Athletic Calisthenics: Why Calisthenics and Athletic Training Make a Perfect Combo

By on August 3, 2022

In the past, I have recommended combining kettlebell training with powerlifting to create a more comprehensive training style. Powerlifting offers max strength in the sagittal plane, kettlebell training offer grip strength, rotational power, and strength endurance. I’ve also discussed the benefits of combining bodybuilding with functional training. Bodybuilding provides more hypertrophy and stimulus for growth, while functional training offers more coordinated movement. Both benefit from isolating particular muscles and fill in gaps missed by the other.

So, to continue in that vain, allow me to offer my latest pairing for the discerning palette: calisthenics and athletic training. Once again, these two styles offer the perfect complement to one another. Here’s why.

The Problem

By “athletic training,” I am essentially referring to functional training that pertains specifically to athletic endeavours such as sprinting, throwing, or playing sports. This type of training includes many sprinting drills, explosive jumping movements, and core stability work.

Calisthenics, meanwhile, refers to bodyweight training such as push ups, pull ups, and air squats. Often, this includes work towards specific bodyweight skills: things such as planche, hand balancing, and v-sits.

Calisthenics athletes are some of the strongest individuals pound for pound.

Calisthenics athletes are some of the strongest individuals pound for pound. They have insane strength-to-weight ratios that allow them to perform seemingly gravity-defying stunts. Also prerequisites are: amazing core strength, fantastic muscle control and “movement intelligence.” They tend to make for incredible athletes.


But the calisthenics athlete also stereotypically has one fatal flaw: their legs.

While someone who does calisthenics primarily may well *train* their legs, this doesn’t necessarily equate to growth. After all, they only have their own bodies to work with! And we kind of spend every day walking on our own legs!

The solution? Combine calisthenics with weights: perform heavy squats and lunges and other movements to build tree trunk legs alongside those gymnast-like bodies. Or at least you might think this would be a great solution. Only, this can then make the athlete heavier which, in turn, harms performance in a number of movements.

The Answer

So, what if we instead combine calisthenics with athletic-style training? I’m talking things like ATG split squats, barbell hip thrusts, sled push, Nordic curls, sprints, hill sprints, explosive box jumps, single leg RDLs, bounding…

These exercises will all be effective at building explosive legs with lots of power and endurance but, by focussing less on max strength and more on mobility/explosiveness, won’t result in a loss of speed or much added weight.

Many of these exercises are practically bodyweight in nature. No longer are you piling huge amounts of additional weight on. Rather, you’ll be adding around 30% of bodyweight to the movement, which is has been shown to offer the perfect amount of resistance without slowing things down.

Essentially, it’s a form of weighted calisthenics with a greater emphasis on stability, mobility, and explosiveness.

Glute bridge

But that’s not all! Combining calisthenics with athletic training will also provide a ton of additional benefits on both sides of the equation…

More Reasons This Combination Works

There are a few other areas that are a little lacking if you focus on a purely calisthenics-based workout.

The first of these is rotational power. Among the most popular bodyweight moves and advanced calisthenics skills, very few involve movement in the transverse plane (twisting). This is a problem, seeing as rotational strength is one of the most important kinds of strength for athletics and daily life.

The good news, is that athletic training typically involves a large amount of twisting exercises, for precisely this reason. Popular options include rotational medball throws (like the shotput throw), woodchopper, and more.

Another element that is traditionally lacking in calisthenics is explosiveness. Sure, a calisthenics athlete might throw in some explosive, clapping push ups. But this is certainly not their bread-and-butter. Most calisthenics is defined by more controlled manipulation of bodyweight at slower speeds. Often, these are isometric holds, in fact.

Again, there are many ways around this and many ways to supplement this type of training. But combining with athletic training just works, you know?

Why Athletes Need Calisthenics

On the flip side, a traditional, competitive athlete will also benefit greatly by incorporating some calisthenics into their routine.

Core stiffness is a huge component of athleticism, as has been loudly promoted by Stuart McGill and others. Creating a stiff core is paramount in order to be able to drive power through the limbs. Fortunately, calisthenics makes this a huge focus and a wide number of moves place this kind of performance front and centre.

Handstand kickup tips

More generally speaking, the kind of strength to weight ratio that bodyweight training can develop is something that will benefit ANY athlete. This is a tool for building both body awareness and strength without adding lots of weight or creating any stiffness.

In short, combining these two training modalities will result in an individual with an incredible core strength, explosive running and jumping, impressive strength:weight ratio, and generally top-tier performance.

What do you guys things? Do athletic training and calisthenics go together like cheese and wine?

Stay tuned for more delicious pairings!

About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.


  1. Rodrigo Garcia says:

    Your approach to fitness is exactly what I needed. I self taught martial arts for a few years, recently signed up at an actual gym for “real” training. All was well until I hit my knee against a partner’s in sparring and I had to take a break. Now I wish to focus on bulletproofing my tendons and joints, but I’m also in the gym weight lifting. I guess I was struggling to find a balance of both worlds, but your info has been extremely well organized and presented that I am now trying your workouts. Thank you so much for sharing what no doubt has cost you years of studying and research. Sending thanks from Arkansas, USA

  2. Dimensional shade says:

    It makes me so glad you Havent forgotten the blog!
    Some of us love reading instead of watching and most of us like being agile,a dream come true blog,keep up the good work Bio!

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