Calisthenics: The Power of Bodyweight Training
People are often surprised when I tell them that calisthenics or bodyweight training is one of the best ways to build muscle, get strong, and burn fat. After all, how can something so simple and low-cost be effective? However, studies confirm that when programmed correctly, bodyweight training produces similar results to conventional strength training (1).
For a comprehensive comparison, explore the nuances and benefits of calisthenics versus weightlifting. Unfortunately, many exercisers fail to give calisthenics an honest try. Instead of following a well-designed progressive bodyweight training plan, they do a few push-ups and air squats and say that calisthenics doesn’t work.
As a veteran personal trainer with over three decades of professional experience, I know consistency is critical for progress. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that consistency is the most important thing, trumping your workout split, exercise selection, set and rep range, and all those other variables. And that’s the power of bodyweight training – it makes it easier to be consistent.
Calisthenics removes the most common barriers to consistent exercise. You can work out almost anywhere and anytime, making it easier to maintain your progress. Plus, if you train at a public calisthenics park, it won’t cost you a dime.
Not sure where to start with calisthenics? Let me introduce you to the classic around the world workout. This is a great place to begin your calisthenics journey, and all you need is a pull-up bar and a dip station to do it.
Introducing the Around the World Workout
The around the world workout is a rite of passage for all calisthenic exercisers and has been popular with street calisthenic athletes for decades. It is one of the best ways to build a foundation of strength and skill before moving on to more demanding bodyweight workouts.
The premise of the around the world workout is simple – just do multiple sets of pull-ups, dips, and push-ups as a circuit. However, don’t let this simplicity fool you. Between them, these exercises work all your major upper body muscles. And, done for high volume, they can build impressive levels of strength and mass while burning a ton of calories.
So, how do you do the around the world workout? Like this!
A good workout starts with a thorough warm-up. Warming up prepares your muscles and joints for what you are about to do, improving exercise performance and lowering your risk of injury. Skipping your warm-up is never a good idea, and any time you save could be lost if you miss subsequent workouts through injury.
So, start your workout with 5-10 minutes of easy cardio, e.g., jogging or jumping rope. Next, do some dynamic stretching and mobility exercises for the muscles and joints you’re about to train. Finish your warm-up with a couple of low-intensity laps of the exercises in the around the world workout, i.e., pull-ups, dips, and push-ups.
The “official” around the world workout is a circuit comprising three exercises:
– Pull-ups x 5-10
– Dips x 5-10
– Push-ups x 10-20
However, I like to add a fourth exercise to create a more rounded program. So, my preferred way to do around the world is:
– Pull-ups x 5-10
– Dips x 5-10
– Inverted rows x 10-20
– Push-ups x 10-20
Try the original workout by all means, but I prefer my modified version as it balances pushing and pulling exercises. Despite adding an exercise, I have found that this push/pull sequence allows me to complete more laps.
How many reps should you do? That depends on your abilities and goals. However, 40-50% of your repetition maximum is a good place to start. For example, if you can do 20 push-ups in a single set, you should be able to do sets of 10 reps for this workout.
The number of laps you do is up to you and is based on your fitness and how much time you have available. Options include:
– See how many laps you can do in 15, 20, or 30 minutes
– See how long it takes you to complete ten rounds
– Do one lap every three minutes for 45 minutes
– See how many laps you can do in an hour
Regardless of how you regulate your training volume, there are a few rules to this workout that you should not change. These are:
– Use strict form for all reps – no cheating allowed.
– Take no rest between exercises, but you can rest as long as you need between laps.
– Keep your reps the same for the entire workout.
– Record the number of laps performed and try to beat it next time.
Once you have completed your workout, it’s time to start bringing your body back to its pre-exercise state with a short cool-down. Cooling down will speed up your recovery and may reduce delayed onset muscle soreness.
To cool down after the around the world workout, do another 5-10 minutes of light cardio and then stretch the muscles you’ve just been training, i.e., your lats, pecs, delts, biceps, triceps, and forearms.
Benefits and Advantages of the Around the World Calisthenics Workout
Not sure if the around the world workout is worth your time and energy? Consider these benefits and advantages and then decide!
Minimal Equipment Required
Unlike conventional strength training, you don’t need a lot of equipment to do the around the world calisthenics workout. You’ll find everything you want at your local calisthenic park, or you can set up a home gym for less than a few months of gym membership will cost you.
Despite comprising just three or four exercises, the around the world workout trains all your major upper body muscles. With minimal rest between exercises and rounds, you can get a lot of work done in a relatively short time. Do this workout twice a week to develop a muscular and capable upper body as time-efficiently as possible.
Build Muscle, Burn Fat, Get Fit!
The around the world workout is a form of circuit training that combines strength training and cardiovascular exercise. By working your muscles to fatigue and keeping your heart rate elevated, you can build muscle, burn fat, and improve your overall fitness levels.
So, give the around the world workout a try and experience the power of bodyweight training for yourself. Remember, consistency is key, so make it a regular part of your exercise routine.