) Therapeutic Benefits
Former aches and pains are naturally healed as the joint tissue rebuilds itself from doing these holistic exercises.
When done with the correct breathing cadence, the therapeutic benefits of calisthenics are quite similar to those of yogic exercises: tensions are relieved, flexibility is enhanced, channels of blood flow are kindled and misalignments are straightened out.
7.) Cooler Looking Maneuvers
We’ve all seen the Olympic power-lifters and World’s Strongest Man competitors lift some insanely heavy objects. While these feats of strength may be impressive, they’ll never turn heads and drop jaws like a stand-to-stand bridge, one-armed pull-up or human flag will.
The total body strength and coordination required to perform advanced-level calisthenics maneuvers demand immediate respect and admiration from onlookers.
I’ve had more strangers complement and start conversations with me after doing these nifty party tricks than I can count. It’s a great way to break the ice (or help others to) and meet new people.
Conclusion: Calisthenics are Superior
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the vast majority of people would benefit the most from primarily (if not exclusively) practicing old-school calisthenics in their purest form.
Even if you are set on lifting weights, throwing some classic bodyweight exercises into your repertoire will surely take your strength and muscle development to the next level.
Convict Conditioning is the ultimate authority on how to do so. It’s the only exercise manual you’ll ever need to build a strong, flexible, healthy body the way you are meant to.
You can read my book review for it here: