Calisthenics is one of the best styles of training if you want to build functional fitness, mobility, and full body strength. But is it any good for cardio fitness? Or should you do extra cardio if you do calisthenics?
Do you need extra cardio if you already do calisthenics?
Calisthenics is defined as building strength using bodyweight through static holds and flowing movements. Calisthenics movements demand strength, control, and bodyweight mastery.
Most calisthenics movements are slow and controlled rather than repping out as many as you can for time. So whilst you will elevate your heart rate by doing calisthenics, you won’t experience the same heart-pounding, sweat-pouring experience you’d get from a dedicated cardio session. But do you actually need cardio?
There are lots of benefits to doing cardio alongside any other style of training. Cardio is good for general health and heart health in particular (hence the name – cardiovascular training). And cardio workouts can give you the opportunity to enter a different headspace, especially if you take your cardio workouts outdoors.
For this reason, we think it’s a good idea to do some kind of cardio workout as well as calisthenics training. But that doesn’t necessarily mean using cardio machines in the gym, or going for a run. There are loads of ways to get some cardio into your life and it’s important to find one that you enjoy.
Benefits of doing cardio as well as calisthenics
Improved cardiovascular health: cardio contributes to heart health and lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease
Enhanced endurance: cardio increases your stamina, so you’ll be able to do calisthenics workouts for longer without feeling fatigued
Body composition: cardio helps burn calories and can reduce body fat if you’ve got your nutrition sorted, and this can make calisthenics exercises feel easier
Balanced training: combining calisthenics with cardio creates a well-rounded fitness routine that includes strength, heart health, endurance, and versatility
Improved recovery: cardio can boost recovery by increasing blood flow and keeping you moving on rest days
How cardio plus calisthenics can make you a better athlete
Calisthenics focuses on strength, mobility, and co-ordination, and cardio improves endurance, cardiovascular health, and endurance. As your two main forms of training, they give you a balanced approach to training that ticks all the boxes.
Cardio and calisthenics are a great match, too. Cardio will make you better at calisthenics by working on that baseline fitness, keeping your bodyweight in check, and helping you recover from strength training. Calisthenics will help with your cardio by building full-body strength, promoting better posture, and building strength in key areas like the core and hips.
By doing a bit of cardio alongside your calisthenics, you’ll be less likely to get overuse injuries, you’ll recover faster, and you won’t burn out – because your total training programme will be so varied.
How to combine cardio and calisthenics workouts
We’re not saying you suddenly need to start doing a ton of cardio. If you’re active during the day (hitting your target step count rather than sitting down all day long) then you could see all these benefits from just one or two dedicated cardio sessions a week.
Best cardio workouts for calisthenics athletes
Walking or hiking: getting extra steps in is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to add cardio to your routine. Walk any time, anywhere, in short bursts or longer hikes.
Running: if running is OK for your joints, consider adding one or two short (3-5 mile) runs into your week and enjoy the fresh air.
Jump rope: skipping is a great cardio workout that delivers a lot of benefits in a short amount of time.
HIIT or intervals: if you prefer your cardio short and sharp, do HIIT workouts, intervals, or circuit style cardio.
Swimming: swimming is a great partner to calisthenics because – like calisthenics – it builds joint health and is a full-body workout.
How to become a good all-round calisthenics athlete
We’ll always love calisthenics as a fundamental form of bodyweight mastery for strength and control. But sometimes you need to add a little more to your training routine. If you have a sedentary job, if you want to get outside more, or if you are in a fat loss phase it can be really useful to add a couple of dedicated cardio sessions to your week.
Don’t stress about what type of cardio to do. The important thing is finding something you enjoy and that won’t cause you aches and pains. Try out slow, steady state and intervals to see which you prefer. There are so many ways to do cardio, it should be easy to find an enjoyable way to boost your heart health and endurance.
Check out the Gravity Fitness online store for calisthenics equipment, functional training tools, and cardio-boosting kit like our famous weighted vests. It’s all there to help you build an effective and enjoyable training routine on your terms.
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