Is Calisthenics Functional Training?

Yes, calisthenics is a type of functional training.

Functional training is mainly based on movement patterns and gives more significance to the compound, multi-joint exercises, while calisthenics does the same but only with the bodyweight version. 

However, are all calisthenics exercises part of regular functional training? 

Keep reading to find out. 

Is Calisthenics Functional Training?

Calisthenics is a form of functional training. Calisthenics is the ultimate kind of functional training because it directly enhances your everyday life tasks, improves your posture, joints, and connective tissue, and helps build strength and muscle mass.

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Quick Summary

  • Calisthenics is a type of training that primarily focuses on bodyweight resistance training.
  • Bodyweight exercises are excellent for building relative strength without doing any weight training.
  • Calisthenics workouts will build strength through the full range of motion, reduce the chances of injury, and support muscle growth.
Man does a front lever calisthenics exercise outside

Man performs a front lever, one of the hardest bodyweight calisthenics exercises.

What Is Calisthenics?

Calisthenics is a type of strength training that mainly focuses on bodyweight exercises

Some of the most incorporated bodyweight exercises include push-ups, pull-ups, bodyweight rows, handstand push-ups, squats, lunges, planks, and similar. 

Calisthenics is an excellent form of training for muscular endurance and building relative strength, essentially, strength compared to your body weight. One of the primary deficiencies of calisthenics training is the inability to increase weight resistance.

Most people compensate for this by doing large sets and reps of a single exercise with as little rest as possible.

How Functional Is Calisthenics?

Calisthenics is highly functional. Lower and upper body bodyweight exercises are one of the best ways to build relative strength, emphasizing full range of motion(ROM) and learning to control your body and use stabilizer muscles properly. 

In addition, both functional training and calisthenics use multiple planes of motion(sagittal, frontal, and transverse) and incorporate real-life movements, which are excellent for all types of people.

So, the similarities between both forms of training are:

  • Functional crossover to real-life situations
  • Emphasis on the full range of motion
  • Building relative strength and muscle mass
  • Exercising in multiple planes of motion
  • Building a more symmetrical and balanced body
  • Injury prevention/reduction

“If you cannot perform body-weight exercises such as push-ups and chin-ups, then you are not functionally strong and may be more likely to be injured.” – Michael Boyle, Strength and Conditioning and Strength Training Consultant

6 Benefits of Calisthenics Workouts and Bodyweight Exercises

There are numerous benefits to calisthenics workouts. Below you can find some of the most important ones.

1. Bodyweight Training Makes You More Functional

Calisthenics is all about learning to move your body in space; therefore, it’s the ultimate form of functional training. Bodyweight exercises directly enhance your daily life tasks, improve your overall strength, and make you leaner.

2. Builds Strength Through Bodyweight Resistance Training

Most people believe you can only build lower and upper body strength using fitness equipment such as barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells.

However, that isn’t how it is. Bodyweight training can build as much muscular strength as the regular weight-lifting program. However, the main difference is that you can easily isolate muscles with machines and free weights, which only add a little to the whole body’s strength.

Lastly, you can add more resistance with regular lifting training, but calisthenics movements are as useful before achieving the plateau of maximal strength relative to your body.

3. Helps You Maintain Proper Form

If you do the same bodyweight exercise repeatedly, you only need to learn the proper form once. However, if you continually add more resistance to your exercises, like in regular lifting programs, form worsens if you add too much weight.

This is why calisthenics workouts are one of the best sustainable training methods for maintaining proper form over more extended periods, making it harder to get injured.

4. Works The Whole Body Using Only Your Body Weight

Calisthenics is based on total body movements, just like functional training is. It involves larger muscle groups, a full range of motion at joints, and mimics real-life movements.

It also makes you perform exercises in multiple planes of motion, which forces your body to activate even more muscle units.

5. Improves Function of Connective Tissue And Joints

Calisthenics is the best form of training for developing strength and size in proportion to your locomotor system(muscles, joints, and bones).

This is why it is so hard to get injured by doing bodyweight exercises. 

6. Improves Brain-Body Connection

Calisthenics is an excellent type of training for developing fine motor skills. It will require your brain to work as hard as your body.

You can develop anything from speed, power, coordination, and strength with a regular calisthenics workout. 

Pistol squat performed on a limited surface to increase muscle-mind connection.

Consider reading:


Are Calisthenics More Functional Than Weight Lifting?

Yes, calisthenics are more functional than weight lifting. However, with the principles of functional training and movement patterns, you can make a weight-lifting session as functional as calisthenics bodyweight movements.

Does Calisthenics Build Functional Strength?

Yes, calisthenics builds functional strength. Bodyweight exercises like push-ups, rows, pull-ups, handstand push-ups, squats, lunges, and bodyweight single-leg deadlifts are excellent exercises for developing functional strength.

Is Calisthenics Enough to Build Muscle?

Yes, calisthenics is enough to build muscle. However, if you want to get as lean and muscular as possible while maintaining joint mobility, you need to start functional strength training with weights.

Is Calisthenics Training Enough for Building a Functional Body?

Calisthenics is an excellent form of functional training which aims to develop relative strength through bodyweight exercises and with as little equipment as possible.

It is one of the best training forms for developing strength through a full range of motion and according to your locomotor system.

Let us know in the comments below how you incorporate calisthenics into your regular workouts.

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Vanja Vukas

Student at the Faculty of Sport and Physical Education and a hardcore functional training enthusiast. Heavily inspired by Michael Boyle, a strength & conditioning specialist, and by Adam Sinicki, the founder of Bioneer. Vanja believes that transitioning to a movement-based exercise program can drastically improve your fitness, balance out your muscles, and support your current lifestyle.

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