What is Calisthenics?
Calisthenics is a form of gymnastics and comes from the greek word kalos sthenos which means ‘beautiful strength’.
Calisthenics is a form of strength training widely under rated that utilizes the weight of the human body to build tremendous strength into the muscles. It is based on simple but highly effective movements and exercises that require no equipment or apparatus so they can easily be done at home or work.
An example of a calisthenics exercise is the simple push up. You are building strength into the arms, shoulders and chest by simply pressing your own bodyweight. Other examples include free squats, sit ups and pull ups.
Many people believe calisthenics to be inferior to weight training in terms of building strength and muscle but one only needs to look at a gymnast and what they are capable of, to clearly see that a gymnast is far stronger than any weight trainer.
Gymnasts do not train with heavy weights and rely solely on bodyweight exercises to build the strength they possess.
To hold the crucifix position on the gymnastic rings takes unbelievable strength and is testament to their ability.
What is functional fitness?
Functional fitness is fitness that can be applied and used in everyday situations, not just in a gym. When you carry the shopping from your car boot to your kitchen, or carry your child to bed, you use many muscle groups which work together to achieve the job in hand. The body works as one unit, integrating all the muscles together.
Weight training in its conventional form, isolates muscle groups, and it does not teach the muscles it isolates, to work with others.
Functional exercises focus on building a body capable of performing real life movements in real life positions, whereas weight training on machines in a gym, teaches the body to perform only in positions when posture is made ideal by the machine.
If you have ever reached for something or bent over to pick something up, and we are only talking about small, light items such as a bottle of water, and felt your back go, then your functional fitness is seriously lacking.
This can be attributed to poor core strength. When we perform everyday movements, such as carrying the shopping, our body calls into play many more muscles than would be used on a gym machine. When we lean over or reach, to lift the bags, we use the stabilising muscles, which include the core muscles of the abdomen and secondary muscles to keep our balance so we don’t fall over.
When we use gym machines, our stabilising muscles are not used because the machine has taken the need to keep balance away. If we are not careful, the stronger muscles get stronger and the weaker muscles get weaker which causes an imbalance in the way our bodies work and function.
This explains why a seasoned user of weight training equipment who is capable of pressing a weight far above that of their own bodyweight over their head on a shoulder press machine, cannot perform a single repetition of a push up in the handstand position.
The machine has taken away the need to balance and that person is only strong when using a machine.
The key to functional exercises is integration. It is about training muscles to work together and not independently of each other and calisthenics builds tremendous strength and is completely natural.
How to Become Firefighter Fit is based purely on calisthenics exercises and is available here.