Doing sport and getting stronger, building muscles. Who doesn’t want that? Dumbbells, equipment, gyms. Everything seems so attainable and yet so far away. How about a completely new method? A method that is already ancient, yet has fallen into oblivion? Calisthenics is the name of this phenomenon. What is behind it? And what can it do for you?


What is Calisthenics?

The word “calisthenics” is derived from the Greek “kalos” for “beautiful” and “sthenos” for “strength”. And that’s exactly what it’s all about. Calisthenics is primarily about strength and the beauty derived from shaping the body and the beauty of the movements. It is a system of dead weight exercises, that is, exercises that can be done with your own body weight. It requires (almost) no equipment, no special room, nothing but one’s own will and one’s own body to set in motion. Today, you would probably associate the exercises with gymnastics or something similar and the word “calisthenics” is also hardly in circulation, but despite the age, the exercises and the philosophy behind them could hardly be more up-to-date and a new and interesting thing for anyone who is not satisfied with the conventional methods and gyms.

The origin of the Calisthenics movement

Originally called Calisthenics in Greek, the Calisthenics movement is already thousands of years old. People – especially warriors – have always wanted to be strong. Stronger than their opponents and conform to a physical ideal so that they could endure long marches, maintain discipline in the face of death and also fight long battles. Last but not least, hauling equipment. Swords, shields and many other things. If you look at ancient statues, you know what some people looked like back then, because these statues were also often sculpted after models. Strong muscles, but perfectly proportioned. That’s what you would like to look like, and that’s probably what everyone thinks who has ever seen such a statue. Spartans, Athenians, Romans. Many peoples have kept themselves fit like this. In the course of time, “calisthenics” changed more and more, different forms came into use, but the focus was always on one’s own body. The main focus was always on the body’s own weight exercises. And this increased again in the 19th century, when so-called “gymnastics clubs” became more and more popular. The approach and philosophy of calisthenics was displaced in the 20th century when dumbbells, weight plates and many machines came onto the market that were “newer” and simply more fashionable. Not so old “gymnastics”. Calisthenics almost died out and is still barely in the minds of athletes or coaches. Many probably wouldn’t even know how to spell the term. So can one conclude from age that it is obsolete? Or did the ancient peoples have something ahead of us and were actually more beautiful and stronger, as the term suggests? Bit by bit, however, the exercises are coming back, also thanks to the calisthenics parks, where you can do these exercises on poles, etc. The well-known “flag” of calisthenics exercises can be seen more often again and one wonders if there is still hope for this kind of physical exercise?

The most popular calisthenics exercises

The basic exercises are quickly presented. Push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, squats. Essentially, these are the exercises that fall under the term calisthenics, modified and amplified, but still cause most athletes to smile wearily and mostly disparagingly. But a pull-up is not just a pull-up. And so it is with push-ups and all other exercises. Most of the time, you can make these exercises progressive and go from a simple exercise like push-ups on the wall to a real one-arm push-up, which is one of the most challenging strength exercises of all, which hardly anyone who trains with dumbbells is capable of.

Partner thing

Calisthenics kann auch zu zweit ausgeführt werden
Calisthenics can also be done in pairs

The great thing about calisthenics is that you can practise it at home and you can also involve your partner in the exercises. Working out together is always better and it is suitable for both men and women. No apparatus, no superfluous equipment. It can be a very bonding experience for a couple to exercise together, to see strength and progress grow and to see more and more how to make exercise a regular ritual. You spur each other on, feel the strength, see each other’s strength and are only spurred on more. The exercises can be practised alternately or together at the same time. Just as you feel comfortable. Especially the advantage of being able to do it together on holiday is an advantage and can really enrich and facilitate the life of a couple immensely and you gain a lot of respect for yourself and also for your partner. The team becomes even more of a team and you know that you can always rely on each other’s physical strength.

What are the benefits of Calisthenics?

But now we should talk about what Calisthenics actually brings? Why should you move away from the gyms and the machines? Why change what you are doing right now? Well, let’s remember before. The ancient statues and the heroes who certainly didn’t look any different from how they were described. Without anabolic steroids, without machines, without weight plates. Only with their own weight? Sounds a little too good to be true? One advantage of calisthenics that is seldom considered is that primarily those movements are performed that one does anyway. Movements that your body is designed to do and that you will have to do again and again in your life. Natural movements are something that are really important because you train as a human being and shouldn’t just train anything, because the body doesn’t know what to do with it and likes to build up muscles but doesn’t use them ideally because other associated muscle groups and also tendons and joints have not been used. This is exactly where Calisthenics comes in. The muscle groups are not trained individually, but together with other muscle groups that otherwise also work together. These muscles receive an ideal load from their own weight, which you can always increase by changing something about the exercises. This is called progressive calisthenics. But also the beginner is perfectly provided with what he has with him anyway: The body.

