The Problem with CALISTHENICS

June 27, 2018 by VAHVA Fitness

The 5 problems with modern calisthenics. Not so much about bodyweight training itself but how modern calisthenics is done and what is left undone.

he vast majority of our training is bodyweight training simply because it works the best for the purpose of versatilely strengthening the body.

However, bodyweight training is not the only way of training that we do and how we do bodyweight training is completely different compared to how it is generally done.

This article is mostly directed towards what is thought as "calisthenics" at the moment: urban gymnastics, bar workout, street workout and even "bodyweight movement".

Let's call these "modern calisthenics" for the purpose of this article. This is NOT how we do bodyweight training - this is how bodyweight training is done in the modern calisthenics.

This modern calisthenics movement started over 10 years ago when Hannibal the king and many others started uploading different street workout videos to YouTube. Obviously it had been around for a longer time but only now it started to get big.

These videos quickly became a hit among young people because they had jacked dudes performing impressive stunts. Since then bar workout has become a massive global trend and there are even world championship competitions for the sport.

This calisthenics movement has done plenty of good because it inspired a new generation of people to workout (we were inspired as well). Many kids started to do pull ups instead of playing video games all day.

Nowadays the modern calisthenics movement is mostly a mix of gymnastic skills mixed with traditional calisthenics exercises such as pull ups and push ups. Later, pistol squats and different leg exercises were added to the mix as well. 

On the surface, the modern way of bodyweight training looks good but there are massive problems in the sport and that way of training. 

1. No Proper Methodology

wide underhand pull up

Modern calisthenics has some good exercises but most of them are badly done, a lot is left undone and the overall methodology is very damaging.

Who created the modern calisthenics? No one knows because no one did and this is one of the biggest problems. 

What happened is that kids and young adults around the world started doing bodyweight training in their backyards testing out different ways to learn calisthenics skills.

Eventually the best guys and gals started preaching of what you should do and what you shouldn't although no one had any real experience or knowledge regarding how to train properly in the long term.

As a result, the whole thing has evolved into one big mess where the ego drives everything. There is no proper underlying methodology behind anything they do - or there kind of is but it's badly thought-through.  

Methodology is about the methods and principles you use in your training - how you do what you do. In modern calisthenics bits and pieces have been connected with gum and the thing is barely holding itself together. 

The whole exercise selection is an arbitrarily chosen mixture of exercises and the vast majority of the methodology has been borrowed from the mainstream science (which no high level coach would actually follow). 

The rest has been invented by the incompetent trainees who haven't tested the system in the long run. This is simply because the whole calisthenics movement hasn't existed longer than 10 years.

How we train is not only based on our clinical knowledge and research but also from learning from the best of the best who have been part of the fitness game for 30-40+ years. 

Many of our students and clients come from the calisthenics circles and when they do - they have lots of stuff to unlearn. Athlete 20XX system is a real mindfuck to these people because proper training is done in a very different way.

The modern calisthenics methodology has severe problems. Most modern calisthenics practitioners overtrain and over-emphasize certain areas of the body. More problems below.

2. Not Sustainable (YOU WILL HURT YOURSELF)

active tension mobility for shoulders

For us, it took years to fix the damage we had done to ourselves in our early 20s with modern calisthenics.

We haven't had videos about injuries or how to fix them for years simply because we haven't had any of them. Most of our work is actually spent on fixing people because of their harmful training in the past.

We believe in preventing injuries and proper training should prevent injuries, not cause them. 

You cannot say the same thing about people who practice modern calisthenics. Many of them have broken elbows, hurt shoulders and what else. 

Even the most popular calisthenics teachers are continuously posting updates about their injuries. Sometimes freak accidents happen but these are not freak accidents - they are overuse injuries and injuries caused by structural imbalances. 

Chronic injuries should never happen because of training - THE TRAINING SHOULD FIX AND PREVENT THEM. Moreover, if you want to get strong, healthy and functional, you must avoid injuries at all costs. 

Proper training should be geared towards long term and longevity because fitness is a lifelong practice. Your body is here for your entire lifetime.

The reason the modern calisthenics has been geared towards short term is because it has been created by young kids and adults who haven't realized that life goes on and life is a very long game.

