A Complete Guide To Statics In Calisthenics And Street Workout


APRIL, 2020

Statics, also known as static holds or isometric holds, make up half of the calisthenics regiment. They complement calisthenics dynamics, also known as calisthenics freestyle or bar flow.

Statics at their core are positional freezes. They are largely taken from gymnastics, however calisthenics boasts some of its own unique static holds. This will serve as a definitive guide to statics in calisthenics.

human flag calisthenics

How do calisthenics statics compare to traditional exercises?

Traditional exercises are what are known as isotonic exercises. These exercises have a contraction and relaxation phase, and as such muscles change in length to accommodate the action. Let’s use pull ups as our example.

Pull ups largely use the biceps and back (lower traps, mid traps and lats). When we pull up towards the bar, these muscles are engaged and contract or shorten. When we move back down, these same muscles relax – this is the eccentric phase or lengthening phase for these muscles.

Unlike isotonic exercises, isometric exercises maintain the same muscle length throughout the entire exercise. That is, there is no concentric or eccentric phase. Instead the working muscles, which are usually much broader than those working in simple compound movements, are engaged throughout the entire static hold. This is one of the reasons why statics are so difficult! 

Examples of static holds include the handstand and the human flag

Why are statics so hard?

1. Greater time under tension


This is because statics don’t have concentric and eccentric phases, rather there is tension throughout the entire static hold.

2. More muscle fibres recruited

More muscle fibres are recruited – especially the larger type II muscle fibres. More muscle fibres recruited = more energy expended. Type II muscle fibres can generate more power but are also more prone to fatigue.

3. Greater lever length

Static holds generally extend the body to its maximum length resulting in longer lever lengths. Greater lever lengths are associated with more torque (created by gravity) – and therefore more muscular force is required to stabilise the position.

4. Fewer points of contact

Static holds have fewer points of contact. As such, postural muscles, which contribute to posture and balance, need to be recruited to a greater extent. Think of a planche compared to a push up position – in the planche we remove the feet from the ground.

calisthenics static hold

How do I get started learning statics?

It is highly recommended that you have a strong foundation in bodyweight exercises before starting statics. Although not necessary, this will help super charge your progress. Weightlifting training can be somewhat useful too, however this won’t translate nearly as well as a background in bodyweight training.

The reality is, your body adapts to the physical stress you place on it. This dictates that training should be specific above all else to maximise results. You cannot expect that progress made in the lat pulldown will necessarily translate completely to pull ups.

This is because of several factors:

1. No two exercises are the same!
No matter how similar 2 exercises are, there will be differences in muscular recruitment.

2. Neuro-muscular improvements are highly specific.
Although muscles play a large role in performance, that are not the sole factor. Our performance for a specific exercise is also dictated by our nervous system. Neural pathways become more efficient over time – and this is actually where the initial progress is made for a specific exercise. Our nervous system adaptations are highly specific to the particular movement we are trying to achieve.

dragon flag calisthenics melbourne

Progression in static holds

As you can see from the above table, static holds can be classified into levels. The classification provided gives you an outline of what a typical calisthenics journey looks like. It is not a concrete set of rules of progression.

Different bodies work differently. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. For some of you a front lever might be easy, for others an L-sit might be hard. Generally speaking, however, the table above serves as a good guide when considering statics of the same class.

The best way to learn statics is to do statics

As discussed above, the body adapts to movement specifically. “So do I started then?”

Not all static holds are equal. Some are relatively easy, some are near impossible. Below is a table that ranks calisthenics static holds based on difficulty.

calisthenics statics classification

Written by Vic

Melbourne-based Personal Trainer, Calisthenics Athlete and the Founder of Street Workout St Kilda. Super passionate about bodyweight training and the art of movement.
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