This article is about the form of physical exercise. For the Australian competitive performing art, see calisthenics (Australia)
School children perform sit-ups
, a common type of calisthenic, during a school fitness
Calisthenics are a form of exercise consisting of a variety of simple, often rhythmical, movements, generally without using equipment or apparatus. They are intended to increase body strength and flexibility with movements such as bending, jumping, swinging, twisting or kicking, using only one's body weight for resistance. They are usually conducted in concert with stretches. Calisthenics when performed vigorously and with variety can benefit both muscular and cardiovascular fitness, in addition to improving psychomotor skills such as balance, agility and coordination. 
Groups such as sports teams and military units often perform leader-directed group calisthenics as a form of synchronized physical training (often including a customized "call and response" routine), in order to increase group cohesion and discipline. Calisthenics are also popular as a component of physical education in primary and secondary schools over much of the globe.
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The history of calisthenics is linked to Greco-Roman gymnastics. Calisthenics originated in ancient Greece, where it was mentioned in a Persian scout report on Spartan warriors before the Battle of Thermopylae, with the Persians interpreting the odd synchronized movements as a form of dance, and thus a sign of weakness.
Disciples of Friedrich Ludwig Jahn brought their version of gymnastics to the United States, while Catherine Beecher and Dio Lewis set up physical education programs for women in the 19th Century. Organized systems of calisthenics in America took a back seat to competitive sports after the Battle of the Systems, when the states mandated physical education systems.
A standard chin-up
, palms facing chest, using open grip
In addition to the various stretches, some of the more common calisthenic exercises include:
- Performed by bringing one leg forward and almost kneeling on the back leg. Once the front leg creates a perfect 90 degree angle you stand up and alternate legs. Keeping your back straight and chest out is important for proper form. There are many variations for lunges.
- Performed by jumping to a position with the legs spread wide and the hands touching overhead and then returning to a position with the feet together and the arms at the sides. Sometimes known as star jumps.
- Performed by lying down with the back on the floor, knees bent, and bottoms of feet against the floor. The shoulders are then lifted off the floor by tightening abdominal muscles and bringing the chest closer to the knees. The final movement is to lower the back to the floor with a smooth movement. This trains the abdominal muscles.
- Like the sit-up, except instead of bringing the whole torso area closer to the knees, only a concentrated but shorter movement of the abdominals is performed. Shoulder blades are lifted off the floor, and abdominals tightened.
- Performed face down on the floor, palms against floor under the shoulders, toes curled upwards against the floor. The arms are used to lift the body while maintaining a straight line from head to heel. The arms of the subject should go from fully extended in the high position to nearly fully flexed in the low position, while the subject makes sure to avoid resting on the floor. Resting is only done in the high position of the exercise. Chest, shoulders, and triceps are trained with this exercise.
- An overhead bar (sometimes called a chin-up bar) is grasped using a shoulder-width overhand (palms facing forward) grip. The subject lifts their body up, chin level with the bar, and keeping the back straight throughout. The bar remains in front of the subject at all times. The subject then slowly returns to starting position in a slow controlled manner. This primarily trains the lats or upper back muscles, as well as the forearms. An underhand grip variation or chin-up trains both the back and biceps.
- Standing with feet shoulder width apart, the subject squats down as far as possible, bringing the arms forward parallel to the floor. The subject then returns to standing position. Squats train the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and gluteals.
- Standing on a platform with an edge where the heels can hang (e.g. a curb), lift the body on the balls of the feet. The subject then slowly returns to starting position. This trains the gastrocnemius. A seated calf-raise trains the soleus.
Animation of a full push-up
- Done between parallel bars or facing either direction of trapezoid bars found in some gyms. Feet are crossed with either foot in front and the body is lowered until the elbows are in line with the shoulders. The subject then pushes up until the arms are fully extended, but without locking the elbows. Dips focus primarily on the chest, triceps, and deltoids.
- Lying on your back, hands in fists under buttocks, move feet up and down near the ground.