Calisthenics for girls

There aren’t many girls who train on the bar and I know I’m not the only one who’d like more to start, so this is a post to go through the advantages (ok, and disadvantages) of calisthenics from a girls point of view. If you’re thinking about starting, or your girlfriend or wife’s expressed interest, then maybe this will help them make up their mind.


  • Strength training is awesome. It’s empowering to get stronger and to be able to do things you never thought you could.
  • It will change your body shape – basically, unless you’re overweight, become overweight or train inconsistently and badly, you are guaranteed to end up looking lean and ripped.
  • It subconsciously helps keep your weight down. When you are hauling your ass over a bar the last thing you want to do is start scoffing loads of cake and pizza. Even a couple of kilos will be noticeable if you don’t make up the strength to compensate for it. However, rather than society/the media/your guilt dictating this need to diet, it’s your own fun hobby. Yay! This fact is very cool, and in my opinion makes for a much healthier relationship with food and body image.
  • The potential for progression is enormous. Even for guys there’s an almost endless pile of stuff to master, but for a member of the fairer-but-weaker sex it’s a veritable mountain. I love this, and the little things I master really motivate me to keep pushing.
  • No gym membership required. No gym required. No creepy gym weirdos, creatine-pumped freaks or that hairy guy who always grunts when he lifts something to stare at you. Just you, yourself and i[Pod].
  • Whilst it’s a solo pursuit, through training in parks (and even the gym) you will meet lots of others who train the same way. Many of them are really cool people, and just like karate it’s a real leveller – doesn’t matter where you’re from as long as you train hard. I’ve been really lucky and via a chance message to Jay Anthony on YouTube have been able to train with him and the other UK Bar-barians regularly, as well as a big bunch of other people who meet up to work out at Primrose Hill. There are parks all over the country and you’re guaranteed to be able to hook up with like-minded folk where ever you are.
  • Transferable strength and power. Because all the moves are practical, functional and (most importantly) utilise a large number of muscles, they will enrich pretty much any other sport you do. My punching power has gone through the roof, for example, and on the very rare occasions I do pick up a weight (to move it out of my way ;) I don’t find it as heavy as I once did.
  • If I was really shallow, I might say something about it being summer, talk about training outside and maybe allude to how the guys often take their tops off. But of course I’m not at all shallow, so I’ll just say that if you do go hit the bars on a nice day, be sure to take your darkest pair of sunglasses with you :)


  • Most of the disadvantages stem from one thing: the muscles. Firstly, there’s the aesthetics. Depending on what you want, they could be bad. I don’t train for looks but I quite like them – it suits my frame and I’m not much of a girly-girl anyway. It can cause, er, weirdness with others though – sometimes when I speak to people I can see them glancing at my shoulders as I do so. Bizarrely, the person who does this the most is someone who works in the gym. Some men might find your newly-grown triceps intimidating, and some people just make assumptions on your personality based on what you look like, although I guess there’s not much you can do about that.
  • On a personal note, I’m not sure gaining such a large amount of muscle mass in a relatively short time period has done my hormones much good. Also, these weird bumpy muscles  under my arms have started making it really hard to get rid of all the hair there when I shave (?!).
  • Anyhow, physical aspects aside, the initial learning curve is quite steep. It takes consistent dedication to even get to the point where you can lift your own bodyweight, then on-going training to keep progressing. It’s something to commit to. If you want quick results then, well, frankly no exercise program is for you and you’d be better spending your time playing Angry Birds ;)
  • You’ll get calluses on your hands. Even with gloves.
  • You’ll suddenly start spending a lot of time watching videos of other people training on YouTube. If you get caught doing this at work, you will have to answer the question “what the hell are you watching?!”, and also your friends might think you’re a bit weird. If they didn’t already. *cough*

Hopefully that covers anything you might be wondering about (and probably some stuff you most definitely weren’t). If you have any specific questions then feel free to leave a comment.

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4 Responses

  1. Grace says:

    Hi Fi! I just saw your post on the barbarian forum linking to your blog. I’d love to start training in calisthenics more seriously. I’m still very much a beginner, but I’m slowing working my way up :). Thank you so much for this post and I’ll be checking out the rest of your blog! :)

  2. Fi says:

    Cool! I’m glad it’s been useful and you’re interested in training. That’s awesome :) Whereabouts do you live? You should introduce yourself on the forums – maybe there are more girls lurking that we could encourage out of the woodwork!

  3. Grace says:

    I’m up in Canada. I’ve been lurking on the forums for awhile, but finally decided recently to take the plunge and start working on the bars. I will definitely introduce myself soon. I hope it will encourage others to do the same, just as you encouraged me! :)