What Calisthenics is…
Calisthenics in essence, is body weight training. These are movements that have the intention of exercise without added weight or equipment.
The word calisthenics comes from the ancient Greek words kalos, which means "beauty", and sthenos, meaning "strength". It is the art of using one's body weight and qualities of inertia as a means to develop one's physique.
When and how was the term Calisthenics popularized….
The word Calisthenics was coined in 1842 when “gymnastics suitable for girls” became a “thing”. Calisthenics was widely practiced in girls boarding schools until the mid-1900’s when sports and other exercises became mandated in schools.
Calisthenics took a backseat for a long time as weightlifting and sports became popular. The idea of Calisthenics has never left, but the word seems to have made a comeback in the past few years.
History of Calisthenics in the USA….
- Industrial Revolution began around 1760
- Transition from manual production to machines
- Changing trends in the way people worked, lived and moved
- More people became sedentary
- Intentional fitness methods arose. Staying fit, healthy, and ready to serve in battle remained important
- Catherine Beecher developed the first calisthenics program in US schools in 1823. Specifically focusing on exercise programs for school aged girls.
- At the same time, an influx of European immigrants coming to the USA brought their gymnastic and callisthenic culture to the Country.
- 1824, German scholar Charles Beck opened the first gymnasiums in Massachusetts. It was open to the public and also hosted school gymnastics programs.
- One notable club founder, Dudley Sargent, opened many gyms and even challenged the view that women were weak and prone to fainting by encourage freedom of dress and vigorous activity for girls and women.
- The rise of “modern” fitness that we think of today (weightlifting, weightloss, bodybuilding) began at the beginning of the 1900’s. By the time the 1960’s rolled in, plates, and bars were the most common in exercise routines.
- Even though body weight training declined in popularity, US programs such as the US Military and school physical education programs continued to base fitness tests off of body weight exercises such as push ups, pull ups, and running.
- Army Physical Fitness Test: Run 2 miles in 13 minutes or less (6.5 minute miles), 75 push ups, 80 sit ups,
- Presidential Fitness test in school
- 1953, New York Professor Dr. Hans Kraus warned that children were losing muscle tone because of the “affluent” lifestyle of 20th century children. He also showed that US children were less fit than their European counterparts.
- President Eisenhower created the President’s Council on Youth Fitness in 1956
- President Kennedy’s administration developed a physical fitness curriculum for schools.
- 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration created a national fitness survey, and in 1966 created the Presidential Fitness Challenge for schools. This included throwing a softball, a broad jump, a 50 yard dash, and a 600 meter walk.
- People such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Drew Brees, and Dominique Daws sit on the committee of the Presidential Fitness Challenge.
- To qualify for the President’s Challenge Fitness award today, students must fall into the 85th percentile in all five of the test’s activities. For a 15-year-old girl, that means finishing 38 crunches in a minute, running an eight-minute mile, the shuttle run, two pull-ups, a 10-second shuttle run (short sprint) and reaching 8 inches past her feet in a V-Sit Reach.
- The Physical Fitness Test graduated high school in 2003, when the Council, under George W. Bush, introduced the Adult Fitness Challenge. Bush’s Council also added the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA), which recognized a regular fitness routine instead of a one-shot test.
- Since Obama took office, First Lady Michelle Obama added another initiative to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. Her movement to end childhood obesity, Let’s Move, does not affect the Physical Fitness Test, but it helps introduce healthy foods and more physical fitness into the nation’s schools.
- Today, there is a rise in the popularity of “street sports” is on the rise in the form of Parkour, urban solo climbing, highwire walking, streetball, streethockey, and freerunning are all forms of calisthenic exercises.
- There has also been a rise in adult gymnastics and mobility. More and more adults are turning away from weights and rigid routines toward freedom of body movement, agility, and purposeful fitness.
Lunges, Jumping Jacks, Bodyweight squats, squat jumps, sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, planks, hyperextensions,
Here are a few links to the history of fitness and a few hundred body weight exercises:
Over 200 Calisthenics Exercises
History of Fitness
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