When you are young, you want everything NOW AND AS FAST AS POSSIBLE without realizing that real progress doesn't happen in months but in years and the greatest progress happens in decades.

3. All Ego and Skills

Training montage from a couple of years ago. Includes a +44 kg  (+97 lbs) pistol squat, 40 kg press and a lot more. +55 lbs muscle up in this video. Most of the skills and heavy lifts are mostly good for showing off and NOT how you should train.

Modern calisthenics is a sport where people compete with each other with different skills. It's not a proper way of strengthening the body. Like many sports, it has a price.

The reason why people get hurt is that they obsess over skill development instead of actually building up their structure with proper strength training.

Everything is about skills and everyone is obsessed with reaching the final progression with every skill that they train. This obsession with the skill causes a great deal of the problems.

Instead of actually taking care of the body and patiently strengthening the body as a whole, the person always jumps to the hardest progression with a hope of "acquiring the strength" to perform the final skill. 

In the short term, this tactic produces results but soon you will just max out the skill component and your structure is so underdeveloped that you can no longer progress. This is how plateaus happen and why you get stuck in different skills.

Another problem is that because you are always focusing on the hardest exercises and progressions, you will mainly develop the prime mover muscles of your body. The modern calisthenics how it's done is horrific for developing a balanced body.

In the short term this works but in the long term you will only create muscle imbalances and cause damage to your joints which can be irreversible. 

The reason why people focus on these skills is to mainly show off, it's an ego thing. These people feel inadequate and somehow think that reaching the X skill will make them feel better about themselves or something like that.

We have done this in the past and we can tell you that reaching a certain amount of weight in weighted pull ups, doing 10 muscles ups or doing anything impressive won't actually mean anything and won't make you happy. 

Skills are nice to pursue but they shouldn't be the focus and they should be treated as something extra. If you make them your obsession, they will eat your future (broken joints and imbalances) and you will get very little back in return.

What actually has given us happiness and fulfillment is feeling the body to get truly strong and healthy. Having the body that is actually pain free and not weak.

A truly strong person doesn't need a one arm chin up to show others how strong he/she is. Moreover, obtaining different skills and being strong usually are not synonymous with each other.

4. Not Proper Strength Training (DOESN'T TRANSFER WELL TO ANYTHING)

athlete 20xx strength conditioning

Athlete 20XX is likely the only real strength training program you have ever done.

The purpose of strength training is to build up the whole structure of your body (all muscles) in a balanced way. This will improve your health, posture and overall performance which will transfer to everything that you do.

Needless to say that modern calisthenics does not do this and as said before, modern calisthenics is a sport - IT'S NOT STRENGTH TRAINING.

Skill training in general is not strength training because building strength is only the side product of the skill training. Real strength training is about directly building strength and other attributes. This is what we do in our training.

For this reason, the impressive stunts on the bars won't actually transfer to almost anything. You will mostly get good at the skills of modern calisthenics and that's it. 

You are stronger than the average guy who doesn't workout but the transference to almost anything outside the skills of calisthenics is plain bad.

Only in the beginning the transference does happen but in the beginning ANY physical activity leads to improved universal performance.

Modern calisthenics practitioners can try out martial arts, dance or play sports. Your performance has been improved but you will mostly suck. On the contrary, proper strength training would directly enhance your ability in these things.

You see, getting good at planches, handstands, chin ups and levers won't transfer well to any other activities such as most sports and martial arts. 

For universal performance, they are mostly waste of time. Just because they require lots of strength, doesn't mean the skills will make you universally strong. 

In the calisthenics circles there is this idea that once you can do 10 different skills at the highest level, you are strong. In reality, it doesn't work this way. This is reverse engineering performance which doesn't work.

99% of the strongest and most athletic people in the world cannot do these skills and modern calisthenics practitioners aren't even close to their level.

Bodyweight exercises only produce results in universal strength if you do them correctly and no practitioner of modern calisthenics actually does this.

In fact, no calisthenics practitioner even understands what proper strength training is. Talking about proper strength training probably makes zero sense to many because people don't have the reference for it.

5. Black & White Thinking

The problem with calisthenics and bodyweight training

This is the final thing. In modern calisthenics, the whole thing isn't even well thought out (because no one smart and competent actually created it). 

