While fitness trends come, go and often come back again, one form of exercise is here to stay -- calisthenics. Calisthenics, or body-weight exercises, have been practiced for thousands of years in all corners of the globe. The word calisthenics has its roots in Greek -- "kalli," meaning beautiful, and "sthenos," meaning strength. So if you want to be strong and beautiful or beautifully strong, calisthenics are for you.
You can use calisthenic exercises to target a number of your fitness attributes. Exercises where you can perform only six or fewer repetitions will develop muscular strength whereas those that allow you to perform 15 or more will improve your muscular endurance. You can combine calisthenic exercises into a circuit to increase your cardiovascular fitness and burn lots of calories, and many calisthenic exercises will help increase your bone mass. As calisthenic exercises involve moving your body rather than a barbell or dumbbell, they also develop your coordination and proprioception, which is your innate ability to know where your limbs are positioned even when you can't see them. Calisthenics can also improve your joint mobility and flexibility.
Calisthenic exercises can be performed just about anywhere. All you need is a few yards of space and, in some instances, an exercise mat or folded towel on which to lie. Because you need no specialized equipment, calisthenic exercises don't cost anything to perform. Calisthenic exercises can also be described as functional. This simply means that they tend to have a positive carryover to everyday activities.
As your body weight is your sole source of resistance in calisthenic exercises, you may find that some exercises are either too easy or too hard for you. With barbell, dumbbell, kettlebell and resistance machine exercises, you can simply select another weight to use, but you have no such option with calisthenic exercises. If you need a more or less demanding workout, you may need to select a completely different form of exercise that better suits your needs.
Any exercise that involves just you and your body weight and requires no additional equipment can be considered a calisthenic exercise. Pushups are probably the most commonly and widely performed calisthenic exercises, but pullups, squats, lunges, jumping jacks, situps, squats, burpees and triceps dips are also good choices. When designing your calisthenic workout, select a variety of exercises to ensure that all of your muscles are developed equally.
Patrick Dale is an experienced writer who has written for a plethora of international publications. A lecturer and trainer of trainers, he is a contributor to "Ultra-FIT" magazine and has been involved in fitness for more than 22 years. He authored the books "Military Fitness", "Live Long, Live Strong" and "No Gym? No Problem!" and served in the Royal Marines for five years.