Back to Basics
We live in a world where you can get your groceries delivered to your door the same day, with just a few taps on a screen that you’re holding in the palm of your hand. It’s quite an amazing time, driven by technological advances that have put more power at our fingertips than ever before. The by-product of these advances is that we rely on technology for almost everything we do, and therefore start to feel disconnected from authentic, technology-free experiences that were once part of a simpler time. People today are drawn more and more to authentic and “back to basics” experiences that contrast the hyper technological, sometimes overly processed experiences they’re used to. We see this with things like the meteoric rise of artisanal and hand-made products, the growth of home gardening, and the popularity of raw experiences like axe-throwing, just to name a few examples. When it comes to the fitness industry, there is no more “back to basics” approach than calisthenics. Arguably the world’s first true workout method, free of any reliance on complicated equipment, calisthenics training taps into a yearning that people have today to go back to something authentic, real, and effective.
No More Mr. Universe
These days, less and less men are striving to look like ‘Ahnold’ from his Mr. Universe days. In fact, as the steroid filled era of the 70s, 80s, and even 90s become distant memories, that extremely buffed up look has become less appealing for men, and less attractive to women. There is a shifting focus, especially more recently, toward overall health and wellness, which emphasizes strength, flexibility, mobility, and lean bodies in favour of pumped up biceps. Let’s not kid ourselves, guys still want to be muscular, but they also still want to look sharp in a slim fitting suit. Weightlifting programs will increase muscle mass, but it’s what I refer to as “hollow strength”, meaning it’s very targeted at a specific muscle for a very specific task, and does not reflect true overall strength. Calisthenics exercises on the other hand often target the core and utilize many different muscles at the same time, resulting in overall strength throughout the body (which is why it’s so popular among athletes). More and more women today are also focused on strength training than ever before, ditching the aerobics classes of yesteryear for more strength-based training styles. But most women also don’t want huge muscle mass, instead looking for a toned and sculpted look, which is exactly what calisthenics provides. Calisthenics exercises add real, raw, total body strength, while toning and sculpting, and increasing flexibility and mobility. As a result, calisthenics has become extremely popular among men and women who want to add massive amounts of strength (which believe me you’ll have once you’re able to pull off certain calisthenics exercises), while looking sexy and sculpted at the same time.
In terms of the cost to get started, no other workout program in the world beats calisthenics. Most calisthenics exercises can be done at zero cost, and even the few pieces of equipment that we recommend such as a pull-up bar are relatively inexpensive. You definitely do not need a gym membership to get started either. The most important piece of equipment in calisthenics is your own body, and the resistance in most exercises comes from your body weight. For this reason, you can start doing calisthenics, and doing it pretty effectively, for no cost at all. This low cost of entry is very appealing for many people looking for a new and effective training technique and it’s helped calisthenics to take off around the world.
Convenience is King
Very few workout techniques out there offer the same “do-it-anywhere” appeal as calisthenics. Because there is little to no equipment required, and because of the simplicity of the movements (note, simplicity does not mean ‘easy’), calisthenics can be done literally anywhere. Wherever you have a floor, you can do push-ups, squats, and many other exercises. If you get yourself a simple pull-up bar from Amazon [LINK], you can put it on any door frame and start doing pull-ups. Have a chair? Perfect, you can do some dips. So whether you’re at home, in a park, or in a hotel room, you can easily do a quick calisthenics routine. This quality has certainly helped calisthenics appeal to a wide audience in a world where convenience is a hot commodity.
Ever wonder why certain video games can be so addictive? Part of the answer is related to that gratifying feeling you get when you pass some new milestone or overcome some major obstacle. It also has to do with point scoring, competition with others, and rules of play, all of which describe something called gamification. Gamification can make activities both fun and a bit addictive, as we are naturally programmed to find pleasure in competition, challenge, and accomplishment. When you think of calisthenics, you don’t automatically associate it with a game or gamification, but when you take a closer look you’ll see that some of the elements are there. The act of mastering a calisthenics maneuver, and using that as a building block in order to achieve the next maneuver, is the very essence of gamification. When you progress through each level of the planche for example, starting from a simple tuck planche and progressing to the most advanced full planche, it is no different than passing levels in a game and collecting skills that make you stronger as you progress. Each time you master a calisthenics exercise, it provides a huge sense of gratification while knowing that the next exercise milestone is in front of you. It also fosters a sense of competition if you are on a calisthenics program with others or part of an online community, as each of you tries to reach that next milestone. This is gamification at its finest, and it’s one of the reasons why people find calisthenics programs so rewarding and addictive.
Possibly the most overlooked but likely most powerful reason why calisthenics is so popular today: it’s just so damn Instagram-friendly. Calisthenics exercises are quite possibly the most visually appealing exercises that the human body can perform. Whether it be someone seemingly defying gravity with a planche, or the poise and focus in a perfect handstand, nothing looks more beautiful than a perfectly executed calisthenics movement. It certainly helps as well if you can do it with a stunning natural background behind you. The simplicity and fluidity of movements no doubt carries visual appeal for calisthenics. Lastly, there’s no denying the beautiful bodies that calisthenics training produces, and these fit, sexy physiques certainly draw attention. All of these factors contribute to the huge appeal and natural fit for calisthenics on a visual platform such as Instagram, and you can see the explosion of calisthenics related posts and accounts first hand. Just do a search for #calisthenics and you’ll get a glimpse into that whole beautiful world.
I think the world is just scratching the surface in terms of calisthenics awareness, and I expect interest in calisthenics to continue to grow exponentially as more and more average people take notice of its amazing benefits and strong appeal. It’s one of the reasons why I started this blog; to share calisthenics with the world and play a small part in helping it keep growing.