The problem is that everything in modern calisthenics is arbitrary and it's done with black and white thinking. This is not limitless training, rather everything has been limited to very narrow boundaries.

Here are some examples.

"Bodyweight is better than the weights!" - In order to feel good about what the practitioners are doing, they need to talk badly about the weights and think bodyweight exercises are the only good ones you should do.

Here at VAHVA Fitness, we use mainly bodyweight but we also use all kinds of weights and everything else that offers benefits.

"Compound exercises are the best" - It's hard to properly isolate anything with the bodyweight training and that's where this probably comes from. Just because something is 5% better, doesn't mean the other thing isn't good.

"Closed chain exercises are the best" - This is some BS because most athletic movements and movements you do in your daily life are open chain movements. This is just nonsense science with black and white thinking.

You actually need free open chain movements like shoulder raises and leg circles to fully develop the body. Closed chain movements like pull ups are very limiting although good. 

"You have to use progressive overload to make progress" - This is the reason why people stick to heavy resistance and the hardest exercises imaginable. In reality, light resistance done right works better but it's just not good for the ego.

Progressive overload is one of the most dangerous ideas because it pushes people to always lift heavier and the most they can lift. This doesn't only produce garbage results but you will also cause damage to your joints.

We covered most of the bad sides of the modern calisthenics but we could talk a lot more how bad and insufficient the leg and hip training actually is, and more.

If you see bodyweight training done it's almost always what we we'd consider "skill training" because the concept of proper strength training is a very high level concept to comprehend.

To reach your fullest potential in fitness, you have to give up your limitations. Modern calisthenics is a big mess and covered with bad explanations and self-induced limitations. 

Modern calisthenics is good in the beginning because everything you do will produce results and it's one of the easiest and the least expensive ways to get started in working out. 

Just don't get stuck because you will pay the price not just in the health of your body but in all the wasted years and workouts you could have done better. The sooner you upgrade your training, the better it will be for your future.

The older you get, the more you realize how meaningless these attempts to prove yourself were. Once this is realized, you can focus on proper strength training that actually serves the body and makes your life better in every aspect, forever.

If you want to focus on skills - you can do this but you have to CLEARLY separate skill training and strength training.

Moreover, strength training should still be the priority. In modern calisthenics NO ONE understands the difference.

2019 UPDATE: This article has received lots of comments, feel free to check out them below for additional information since we have answered most of them.

Recommended reading/watching directly related to this article:
- Steve Maxwell's interview (he knows what's up)
- Strength vs. Skill Training
- The Biggest Lie in Bodyweight Fitness


samuli jyrkinen

About the author 

Samuli Jyrkinen

Samuli is the ninja behind the scenes (photography, videography, websites, program platforms and more). He has been training religiously for over a decade and has a firm grasp of physical and mental fitness. You will find our story here.

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  • Very interesting and insightful read,

    I am completing the movement portion of Movement 20XX program and I am loving it. I agree with how you talk about modern calisthenics because at the end of the day is seems very much like body building, great aesthetics, great feats (like higher reps and “weight”) but ultimately not focused on the intrinsic movement or the smaller muscles as part of the bigger picture.
    I think that achieving a planche or a handstand is a great strength but to your point only if it was done methodically and with the proper mobility and progression. I am in martial arts and do yin style yoga and I love doing calisthenics but more like a gymnast with slow measured progress in it and not to just as you said, rush to the end.
    P.S. loved the article about working the shoulder girdle with weights. I need to re-read it.

    • Thank you for the amazing comment Antonio! Modern calisthenics can be really as shallow as focusing on pure aesthetics, it’s ego in just a different way.

      Skills are fine to pursue but you shouldn’t sacrifice your health and body to achieve them, instead they should something extra on the top of your foundational training.

      What modern calisthenics practitioners, powerlifters and even many movements practitioners do is that they over-emphasize certain areas and neglect others to shape their bodies to maximize their skill development. The sad truth is that the more imbalanced (unhealthy) you are, the better you can be at certain skills but the worse you are as a whole.

  • Interesting topic.

