Calisthenics exercises are partly useful because of their versatility. With exercises that use equipment other than your muscles and body – everything from weightlifting to elliptical machines to cable machines – there are fairly narrow limits in place regarding what you can and cannot do with them. However, with calisthenics, it is much easier to vary your workout.
Calisthenics can be used for a light, refreshing warm-up routine to get your blood flowing in the morning, or for a serious, body-building workout that leaves you drenched in sweat, tingling with the biochemicals of effort, and practically feeling your sinews enlarging as you catch your breath afterwards – or anything in between.
They can be used for compound exercises that work nearly every muscle in the body simultaneously, or for highly targeted isolation exercises to develop a specific muscle or muscle group. It is this flexibility, combined with their affordability and the fact that you can do them anywhere you can find some clear floor space (and perhaps a chin-up bar), that makes calisthenics such a useful way of working out.
You can amp up the effect of ordinary, basic calisthenics exercises with a few simple tricks and modifications. Even if you are not yet ready for a burpee with a chin-up raise at the end or the famous “human flag”, these exercises can carry you a bit beyond the level that sit ups, jumping jacks, and ordinary squats provide.
Some calisthenics exercises for greater effort
Here is a handful of calisthenics exercises that can be used to increase your workout intensity once the basics have become less challenging than you would like. As always, be careful when using these exercises, since there is a chance of injury if you are incautious or “overdo” your first attempt to add a new exercise to your regimen.
The simple exercise known as the squat can be made a bit more challenging by adding a hop to it at the lowest point, when you have squatted as far as you are able to go. Making the hop in place is the most obvious method, but hopping up onto a low, level, sturdy object such as a wide step can increase the effort considerably. Note that hopping up a staircase is not recommended because it is all too easy to lose your footing and tumble down backwards. If you hop up onto something, it should only have one level above the ground.
Instead of starting with your feet side by side, advance one foot somewhat, and place the other on a sturdy, stable object around a foot high and slightly behind you. Carry out your squat like this – the effort will be much greater, and you will need to pay careful attention to your balance. Keeping yourself from falling over will extend effort to a much greater range of muscles, extending the compound effect of the exercise further into the back and torso.
If you are looking for a real challenge, then the knee raise may be suitable for your regimen. These exercises require a fair amount of fitness to be carried out successfully, and you will likely not be able to do many repetitions initially. You will either need a sturdy couch with a space of a couple of inches under it or a friend to help with this exercise.
Lie down face-down on the floor, and either slip your feet under the edge of a heavy couch (heavy enough not to lift when levered by your body weight) or have a friend kneel on the floor behind you and hold your ankles. Fold your hands behind your head.
Without using your arms, pull your body upright so that you are kneeling on the floor. The only part of your body that should bend are the knees – keep the rest as straight as possible. This will use the muscles in your legs, buttocks, and lower back to contract and pull you upright. Lower yourself again and repeat, if you are able to!