There are very few movements our muscles and joints will allow us to make. To develop total body control, you need to work each of the fundamental movements.
If you are only working one, or neglecting one of these movement types your body will lose balance and your posture and overall strength will suffer.
The same goes for the gym guys who only do arms and chest work, or a similar isolation training methods. They look off balance.
Calisthenics training doesn’t involve such direct isolation exercises, focusing more on compound and complex exercises that work multiple muscle groups together. But it is still important to work all of these movement types or you will find your development slows right down and it will be much harder to tackle the more advanced exercises.
Dips are a simple but powerful push exercise
Understanding How Our Body Moves
Calisthenics is based upon the three types of body movement called the fundamental movements: Push Pull and Hold. Training each of these movements will work the whole of your body to maximise the strength and control you have for each of these types of movement.
Understanding how our body moves is key to developing total body control.
Most exercises you can do in the gym incorporate two of these types of movement but isometric tension isn’t something that turns up a whole load in gym training programmes. The fact is though that Isometric conditioning does wonders for your muscles, so you should definitely be including them in your training.
Push movements are the first of the three body movements. Push movements encompass all extension movements i.e. pushing is moving away from your body. With this in mind, jumping is an example of a push movement.
Pull Movements are the exact opposite of push movements. Pull movements bring your limbs in, such as pull ups or leg raises.
Biased pull ups are a strict pulling exercise
Isometric Movements (Holds)
Isometric movements are holds. You could argue that they aren’t actually movements at all, but you just try them! Isometric movements are working your muscles in a still position, so although they aren’t going anywhere, your muscles exert a whole load of force keeping your body in a particular position. The Lever exercises are perfect examples of Isometric exercises.
How Can You Work This Into Your Training?
It’s all good knowing out about these movements but how do you work it into your training? The good news is that the fundamental exercises I recommend on my getting started page cover the main movement types, but you do need to be conscious of working all directions regularly.
Some coaches recommend doing one day per movement and mixing the legs in or even having a pure squatting day. This will work well for you if you are used to splitting your training on gym days, but it isn’t the only way.
You can just as easily mix the types together on training days, or do one total body workout each session it’s up to you.
The one thing to be aware of is what movements your exercises are working. A good way to keep track of your development is to test your rep max every month for each of the fundamental movements, pull ups dips leg raises and pistol squats, this way you can measure your development on the basic movements easily.
Elbow Lever is an example of an advanced isometrics exercise. It takes a lot of strength, coordination and balance.
Flexibility And Range Of Motion
When you are training, it isn’t all about squeezing as hard as you can all of the time. To build functional strength and control it is also important to work on your flexibility.
Flexibility is important to increase your range of motion. The further you can move the more you can get out of your exercises and the better function your body can perform.
Even some of the basic calisthenics exercises require a good range of motion particularly in your shoulders.
When you are training, it is important to focus on using the full range of motion of your joints and muscles, fully extending as far as you can and then squeezing in as tight as possible. You may have seen people doing pull ups before only going down to about 90 degrees and counting it as a full rep! That is a half rep, mate.
If you are working the full range of motion you will quickly notice your muscles get more defined, longer and thicker all around, so be consistent and do full reps.
Having said that, sometimes it will help to kip your exercises a little, especially when you are use progressing to a new challenge, in which case you will benefit from just doing the movement in the first place. But when you can do a few reps, technique I key to serious improvement, otherwise you will be slowing yourself down in the long run and your workout will get sloppy.
Movement Focused Training
So when you are doing your calisthenics training, don’t think too much about your biceps size, focus on building the all round strength with total body exercises based on these fundamental movements. If you are doing pull ups, your biceps will grow, but also your back and shoulders. Focus on bringing everything together as one unit with a full range of motion and great technique!
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