    When i first started to train calisthenics i also really wanted to learn all those skills as soon as possible, but after a while i got tendonitis in my elbows and wrists and later also pain in my forearms from overuse. I thought if i could hold a full planche i would be very strong and healthy, but then i realized that you can be very strong in certain positions and still have a lot of imbalances and problems in your body. For example i heard somewhere that you can actually be stronger at bench pressing if you’re pecs are very tight, but of course that also means that you are very unhealthy. Anyway, since i decreased the volume of my skill training and focused mainly on proper strength training, including resistance bands for shoulder health, i feel much better and stronger overall. I will still train for skills but i’m not going to force anything. I think it’s possible to safely train for skills, but as you said, proper strength training should be the first priority. I also try to get enough rest days now because even though i want to train more often i actually feel like it’s slowing down my progress if i do too much, i really try to listen to my body now. Thank you for the great content as always! 🙂

    • Great comment Chris!

      The same thing with tightness can apply to other exercises like back squats as well. When you are not too flexible, squatting heavy can be easier since the inflexibility/tightness prevents you from going all the way down and pushes you back up (stretch reflex).

      When you only train few movement patterns, the body continues to optimize itself for the movement pattern you focus on, sometimes at the cost of everything else. For example, deadlifting with a bad form for years can develop a rounded back (kyphosis). You will lift heavier and heavier but in the long run your posture just gets worse and you will get worse at other activities. The person thinks he is getting stronger because he can deadlift more but in reality he is getting weaker as a whole.

      Planche is also a great example because the less developed your legs are, the easier it will be to perform.

      With skills, the progress is also very individual – everyone is different and some people are naturally talented at certain skills because of their physiology (height, body composition, muscle fiber type, bone density etc.).

      This is why skills aren’t a good indicator of strength. The strongest person in the world would not be able to perform any gymnastic feats if he didn’t have the optimal body composition and enough specific skill practice.

      What you are doing now sounds good! As I get older, the skills aren’t that appealing anymore but being strong and healthy as a whole is more valuable than before. The thing about proper strength training is also that it will make you good at everything and new skills are very quick to acquire.

  • I mostly agree, but as a Street Workout practitioner I am familiar with two styles of Calisthenics that most people get into. There is Freestyle Calisthenics which this article addresses. It’s mostly what you see at Battle of the Bars, the Street Workout Worldcup, King/ Queen of the Bars etc. The point is to do lots of tricks, score more points, win the title. But there is also a different type of Calisthenics practiced by guys like Frank Medrano, Al Kavaldo, Adam Raw, Gabriel Saturno etc. that doesnt involve explosive tricks but slow, gradual body weight mastery. You will never see these guys compete in any of the above events because they don’t waste their time with tricks. If they competed, people would probably be bored. They focus more on time under tension, endurance training, mobility and static strength – the usual stuff – only they do it with relative strength training as opposed to absolute. I think your comments above are spot on for Freestyle Calisthenics but not with the more foundational, body weight mastery type of Calisthenics that doesnt involve those tricks. Even Hannibal for King doesnt do the Freestyle stuff much. Im only saying this because while I agree with you, I think its important to not paint the entire Calisthenics world with one brush.

    • You are right that the “freestyle” calisthenics is in the worst end of the spectrum. However, this is a very common comment where people often say “I agree but X calisthenics is not like this”.

      The problem is that all forms of calisthenics possess the problems mentioned in the article. We personally did the “smart form calisthenics” in the past with every smart thing you could think of.

      The reason is that the calisthenics as a training style is fundamentally flawed. Even when it’s not a competitive sport, it’s still a “sport” like table tennis or soccer. Like with every sport, you are not expecting to build universal athleticism nor take good care of the body – you are expecting to get good at the sport.

      Even when it comes to “bodyweight mastery”, calisthenics is still very basic and focuses primarily on the gymnastics and bar exercises which is a very small part of mastering your bodyweight.

      Nothing wrong with calisthenics per se (any style) but what people need to understand is this:

      1. It’s a sport that focuses on getting good at the skills of the sport
      2. It’s not good for athletic ability or improving your athleticism outside the sport (although transference does occur – just nowhere near optimal level)
      3. Like many sports, it can ruin your posture and joints because it’s not optimized for these things
      4. It’s a new sport created by young kids where the trainers haven’t seen the effects of their poor methodology in a long time frame like 30-60 years.


