Hey guys, Nicolas here at Online Calisthenics!
Today, I want to discuss the essential movements you need to do to when training calisthenics.
Lately, I've been frequently asked about the best exercises for specific muscles or how to isolate and work on certain areas like the biceps or shoulders. These questions are more common in traditional bodybuilding and weightlifting, where muscle isolation is emphasized. However, in calisthenics, we focus on full-body workouts that engage multiple muscles and develop a chain of movements rather than isolating individual muscles.
The purpose of this post is to highlight the foundational movements that everyone should master with proper form before attempting more complex and advanced exercises. These foundational calisthenics movements serve as building blocks for more challenging skills and routines in the future. I'll be discussing the main movements that you should focus on before progressing to harder exercises.
It's important to note that these movements are not easy. Calisthenics exercises require good intensity, proper form, and high repetitions or volume to be effective. Mastering these aspects is crucial for progressing to more exciting and enjoyable skills. Basic strength should always be prioritized before anything else.
Let's start with the classic pull-up. I usually recommend starting with pull-ups because they help open up the back. This exercise is more challenging than the push-up since you're lifting your entire body weight using a bar. If you have a choice, I suggest beginning with pull-ups before moving on to push-ups to maintain the proper order of your workout routine.
Pull-ups have different variations, but for today, we'll focus on the basic movement itself. Firstly, it's important to grip the bar properly with a strong grip and a false grip, where your wrists are neutral and slightly higher than usual. This allows the forearm and other muscles to contribute to the movement. Additionally, performing a scapular squeeze or shrug is crucial. This engages the rhomboid and central muscle groups in your back, helping you pull yourself up. It's essential to avoid arching and maintain a solid core throughout the exercise.
Next, we'll move on to push-ups. Similar to pull-ups, grip is important in push-ups as well. It's recommended to have a wide hand placement, spreading your fingers and forming an 'L' shape with your index and thumbs. Your index should point forward, ensuring a wide support base for optimal power during the exercise. Leaning forward is also crucial in push-ups. Many people make the mistake of not leaning forward enough, which limits their range of motion and puts unnecessary strain on the shoulders. By leaning forward, you activate the shoulders and develop the necessary strength for more advanced movements.
After push-ups, we'll discuss parallel bar dips. This exercise is essential for strengthening the chest and other pushing movements. There are easier variations available for those who are still working towards the full parallel bar dip. Proper form is key, including keeping your elbows tucked in and maintaining a hollow position with your ribcage and pelvis. Tucking your legs together and keeping your core tight are important as well. If you can't perform the parallel bar dip yet, alternative methods like jumping from the floor can be used.
Lastly, we'll cover squats. Squatting without weights is a safer starting point, and you can use a bar, stick, or broom for support if needed. Keeping your elbows up is a good challenge during squats, ensuring proper form and alignment. The goal is to have your arms and hips parallel throughout the movement, following a parallel path as you go up and down. Adjusting your stance to a little more than shoulder-width apart and positioning your feet at a 45-degree angle is a general guideline for squatting.
Mastering these foundational movements with proper form, intensity, and volume will set you up for success in calisthenics. However, I also want to mention a couple of additional movements that are worth incorporating into your training routine.
The first additional movement is the handstand. While it may seem intimidating at first, the handstand is a fantastic exercise for developing upper body strength, balance, and body control. It engages your shoulders, core, and arms, and it's a gateway to more advanced skills like handstand push-ups and handstand walking. It's important to start with wall-assisted handstands to build strength and confidence before progressing to freestanding handstands. Proper hand placement, shoulder engagement, and body alignment are crucial for maintaining balance and avoiding strain on your wrists.
Another important movement is the L-sit. This exercise targets your core, hip flexors, and triceps. To perform an L-sit, you sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and your hands placed beside your hips. Then, you lift your body off the ground, keeping your legs straight and parallel to the floor. This movement requires significant core strength and flexibility, so it may take time to build up to a full L-sit. Start with bent knee variations or using parallettes to elevate your hands, gradually progressing towards a straight-legged L-sit on the floor.
In addition to these movements, it's important to incorporate proper stretching and mobility work into your routine. Calisthenics requires a good range of motion in various joints, so dedicating time to stretching your shoulders, hips, wrists, and other key areas can help prevent injuries and improve your performance.
Remember, mastering the foundational movements is crucial before attempting more advanced exercises. Focus on proper form, intensity, and volume in your training, and gradually progress as your strength and skill improve. Consistency is key, so aim for regular workouts and gradually increase the difficulty and complexity of your exercises over time.
I hope this overview of essential movements in calisthenics helps you on your fitness journey. Stay motivated, stay disciplined, and enjoy the process of challenging and improving your body through calisthenics.
Keep pushing yourself, and you'll achieve remarkable results.
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Until next time, keep training hard and stay dedicated to your goals!