Why I Now ONLY Do Calisthenics to Stay Fit

No gym…no problem.

Photo by Charly Pn on Unsplash

If you think lifting is dangerous, try being weak. Being weak is dangerous.’

— Bret Contreras, sports scientist

EDITORIAL DISCLAIMER: Any advice or recommendation given in my writing is what works for ME and may not be the best regimen for you based on your psychological or physiological makeup and stability. Please consult a doctor when making decisions about your health.

The reality of COVID-19 is that it changed lots of things for everyone.

For me, one of the greatest challenges was the fact that I could no longer go to the gym as I had been before.

For someone who was used to going six days per week, being told that this was no longer an option was kind of like taking a bottle away from a toddler.

I wanted to sit and cry, thinking about how much of my daily routine had been taken away and wondering what I was going to do now to stay in shape.

While I’ll admit this was definitely my initial reaction, that fear and frustration quickly turned into excitement, as I begin exploring my options online to see what others were doing during this time to stay in shape.

One of the first things I stumbled across was calisthenics, as I discovered a number of different trainers doing some very cool stuff and giving a lot of advice and tips on what one can do to stay in shape without any gym or weights.

I started practicing this about a year ago, and now I don’t think I will EVER go back to the gym again because of all the great advantages calisthenics gives me in my fitness lifestyle.

It saves me a little money and LOTS of time

While the cost of my gym membership wasn’t exorbitant ($30/month), it’s always good to save a little money wherever you can.

However, what really is the game changer as it relates to doing calisthenics is the amount of TIME that I save now versus before.

Whereas my workouts used to take me at least 60 minutes at the gym, my morning calisthenics workouts are now only about 30 minutes.

Much of this has to do with the time that is spent at the gym trying to find the right type of weight you may need for your exercise, waiting on someone else to finish using a set of weights that you need, or the 2–3 minutes rest that is needed to allow yourself time to replenish your strength to go for another round when you are lifting heavier weights.

With my calisthenic focus being a combination of anaerobic and aerobic exercise, I typically only rest 60 seconds in between sets and push myself to maximize my output each time.

This allows me to continually improve on my strength with various exercises from week to week, while also still working up a sweat.

The result is that I get stronger each day and my muscles tend to have more lasting power overall as I push them to perform within the set rest period.

The other major benefit that I recognized from doing calisthenics is that I save a ton of time not having to drive to a gym or even walk downstairs to my apartment gym to do it.

Now, I just walk one room over and begin warming up. This saves me anywhere from 30–45 minutes each day that I can then use to do a number of other things.

This has yielded dividends for me and is part of the reason I have more time to do things like contributing to publications like this one.

I can do it anywhere and at any time

When it comes to performing a calisthenics workout, it would be beneficial to have a number of different pieces of equipment like parallettes or pullup bars to aid you with some of the exercises, but the reality is that you don’t need that to get in a good work out.

Many of the exercises are focused on doing a number of various bodyweight exercises, e.g., dips, squats, handstand pushups, that you can do with no equipment at all or by using regular furniture like a table or couch to aid you.

Before, when I went on vacation, I would always first check to see if they had a decent gym to know if I would be able to maintain any semblance of staying on track with my workout regimen while on vacation.

Now, the only thing I really need is enough room and distance to do certain exercises away from my wife so I don’t wake her up and I’m good to go.

This has helped me feel a lot better about my time vacationing, as I’m able to stave off some weight gain by continuing to work out daily and keep some sense of normalcy to my fitness schedule.

It makes my strength much more functional and easier to maintain for long term health

Ever since I was a freshman in high school, the bench press was the standard exercise that everyone had to do, and you always were measured based on how much you could lift in this one exercise.

The first thing most guys would ask you when they found out that you lifted was, “How much can you bench?”

This led to me, and most people, always focusing on trying to bench as much weight as possible without giving any thought to why focusing so much strength on one portion of your body is needed or even reasonable.

Now that I’m a bit older and have a bit more sense of individualism as I look at life and society in general, I often look at the bench press and think why is that the “standard” exercise on which most guys focus.

What would you need to do in life that would require you to be able to bench press 315 lbs and how much work goes into that versus if you’ll ever really needed that type of strength?

As you get older, it becomes a bit more dangerous to try to lift heavier and heavier things all the time.

Does someone ever really NEED to be able to squat 405 lbs or deadlift 495 lbs?

The older you get, the more you could really hurt yourself trying to continue to do some of these types of exercise and then the question becomes “WHY”?

Now that I do only calisthenics, I’m much more focused on doing exercises that involve me being able to lift my own bodyweight easily and optimally and have overall fitness with a number of different body parts and muscle groups.

While there still may be the question of how many times are you going to be in a situation in which you need to do a one-arm pull-up or do a handstand pushup, you never know when the ability to hold yourself up or hold someone else up can be huge in regards to any particular situation.

Overall, the muscles that you typically build with calisthenics are your everyday muscles and much more likely to be needed in a time of crisis or to keep you generally healthy and strong as you age.

Committing to a calisthenics training course will, over time, give you the ability to build a more well-rounded base to be able to do a number of different things that you’ve probably never done before.

Couple this some of the cool tricks like the one in the opening (which I can’t quite do yet, but I’m getting there), and you can see what it’s now my training regimen of choice.