      VAHVA Fitness

  • I don’t believe you should try and bash every form of calisthenics out there besides yours. I get you’re trying to sell something, but saying everyone else does it wrong and you do it right isn’t a very honest sounding marketing strategy. I do agree with a lot that you said, as the tricks and skills often tend to be a waste of time, however when using strength training to build to the skills it can be quite effective. There are individuals (Fitness FAQs, CaliMove, etc) that do offer solid information on how to train with calisthenics. Just my thoughts.

    • The thing is, we are not doing “calisthenics”. It’s a form of training we used to do a long time ago but eventually evolved our approach because it wasn’t what it was made out to be.

      We are sharing our mistakes and epiphanies when it comes to proper strength training.

      If you want to do calisthenics, it’s perfectly fine but don’t confuse it with proper strength training (which we do and so do several other individuals but no one does in “calisthenics” circles).

      The problem is that people talk about calisthenics as proper strength training and training that makes you athletic (“superhuman”) which it simply does not. If martial artists, athletes etc. started doing typical calisthenics (Fitness FAQS or anyone else) they would negatively impact their careers.

      Nothing wrong with calisthenics per se (any style) but what people need to understand is this:

      1. It’s a sport that focuses on getting good at the skills of the sport
      2. It’s not good for athletic ability or improving your athleticism outside the sport (although transference does occur – just nowhere near optimal level)
      3. Like many sports, it can ruin your posture and joints because it’s not optimized for these things
      4. It’s a new sport created by young kids where the trainers haven’t seen the effects of their poor methodology in a long time frame like 30-60 years.

      Here is our interview with Steve Maxwell who knows what’s up:


      VAHVA Fitness

  • Interesting article,

    Its a slippery slope with any dogma you choose to follow, many leave you strong in one area but empty in others. I feel like this article speaks beyond “calisthenics” and more of the mindset of the modern day view of health and wellness. “Modern Calisthenics” seems to be one subset of a larger issue. We now live in an era that is obsessed with achieving relative fitness. By relative I’m referring to three main ideals that I’ve noticed people strive for; Those are feats of strength, aesthetically pleasing physiques, and weight loss. The end like you mentioned, is a highly specialized individual. Calisthenics only emphasizes pushing and pulling which are only 2 of many movement patterns humans display. Seldom do you come across someone, young, who genuinely wants to be healthy in all aspects as their main goal. Odds are they want one of the three ideals which are extreme examples of the human potential.
    My hope is, while these calisthenics videos are entertaining, in a few years we can return back to caring about health and wellness. Unfortunately I think it might take more people getting injured in pursuit of those three options in order for more awareness to be spread :-/. Thanks for the article.

  • Thanks for the article, Samuli. As someone who has been doing what you call “modern day” calisthenics and freestyle calisthenics for over 6 years, I can honestly say I agree with a lot of what you have stated. I agree with the the claim you make that it’s more of a sport than a strength training. I respect much of what you have said and I find this article very accurate to a certain degree.

    I run a “calisthenics” team here in the states and I think the information on here could be quite useful for many of my guys. However I feel it comes off more as bashing the sport as oppose to educating the reader. I’m a bit older and I can read pass some of the comments said that I don’t feel are as necessary and still understand and agree with your point. However some of my younger guys would automatically lose interest and take it offensive unfortunately missing the actual positive message the article has to make. I think the same can be said just about any sport, it’s ego driving and it’s physically damaging to the body. However I didn’t pursue freestyle calisthenics because I wanted to get strong nor because I wanted show off. I did it because I found it challenging, it boosted my confidence mentally and it gave me something to work for and look forward to every day. It reminded me of break dancing, and the community and bond it built around me. It boosted my confidence mental and it trickled into my life in many ways.

    I think thats where you are missing the point. And yes I did get much stronger even though that wasn’t a priority. Did I have some discomforts at times?? Of course, but I wouldn’t changed that for anything. I’ve managed to build a community of over 40+ guys and girls who dedicate them selfs to help give outreach kids in poverty communities something to find discipline in and focus on. This so called freestyle calisthenics that is in the “worst end of the spectrum” has helped many kids get off the streets and find a positive uplifting community. Also in the 4 years that I’ve been using this tool, sport, discipline, call it what you want, we have never had anything put positive competitions within the kids and not once had any tension nor fights break out, which you can’t say about other sports. This is the one place I’m yet to see ego’s collide.

