There are many pieces of workout equipment out there people promote, and let’s be honest, most are just that – gadgets. Some fun, other’s crap, but some can enhance your training entirely. And these few training-worldchanging pieces of equipment is what we’re looking at today. The best Calisthenics equipment for your sessions!
I bet you already came across a few of them, as most are pretty basic. The beauty of our sport is its raw simplicity. You mostly need your own body – nonetheless some pieces can provide unique benefits because of the way they alter movements and challenge your body.
Rings open up a whole ‘nother world for your training – they create another layer of complexity upon already fairly complex movements. Take the dip for example:
A normal dip requires strength and some control. It can take some time to get used to that movement and strong with it.
Let’s say you are comfortable with this movement and 12 beautiful reps are doable for you.
Ditching the parallel bars and swap them for rings will totally decimate your overall reps. If you never tried a support hold, even 1 will be a challenge.
But that’s not a bad thing – it isn’t all about sets and overall kilos moved from A to B. Within controlled movements strength is only one factor – control is another one. And that’s what gymnastic rings will challenge strongly in the beginning and even later on.I can half my reps on dips when going for the rings.
This additional layer of complexity demands more of your body then strong shoulder – also stable and adaptive ones. That’s why they are very beneficial for shoulder pain, as they tax the smaller stabilizing muscles.
All in all they are simply a great tool to own.Well to transport, cheap and great for travelling. Currently they are with me in Canada and accompanied me to many far off places all over the world. #noexcuses
After this baseline is established – mostly after 1-2 years depending on your starting point, I would go for a few exercises or ~2 sessions exclusively on the rings. Train your basic movements such as pullups, rows, dips, or pushups at them and try to get used to the wobbly surface they provide to stabilize on.
If you like you can train more on them or less – after you got used to them as a tool you can treat them as such. Go for a few exercises or session on the rings to train complex movements as a skin to cat, rolls, or muscle ups and other strength moves.
Where can I buy good Gymnastic Rings?
I bought my first pair from Amazon – these ones*. They are surprisingly good, simple to use and survived me carrying them with me for over 3 years now all around the world – despite using them excessively back home at my gym. For ~50$ this was definitely one of the best deals I ever made!
Make sure to buy wooden rings, as plastic can be slippery in comparison, get damaged easier and simply isn’t that pleseant to grip. Wood simply feel better and doesn’t come off as the discount option.
Gadget B: Parallettes
Why are them a special piece of workout equipment?
The next game-changing equipment piece on our list. So, why are they?
Most importantly, parallettes are friendlier to your wrist than the brutish floor is. That’s because of the position your wrist joint is in while doing for example a pushup. On the floor, it is in a flexed position, while on paralettes the wrist joint is in a neutral one.
This can especially come in handy when training intensive exercises as Inverted Presses or Planches. More than that if you experience strong wrist pain on the floor it is a great way to keep the overall volume up while not ditching an exercise – that gives your body time to get used to the stressful stimulus of a flexed wrist joint under load.
Plus, there are many different paralettes, like the higher bulkier bars, lower well-transportable ones, and the classic dip bars. For their specific niche, they are all great to have – the bigger ones for at home*, the mini bars for traveling, and the stationary dip parallel bars for front levers at home.
How can I use Paralettes within my workouts?
Parallettes aren’t hard to get used to – so simply swap an exercise on the floor for them. They come as already mentioned especially useful when a certain exercise is very stressful on the wrist joint like planches or even provokes outright pain. I had this problem very often when I started calisthenics with pushups on the floor.
Instead of getting into the cycle of training them hardly, followed by backing up from pushups because of pain, I should better have done a few low-pain reps on the floor followed by more P-Bar reps to get the desired volume in. What do they say? Work smart, not (dumbly) hard!
Where can I get quality Paralettes?
When it comes to Paralettes there are many options. I bought my bigger paralettes from Amazon* and the Mini-Paralettes on Etsy. One thing I never owned was the big dip bars – in retrospect, they would’ve been really useful to train front levers at home instead of skipping pulling sessions to push each day.
Resistance bands* come in handy for many reasons, most importantly your warmup, certain stretches or to assist you when training for skills. You can get them in a broad range of thickness and therefore resistance. The bigger ones come great for targeted hip mobility work, the smaller ones handy for skill training and warmups.
They add a force into one direction contrary to the vector you are training, like a pulley, to make an exercise harder.
But they can also make an exercise easier by taking a bit of gravity’s relentless pull out of the equation and making your body lighter.
How can I train using Them?
In your warmup, they offer a force in one direction and allow you to perform complex movements while doing so. Take for example Yuri Marmerstein’s Drawing Sword exercise – it is a great example of showing how a pull in one direction can enhance a movement and challenge your small stabilizing muscles.
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When doing flexibility work, bands come especially handy for PNF Stretches, where you create force into the band or to pull yourself deeper into a position like a banded pike stretch.
