What is Calisthenics?

by CC Admin

This post is for those who are completely new to Calisthenics and street workout and need a bit of an introduction to help breakdown a seemingly new sport involving a spectrum of different kind of movements.

For those in Australia: there may be extra confusion around the sport of calisthenics where the word calisthenics is also used to describe a sport that involves gymnastics, singing, ballet, and dance.

As you can see below there’s a bit of a contrast between the two:

Now that clarification is out of the way what is calisthenics?

calisthenics = kalos (“beauty”) + sthenos (“strength”) – Greek

Combine strength and beauty and you have calisthenics. Calisthenics for a long time has been used in schools, military, sports teams and more as a synchronised, leader directed, physical strength and conditioning routine using mainly body weight to increase strength and fitness.

The kind of calisthenics you see popping up on your instagram feed is a more urban evolution of traditional calisthenics, where we train not only for strength and fitness but also to be able to achieve complex movements including flips, handstands, muscle ups, levers, planche, pull ups, and all that cool stuff. As you can see this list covers a large range of different kinds of movements.

What moves make up calisthenics?

I’ll start building a complete list with progressions for each as a separate post as there are so many moves. But here are a few common ones:

Back Bridge

Strengthens your posterior, provides a great stretch and much needed mobility


Great for your core and improving your core compression


Also great for core strength

Pull Up

Fundamental cali move performed with strict form and proper retraction

Muscle Up

Once you get your first muscle up you’ll be addicted to cali


Balance and strength. Good mobility helps with this.

Human Flag

Worth saluting. Uses a lot of lateral strength.


The cali unicorn? uses almost every muscle.


Not really a move but very important for mobility and avoiding injury

Where to start?

A good place to start is to develop the strength needed to be able to progress into more complex movements. Building strength with good form in the right areas will help with achieving the moves you desire and while you’re doing that you can gradually through the progressions of the movements you want to master. Hit the cali forums to ask for advice and get ideas.

What are progressions?

Most people can’t just do a planche the first time they try. That’s why it’s good to break down the complex moves of calisthenics into what we call progressions. You practice mastering a small part of the movement, then you progress to the next part until you master that and so on.

Calisthenics requires good form so it’s important to “master” each progression before moving on, otherwise you’ll struggle or wind up with terrible form. Focusing on perfect form and max holds(when relevant) with each progression is a habit that will pay off later.

Where to train?

The great thing about cali is you can do it anywhere. At home, at a park, playground, in most areas you can usually find a set of bars nearby.

There are also calisthenics gyms and groups all over. Checkout our groups page to find and connect with cali groups/crews/gyms, or start your own. Click here to search by map

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