    Look I get your arguments, and I get that you may be bother that “labels” may be incorrect. I know that there are some ego driven “modern” calisthenic guys that like to bash or claim everyone else is doing it wrong. I agree that most kids want to skip the basics and unfortunately rush to get the skills which leads to improper training, this happens in just about anything. But above all it beats sitting around on a phone all day, we have a pretty sad generation these days to much laziness, so I’m sure we can agree on this the least. Anyways I really appreciate the article and the time you took to write it. It’s good to hear an opposing view at times to see what I can work on better, I’m extremely passionate about “modern” calisthenics and I wouldn’t give it up for anything even if it may not be correct training. However I will definitely consider many of the points you made out and try to make sureI correct what I can. I’ll also rely to may group the great points made on here. Thanks again brother and I look forward to many more articles!!

    • Thanks for the great comment. There are definitely good aspects in the modern calisthenics and I don’t see a problem of doing calisthenics as long as you treat it as a pure sport.

      I personally do MMA and it definitely causes bad wear and tear but I don’t consider it proper strength training (although it has strength benefits).

      The purpose of this article was to clear many misconceptions about calisthenics that personally misled us for many years. This is where probably the negative tone comes from – this comes from heart and personal mistakes.

      Different people do calisthenics for different reasons and I was personally after the best strength training that universally transfers to other areas of life (such as martial arts which is my main passion). Due to the misconceptions and “lies” a lot of people focus on calisthenics and do not get what is “promised” and hyped, and instead happen to lose a lot due to the unsustainable methodology.



  • This viewpoint contains agreeable facts but is overall flawed in my opinion. First off, it comes off as bashing of the sport and then you plug your fitness program at the end. Ok? I agree that there are no physical gains from the free style aspect of the sport and i don’t think ANYONE that advocates calisthenics, promotes freestyle as a way to become a STRONGER and more FUNCTIONAL human. However, freestyle is rather viewed as a ‘fun’ element of the sport of calisthenics, because at the end of the day its not all about killing yourself during your workouts but rather also about having fun.

    I believe you cast far too many generalizations over the sport. Yes, it might not strengthen your OVERALL body to the best of its capabilities, but if a person wants to become GOOD at something they have to dedicate time to a specific discipline/sport and that comes with advantages/disadvantages to the body in ALL cases. While you may side with the viewpoint of overall health, and becoming the most balanced in terms of functionality, many people simply do not want that. Would you rather be average at soccer, volleyball, and basketball? Or really good at basketball. I much rather be really good at a SPORT that challenges me physically, then employ into some program that makes my overall functionality improve but does not provide me any SIGNIFICANT advantages when I want to compete in a certain discipline. People that train sports, like calisthenics, are in pursuit of mastering their SPORT, and achieving these elusive skills are in the path to mastering calisthenics.

    Now is it true that some young athletes might injure their tendons/joints from lack of patience at an early stage, yes. But that is not the fault of the sport itself, rather the lack of awareness and education that surrounds an up and coming sport. I am 10 months into my calisthenics journey (21 yr old), I have mastered the front lever, back lever, and muscleup. I have never felt stronger nor healthier in my life. Besides from the occasional sore wrist from handstand training, my joints are in excellent conditions because I am hyper aware of the commonality of these joint injuries. My posture has also never been better. What i am trying to say is that you generalize that every young kid is blowing out their wrist/elbows by trying to achieve these skills when you simply cannot prove that.

    I have employed strength training reps/sets into my trainings for my skill acquisitions and i have seen leaps and bounds in my overall push/pull strength. Before i could never bench a plate. Now i can rep it easily after achieving the tuck planche pushup for reps. The notion that calisthenics does not transfer well to other disciplines should not be bashed down like in your original post because there is simply NO evidence to support your claim other than your so called ‘experience’.

    Next time you criticize something attempt to look at it holistically rather than make an argument full of generalizations and assumptions based off your sole experience.

    • Congrats, you are one of the rare few who understands that modern calisthenics is a SPORT (and not proper strength training).

      When people initially start to get fit, almost ANY full body physical activity has great transference to other disciplines but that doesn’t mean the discipline can be considered proper strength training with optimal transference to universal performance and injury prevention (this is actually one of the most important areas of real strength training since success is ultimately “survival bias”, more about this in the link below).

