Calisthenics is a form of exercise consisting of a variety of movements which exercise large muscle groups (gross motor movements), such as running, standing, grasping, pushing, etc. These exercises are often performed rhythmically and with minimal equipment, as bodyweight exercises. They are intended to increase strength, fitness and flexibility, through movements such as pulling, pushing, bending, jumping, or swinging, using one's bodyweight for resistance. Calisthenics can provide the benefits of muscular and aerobic conditioning, in addition to improving psychomotor skills such as balance, agility and coordination.
Urban calisthenics are a form of street workout; calisthenics groups perform exercise routines in urban areas. Individuals and groups train to perform advanced calisthenics skills such as muscle-ups, levers, and various freestyle moves such as spins and flips.
Sports teams and military units often perform leader-directed group calisthenics as a form of synchronized physical training (often including a customized "call and response" routine) to increase group cohesion and discipline. Calisthenics are also popular as a component of physical education in primary and secondary schools over much of the globe.
In addition to general fitness, calisthenic exercises are often used as baseline physical evaluations for military organizations around the world. Two examples are the U.S. Army Physical Fitness Test and the U.S.M.C. Physical Fitness Test.
The word calisthenics comes from the ancient Greek words kallos (), which means "beauty" or "beautiful" (to emphasize the aesthetic pleasure that derives from the perfection of the human body), and sthenos (), meaning "strength" (great mental strength, courage, strength and determination). It is the art of using one's bodyweight as resistance in order to develop physique. The practice was recorded in use in Ancient Greece, including the armies of Alexander the Great and the Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae.
Disciples of Friedrich Ludwig Jahn brought their version of gymnastics to the United States, while Catherine Beecher and Dio Lewis set up physical education programs for women in the 19th century. Organized systems of calisthenics in America took a back seat to competitive sports after the Battle of the Systems, when the states mandated physical education systems. The Royal Canadian Air Force's calisthenics program published in the 1960s helped to launch modern fitness culture.
Calisthenics is associated with the rapidly growing international sport called street workout. Street workout consists of athletes performing calisthenics routines in timed sessions in front of a panel of judges. The World Street Workout & Calisthenics Federation (WSWCF) based in Riga, Latvia orchestrates the annual National Championships and hosts the World Championships for all the national champions to compete at one competition. The World Calisthenics Organization (WCO) based in Los Angeles, CA. promotes a series of competitions known globally as the Battle of the Bars. The WCO created the first ever set of rules for formal competitions, including weight classes, timed round system, original judging criteria and a 10-point must system - giving increasing number of athletes worldwide an opportunity to compete in these global competitions.
In addition to the various stretches, some of the more common calisthenic exercises include:
Co-operative calisthenics refers to calisthenic exercises which involve two or more participants helping each other to perform the exercise. Such exercises are also known as partner exercises, or bodyweight exercises with a partner. Usually one person performs the exercise and the other person adds resistance. For example, a person performing squats with someone on their back. Some exercises also involve the use of equipment. Two people may hold onto different ends of a rope and pull in different directions. One person would deliberately provide a lesser amount of resistance, which adds resistance to the exercise whilst also allowing the other person to move through a full range of motion as their superior level of force application pulls the rope along. A disadvantage such exercises have is that it can be hard to measure how much resistance is being added by the partner when considered in comparison to free weights or machines. The advantages they have is that they allow for relatively high levels of resistance to be added with equipment being optional. On this basis, co-operative calisthenics can be just as easily performed on a playing field as in a gym. They are also versatile enough to allow them to be used for training goals other than simply strength. For example a squat with a partner can be turned into a power focused exercise by jumping or hopping with the partner instead, or even lifting them up on one knee.
An increasing number of outdoor fitness training areas and outdoor gyms are being built around the world. Some are designed especially for calisthenics training and most are free to use by the public. Calisthenics parks have equipment like pull-up bars, monkey bars, parallel bars and box jumps at one location. Freely accessible online maps exist that show the location and sample photos of calisthenics parks around the world.
In fact, the popularity of the Royal Canadian Air Force's calisthenics program in the late 1950s helped launch the modern fitness movement.
The program became famous worldwide.