Calisthenics for Strength and Fitness?
Having completed the Internal Force Fitness interpretation of the Radio Taiso exercise routine for general well-being regardless of age or gender, you might now want to advance to the slightly higher impact second routine which I christened Calisthenics for Strength and Fitness. (Or indeed you can start with this routine – there is no set order)
This second series of exercises places an emphasis on MUSCLE STRENGTH. The dynamic movements will encourage strong, flexible muscles and joints, while at the same time promoting overall HEALTH and VITALITY through good blood circulation.
Maybe you have seen other books on calisthenics (sometimes spelled as callisthenics) that only talk about push ups and pull ups and squats and dips. Of course that is ONE way to define calisthenics for strength and fitness. Personally I prefer to think of it in the more old fashioned sense: Gymnastic exercises for all round fitness.
When I was putting the Routine Rainbow together, I asked a friend if he knew what calisthenic exercises actually were. He replied with:
I’m seeing soldiers doing PT during the war…but that might have been because you’ve told me before.
It is one of those terms we all kind of know. We’ve heard it some where for some reason, even if we can’t quite put our finger on it. As descriptions go however, I’m kind of happy with that one – that’s how I think of it sometimes. Anyone who grew up during the 1920’s to the 1950’s certainly would recognise the term – and probably associate it with gym shorts and plimsolls!
Here is another fitness poster from my school archive – those are all just basic calisthenic exercises; bending, stretching, turning etc.
How difficult ARE calisthenics exercises?
When you take push ups, and pull ups out of the equation (basically exercises which are difficult for EVERYONE), then calisthenics are quite easy. Of course because they are working muscles you don’t normally work, they can still be challenging, but not in an arms on fire kind of way!
Here is one of the exercises from the Internal Force Fitness Calisthenics for Strength and Fitness book:
Swing and Pull
This next combination of moves is going to stretch the arm and leg muscles as well as encourage the blood to circulate throughout the whole body. It is worth noting here just how different the emphasis is with these exercises as opposed to the western exercises you are more familiar with. In nearly ALL of the Internal Force Fitness ROUTINE RAINBOW exercise routines we talk about BLOOD FLOW, and INTERNAL MASSAGING. We talk about HARMONY and how things FEEL. Best of all however (in MY opinion anyway) we fit all of these things in without compromising STRENGTH and POWER.
Position 1: With your feet together and your toes pointing out slightly, lift your arms and cross them, right over left, so your elbows are around six inches from your chest. Make light fists with your hands and aim to have your right elbow on top of your left elbow aligned with an imaginary centre line running down your body. Take a nice breath in as you come into this position and pause for a second or two to enjoy the first little stretch in your upper arms.
Position 2: The second position is basically a CONTROLLED swing. It is always very tempting to make use of gravity when exercising, but a powerful movement combined with gravity can lead to over-extending and even straining a muscle. From position one, you are going to slowly and forcefully swing the arms down and around in a large arc, opening the hands as you do so, until both arms are straight up in the air and the palms are facing one another. Once the arms are raised past the point of the waist, come up onto your toes in time with the raising of your arms. Exhale as you execute this position.
Position 3: Now it is time to pull. Close your fists and turn the hands so the palms are facing forwards. In your mind I want you to imagine you have a handle in each hand and that handle is attached to a pulley with a weight on the end. Without the leg involvement it is not unlike the lat pull-down exercise you may have seen at the gym, or you could even view it as being an ’empty’ variation of the pull-up exercise. With INTENT, you are going to pull the arms down until your fists are level with your ears, and at the same time pull your ENTIRE upper body down by bending your knees slightly, and lowering your heels almost to the ground. Reverse the process to the starting point of position three (arms straight, back on tiptoes), and then repeat one more time.
Position 4: After the second repetition, straighten the arms again and do the REVERSE of position two; Swing the arms down and out in a nice controlled arc until your right elbow is on top of your left elbow again.
Review: There will always be debate about whether IMAGINING resistance is as useful as using REAL resistance. I think for the vast majority of people that just want to FEEL better then, yes, it is. I base this belief on one thing: how it FEELS. Try this exercise with no intent at all – just lift and lower your arms with no extra energy in them. Now to be honest, I STILL get something out of this because any move that gets your arms above shoulder level is likely to feel quite difficult at first. Next however, try it with imagined intent. When you raise your arms you are fighting through the thickness of the air (imagine it is water in a pool if that helps). When you pull down, you are pulling against weight – make it hard on yourself! Finally ask YOURSELF how it felt. Good? Bad? Nothing? Whatever your answer, that is the answer to take away, because YOU are all that matters.
*Note: As in Radio Taiso No. 1, this is a bit of a ballerina plie squat, and as such you don’t quite lower your heels to the ground, but keep them up a little. You WILL feel the burn!
Repetitions: Repeat the whole sequence four times.
Calisthenics for Strength and Fitness Video
Here the official video – have a watch and you will see why I tend to recommend going a bit slower! It is worth remembering though that these actors will have grown up with this type of exercise. In the West we need to start learning these things slowly.
Why not just have a go?
That is what I always say when people ask: “Does this actually work?” Just have a go. Maybe you won’t like some of the exercises – that is perfectly possible. That is one of the reasons why I put the Routine Rainbow together. They are all different, yet there are parts you can take away from each one to make a completely different routine if you like – one that is completely your own!
One of the reasons I chose Jake as the model for this routine is he looks like a 1940’s American schoolboy. Jake doesn’t have any fancy equipment, just his sneakers, jeans and a t-shirt. All he wants though is to grow big and strong, so he puts 100% into his exercises at home, and does them whenever he can.
Get the Calisthenics for Strength and Fitness book from these online stores:
If you don’t have a Kindle and just want an easy to read PDF – Gumroad will sort you right out: