The 5 essential calisthenic movements


Before practicing these movements, stretch for 15-30 minutes - this increases the soft muscle tissue length. It is ideal to stretch after cardiovascular exercise when the muscles have adequate blood flow and increased temperature. Stretching requires specific technique and the coach needs to demonstrate and explain each stretch correctly. For optimal results the American College of Sports Medicine (ASCM, 2007) recommends flexibility training a minimum 3 days per week (up to daily) holding each stretch for 30- 60 seconds to mild discomfort, with 2-4 repetitions per stretch. A warm up should consist of at least two stretches for each major muscle groups used in calisthenics. The major muscles groups that require stretching in calisthenics include:

The time dedicated to stretching in the warm up is dependent on the student’s age. Younger sub-juniors and juniors may require only 15 minutes because of laxity in the muscles, where seniors may require up to 30 minutes.

The movements

These are the five essential pre-requisite movements that are the building blocks for advanced calisthenic movements.

Forward lunge on both legs  
  1. Heels need to be inline with feet turned out to 45º.
  2. Back knee should be extended with front knee pushed over inline with toes.
  3. Hips and shoulder must be square.
Splits – (right and left leg separate certificates)  
  1. Hips and shoulders should be square and inline.
  2. Front foot turned out.
  3. Both knees need to be extended.
  4. Aim for the pubic bone to touch the floor.
  5. Ensure the body is upright.
  1. Hands should be placed shoulder width apart on the floor.
  2. Shoulders need to be in line with hands when pushed up in the bridge position.
  3. Arms should be extended.
  4. Heels need to be flat on the ground.
  5. student needs to look at the floor.
Handstand - to partner  
  1. The body should be in a straight line with no arch or jelly bean shaped back.
  2. Arms need to be extended with weight over the shoulders.
  3. Head should look at the floor between their hands.
  4. The student should pull up out of their shoulders and draw their belly button into their spine.
  5. The student should hold the handstand for 3-5 seconds.
Backbend to stand  
  1. Start with arms at upwards stretch.
  2. Extend the upper back – keeping the arms between the head.
  3. Hips stay inline with the feet (do not push the hips forward).
  4. Look at the floor as soon as possible.
  5. Keep elbows straight and head between arms.
  6. Transfer the weight onto the feet and recover to starting position.
  7. Recover to stand.