When the word strength is thought of, it is usually associated with weightlifting - people in the gym doing bicep curls with as much weight as possible – right? It doesn’t have to be! Don’t get me wrong, I love going to the gym and getting a good pump on, but using our own bodyweight to gain strength is often overlooked when it can be one of our greatest tools. Not only are there numerous exercises for beginners, there are progressions that you can check off as you become even stronger!
Starting Simple: The pull up bar at the top is an obvious starting point! From here you can work on your hangs and pull ups.
- Hangs work on your grip, forearms, shoulders, back, and core strength! Shoulder blades back and together are cues to keep in mind – no shoulders by your ears. Squeeze those legs and engage the core for an all over body burn!
- Leg lifts are a perfect ab exercise to practice. They develop your muscles to bring your lower body up to the upper body – which is the whole concept of inverting! Lay on your back and hold the last rung at arm’s length. Beginners can tuck their legs in to start before progressing to straighter legs over time and eventually adding in a reverse crunch; once feet are over hips drive your feet to the ceiling for a fantastic drill to invert!
- Pull ups work strength with an emphasis on your back muscles! This exercise requires some time and patience as not everyone is accustomed to pulling themselves up. I recommend a few things when initially trying for your pull up. (1) Hop up and hold (for as long as you can). (2) Hop up and perform negatives (going down) as slow as possible. (3) Band/Strap assisted are a great way to progress because it allows you to understand the feel of a full pull up while taking some of the weight off. The best part is with the different sizes you can progress to less and less help until you don’t need any at all!
- Push-ups are important to incorporate into your routine because hangs and pull ups work mostly on your back muscles. If you don’t care about being symmetrical, your stabilizer muscles and posture does. If a muscle group isn’t worked enough other parts of your body will try to start compensating and over work to counteract this. While similar to wall push ups, the stall bars can help with wrist stability and as you become stronger you can move your hands down the bars to get the feel of doing a push up from handstand position (watch your head!)
- Squats, in my book, cannot be overlooked. Calisthenics have a lot of focus on upper body muscle groups so once again, balancing your body is important! If you are new to squats, use the Stall Bars to assist you. Starting with your hands about chest level squat down to really put that emphasis on your heels and glutes. Raise and lower slowly and as you develop strength, release your grip on the bars.
- The “Wow” Moves: You’ve seen them all over the internet – the moves that make your jaw drop; flags, muscle-ups, one arms. You are on your way to completing them as soon as you start your journey. Muscle ups, flags, dragons all can be attained when you start simple, just start! I generally like to pick the exercise I’m least looking forward to when I begin my workout, as to get it over with! Look through the list, grab the one that makes you groan and maybe after some practice it’ll just become your favorite!
By Anna Repko