Understanding Calisthenics Freestyle In Street Workout

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DECEMBER, 2019

Calisthenics (sometimes also called Street Workout) has a humble origin. Originally separate skills were completed, most of which were based on fundamental bodyweight exercises such as pull ups and push ups. Calisthenics practitioners used outdoor playgrounds to build strength and endurance.

Somewhere along the way, however, it became an art. Calisthenics started to absorb many aspects of gymnastics. It’s no surprise that the ‘routine’ aspect of gymnastics found its way into the calisthenics community. Although gymnastics routines are strictly planned and practised in exact sequence beforehand, in calisthenics they are often spontaneous and improvised on the spot.

Calisthenics routines were later dubbed ‘Calisthenics Freestyle’ or simply ‘freestyle. They became the backbone of the official competition format known as ‘Calisthenics Battles’.

Calisthenics Freestyle

Calisthenics freestyle or ‘bar flow’ is composed of various skills stringed together in quick succession. The essence of a good freestyle routine is the connectedness or ‘flow’ between skills. Achieving seamless transitions between calisthenics skills is the result of mastering timing, momentum, and having a diverse arsenal of skills to draw from (i.e. ‘calisthenics vocabulary’).

Some calisthenics skills naturally flow into each other, while others require intermediary skills to bridge the gap. Freestyle is usually composed of dynamic skills, however in some instances, static holds can be introduced without breaking the ‘flow’.

Calisthenics freestyle can be broken down into several categories. For the sake of simplicity, we will exclude static holds and revisit them in a future calisthenics blog.

We will explore the following categories of calisthenics skills: ascensions, muscle ups, inversions, re-catches, swings, bar stands and dismounts. There are other miscellaneous skills that do not exactly fit these 7 categories, but for the purposes of simplicity, will be excluded here. The examples here are by no means exhaustive.

Although there are several apparatuses in calisthenics, we will focus only on the high bar, the apparatus with the greatest amount of potential. Due to the similarity of the different kinds of bars used in calisthenics, some of the skills below will be translatable to the parallel bars and other pieces of equipment.

Calisthenics Freestyle Categories

Ascensions:

The muscle up is a special type of ascension that warrants its own category. There are many types of muscle ups; some more dynamic, some very slow and controlled. Muscle ups can be achieved in many different grips and are a great set up for many other skills. The airtime achieved at the top, either through sheer pull strength, or through pushing off the bar with the hips, can be converted to vaults, spins and bar stands.

Muscle ups:

In calisthenics there are two main positions: TOP (on the bar) and BOTTOM (below the bar). Ascensions are skills that allow athletes to move on top of the bar from below the bar. Such skills include the muscle up, the pull over, the kip, the back uprise and others. Often these skills are transitionary, and are done multiple times in a single freestyle routine to set up bigger skills. Ascensions are mostly highly dynamic skills, but some are slow and require extreme strength.

Inversions:

Inversions, in calisthenics refer to flips or somersaults. They are done from the TOP position. Inversions can be done by pivoting around the hips, legs, torso – or in fact- without touching the bar at all. This category is hugely diverse and provides a spectacle as many inversions can be seamlessly transitioned into one another with the help of intermediary elements.

Re-catches:

In calisthenics there are moments of great excitement when athletes release the bar. Skills performed between releasing the bar and catching it, are called re-catches. In calisthenics bar spins are the most common re-catch. Athletes release, spin as many times as gravity permits, and re-catch the bar. 360’s, 540’s and 720’s can be performed from various swings and from the TOP position.

Vaults are another common re-catch. Vault style re-catches involve athletes launching themselves over the bar, sometimes executing various motions such as twists while in the air. Inversion re-catches such as shrimp flip also exist but are significantly more difficult.

Swings:

Swings are often not stand-alone skills in calisthenics but are paired up with other elements to achieve certain effects. With this in mind, it is important to gain an appreciation for the different kinds of swings and what they can be used for.

Swings differ based on the grip used, the shape of body and the pivot points used. There are many types of swings, each enabling a unique entry point into other skills. Giant swings can be considered the only stand-alone swing skill in calisthenics, but even these are often used as transitional elements.

Bar stands:

In calisthenics freestyle, bar stands are used as nuances between other skills. Bar stands involve athletes standing or putting one or two feet on the bar.

They create contrast in a routine by giving athletes a chance to show off their explosiveness and power. They also allow athletes swing down from above the bar and enter other skills with much more power.

Dismounts:

In calisthenics there are many types of dismounts. Most of them are inversions, such as backflips (fly away/ gainer) and front flip (loser). Sometimes other explosive skills such as vaults are used. In some cases, static holds are used as routine ‘finishers’, however these are not as spectacular and would not be considered true dismounts.

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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