The Benefits Of Calisthenics | An Introduction By Movement Specialist Dan Mitten

By Cheshire-based Movement Specialist Dan Mitten

Question… What does the boxer, the gymnast, the martial artist, and the dancer all have in common?

Answer: They are all masters of movement.

movement noun (POSITION CHANGE)

  • a ?change of ?position:

culture noun (WAY OF LIFE)

  • the way of ?life, ?especially the ?general? customs and ?beliefs, of a ?particular ?group of ?people at a ?particular ?time.

There is a growing culture, and the emphasis is focused on MOVEMENT.

This is a community of people who are interested in learning more about the body, health, wellness and human performance, physical artistic expression, no matter what the discipline.

For thousands of years, athleticism has been demonstrated through feats of bodyweight strength and skill, (predating the original Greek Olympics, on which these movements we based).

An individual wasn’t judged by their bodies’ tone, but by how skillfully they could use their bodies.

We then saw a lull in these activities, when in 1977 the popularization of the fixed-axis weight-lifting machine and single-plane isolation “robot training,”  with the emphasis shifting towards image.

Unfortunately this was severely detrimental to human performance.


But, slowly, the idea of skills practice and self-mastery is making its way back into fitness.

The skills of the boxer, the ground work of the martial artist, strength of a gymnast and mobility of a dancer are much better for developing the lean, functional muscle of an athlete than those involving heavy lumps of metal.

I don’t train people to look good in a photograph, that will happen anyway simply as a by-product of the training methods I utilise.

Start by perfecting the basics, such as the squat, chin up and press up, (initially working to the rule of 5 x 5 (5 sets of 5 reps per exercise) without compromising your technique.

This leads to more progressive bodyweight training, including a multitude of exercises that are always sure to elicit an envious “I’ve always wanted to do that!”


Pistol squats, muscle-ups, human flags, HAND BALANCING – these moves are sure to catch the eye of any fitness enthusiast.  And the great thing is that any of these feats are possible to learn with the proper progression training, time commitment, and, most importantly, consistency.

Just as it takes a baby about 12 months of daily conditioning and practice to eventually stand on their own, it can take an adult months or years of repeated practice to build the neural grooves associated with a perfect handstand.  Are you willing to invest that kind of time?  I can guarantee that it will be one of the most humbling and gratifying journeys that you’ll experience.

Let’s use a handstand as a good example.

While performing a great handstand is certainly a worthy goal unto itself, you’ll find that the skills you build in the process will transfer over into your other training, making you a better athlete and enhancing your quest toward a better body.

Here are some examples of the tremendous carry-over you’ll see, and a brief overview of how a movement session with Precision Mittwork is structured.

The Kinetic Chain

Let’s start with a simplified definition of the very complex concept of the kinetic chain: everything in our body is connected to everything else.  A handstand is a prime example of the connectivity of the kinetic chain, with each position, alignment, and movement requiring constant communication and neuromuscular efficiency in order to maintain that perfect balance. If just one thing changes during our hand balance, such as flexing our toes instead of extending them, then our body must immediately adjust to this new shift. 

calisthenicsHand balancing is, obviously, performed on your hands, so that’s a great place to start thinking about how everything is connected.  Your fingers are some of the densest areas of nerve endings on the body, and have the best tactile feedback and positioning capability. Kicking up into your handstand initiates a sort of neuromuscular “super highway,” with all of those little finger receptors sending and receiving information throughout the body.  Your body’s communication must be perfectly orchestrated to keep you in balance, like a super effective emergency dispatcher taking calls, sending reinforcements, and keeping you safe (aka preventing you from crashing onto your head.)

The body has to adjust to the hand placement in relation to the shoulders; to the elbows being over the wrists but under the shoulders; and the hips, where are the hips in relation to the shoulders?; and it goes on.   So if we do this efficiently, and amp up our body’s abilities to communicate and make minute adjustments in a flash, you may already see how handstand training can benefit other athletic goals.

I promised that handstands will make you better at everything, so let’s keep on going and look at the benefits and content of a typical movement session:

  1. Mobility preparation– Concentrate on your preparation, wrists, hips, spine etc, or as we say, “Choose prehab over rehab”, allowing a full and pain free range of motion.
  1. Injury prevention– Rocking, crawling, and light rolling strengthen the most primitive movement patterns, increase stimulation of the central nerves system, reduced degeneration of the articular surfaces.
  1. Torso coordination– Tying the body together, starting to use the body as a unit is the goal. No, it is not a core training, whatever that means, it is simply creating more awareness for the linking of upper and lower body, so heavier loads can be handled later.
  1. Sub-maximal plyos– Plyos and sub-maximal plyos are not for everyone, especially real depth jumps. Our goal in this part of the practice is adding a cardiovascular component and loading the primitive patterns with a touch of intensity – load makes patterns permanent, so it is vital to have them correct before adding load of any kind whether it is speed or physical weight.
  1. Skill training– A very important segment, where the client must be relatively fresh, but now with great body awareness, after completing the first four segments. Every single step of the progressions should be mastered with grace and elegance, from static holds to sport specific speed.
  1. Resistance training– Applying the Push, pull, lunge, hinge or bend, rotate and gait and even carry are the most important patterns, and many times these can be blended while practicing.
  1. Games– This segment is one of our favorites. Our experience is this part of the practice creates fun and a competitive environment, and this is the segment we clearly see how playfulness creates the flow. Remember, there is no functional movement without FUN. Why should kids be the only ones who get to play?
  1. Free-flow practice– Playing with range of motion, speed and intensity – like shadow boxing, but with movement.
  1. Energy system development– this is the most intense part of the session, where our goal is metabolic conditioning. In case Flow practice is not part of the program, ESD can be used for this purpose. Normally created from 3-5 moves, contains hops or jumps for greater physical demand.
  1. Mobility cool down– Bringing the body back to functioning within its normal parameters.

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.



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