Calisthenics and plyometrics are both great choices for pumping your muscles and building athletic prowess, but the best one for you depends on your goals. If you want to get fit and toned, build endurance and grow stronger muscles, calisthenics will do the trick. If you're preparing for a sport and wish to build muscle power for specific moves, plyometrics may be your best bet.
Calisthenics are body-weight exercises, and you can use them to tone every inch of your gorgeous bod. Count on on pushups to build muscle in your chest and upper arms, crunches to sculpt your stomach, squats to shape your legs and rear and pullups to work your back. In fact, you can build an entire strength-training routine with nothing but calisthenic exercises. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you need at least two days of strength training per week, working all major muscle groups.
With plyometrics, you can jump your way to increased athletic performance. Originally designed for Olympic athletes, these moves involve stretching and then rapidly contracting muscles to build strength, speed and power. Plyometrics typically don't provide a complete, full-body workout, but rather complement well-rounded strength-training routines. Examples of plyometric exercises include box jumps, which involve jumping on and off of a box, lateral jumps, which involve jumping from side to side, and clap pushups, in which you clap your hands in the air mid-pushup.
All you need for calisthenics is your little ol' self, so there's no expensive or bulky equipment to worry about. Some -- but not all -- plyometric exercises require boxes or benches. Plyometrics can also be riskier, and high jumps may be hard on the joints and cause injury. But if you aim to build power or perfect specific athletic moves, plyometrics could be more effective; performing long jumps, for example, can do wonders for your running speed by helping you spring off with greater force. That said, it's safer to perform calisthenics regularly than plyometrics -- "Runner's World" recommends taking a two-week rest from plyometrics every couple of months.
Whichever exercise you choose, check with your doctor before starting a new routine. Begin slowly, and stop your activity if you feel any pain. For plyometrics, focus on landing softly and recoiling as you touch the ground. Start with simple jumps and hops, and work up to platforms. Muscles need recovery time, so wait at least a day or two before working the same areas again with calisthenics, plyometrics or other strength-training exercise.
- University of West Florida: Recreation & Sports Services
- STACK: Three Best Plyometric Drills for Speed
- Runner's World: Plyometric Power
- Military.com: Avoid the Gym by Using Calisthenics
- ExRx.net: Exercise & Muscle Directory
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need
- American Council on Exercise: Plyometrics: Controlled Impact/Maximum Power
- ExRx.net: Plyometric Exercises
- MayoClinic.com: Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.