Calisthenics Glossary / Terminology  

Hero image credit: Calisthenics – GS Academy events.

You will hear of many new terms when starting calisthenics (even more so if any type of resistance workout is new to you), but don’t worry, we have you covered with our calisthenics glossary.

It may be a little overwhelming at first. If you are only beginning your journey into calisthenics, you should not worry about knowing all the “correct” terminology. The calisthenics community are very welcoming and accepting of beginners and pros alike. However, if you should ever hear or read some terminology you don’t understand, refer back to this article. Feel free to come back to it whenever you want to improve your knowledge or need to check something.

Calisthenics Terminology List

Calisthenics

Calisthenics is a term used for exercises that can be performed without using weights. Examples of this are push-ups, pull-ups and dips. The majority of calisthenics exercises only use bodyweight but some equipment can be used such as resistance bands or gymnastic rings

Bodyweight exercises

Bodyweight exercise are exercises where your body is used as the resistance/weight and no other weight is used.

Repetitions (Reps) and Sets

These are the basic counters of exercise. Any program or routine that you will ever do will be in sets and reps. Performing 30 push-ups would be completing 30 reps, and if you broke that down into 10, 10, 10, then you would be performing 3 sets of 10 push-ups. For example, if you see a routine you wish to follow and it says perform 5 sets of 12, this will mean you do 12 of the given exercise, followed by a break, and then you do another 12 which will be your second set and so on. 

Rep range

This refers to the desired range you should aim to achieve within the set, rather than an exact number, e.g., 5-8 reps. You should look to make the exercise easier if you are unable to complete the minimum amount of reps, or make it harder if you can complete many more reps than the state range. The most common rep ranges are between 1-12 reps.

Rest time

This is the amount of time you are recommended to rest for between each set. Rest time is needed for every workout routine to allow you to maximise muscle growth and strength and also to prevent injury and exhaustion. 

AMRAP

Stands for ‘as many reps as possible’. When this term is used there would not be a standard rep range within each set; instead, you would perform reps until failure to complete the set.

‘For Time’

Similar to AMRAP but is used for static exercises, meaning you are required to hold the position for as long as you can until failure.

Tabata

A specific workout that lasts 4 minutes and consists of 8 rounds. Each round requires 20 seconds of work at maximum effort, followed by 10 seconds of rest.

Pyramid

Refers to an increasing or decreasing rep range over a number of sets. For example, a ’10 to 1′ pyramid requires you to perform 10 reps, rest, 9 reps, rest, 8 reps, rest…. continuing until you have got down to 1 rep. The rep range may go from low to high (1-10), high to low (10-1), or even combining both such as going from low to high and then back to low (1-10-1).

Circuit

A workout where several exercises are completed one set at a time. For example, rather than performing 3 sets of push-ups, 3 sets of pull-ups, then 3 sets of squats, you would perform a single set of each exercise, then repeat 3x until you have completed 3 sets of each exercise.

P-Bars

A more commonly used term for Parallel Bars. Parallel bars are two bars across from each other that can be used for a lot of calisthenic exercises and movements.

High bar / low bar

On a calisthenics rig, anything high enough to perform a pull-up from would be called a high bar, and any bars positioned around waist height would be called a low bar.

Flow

Performing several exercises in sequence to develop a routine or ‘flow’.

Narrow / Wide

This can refer to hand positioning on the floor or where you grip a pull-up bar. A regular grip would be hands placed shoulder-width apart, a wide grip would be when hands are placed over shoulder-width, and a narrow grip would be with your hands positioned closer than shoulder-width. 

Underhand / Overhand

Refer to how you grip a pull-up bar. Palms facing away from you with thumbs pointing inwards is an overhand grip, palms facing towards you with thumbs pointing outwards is an underhand grip.

Full repetition / full range of motion

This refers to completing the exercise in its fullest form to ensure all required muscles are being worked in the exercise. Anything else would be considered a partial repetition. A well-known example of a partial repetition is people who perform push-ups, but don’t get their chest all the way down to the floor at the bottom of each rep.

Progression

A simpler version of an exercise that is used to help you to progress to the full exercise. Performing push-ups with your knees on the floor is a great example of a progression for anybody who is unable to perform regular push-ups.

Rings Turned Out (RTO)

RTO is an abbreviation for rings turned out. This is when the pit of the elbow is pointing straight forward and the rings are at around a 45-degree angle to the body.

Anchor Point (A.P)

This is the point where you attach a band to an object. Changing your distance away from the anchor point can make an exercise easier/harder.

Dead Hang

A passive exercise where you are hanging from the bar at the bottom position. This exercise is excellent for building up grip and forearm strength. Proper pull-up technique requires you to complete each pull-up in a dead hang position, with your back and shoulders disengaged.

Explosive rep

Focusing on power by performing the hardest part of the exercise as fast as possible. For example, an explosive pull-up would be putting everything you have into the rep to pull yourself up as quickly as possible.

Pause

Where you pause at the fully contracted position of an exercise and hold, before completing a rep. For example, a pause squat would be squatting down, holding the bottom position of the squat for a certain amount of time, and then proceeding to complete the rep. 

One Arm Pull Up (OAPU)

OAPU is an abbreviation for one arm pull up.

One Rep Max (1RM)

This term is more commonly used when weightlifting but can sometimes be used in calisthenics too when making use of extra weights or a weighted vest. This is where you do an exercise with as much resistance/weight as you can possibly do, for one rep.

Muscle fatigue/ Failure

This is where you physically can’t complete any more reps of a set. When you get to this point you will not be able to complete another rep until you rest/have a break.

Controlled Negatives

Where you focus on the lowering portion of a movement. For example, for a pull up after you have got your chin over the bar you slowly lower yourself to the starting position. 

Compound Movement

This is an exercise that incorporates many muscles and muscle groups to complete. Examples of this are push-ups, pull-ups and squats.

Isolation Exercises

This is a movement that specifically targets one muscle group.

Full Body Workout

A workout or exercise routine that incorporates muscles from all over the body, such as legs, shoulders, chest, arms. 

Body Split Routine

This is an exercise routine in which you work out different body parts on different days. For example, chest on Monday, legs on Tuesday, back on Wednesday etc. 

Drop Set

A type of exercise where you start with high resistance for your first set, then lower it on your next set.

Superset

Working out two different muscle groups back-to-back. For example, doing a set of push-ups followed by a set of squats.

Exercise Routine/Regimen

This is when you repeat the same routine every week, in hopes of getting stronger and gaining muscle.

Rest Day

A day which you don’t work out on. You need multiple rest days per week to progress and recover when following an exercise routine.

Form

Form is a word used for how correctly an exercise is performed, for example, good form would be performing an exercise properly and bad form would be incorrectly performing an exercise. If you have bad form when performing an exercise, it will lead to less strength and muscle progress and well increasing the risk of injury.

Thank you for reading. We hope this glossary on terminology of calisthenics was of use to you. Don’t stress if you don’t understand or have never heard of one or more things on this list. The most important thing in calisthenics is to have fun and get stronger, so if you are new to calisthenics or working out, just get stuck in and have fun!

Leave a comment