I tried this five-move calisthenics workout that only uses a chair—and it was much more fun than HIIT

by Ravi Ram

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Are you looking for a new workout routine that is both fun and effective? Look no further than calisthenics. Despite its intimidating name, calisthenics is simply a type of strength training that exclusively uses bodyweight exercises. From push-ups and planks to more advanced gymnastic moves like the planche and human flag, calisthenics offers a wide range of exercises to challenge your strength and endurance.

As someone who wanted to improve my gymnastics for CrossFit training, I decided to give calisthenics a try. I found a beginner workout from coach Chloe McDonnell that I could do at home. The workout only takes 15 minutes, but it’s a lot more enjoyable than your standard HIIT workout.

The workout consists of five moves performed as a circuit for three rounds. Each move is done for 30 seconds followed by a 30-second break before moving on to the next exercise. Initially, I was skeptical about whether McDonnell’s routine could provide a challenging calisthenics workout without any specialized equipment like pull-up bars or parallettes. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the workout still provided a tough and thorough workout using only a chair.

The first move in the workout is plank up and downs. This exercise involves moving from a forearm plank to a high plank by pushing up with one arm at a time. It requires engaging your core muscles to keep your spine stable throughout the movement. Instead of rushing through reps, I focused on slowing down and matching the tempo of McDonnell’s demo video. This allowed me to focus on movement quality rather than speed, making the exercise more challenging.

Next up is chair-assisted pistol squats. Pistol squats have always been a challenge for me due to a past knee injury. However, McDonnell’s variation of the move provided the confidence boost I needed. It worked my knees through a reduced range of motion while still providing a solid leg workout. This exercise helped me develop the balance, strength, and coordination needed to eventually master pistol squats in their entirety.

Triceps dips are another well-known exercise in calisthenics. They are a great way to build strength and muscle in the triceps, which play a crucial role in many bodyweight exercises. McDonnell advises trying to do 30 seconds of dips per set without taking a break for an extra challenge. I decided to give it a try, and my triceps definitely felt the burn by the end of the workout.

The elevated tuck hold is a core exercise that targets the rectus abdominis muscles, obliques, and hip flexors. McDonnell recommends trying to hold the position for the full 30 seconds and suggests keeping the legs tucked for an easier option or straightening them for a greater challenge. I aimed to hold a straight-legged tuck hold for 30 seconds across all three rounds, which was quite challenging but rewarding.

Finally, the workout concludes with handstand shoulder taps. This exercise helps build shoulder strength for handstands and reinforces proper form and positioning. McDonnell advises pushing the floor away and aiming to get the hips up high. As someone trying to learn handstand walking, this exercise was particularly beneficial for me.

As a bonus, McDonnell encourages practicing a crow (or frog) pose at the end of the session. This pose helps build up to a handstand by allowing you to support your body weight through your hands and shift your balance. It’s a great way to improve your technique and challenge yourself.

Overall, I found McDonnell’s calisthenics workout to be accessible and achievable at home. It provided a challenging and effective workout in just 15 minutes. Whether you’re a beginner or more advanced athlete, calisthenics offers a variety of exercises to improve your strength, flexibility, and overall fitness. Give it a try and see the benefits for yourself.

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