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Calisthenics 101: Tackling Upper Body
by Tom Bonanti

Calisthenics 101: Tackling Upper BodyLooking for exercises you can do at home or on the road? Want to take a break from clanking machines and noisy gyms? Then calisthenics, also called bodyweight exercises are the way to go!

Calisthenics are exercises consisting of movements which use your body weight as resistance to work against when exercising. Yeah, we’re talking here about the jumping jacks and pushups that your dopey, paunchy homophobic gym coach had you do back in high school. But calisthenics are much more – they are an extremely efficient way to build muscle and stay fit using short bursts of intense training that involve almost all muscle groups.

Free weight training is still tops when it comes to building muscle, but calisthenics have advantages, too! They can be done indoors and outdoors. You can do them in the privacy of your home. They can improve cardiovascular endurance as well as build muscle strength.

So get up off your butt, stretch those shoulders and arms and let’s get this party started with some upper body calisthenics.

Push ups are the best bodyweight calisthenics for building your entire upper body – chest, back, shoulders and arms. Push ups can be a mighty challenge if done at various angles and super-setted with chin-ups.

Lay face down on the ground with your legs straight, knees off the floor, and arms supporting your upper body. Now raise yourself off the ground straightening your elbows and arms, but keep elbows close to the body. Raise until elbows are locked and pause for a moment and squeeze everything at the top of the movement. Now lower your body slowly, feeling the motion all the way down until your chest is very close to the ground.

Here’s a real tip, you can vary your arm and hand placement while doing pushups to target different muscle groups. Place your arms and hands out as wide as you can to blast chest. Bring them in at shoulder width to pump shoulders and biceps. Isolate triceps by bringing hands and arms in close and turn palms inward.

Pull-ups build arms and a wide back. All you need is a bar to hang from. Beginners will probably need a chair or a spotter to assist them until strength is built up.

Simply grab hold of a bar with arms shoulder width apart. Pull yourself up until the bar touches your chin. Then lower yourself in a controlled motion until arms are fully extended without using gravity too much. Don’t bounce or jerk. In overhand pull-ups the palms should face away from you. In underhand pull-ups your palms should face you. For advanced commando pull-ups, keep one hand on one side of the bar and the other hand on the other side. Here you do pull-ups sideways wherein you pull yourself up so that the bar is hitting your neck and trap muscles nicely.

Now you can pump up your upper body at the beach or in the privacy of your own home. Next week, on to lower body calisthenics.