Calisthenics uses the whole body

Arms, hands, legs, abs, back, butt, neck, back. No matter what you want to train, a few calisthenics exercises are completely sufficient to address every part of the body, to shape it, to strengthen it and to bring it into a condition that you would not have expected, but which Spartans and other ancient fighters swore by and which brought them unimagined victories (not to mention the creation of legends over thousands of years). So it’s no exaggeration to describe calisthenics as a cornucopia of possibilities. Just the body. And a small space to move around in. That’s all you need. The odd bar for pull-ups would be good too, but you can use most of the exercises without. Handstands, push-ups, squats. Where can you not do that? When can you not do them? Hotel? Office? Public loo? In the park? One is not restricted. And one is not limited in the things such exercises can achieve. One-handed push-ups? Walking on your hands? One-handed pull-ups?

Optimal for the body

To some, these may sound like feats of Batman or even Superman. A normal person couldn’t do that. But yes, a normal person can, if not only the muscles are trained, but also the joints and tendons have been suitably trained and strengthened by the ideal weight. And that is what today’s mass training often lacks. The focus is on muscles, not on strength and not on tendons and joints, which usually actually limit our strength, even though the muscles could have done everything. Calisthenics can bring you everything you always wanted. A well and beautifully proportioned body. Almost infinite strength at the peak of human ability and endurance trained on top of that. All with just your own body, a will and discipline. And in the course of the training you will notice that your joints hurt less than with dumbbell training and that you have overtaken your former training partners and other people in the gym.

Frequently asked questions

Can I lose weight with calisthenics exercises?

Yes, you can. The body exerts itself, uses energy, the muscles grow and then also use more energy. So yes, you can also lose weight with calisthenics and increase your basal metabolic rate.

Can I build muscle with Calisthenics?

As already mentioned, yes, you can. And not only that, you also strengthen tendons and joints – so it’s the ideal trifecta for strength.

What equipment do I need?

Well, actually only your own body and a room. But for certain exercises you also need a pull-up bar and maybe support handles for dips and push-ups. All available for relatively little money.

If it’s so successful, why isn’t it widespread?

Because you can’t really make money with calisthenics. Who goes to the gym if they don’t need to? Not to mention heavy dumbbells, protein shakes and equipment? Calisthenics is not a market because it’s too basic, like breathing.

What is the risk of injury?

If you do it right, it’s less than with machines or dumbbells. If the push-up goes wrong, you collapse on the floor, if the bench press goes wrong, it can end badly. Being able to move yourself, how dangerous can that be?

What should the diet be like?

Just keep eating the way you should anyway. Balanced. With proteins, fats and carbohydrates. The body takes what it needs.

Could I eventually look too “pumped up”?

No. The pumped-up appearance of many athletes does not come from training, but from certain substances. The body itself has biological limits. A gorilla has different ones than a human. That’s why we are inferior in strength. So don’t worry, you become strong, well proportioned and nature takes care of everything else.

When can you start?

Immediately. Almost any age is suitable for it. Even children do push-ups at school.

Is it suitable for men and women?

Absolutely yes. Calisthenics is good across genders. Progress is individual and strength will also reach an individual peak at some point, but it doesn’t make a difference.

How do I get started?

Just start. And if you need help, there are trainers who specialise in this and also excellent books that address this very topic and want to spread the word.

Why does all this sound too good to be true?

Because in our society we always think that everything has to be expensive, that you have to go to a certain place, that you need complicated dumbbells and exercises and nutrition plans (including supplements). It’s not like that. And it can take a long time to reach the highest heights. Simplicity doesn’t mean it’s not strenuous.

Can I do it with an injury?

That depends on the injury, the condition and the doctor’s assessment. But exercise generally doesn’t make anything worse, it only makes it better. The body is more resistant, is more active, releases hormones. And if you’ve been lying down for a long time, it’s even more advisable. So clearly yes!

What if I’m not convinced?

Well, if you’re not convinced, you should look at history. In ancient times, as already described. In the prisons of the USA, where unbelievable athletes have involuntarily grown up with these exercises, or with the monkeys, who also climb a lot and thus also have a great deal of their strength, which is breathtaking.


Calisthenics has its origins in ancient times. This movement is characterised by the use of the body and is the antithesis of today’s exercise habit with dumbbells and with the heavy machines that you find in every gym. But you can also train each muscle group differently and, above all, better. Get stronger, train strength in a natural way and stay healthy and slim and strong at the same time. Who doesn’t want that? For many, calisthenics might sound too good to be true, but those who prefer to run to the gym and spend a lot of money on products can do so, but not everything that is good and brings something is also expensive and complicated.