Calisthenics. Core Exercises.

Calisthenics is a smart, scientific approach to weight loss, strength gain and living a more active, fulfilling life. This is the fourth resource in our series on calisthenics, designed so you can work out in the privacy of your home or on location when travelling and can’t attend your sessions with your Tiger Athletic personal trainer without the aid of equipment, a trainer or supplements and begin to understand that you too can get healthy using just your body, the physical environment and a little imagination.

The word calisthenics comes from the ancient Greek words kálos (κάλλος), which means “beauty”, and sthénos (σθένος), meaning “strength”. It is the art of using one’s body weight and qualities of inertia to develop one’s physique. A longstanding urban legend has claimed that the exercise was named after one of its earliest promotors, the Greek historian Callisthenes.

Core exercises primarily involve dynamic and static contraction of the back and abdominal muscles, also aiding with improved balance and overall stability.

Crunch

Start in a supine position on the ground. The shoulders are curled towards the pelvis while the lower back remains flat against the floor. The focus is placed on contracting the abdominal muscles.

Variation

  • The Crunch It Up places the feet under a stationary object such as a low bed or couch. The arms are crossed over the stomach and the knees bent. Using the abdominal muscles, the torso is brought up just until the arms touch the thighs. The torso is then lowered to the starting position.
  • The V-Ups starts in a supine position with arms straight out on the ground and parallel to the body. The body is bent at the hips, the torso is raised off the ground and the legs brought to the chest with knees bent. The legs and torso are then lowered until they are just a few inches off the ground, but not touching it.
  • The Side-V starts on the ground, lying on one side of the body, with the arm closest to the ground stretched out perpendicular to the body. The other arm is bent, and the hand placed behind the head. The torso is raised and the legs, kept straight, are raised until the legs form a 90-degree angle with the torso. The legs and torso are then lowered until they are just a few inches off the ground, but not touching it.
  • The Jack-Knife starts on the ground, legs stretched out straight and the arms on the ground extended straight up over the head. The chest and legs are simultaneously brought up until the hands touch the feet. The legs and torso are then lowered until they are just a few inches off the ground, but not touching it.
  • The Bicycle starts on the ground, the hands behind the head. The knee is pulled in toward the chest while the upper body curls up to touch the opposite elbow to the knee. The leg is then straightened, and the exercise performed on the other side. The legs should be suspended off the ground during the exercise.

Muscle Groups

  • Abdominals

Hyperextension

Start in a prone position on the ground with the arms straight out in front of the body. The arms, legs and upper chest are lifted off the ground, and then slowly lowered back to the ground. This exercise is also known as “Superman’s”.

Variation

  • The Thumbs-Up starts in the same position, forms two fists with the thumbs pointed straight up, then lifts the head, shoulders and chest off the ground as high as possible.
  • The Swimmers raises and lowers the opposite leg and arm and alternates sides.
  • The Pillow Humpers places a towel under the hips and the feet under a stationary object like a low bed or couch. The hands are placed behind the head and the torso is raised off the ground as far as possible.

Muscle Groups

  • Lower back
  • Erector spinae

Planche

Start on the ground in a prone position, with the hands at the side of the body by the hips, palm down. The body is held straight while the arms push the body off the floor until the arms are straight. The entire weight of the individual is balanced on the arms. The body is then lowered to the ground.

Muscle Groups

  • Full Body

Plank

Place the toes and the forearms on the ground, with the elbows underneath the shoulders and the arm bent at a 90-degree angle. This position is maintained for as long as possible.

Variation

  • Front Plank
  • Side Plank
  • Reverse Plank
  • Static Push Up – simply holds the starting position of a Classic Push Up to failure.
  • S&M Push Ups – builds on the Static Push Up variant, but opposite legs and arms are lifted from the ground. The position is held to failure before switching sides.

Muscle Groups

  • Core
  • Abdominals
  • Back
  • Shoulders

Russian Twist

Start by sitting upright on the ground, with arms crossed and knees bent. The feet are lifted off the ground while the torso is twisted so the left elbow can touch the right knee, then twisted in the opposite direction so the right elbow can touch the left knee. The movement is repeated if possible.

Muscle Groups

  • Abdominals
  • Intercostal
  • Obliques

Standing Knee Raises

Start by standing upright, with arms raised out in front of the body. The left knee is brought up as high as possible, held up for a few moments, then lowered to the ground. The right knee is then raised as high as possible, held, then lowered to the ground.

Muscle Groups

  • Abdominals

Leg Raises

Start in a supine position on the floor, palms on the floor under the lower back or buttocks. The legs are slowly raised to a 45-degree angle with the ground, then slowly lowered to the ground.

The exercise can be increased in difficulty by raising the legs to a 90-degree angle, and not allowing the legs to return fully to the floor between repetitions.

Variation

  • Flutter Kicks – raise both legs off the ground by several inches, then alternates lifting each leg to the 45-degree position and returning it to its starting position.
  • Hello Darlings – raise both legs off the ground by several inches, then opens and closes the legs with a horizontal movement.
  • The Hanging Leg Lift – tart by hanging from a horizontal bar by their hands. The knees are brought slowly up to the chest and then returned to the starting position. The difficulty can be increased by keeping the legs straight as they are raised as high as possible.

Muscle Groups

  • Abdominals
  • Hip flexors 

Beach Scissors

Begins by lying on the side, one hand propping up the head, both legs kept straight. The upper leg is raised as high as possible, held in the air for a moment, then lowered to the starting position. The difficulty may be increased by propping up the body on one elbow.

Muscle Groups

  • Hip flexors
  • Obliques

Hip Ups

Begins by lying on the ground, propped up on one elbow, hip and feet touching the ground. The hips are then raised until the body is in a straight line. The hips are then lowered to the starting position.

Muscle Groups

  • Obliques
  • Intercostal

Supine Windshield Wipers

Begin by lying on the ground in a supine position, legs raised in the air at 90 degrees, arms stretched out the sides. The legs are then lowered to the right side by rotating the hips, then brought back to the starting position. The legs are then lowered to the left side, then returned to the starting position.

Variation

  • Half Windshield Wipers
  • Full Windshield Wipers

Muscle Groups

  • Abdominals
  • Obliques
  • Intercostal

Yes, No, Maybes

Begin in a supine position on a raised surface, with the head and neck extending off the edge. The head is then moved up and down in a “yes” fashion. The head is then turned from side to side in a “no” fashion. Finally, the head is moved from side to side, bringing each ear to the nearest shoulder in a “maybe” fashion. The exercise may also be performed in a prone position, with the hands placed on the back of the head to provide extra resistance.

Muscle Groups

  • Neck

Tiger Athletic Fitness & Conditioning uses personal training to assess, motivate, educate and train you in a private, modern appointment only strength and conditioning in the heart of Sandton. Our rigorous pre-participation health appraisal screening process ensures that we design and deliver comprehensive exercise programs that safely and effectively meet your goals. Start your own Tiger Athletic fitness program by booking your initial interview.

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