In your training, you could add a band to certain skills as planches or front levers to enable you to spend more time in a challenging position. Take for example a tuck front lever – if you can hold it for a brief time, a band could help you up your overall volume and spend more time in this more difficult progression.
Where can I buy good Resistance Bands?
On Amazon* are a ton of different bands with nearly no differences – they probably come all from the same Chinese producer and are just distributed by different dropshippers. Get a set of them all for a few bucks and you should be good for whatever assistance you need within your sessions!
Gadget D: Liquid Chalk
To chalk up or not?
Chalk might seem not essential for most – until you tried it! Chalk makes each high bar, each pair of rings, each parallel bar more comfortable and increases your performance. I acquired this chalk addiction from my climbing brother and really understand why these guys go hard on the white stuff.
By not slipping constantly away you can grip the bar better, save energy, and even protect your hands. Slipping away is the worst and can tear skin away quickly.
What Kind of Chalk should I use?
The best is of course a climbers chalk bag with a big chunk of white magnesia in it. Unfortunately in most gyms, this will be prohibited, unless you are training in a climbing facility, a CrossFit gym or your traditional gym is really awesome. Chalking up before a set is kind of a ritual and the traditional chalk is not that aggressive towards your skin.
The next better alternative is liquid chalk*. It tends to be a bit more aggressive to your skin because of its alcohol content, but it shouldn’t be an issue. What’s much better about liquid chalk is its longevity. You need to chalk up once or twice per session and shouldn’t experience slippery surfaces for that training. That’s because liquid chalk tends to be stubborn, even when washing your hands.
Gadget E: Weights
Weights as a Calisthenics Enthusiast?
Weights are nothing more as added resistance. And even as a bodyweight athlete being dogmatic about it isn’t clever. Weights offer unique benefits and should be a part of your training. As a calisthenics enthusiast, you shouldn’t be anti-weight but rather pro-complex-movements. They’re simply a tool to make sure that you are building strength – remember the difference between strength and strength endurance? The lines tend to blur but beyond ~15r or 90s time under tension you switch on training your endurance rather strength or power.
Where could I incorporate Weights into my Routines?
In general you could weight up every exercise in some way. Does it make sense? Often not.
I would only load an exercise you are very comfortable with and in which you can go for high reps. It is a tool to make sure you are building strength or power and therefore stay in a rep range of 3-12 reps. I/fF you can do 20 pullups loading this movement and getting you down to 5 reps by an additional 20kg could be very beneficial to ensure increasing strength capacities.
Loading a skill like a front lever or l-sit with ankle weights or a weightvest can also be very beneficial to build strength for harder progressions Some types of weights might be very specific – such as ankle weights or clubells, but they excel in their niche.
Ankle weights are awesome for leg raises, l-sits, and leverage-using exercises. Clubells tend to give a unique stimulus to certain functional movements few other tools provide, and kettlebells are unique in their weight distribution compared to traditional dumbells.
Where to buy Quality Weights?
I would advise anyone training at home to acquire these over the years. Most are cheap and cost a few bucks, only the real weights like quality plates can be more pricey. Those training at a gym should have the basics available – nonetheless ankle weights and a good weightvest are rare in most gyms and can easily fit into your sports bag.
Vitamin H(not Heroin): Handstand Blocks
Blocks for all advanced-beginner Handstand Lovers!
For all those handstand lovers, who already are comfortable on the floor and maybe parallettes*, blocks can add a new stimulus to their training. Blocks tend to be more comfortable on the wrist joint and come in handy for a few more advanced exercises such as block walks or fingerless balances.
Adding variation to your training can also help you to dodge injuries as most injuries in relation to handstands happen to be overuse injuries – or because of dumb ideas. At least the overuse ones can be avoiding by slightly altering a repetitive stimulus.
Where to buy good Handstand Blocks?
Etsy has great custom-made blocks, as well as canes. They scale from basic, light-weight travel ones, to fancy and artsy blocks. You can find other really cool blocks over at HandstandFactory.
No Gadget will outwork Dedication – They’re all Tools to help you!
Many beginners fueled by ambition and the rush of motivation do the common mistake of stocking up big time on gadgets. I’ve been in this situation often – the last time I remember is when I started hiking and got all the camping stuff at once. I would start very basic and see if your training could benefit after some time from a new stimulus.
First, it is important to get the habit of training down – afterward come the gadgets and the experimentation with different approaches to training. No piece of equipment will outwork hard work and dedication, because they are all tools. Like a gun, they’re there for a specific job and it depends on the human behind the trigger what this one will eventually look like.
I hope my the few things I regard as the best calisthenics equipment could help you out and clarify what can really help your training. But despite all the available equipment for calisthenics don’t forget – the beauty of calisthenics is its simplicity. Its minimalism. You don’t need much to do everything.