      If a beginner starts wrestling and eventually gets good at wrestling, his conditioning and strength will go up like never before and he will better be able to excel in anything he chooses to focus on (lift A LOT higher numbers as well). Yet, that doesn’t mean other athletes should start doing wrestling to support their primary sport whether it’s skiing or ice hockey. The transference is simply not optimal (although does happen) and causes way too much unnecessary wear and tear. The goal of proper strength training should be to minimise additional wear and tear.

      10 months is literally nothing in the grand scheme of things. Most postural and structural problems start to happen after several years. It’s common in both calisthenics, powerlifting and bodybuilding for the person to get drastically better for the first 1-2 years but then it’s mostly downhill from there when the joint problems start to appear and gains are just not happening. This has happened to almost all of us who started training like this.

      The main points are (some we agree with you):

      – Modern calisthenics (anything you see on YouTube really, not just freestyle) is a SPORT.

      – To get better at the sport, you should definitely focus on the sport to get better at it but what needs to be understood is that calisthenics is not a proper balanced form of strength training that prevents injuries and improves the overall structure and posture of the body (quite the opposite).

      – If you want to get good at any other sport, focusing on calisthenics as supportive strength training is like trying to focus on wrestling and ice hockey at the same time when you really want to just get better at ice hockey.

      – You most likely need a better system of strength training to help fix the holes in the calisthenics system (there are a lot). A lot of strength coaches do great work.

      You can keep on doing what you are doing but at least you will find us here when is the time. We don’t need to reply to comments (honestly it would be easier to just not accept them).

      Recommended reading/watching: Steve Maxwell knows what’s up

    • The tone is negative for sure because you can sense the regret and frustration. We invested a lot of time to calisthenics and felt cheated because we believed the nonsense online. Today, we would write this article in a more positive tone but it is what it is.

  • I understand there are misconceptions in the way we understand calisthenics, and in the way we do it as well. You are justified to feel there is wrong in the way we approach it.

    However, I believe you can make a better change and impact on people if you reach out and give them tips on how to correct their posture (as you mentioned earlier that people do not know how to properly execute the exercises), clear a misconception that they have (misconceptions like weights, bands, etc, also in your article), or help with a calisthenics issue (sore wrist, shoulder pain, you mentioned about how exercise they way we had done it without guidance has caused these injuries) that they have.

    If they ever come to ask about your views on their calisthenics, you can say there are many kinds of calisthenics such as the ones you see on youtube, callisthenic sites, circles, and forums and you personally believe that such calisthenics (i.e. ‘modern calisthenics’) is a sport and there is another type you offer which focuses on functionality etc, and it is up to you to make up your mind.

    You may add to that saying that you offer something that will ‘complete’ their workout so they achieve both functionality, flexibility, and strength all in one. Then convince them saying such as one legged squats are cool, but if you are hitting a plateau then try doing it with weights as weights are acceptable once you have mastered good posture/technique
    and supplement that with yoga or stretching to take you leg journey to the next level.

    After taking such a non invasive opinion out, they may be more willing to hear you out as you were tolerant and understanding of why they were doing their kind of calisthenics because it is quite possible it may be the only kind they know was what they were doing.

    Humans are fragile, treat all with care. As we all are even if we do not want to admit it we are sensitive to criticism. If you want to talk to the ignorant*(*this context means not knowing), then you must treat them with care and guide them. If you tell people that there are a lot of problems with calisthenics (and most people do not know better), and your description makes what they’re doing or who they follow look bad, it could be taken as offensive. and they may not ever come back to hear the rest of what quality things you guys offer.

    By guiding them, they will feel comfortable even though both you and them have different opinions (they with what they know, and you with the experience and knowledge), they may be persuaded to your opinion. People generally have the attitude of trying to constantly improve; that’s where your knowledge and experience comes in to play.

    I believe that your argument was a valid one, but one that can be made better and more appealing to people if you frame it in such a way that you are introducing a tried and proven method to complete their training journey, whether it is a sport or actual muscle building. By framing the article in this way though unintentional, may have caused harm instead of benefits, and could make the reader believe that all your content is biased.

