Calisthenics, the combination of the Greek words KALOS (perfect/beautiful) and STHENOS (strength), are exercises that require no equipment other than one’s own body. Additional weight can be incorporated but these exercises are most recognisable as bodyweight exercises: pullups, pushups etc.
Calisthenics training has grown in worldwide popularity over the last few years. According to the annual survey of worldwide fitness trends (2016), bodyweight training (also referred to as “calisthenics”) came in at second place. It should be noted though that although bodyweight training was ranked #1 spot in the 2015 survey, it fell to second place in 2016 behind newcomer wearable technology. Given that wearable technology is not a type of fitness, calisthenics could still, in theory, be named as the most popular fitness style in the world…
What exactly does calisthenics entail and is it the best way to stay fit on trip? This and many other questions are answered by one of the best calisthenics coaches in London (as well as recent champion in the under 74kg category in the UK & Ireland Calisthenics Championship 2017), Fitsz Dubova.
1. How would you explain what “Calisthenics” is to someone who has never heard of it?
Calisthenics is a training system where you incorporate your own bodyweight / body leverage as your resistance. It’s a simple method which involves you moving your weight on the floor / bar. I would personally recommend looking up some old school videos on YouTube search for “Hannibal for king” and be baptised the same way I was.
2. What would be considered the basics of calisthenics?
Here’s a small riddle – how long is a piece of string? What might be the basics for one person may not be for another. However, the staples would be working on an upper push (Press-ups), Upper pull (pull-ups), Lower push (Squats), Lower pull (glute bridges) & core drills such as a (dish shape).
3. What are the main benefits of calisthenics?
Who doesn’t want to be a mutant in their own body? I am a strong believer in enjoying your training and calisthenics offers such a variety of different things you could work towards. It’s not just small or lightweight people who can benefit. It could reward someone with a high power to weight ratio too.
4. What are the most effective, convenient and accessible calisthenics exercises to do whilst travelling?
Depending how creative you are, and how far you’re willing to go for your own training, there are lots of drills that you can do. For example, why couldn’t you do upper/lower body push exercises while away? Maybe there is a floor to use? 😉 Pulling exercises can be more challenging, but how creative can you be? The world can be your gym.
5. If someone was to use calisthenics as the main way to stay fit whilst travelling, how frequently should he/she be doing it?
Just keep it simple, don’t over complicate it remember a little goes a long way. The fundamental principles are volume/intensity/frequency, and depending on your goal you can adjust them accordingly. I personally recommend Pavel’s grease the grove program – this is something I always keep in the arsenal for when clients or I am away!
6. Which countries have embraced calisthenics the most and have the strongest infrastructures to support community engagement with it?
Everyone! Everywhere! My personal experience is that I’ve always been shown love from different communities. This isn’t something which just happens with calisthenics – it’s the beauty of the fitness world. Training can bring people together.
An example would be Thailand. I had a guy from Thailand who came down to see me. I trained him, and he told me about his training in Thailand. His coaching name is (Book) Thai Beast. I was introduced to the coach via email so I messaged him, letting him know I was working with his client while he was down here. I told him the points I’ve picked up on for him and he was very appreciative, said thank you and told me a little bit more information about his client. A few months later I was in Thailand. and he invited me to his house, looked after me, trained with me – even made the best calisthenics moves of 2017 – I did a front lever off his human flag! I forgot to mention he also holds the world record for the human flag!
There’s an awesome community down there. They were all welcoming even though there was a language barrier. Training is another language. It’s another form of communication.
You’ve got other communities in America which everyone has probably heard of. Bar Starzz for example – I had some emails with and interviewed Ed (Eduard Checo, founder of the (Bar Starzz), he’s a really nice guy. MR Calisthenics – Mike and Rick – I met them in a workshop, great coaches. Tatted Strength – I met him down in London, he’s a humbling guy, strong and his beard is awesome. The Kavadlo brothers and Grace – I’ve got a lot of time for them too.
You’ve got some awesome communities in the UK too – just to name drop a few PNP guys, Lee Wade Turner, Ranjit, UK-Jay, Body&Barz crew & so much more! Calisthenics is everywhere, social media is a great platform to connect with the community and find people to train with. It’s a growing system which has eutectic image think – Levers / Planches / Handstands etc…very eye catching, you will find a lot of great content on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter & YouTube. Lucky for us Calisthenics Parks are being built all around us! So you will have a chance to possibly catch some of the action for yourself.
7. How can someone who travels a lot and can’t necessarily have a consistent training schedule stay motivated?
If it’s important to you, you don’t need to try. As I said before, it’s not that strenuous when you make it simple. You can make it fun.
Social media is a great platform to keep in touch, set challenges with friends/network & staying motivated by someone you respect!
If you have someone to do it with is a great other option, you could either go head to head or you could start switching it up. Partner training: one person does one drill, the other person does the other. You could superset and change over or do them together.
8. What ONE piece of equipment would you recommend for travellers to keep in their bag?
Things I take with me include gymnastics rings (small and portable), two bands (Strength Shop’s bands – they are purple and red), and that’s it.
9. What was the most exotic place/location you had a calisthenics workout in?
This will be difficult but I’ll mention a few I really enjoyed! The Commando Temple 😉
Thailand – planches & handstands on all the beaches as the weather and atmosphere was amazing. Scafell Pike – the highest mountain in England – I managed to find a tree with some of my best mates – we pulled off a ladder pull-up for some extra work – it was quite windy which made it difficult.
Spiaggia Rena Bianca – did small workout which involved headstands, tuck planches. Amsterdam Park – we used the frame which some kids were swinging on! High pulls and back levers! Greece – I can’t remember where it was… Pistol squats, jumping squats & dragon flags! Snowdon – I’ve done a pistol squat with 24kg kettlebell on the top of a mountain which was nice & a one off.
10. What are your overall suggestions for staying in shape whilst travelling?
Eat well. Train well. Rest well & have fun.
11. A piece of advice you would give someone who is just starting their callisthenics journey?
It’s a journey, not a race. Take your time, enjoy the journey. Don’t rush to get the biggest movements, that comes.
With calisthenics, it will feel like you might be hitting a wall but stick with it & it will reward you in due time – be patient and stay hungry. Remember we all had to start somewhere…
Be prepared to regress an exercise. Because that regression is also your progression. Don’t look at it as a step back, look at it as a step forward. Because that’s a good way for you to get better, stronger. And enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it, change, find what you like better.
If you don’t know, ask. That’s something I always say – there is no stupid question. There is a nice quote by Confucius, “The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life.” Don’t be afraid to ask people, even if it sounds stupid. And surround yourself with people who are supportive. For example, I’ve got a great team at the Commando Temple. Different strengths, different skills, different coaches and I go to them for different things. Don’t be scared to reach out to people, even if you don’t know them.
Is Calisthenics the best way to stay fit on trip? Try it yourself 😉