    I truly believe the calisthenics world is a mess, and I hope to one day clear it up and set the pillars and foundations myself. True, true strength is what you can actually use at any time, any day but is useless if not approached at a holistic way as you mentioned in the article. Tricks are tricks, sport is sport, and fitness is fitness, and calisthenics is a mix (it is fitness making muscle, a sport in a way that you get to challenge other people in how far you’ve progressed in fitness, and tricks come later after fully mastering the art of exercising with just the body). We should keep it as that. I believe you offer good content, so keep up the good work, and carry the torch for other callisthenic practitioners to follow up high with pride, with prejudice against none, and guidance to all.

    Sincerely, Anonymous

  • I don’t think any of the problems you mentioned are really about calisthenics, and more about unguided training.

    For example, most people doing weight lifting, especially the young ones, don’t receive formal training from a coach or a long established program, and instead follow the advice of a bunch of 20 year old Instagram and Youtube stars with amazing physiques and crappy bro-science education. They are prone to problems that are pretty much the same as the ones you listed: no knowledge of proper form, injuries from ego-lifting and over training, avoidance of machines because “free weights are best”, choice of exercises and training splits based on the muscles that look the coolest when they’re big…
    Calisthenics of course, is no exception: most people follow the advice of the wrong people for the wrong reasons and end up facing all of these issues.

    Really, I think your problem is more with the ‘why’ many people (teens and 20 year olds, mostly) choose to exercise. Your training philosophy emphasizes the long term benefits of training. Mature people looking to optimize their health and age well will find that attractive. But youngsters interested in feeding their competitive side, just like athletes do, or in improving their chances of hooking up in hs or college might be interested in something more flashy, albeit being more risky, like calisthenics.
    They’re just not your market, and I don’t think they should be. Everyone has their priorities and their reasons for exercising.

  • I’m just starting calisthenics, but I’ve been training Pilates since 2 years a go, do you think that Pilates can be a good complement for calisthenics ?

    My goal is to feel physically free

  • It seems that Al Kavadlo agrees with this article, that is that advanced calisthenics is not suited for strength training:

    Al Kavadlo in raising the bar, chapter 10:

    “I want to be perfectly clear that you don’t need to do anything more than basic exercises like pull ups, dips and leg raises to build a strong, muscular upper body. Adding more complicated moves can make your training more interesting, but it won’t make you stronger than just training the basics.


    A lot of the moves i’ve discussed in this book are as much for showmanship as they are for a workout.


    you can get very strong and muscular by just training pull ups, dips and leg raises. You do not need to train any other movements unless you want to.”

    So I guess that Al Kavadlo himself says that calisthenics is not proper strength training and does not transfer well to anything. Calisthenics is mostly about acquiring skills and showing off.

  • This is the kind of awareness that any type of practitioner needs to hear. Calisthenics is a sport (specifically street gymnastics) that has a high rate of injury and that I wouldn’t recommend as a form of general, long-term fitness. Most of the people that excel at it have a gymnastics or circus background. Even former “calisthenics” athletes who also became YouTube influencers, like Vadim Cavalera and Dejan Stipic, have recently stated that they left the sport because it was contributing almost nothing to their overall lifelong athleticism.

    An smart approach -or at least the approach I decided to take based on the tear I began to note after some months of focusing on gymnastic skill training- is to take those aspects of gymnastics that have the best transferability to overall athleticism and integrate them into your regime. I think that rings are the gymastics apparatus that best fits into proper strenght training and general conditioning because they allow you to perform compound excersises like pull ups and dips but open-chained, You can adjust the intensity by changing the leverage, they allow some degree of isolation, involve the balance and stabilization component present in advanced movements like handstands and planches and, important thing, You will have a fun and challenging workout (because at the end of the day if you’re not having fun at all you shouldn’t be doing it)

  • The selling point of exercising is to promote being healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally. Anything extreme is a lifestyle, but not everyone can do it since people have jobs.

    Can exercising help you in your everyday life? Like lifting objects and things that weighs 200 lbs? Even I can’t lift 50 lbs of luggage over my head and into the compartment. Or like pushing a car if the engine doesn’t work? Or carrying groceries in 1 trip because why waste our time going back and forth?

    How about swimming? Biking? Hiking on a mountain? Surfing?

    There will be people that want to do flips and stuff but for the average Joe that wants to start exercising, the last you want is for them to be overwhelmed to the point where people quit.

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